Hello, I’m Nick Frate and I’m a Canadian public servant.
I started my career in management in the private sector, but I was always drawn to a career in the public service. Growing up in an immigrant household, my parents always stressed to me the importance of giving back – and what better way to give back than to provide excellent service for the benefit of all Canadians.
My public service career began in 2007 with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) where I’m now Assistant Director of the National Recognition Program and National Test Services.
As part of my duties, I’m also a member of the Deputy Ministers Committee on Policy Innovation (DMCPI). And I feel honoured to be a reverse mentor for Andrew Treusch, the Commissioner of Revenue and Chief Executive Officer of the Canada Revenue Agency on the DMCPI.
Social branding to build your profile
The latter role was created to provide advice on social media, which is obviously increasingly important, wherever you are. Social branding allows you to build your social media profile to showcase yourself as an expert in a particular area and promote your ideas as a thought leader. This is critical in today’s world in order to affect change. I believe that social media tools give you the power to do three things:
- promote yourself
- take ownership of your career and personal development
- act as an ambassador for your organisation, by showcasing your expertise and preferred knowledge area to colleagues across government
My mentorship has also given me greater insight into a number of major issues affecting government today. What is unique about this committee is that anyone, from a junior analyst to a middle manager, can be invited to be a reverse mentor, with opportunities for collaboration and growth.
Understanding machinery of government
I have learned a lot from this experience. But, most importantly, I’ve gained a clear understanding of how the machinery of government functions. I understand the importance of the institutional structure and how it relates to the pillars of the public service. And I have a much better understanding of the principles the public service has been built on.
I’m stating this as a key lesson because, as much as I’m all about being a game-changer, I believe that being a guardian for all Canadians requires you to have a deep understanding of the pillars of the public service. Having this type of exposure to the complex challenges many deputy ministers are grappling with, has allowed me to connect the dots and better understand the functions of government. I often find it hard to believe that I’m getting this opportunity to sit at the DMCPI table.
Humanising our leaders
Being exposed to deputies in this way has also ‘humanised’ these leaders in my eyes. It has made them approachable and easier to follow. When leaders seem far away it’s hard to connect with them, but when you are able to interact with them at a table like this, where you are colleagues, it’s amazing! It makes your dedication to your job, and to the organisation, quite profound. I think it increases your engagement tremendously.
My drive and motivation comes from my passion for my work and this is what led to the creation of the pilot project, #LeadersGC – a series of Twitter chats that provide an informal forum where public servants can collaborate, network and share their ideas with senior leaders. We were fortunate to have, as a guest speaker, the Clerk of the Privy Council (the highest public service position in Canada) and other senior leaders. These chats have been well-received by public servants nationally and internationally. The success of this pilot has created the impetus to hold more in 2016, and we can’t wait! We’d love to have you follow us, via the hashtag #LeadersGC.
When people ask how I find the time to work on so many issues, I use the phrase “life- work integration”. You need to find personal balance when you are leading a team. I work all the time because I’m always thinking about challenges and solutions. I am one person and I come into work with my own views.
Five attributes of social leadership
Over the years, I have developed a leadership style that works for me, which I think of as social leadership. In my opinion, the five key attributes of social leadership are:
- authentic leadership
- meaningful communication
- high-level emotional intelligence
- ongoing recognition
- real visibility
It’s imperative that today’s leaders help their team members to lead, by providing clear direction, demonstrating vulnerability, offering timely and meaningful recognition and feedback, and being ‘present’, both physically and virtually.
When I need to do something on the personal front, I do it. I don’t feel guilty about it. Life-work integration allows you to better manage your needs. I have learned that it's important for me to showcase both my professional and human sides as a leader, and social media allows me to amplify my reach. Showing who we are helps us to connect!
Thank you for allowing me to share!
Follow Nick on Twitter: @nickfrate
For all those of you who have requested more information on the 'reverse mentoring' model that Nick refers to in his post, please see his comment below.