Think like an entrepreneur – even when working in public services

Thinking like an entrepreneur is a skill that is not obvious in those managers working in public services. In fact it is sometimes seen as the wrong thing to aspire to. I, however, disagree. I think there is a lot of the entrepreneur in those public service managers who manage to develop their services effectively especially in these time of tight or nearly non existent budgets.

I have been inspired to write this post having seen the list in this blog by Reference notes – just the list on the summary is enough to challenge me.

So ……

how many of you as managers have the confidence to let people have a go and fail?

when a member of your staff, or a customer comes to you with a suggestion is your first reaction ‘it won’t work?

can you really say that you are interested in trying something new or are you too tied up in coping with the now?

I have given myself the challenge to respond to future suggestions I have presented or sent to me with ‘that sounds like something I would like to develop/or would like you to develop. What do you need from me to help you’. I challenge you to do the same and see what happens.

My prediction is that you will end up with some interesting projects happening, staff and/or customers who feel listened to and appreciated. You will also feel more inspired. And maybe, just maybe, one of those seemingly off the wall ideas will become the thing that finally makes someone you have been trying to convince about the importance of what you are doing finally understand.

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The importance of marketing skills

Coming from a public authority background I have been made aware at how poor we often are at marketing the skills that we have. This is shown by the reaction of my colleagues when others start trying to tell us how to manage what we are doing better. The usual reaction is ‘what do they know’  or ‘they wouldn’t like it if we told them what to do’. 

In my view the real problem is that we are too quiet about what we do and how we do it. In public service, because it is public service, we assume that people know what we are doing  – and you know the saying – ‘ to assume makes an ass out of u and me’. It is not at all obvious to people who are experienced in working in one area the issues and difficulties of working in another.

For example in my back ground – libraries – I know that there are a range of skills needed to run libraries effectively including (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • knowledge of the people and areas you are serving
  • knowledge of the ranges and types of books available
  • the skills needed to put the two areas of knowledge above together in the most effective way
  • the ability to facilitate access to books, information and other resources
  • the ability to skilfully manage a range relationships with partners, local communities, staff and politicians
  • the ability to see what will be needed in the future and ensure that we have the right products and staff ready for this and manage the change process to get there
  • the ability to manage people and buildings as well as services
  • the ability to do the above within very tight budgets and so be creative in achieving outcomes
  • the ability to provide a service for a wide range of people and communities which often have conflicting requirements (e.g children wanting noise and excitement and students wanting peace to study as one of many examples).

But just because I know this why should someone who works in the book industry and does not have to get politicians to agree with proposed changes when and election is held 3 years out of 4? They have to work with shareholders and other stakeholders, yes, but not people who are wanting to be re-elected.

If we do not shout about our skills then who is going to do that for us?

In many ways librarians, and other public servants, have left it a little late to say:

 “look how good we are at what we do, we are proud of what we have achieved’. 

Lets start doing it now. Don’t be defensive, or blame the person who is criticising the service for not understanding, tell everyone what it is we do to help them understand. It is not arrogance to be proud of what we have done when we can show what a difference it has made to the communities we work with. In fact we are letting those communities down if we don’t champion the work we have, and can, do with them.

Why this blog?

I have always been interested in management, and found the management elements of all of the jobs that I have done very interesting. I have started this blog because of my frustration in the lack of acknowledgement of the excellent management skills that are evident in many public  and library services. The comments that I make will be entirely my own and not those of my current employer.

I will be interested in hearing what you think of the comments/ opinions that I express through the postings on this blog.