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Keeping Yourself Honest

Friday, May 2, 2014
by Nick Charney RSS / cpsrenewalFacebook / cpsrenewalLinkedIn / Nick Charneytwitter / nickcharneygovloop / nickcharneyGoogle+ / nickcharney


Last week was amazing.

I hit the road with a friend and went down to Washington DC to deliver a couple talks, well actually it was one talk - Scheming Virtuously - but I delivered it twice, once to the US Census Bureau and again at a federal workplace training expo.

Despite the talk being over 5 years old, it's still fresh and resonates with audiences on a level I never really anticipated when I wrote it. I love delivering it because it keeps me honest. It reminds me of the kind of public servant I aspire to be and the strategy and tactics I ought to deploy to ensure that I get there. It also reminds me of both the best and worst parts of my career thus far and forces me to take stock of where I am at that particular moment. In short, it grounds my thinking, brings me back to centre and renews my drive to push forward. I always build lots of time into my talk for interaction with the audience because it requires introspection and provides an opportunity to walk the talk.


Why did you leave your job at the Ottawa Senators Hockey Club?

Because I wanted to do something more with my life than throw big parties for people with a lot of money. Don't get me wrong, I loved my job, but I wanted to give back to the community, to the country, in a different way. You don't necessarily have to have that public service motivation to do a good job. Maybe you are satisfied in other ways, and that's great. I'd rather work with someone who is motivated than someone who isn't. It's takes all kinds of people to power our organization and not everyone is interested or suited chasing the bigger picture. All I ask is that if you don't have aspirations larger than your current set of tasks, don't get in the way of those who do. Don't stick a spoke in someone's wheels for no good reason. It happens more often then we realize and it's a major impediment to change.


How do we break out of the culture of email and get back to the basics (talking to one another) when people get upset when I walk into their office?

You've got to remember that whenever you walk up to someone else you are interrupting their workflow. Often the frustration isn't about you it's about how often their flow has been interrupted today. Live interaction is synchronous. The person you are talking to has to stop doing whatever they were doing and deal with you solely on your terms. Email on the other hand is asynchronous the other person can get to it later without stopping. Often the challenge is that you are waiting on something from someone before proceeding. We think we've designed these smooth and slick organizations with neat little org charts. We assume people and tasks fit together like puzzle pieces but in fact wherever those things meet the edges are jagged and messy. Proactive, honest and human communication is the only way to smooth these edges. That takes work. We've got to lean in.


How do you track and build support for a change initiative?

Print your org chart and get three highlighters. One green, one yellow and one red. Hide the org chart in your top drawer. If you are particularly bold, pin it to the outside of your cubicle. As you meet with people colour code them. Green lights are your go to people, yellow lights are on the fence and can go either way, red lights are obstacles. Always approach green lights first they are you go to's. Approach yellow lights second, find out what it's going to take to turn them green and give it to them. Approach red lights last and take two greens for every red you meet. Overwhelm with numbers, exert pressure, and be strategic. If you are serious about change you need to get serious about how you execute it.


Finally I just wanted to thank both my contacts at the US Census Bureau and the Federal Workplace Training & Expo (you know you are!) for the opportunities. It's always great to meet people who have dedicated their lives to public service. If you read this blog but haven't read the handbook yet, it's available for free here, the prezi (embedded above) from the presentation can be found here, and, as always, if you are interested in seeing the presentation live and in person, drop me a line we can work something out.

Cheers