Posted tagged ‘skills’

Do we employ the right people in local government?

May 23, 2012

Answering questions…

Our good friends at the Guardian Local Government Network deliver each Friday a local government careers e-mail. The e-mail includes a link to their ‘working lives’ blog where local government employees describe what their job entails; a section called ask our members where local government people can ask for career advice and links to jobs and helpful career based articles. If you haven’t signed up before now you should.

All of this is by introduction to today’s post which seeks to answer the GLGN’s career question of the week:

Is local government employing the wrong type of people? Does it need to think about bringing people in from a much wider group, rather than focusing on people with previous public sector experience?

This is a common question and one that is often asked of the Whitehall civil service; an institution that generally employs policy generalists at the age of 25 and then at 45 after twenty years doing just that expects them to run departments, mange substantial IT systems and deliver complicated projects. Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s former chief of staff, was particularly scathing of this element of the civil service and I have no doubt that the debate over civil service skills will continue under the current administration.

But how does this work for local government? On face value the two shouldn’t be comparable. Whereas the whole civil service is, and here I am stereotyping for effect, basically one big policy team, local councils usually have a small policy team outside of the Chief Executive’s office. The rest of the staff on the council are carrying out front line service delivery.

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Ten things great facilitators need to know

January 17, 2012

Facilitation; not as easy as it looks

Last week I had the pleasure of seeing an expert in action.  During a rather large meeting involving 20 or 30 representatives from as many local authorities, our facilitator showed that the skill of facilitation is alive and kicking, as well as demonstrating just how important and often undervalued it is.

In my experience, a good facilitator can be very much like engine oil – many don’t think it’s a vital component and believe they can get by without it, but all that happens is things grind through and eventually grind to a halt.  Having had the pleasure to see more than my fair share of expert facilitators over the course of my career, I thought it may be worth sharing some of the things which I think make a real difference during any meeting, workshop or event.

1.  Trust yourself

To begin with, you will need to know and trust in your own skills.  Understanding your own strengths and weaknesses will pay dividends when you begin to formulate strategies to get the group from a to b, and will remind you in a tough spot that you are able to cope and keep things positive. (more…)

Nobody’s Perfect

July 28, 2011

Who will make sure you are going the right way?At a recent job interview I found myself faced with the dreaded question: what are your areas for development?  Essentially the inquisition interview panel were asking me “what things are you really bad at that will make us think twice about employing you?”

Of course in such a situation the worst thing to do would be to tell the truth.  “I have a terrible memory”, “I sometimes say offensive things in the hope of starting conversations”, “I actually don’t understand most of the financial regulations so just bumble my way through them” – all of these may be true but are not going to help get the job.

I refused also to say the standard, tired response of “I’m a bit of a perfectionist”; that’s BS of the very lowest degree in most cases and simply screams out ‘I’M NOT CREATIVE ENOUGH TO COME UP WITH AN ORIGINAL RESPONSE’.  In the end I went for my willingness to JFDI – Just-Flowering-Do-It (you can replace Flowering with other more suitable words should you feel the need to).  This sometimes means I’m halfway through an exciting project before I remember that my line manager might just be interested in finding out what I’m up to.

Why do I bring this up now?  Well, at a recent Senior Management Team meeting one of our Service Heads stood up to talk about the review she had conducted on her service.  She went into detail about some of the things that had gone well, but then also detailed some of the things which, to put it bluntly, had gone really badly. (more…)

Can there be Council Officer Prodigies?

May 10, 2011

When I grow up, I want to work for the CouncilDespite the protestations of the rest of my household, occasionally I am able to catch the odd frame or two of snooker. The recent World Championship was as interestingas the cricket world cup – brilliant for me, but also the cause of much gnashing of teeth and fights over the remote control. For those of you who didn’t follow it, newcomer Judd Trump narrowly lost in the final to multiple champion John Higgins, meaning there is a new kid on the block.

Pundits and commentators have been gushing with praise over Trump, expressing their belief that he might be one of the most naturally gifted players since Ronnie O’Sullivan turned up, and that players like them are freaks of nature with a natural ability that means they would always have turned up at the final table of tournaments, even if they had only discovered the game a few months ago.

An alternative theory however has also emerged, which describes how these snooker players and other similar world class players only got that way down to years and decades of hard work. I won’t go into the theory myself (you can read it for yourself at the BBC website) but it got me thinking about the way we introduce newcomers to the world of local government, and inspire them to be the best that they can be.

Admittedly the money involved in elite sport makes the work worthwhile, but the theory is that should a child find a sport interesting then they should be nurtured and encouraged to practice at every available opportunity, meaning they will pick up the muscle memory and spatial awareness to enable them to express themselves to a good level consistently. They will then be able to refine the bits they aren’t so good at and rise above the competition.

We don’t seem to see this with local government officers. Children in nursery schools don’t have a Council Corner, where they pretend to hold meetings and take turns being the chair, or Officer Hour where they take turns to read stories about issuing fixed pnealty notices. If they are naughty they get their name taken on the Clipboard of Shame, and if they are good the get a Beacon Sticker. (more…)

The most money ever paid for a cow in an auction was $1.3 million

November 2, 2010

Will we all be over educated yet unemployed?

In a previous life I was a yoot worker (we all talked like that in order to be down ‘wiv da kidz, innit’).  In between dealing with some kids stabbing each other and others crying in a corner because nobody understood them (both true, not stereotypes – I promise!), I developed and delivered training courses.  These were great fun, really well received by participants and schools and youth clubs couldn’t get enough of them.

That is, until I had enough of delivering them.  You see, whilst the courses were very good (even if I do say so myself), taught a range of valuable and useful skills and were accredited, all too often I would find that I had trained groups of young people up only to see them have nowhere to go and no way of using these new skills.  The youth clubs and services weren’t ready to do anything with them, which created a lot of frustration within those groups and undid a lot of the work I’d gone through.

Fast forward this ten or fifteen years and I’m drawing a lot of parallels in my colleagues.  Okay, maybe not the crying and stabbing (although there is always a little of both going on somewhere in the building), but I’m definitely seeing people getting ready to dive back into training and education with no thought about what after that.

Many of my colleagues are taking the cuts as an opportunity to go off for a while and do something they’ve wanted to do but had no reason to.  The always excellent Redundant Public Sector Worker was musing setting up their own business, Citizenr also took a look at a few options from the X-Factor to being the next Charlie Dimmock.  Both of these are thinking of some (more or less) practical solutions that will support them in the longer as well as medium term should they come off (good luck both by the way!). (more…)