Game of Localgov

Lessons fit for a king

The last few weeks has seen the return of the simply excellent Game of Thrones to British screens. If you have yet to watch it we urge you to crawl out from under the rock you have been hiding and get hold of season one so you are up to speed with the cut-throat, back stabbing, vicious, brilliant world the show depicts.

Watching Game of Thrones last week I found myself with a notebook in hand, frantically writing down quotes uttered by one or other of the excellent cast at regular intervals. My other half thought this was strange behaviour, but I knew that littered throughout the episode were gems which related directly to life in local government, and lessons which I would do well to remember and learn from. So here are my favourite few so far, along with a quick note for the lesson it may impart.

Robb: If we do it your way kingslayer, you’d win. We’re not doing it your way.

When preparing for a negotiation or a difficult discussion, be sure to know what you want out of it, what the other party want out of it and the most likely route you can take to achieve your goals. Put simply, know your enemy and prepare.

Bronn: Stay low.
Tyrion: Stay low?
Bronn: If you’re lucky, no one will notice you.

Understand areas in which you are weaker; everyone has strengths and weaknesses. When you find something you are not as good at others at, make sure they do what they do best and save your effort for times when your contributions will be more useful and significant.

Tyrion: Let’s play a new game.
Bronn: There’s a … knife game I can teach ya.
Tyrion: Does it involve the potential loss of fingers?
Bronn: Not if you win.
Tyrion: No. No fire games, no knife games. Let’s do something I’m good at.
Shae: What are you good at?
Tyrion: I happen to be a great judge of character.
Bronn: This sounds like a boring game.

Sometimes the most important skills and the skills used by the succesful rather than the boastful are not as glamourous or sexy in action; that doesn’t make them less important and useful though. Do the boring things and develop the boring skills if ever you want to do more interesting things.

Samwell: Now listen to me. The old man is the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. You’ll be with him day and night. Yes you’ll clean his clothes, but you’ll also take his letters, attend him at meetings, squire for him in battle, you’ll know everything, be part of everything. And he asked for you himself. He wants to groom you for command.
Jon: I just, I always wanted to be a ranger.
Samwell: I always wanted to be a wizard.

It might feel sometimes as if you are doing dogs-body work and completing thankless chorse, but these are all an essential part of developing skills and experience. If your boss tells you to do something, do it well and try to learn something or improve your actions a little each and every time.

Tywin: Your mother’s dead, before long I’ll be dead, and you, and your brother, and your sister and all of her children. All of us dead, all of us rotting in the ground. It’s the family name that lives on. That’s all that lives on. Not your personal glory, not your honor, but family. Do you understand?

Don’t forget that Local Government is bigger than any single person, you included. Your actions reflect on local government, positive and negative, so be mindful of them.

Sansa: Where do you come from, the north or the south?
Septa: I come from a very small village…
Sansa: Oh wait, I just realized I don’t care.

Care. Even if you don’t truly care, show those who we serve that their views and their stories really matter.

Ned: You’re too fat for your armor.
King Robert: Fat? Fat is it? Is that how you speak to your King?

Sometimes it’s difficult but essential that you tell hard truths to those more senior than you. It may result in short term pain, but is more valuable than almost any other action.

Tyrion: Do you think I’m plump? Listen, Benjen, may I call you Benjen?
Benjen: Call me what you like.
Tyrion: I’m not sure what I’ve done to offend you. I have great admiration for the Night’s Watch, and for you as First Ranger.
Benjen: You know my brother once told me? That nothing someone says before the word ‘but’ really counts.

Balance out your feedback, and make sure that all you feedback is valid.

Ned: Very handsome armor. Not a scratch on it.
Jaime: People have been swinging at me for years, they always seem to miss.
Ned: You’ve chosen your opponents wisely.
Jaime: I have a knack for it.

Pick your battles. If you know that a colleague is likely to get the better of you in a meeting, consider whether or not that particular battle is worth fighting.

Old Nanny: I know a story about a crow.
Bran: I hate your stories.
Old Nanny: I know a story about a boy who hated stories.

There are people working in your authority who have been there and done it, and have seen two, three or more generations of newcomers attempt the same things themselves. Find these people, get to know them and learn from them and their stories.

Jon: Why do you read so much?
Tyrion: Look at me and tell me what you see.
Jon: Is this a trick?
Tyrion: What you see is a dwarf. If I had been born a peasant, they might have left me out in the woods to die. Alas, I was born a Lannister of Casterly Rock. Things are expected of me. My father was the Hand of the King for 20 years.
Jon: Until your brother killed that King.
Tyrion: Yes, until my brother killed him. Life is full of these little ironies. My sister married the new King, and my repulsive nephew will be king after him. I must do my part for the honor of my house, wouldn’t you agree? But how? Well, my brother has a sword, and I have my mind. And a mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone. That’s why I read so much, Jon Snow.

Don’t ever think that it’s easy to stay at the top of your game, and that you know all you need to know. you may very well know everything you need to know today, but by the time tomorrow comes around there will be new lessons to learn. Keep reading, keep learning and constantly challenge yourself to be better than you are.

Jon: First lesson, stick em with the pointy end.
Arya: I know which end to use.

Some tools are simple in intent; don’t try to overcomplicate them for the sake of looking clever.

Tyrion: Let me give you some advice bastard. Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.
Jon: What the hell do you know about being a bastard?
Tyrion: All dwarfs are bastards in their father’s eyes.

Some people go about life throwing insults at those who work in the public sector, leading many public servants to be shy about saying what they do for a living. As long as this attitude remains, others will use public sector workers as scapegoats and objects of derision; be proud of who you are, the work you do and your employer, the more of us who stand up and proudly declare who we are, the less others will think it acceptable to use any misguided opinions of public sector workers as an insult.

Welovelocalgovernment is a blog written by UK local government officers. If you have a piece you’d like to submit or any comments you’d like to make please drop us a line at:

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2 Comments on “Game of Localgov”

  1. […] use another Game of Thrones quote, “you are only what others say you are”.  If some people say you are an expert […]

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