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Civil Service

The year of the Leadership Statement

Sir Jeremy at the Civil Service Board meeting, January 2015
Sir Jeremy Heywood

One year ago today, we launched the Civil Service Leadership Statement. As I explained then, the Statement was much more than a list of nice things we wanted our leaders to do. It was a statement of intent, challenging leaders to hold a mirror up to their own behaviours, to be honest about areas they are falling short in, and to take appropriate action to address them. And I and my Permanent Secretary colleagues made a firm commitment to take the steps necessary to make this happen.

So, what have we done over the past 12 months?

Our initial focus was on raising awareness of the Statement. All senior leaders have been involved with this - blogs and articles have been written throughout the year, workshops held across different departments, and speeches made - not just in departments and agencies, but at major Civil Service events, including Civil Service Live, where it was the central theme. Our message has been very clear: improving leadership is a top priority and the Leadership Statement is how we will drive this forward.

We have introduced a range of practical measures to support leaders in meeting the expected behaviours set out in the Statement. For the first time, we have a single and robust 360-degree reporting mechanism, underpinned by the values in the Leadership Statement, ensuring that leaders receive honest feedback from all those they work with. By the end of this appraisal year, all Senior Civil Servants will have completed this, and I hope the key messages will feature in the end-of-year discussions we will all be having - much the most important part of our annual performance management cycle. A radical overhaul of leadership training is also underway, to ensure high-quality training is available to all leaders in the areas they need it.

We are closely monitoring how successful we are in embedding the Statement. Data has been collected on how it is reflected in recruitment, promotion and talent management practices. The Statement has been included in the objectives of all leaders, allowing us to measure their progress against them. And we added a section to the People Survey, giving you the opportunity to express how you felt your own leaders were performing against the Statement.

...and what has the impact been?

I am pleased to report that there is already a good level of engagement with the Statement. The latest data shows that the majority of civil servants are familiar with it and have already started to use it to reflect on their own leadership behaviours. A huge thank you to all of you who have been part of this, whether it has been through giving us feedback, sharing the Statement with others or just taking the time to read and understand it. It is clear that many of you, like me, place enormous value on effective leadership and your continued support will be essential as we move forward.

However, in terms of whether our leaders measure up to the Statement, we have much further to go. 57% of you said in the People Survey that your manager did demonstrate the behaviours in the Statement, that fell to just 35% for senior managers. We want all leaders to meet the standards set out by the statement, so this highlights the gap between our aspirations and our current position. The Leadership Statement has taken an important first step in starting a debate at all levels of the service, but we now must accelerate efforts to tackle the challenge head on.

Central to this will be spreading the good practice that already exists. There are many fantastic leaders in all parts of the Civil Service - brilliant prison governors; the managers of top-performing job centres; and people like the wonderful Wendy Hardaker, of the Government Legal Department, who won this year’s Civil Service Award for Leadership for her work in transforming over 120 people in seven teams across 10 departments in the new Commercial Law Group into a cohesive professional group.

Sharing experiences like these is invaluable for all leaders as we strive to improve. The Leadership Statement has already highlighted some amazing stories. We have had Permanent Secretaries saying how they needed to improve their listening, others who have spoken about overcoming ‘impostor syndrome’, and there have been interviews with inspirational civil servants who have described the attributes they believe define great leadership and how the Leadership Statement is challenging them to improve.

The Statement has also acted as a spur to the senior leaders, including myself, to really look at their behaviours. One of my goals has been to increase my accessibility and visibility, to engage more - characteristics that are vital for successful leadership. To help achieve this, I stopped silently following people on Twitter and began sharing what I was doing and discussing key issues - I have found this a really enjoyable and rewarding process. And I have got out of the office as often as possible to meet civil servants across the country and raise the profile of the work they are doing - so everyone in the country, not just me, can see the tremendous work that we do every day.

When we launched the Leadership Statement, I didn’t expect it to be a golden bullet that would provide instantaneous results - but it has set us in the right direction and laid the groundwork to make significant improvements over the coming years. Our aim must be to change the culture of the Civil Service so we are more open, more challenging, more innovative but without compromising any of the core values that brought us into the Civil Service to start with. Above all, true leadership allows all staff to reach their potential; and it is this that ultimately will deliver the best outcomes for you and the public we serve.

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  1. Comment by John Brett posted on

    As ever these things show a lack of any real understanding of Leadership. It takes the premise that someone IS a leader and works back from there to see how well they meet the standards listed in the leadership statement. If someone, within reason, does not meet the standards they are NOT A LEADER, they are at best a manager. I'll quickly add that good managers are fairly rare and we could do with more of them. However, as we allow people to move in to management without any prior training in the functions of management this is not surprising. Please do not point me to the raft of Civil Service Learning courses, they are entirely voluntary and only the most enlightened appointee will complete them.
    My pet conspiracy theory here is that the emphasis on leadership is smoke to hide this lack of management training

  2. Comment by Sharon posted on

    Our 'leaders' have not personal interest in their staff. After working for the Civil Service for a total of 31 years, and reaching 60 years old, I have asked for partial retirement. The answer is NO, due to insufficient staff on my department. Really? Worse still, I cannot get a statement of my pensions due from My CSP because of an embargo by governmernt for giving out this information. Why are we putting up with this kind of treatment? Our customer would not.

  3. Comment by Les posted on

    Leadership is less about your needs (Top People), and more about the needs of the staff. You should all be able to adapt to the particular demands of the situation.

    One of the main styles of management I see in DWP can be described as Pacesetting demanding high standards for performance, to the point of being “obsessive about doing things better and faster, and constantly asking the same of everyone.” But be warned this style can undercut morale and make people feel as if they are failing. “observation shows that, pacesetting with constant demands poisons the atmosphere ”

    A potential concern is that this management style will second-guess employees' leading to staff not being able to trust the decisions or changes that are made in the office.

  4. Comment by Anonymous posted on

    I have been a PA for many years working to many SCS. For the first half of my career I would say the SCS had clout and spent their time on what the SCS should be doing. Over the past 10 years or so there has been a grade drift upwards with too many promoted too early. Many SCS1s are spending a proportion of their time doing things that they really should be leaving to their PAs who are paid much less per hour than them. Some actually say they don't know how best to use their PA which is rather ridiculous considering they are SCS and clever people.

    I have also found that the SCS is now much more homogenous. We have lost people with real character for the "safe" option of those who conform and follow the line but, in doing so, there are less and less people who will put their foot down and say enough is enough or come up with innovative alternative solutions which is part of being a leader. The SCS has lost its clout.

  5. Comment by Kate posted on

    Perhaps MOD is the exception but I think we have some (not all) very good SCS here... Certainly the SCS1s and SCS2s I work most closely with (as an SEO) show decisive leadership, give clear direction and guidance, support their staff when things have 'gone wrong' and are generally approachable and 'decent' people. I think the same is true for our PUS, equally approachable and has a genuine open door policy. I think the standard is actually more variable at middle management.

  6. Comment by Chris posted on

    Jeremy, to quote W Edwards Deming 'By What Method' will you close the "gap between our aspirations and our current position".

    Lots of what we will do, but very little how. There is no method.

    I suspect we will continue to do the same kind of things and expect a different outcome. This will create lots of activity and noise but won’t change the fundamentals of how we work, how people learn about how the work actually works and how to improve it through changing how leaders think about the work.

    You talk about “spreading the good practice that already exists”, how? Telling others WHAT they did won’t make any difference. May I suggest that it is not the good practice that you need to spread but HOW they got there. By this I mean what was the scientific method they followed that we can repeat, for example:

    Did they study the work in the work to understand how it worked with the workers. Did they then enable the workers to redesign it based on new principles, having understood it was their leadership and management that was responsible for the work design in the first place. Did they learn how their own thinking made the work harder – imposing rules and systems etc that add no value? Did they measure their results against the purpose of the system. Did they try the new design and learn…?

    By what method...?

    Secondly and as an aside – and as mentioned in many comments above - the major consultancies PWC, Accenture have all realised that the annual performance review is bobbins and have scrapped them.

    On what basis do we continue to believe that they are a good thing?

    Do we actually have people problem?

    To perform well any individual needs three things –
    1 Information related to the performance required – ‘what have I got to do?’
    2 The wherewithal or ‘tools’ to use – ‘how and with what?’
    3 Willingness to do the job – ‘I’m into doing this, I like and want to do it’

    The first two are the responsibility of Leaders, only when these are in place can the worker be intrinsically motivated – willing to do the job.

    So do we have a people problem that needs the ASR/PMR system to solve?

  7. Comment by Stu Holttum posted on

    The role of the Leader should be simple - to ensure they have happy, confident staff who feel valued and secure. The only way you are going to do that is by taking a personal interest in your staff as people, not as numbers, by managing in a holistic way. Get to know your staff, and what motivates them. Then listen carefully when they tell you what the roadblocks are for them being able to do their jobs, or being motivated.

    And then - and this is crucial - you move heaven and earth to REMOVE those roadblocks. Which may well involve making yourself unpopular with the management level above you - but that is the only way you will motivate your staff.

    When your staff tell you, over and over, where the major problems are, but nothing happens to change them.....then no amount of Leadership Statements will make a difference.

  8. Comment by Saul McIntyre posted on

    It does not matter how many statements are written or blogs published, when our terms and conditions are being eroded year after year, offices are shutting and jobs being lost, how can the "leadership" expect to be trusted?

  9. Comment by Tom1 posted on

    So much for leadership, all our leaders do is tell us that they can't influence the real issues that affect staff, and we never hear them complain publicly to ministers about the way their staff are being treated. I suppose as long as we keep meeting the targets that are set and they keep getting their bonuses and honours, then they don't really care. There hasn't been one "leader" that has inspired me to work any harder, in fact I've got to the stage where I feel that, as they don't seem to be bothered about me, why should I be bothered about them!

  10. Comment by PB posted on

    Sorry, but my impression is that most of our "leaders", more than ever, at all levels, are self serving hypocrits, who look after number one. They don't put customer's at the heart of the business as they would have us believe. Their priorities are putting ticks in boxes, and serving the immediate demands of their manager for their own ends. Customer's and staff's needs are low down on their priorities.
    There is a serious lack of trust, respect and integrity in our leaders.

  11. Comment by Steve posted on

    The previous comments will be viewed as negative and maybe they do come from the more irate end of the 65% but it shouldn't come as to much of a surprise that those delivering the strategy (ie leading) are going to be held in less regard than the immediate leaders that we work with and socialise with. This leadership should look to the customer to judge how good a job we and they are doing. Clearly staff are not overimpressed with how they are treated / rewarded and whether they are listened to. Under the circumstances a 35% approval may be as good as it gets for a while.

  12. Comment by Salty posted on

    Lips service and promises never kept, decisions made about our work by people who don't know what we do.
    I think it is time you were reported to trading standards, despite the well publicised claim, there is no listening or leadership.

  13. Comment by Tony posted on

    It would be more truly an indication of improvement if the PAR on the senior managers leadership skills was not completed by his line manager but by the people working under him to at least 2 levels down. Looking at my own line management chain, with the odd exception I don't rate any of them at the band B level or higher, they are all running round talking the talk but not walking the walk. As for empowering, I am working on a project that has more civil servants scrutinising the activity than doing it, how cost effective is that?

    • Replies to Tony>

      Comment by David posted on

      I'm working in an area where all of the management are frantically trying to recruit to staff the work that we are being tasked to do (I know this is a lucky situation).

      The problem is that the people applying are wholly unqualified for the positions and we are losing people who are specialist qualified. This is costing a lot of money, all because we won't pay more. All of my colleagues that leave go straight into jobs earning 20-50% more. Some leave for the money, others leave because the work has got less rewarding and has a reduced impact because too many people have got distracted by justifying our existence and trying to fix the recruitment and retention problem. The problem is that no-one is empowered to actually fix these problems. God forbid that we pay more to increase our value for money and reduce our R&R spend.

  14. Comment by H posted on

    One problem (amongst many other things) is there are too many 'gong' hunters in SCS - too weak to stand up and speak for the staff as it might rock the boat. SCS give the impression of having to keep giving a nice glossy finish to everything so they can please their masters. They are so out of touch with what happens at the sharp end. Just look at the large amount of impending closures of offices in HMRC (and reductions in numbers, poor morale) and the lack of direction of who will do what and where in the regional centres - this is a complete failing in senior management. Just gives the impression of a rudderless ship and it is not fair on the workforce to work in a culture of uncertainty. It is us mere mortals who continue to deliver results despite (or is that in spite of) the demotivating efforts of senior management to stop us. They seem to love to swamp us in admin as it helps to justify the huge amount of management through to SCS.

    • Replies to H>

      Comment by Alan Southern posted on

      I don't think it is a question of 'gong' hunters in the SCS but more of their educational background. I haven't counted the numbers but I would believe that the majority of civil servants below SCS level have been educated in state schools or what were once state schools and, if there was a university involved, non-Oxbridge. I believe that most of the SCS, along with most of the Cabinet, went to fee-paying schools and finally Oxbridge. So their background and type of schooling they had would preclude them from knowing, or even caring, about those they manage. It is still all about class background

  15. Comment by Anonymous posted on

    I have some very good immediate leaders who embodied much of what is good in the leadership statement. But it appears our most senior leaders are modelling their version of leadership on British military leadership of World War I.

    • Replies to Anonymous>

      Comment by Jeff posted on

      The British leadership in WW1 were faced with an intolerable set of circumstances (vast gap between killing power and communication, mass-mobilisation without an infrastructure for training, shortage of weapons and ammunition) and managed to produce the most professionally competent army on the Western Front which combined all-arms tactics to win the largest victory in the history of the British army. They weeded out the incompetent, up-skilled the workforce and won the war.
      Doesn't sound like our leadership to me.

  16. Comment by Bewildered and Betrayed posted on

    Our leaders in the DH are certainly showing strong leadership. They're leading the way out of the front door! Of course they'll get to benefit from the current exit package rates but are conveniently timetabled the restructuring of the rest of the grading structure for when the Cabinet Office proposals for revising the exit terms come into force......coincidence? They get to leave on a high as it saves the Department a ton of money. Just a shame that the staff feel utterly betrayed by these 'leaders'. Whilst being shown the door they will also be mugged as they leave. So much for the mantra of honesty, integrity and impartiality.

  17. Comment by John posted on

    The link I clicked on to get to this article was entitled "Leading and Listening".
    Unfortunately the SCS have ignored the views expressed in Blog after Blog, regarding performance appraisal, and erosion of pay and conditions. This is reflected in the appalling scores for senior management in the staff survey.
    Perhaps we have limited control over pay, but If management were to take the bull by the horns and scrap the devisive and time consuming PMR system watch this 35% score double overnight.

    The trouble is it won't happen....there is very little leading and even less listening going on at senior level nowadays.

    • Replies to John>

      Comment by DavidH posted on

      The answers I gave in the staff survey were primarily driven by my views on PMR and the heavy-handed way in which it is being applied. I will continue to have no faith at all in the higher echelons for as long as they continue to ignore the obvious. Indeed, I would say that ignoring the obvious is the clearest sign possible that they are doing their job badly, in which case they deserve to be held in such low regard by their staff.

  18. Comment by Simon posted on

    People who don't posses leadership qualities will never be leaders, no matter how much training you waste on them. These peole are motivated mainly by self-interest and they simply cannot be leaders - its not in their genes. Unfortunately there are loads of them so you're stuck with a tier of management that will always defeat your good intentions. Leadership qualities were never part of the profile that was sought when many of these staff members were promoted - and its delusional to think that sticking a label on them that says 'Leader' will suddenly invoke character atributes they don't posses. Only over time, where you can evaluate leadership qualities in your promotioin candidates can this be overcome. Until then you're flogging a dead horse.

  19. Comment by Al posted on

    It would be really interesting Mr Heywood, if you would come to Sheffield and talk to the 250 staff in BIS who are going to lose their jobs. It would be good to hear from you on how Permanent Secretaries are able to behave in ways that run counter to e.g. your recent pronouncement about making it easier for Civil Servants to work outside London. The BIS Board (or is it Ministers ?) have decided to take these jobs and move them into central London. Our Permanent Secretary thinks we (and the BIS Committee) are incapable of reading and understanding a handful of documents (a Business Case ?) that led to this decision being taken. This kind of behaviour might give you a clue as to why people think so little of the way senior management behave.

  20. Comment by mohammed qureshi posted on

    You know what the answer is g. The question is for all the money the govt is pumping in to improve these issues. why are the results so low ???
    I have my own views which sometimes dont go down too well.

  21. Comment by N posted on

    But have our leaders become more inspiring, confident and empowering? Answer = No, no and no.

  22. Comment by syl posted on

    Our Leadership isn't fit for purpose be they SCS or ministers. There is little wonder when as cuts have been announced across the various Departments when looking at the timing of the cuts it appears that the SCS will leave on the current terms but the grade staff will be leaving under worse terms when the cabinet office IMPOSE yet more changes to terms and conditions of civil servants. Imposing/bullying, you choose which term you feel appropriate, I choose bullying.

    What the SCS and indeed government ministers ignore is that terms & conditions are a bond of trust between employer and employee and they should be changed in partnership not imposed from the top.

    Will all this disregard for workers/taxpayers be the beginning of the next "winter of discontent" I for one don't think this reaction will be as far off as next winter.

  23. Comment by Buster Friendly posted on

    Statements are merely words, and talk is cheap; there has been no change for the better in any meaningful or measurable way. Our terms, conditions, pay and allowances are constantly being attacked, degraded and removed arbitrarily, whilst we are subjected to demotivating, discriminatory and entirely subjective performance 'management'. Meanwhile our 'leaders' allow us to be presented as bowler-hatted faceless pen-pushers on the take from the public, without so much as a murmur in our defence.

  24. Comment by Julie Anderson posted on

    The major experience I and my colleagues have had with anyone not involved directly with operational 'coal-face' roles is that it's all: talk, talk, talk; not truly listening or; walking in the shoes of their colleagues who have to put the ideas into practice.
    Just visiting and showing your face is not enough: spending a month a year actually working in the roles of us lesser mortals might open the eyes of the '35 percenters' to how removed they are from actual day-jobs of the majority of us civil servants...

  25. Comment by Baz posted on

    Surely you're not hinting at Double Standrads? (recoils in shock)

    • Replies to Baz>

      Comment by Caroline M Thacker posted on

      Not only should they spend at least a month working the role, they should try living on out pay!

  26. Comment by Shelley posted on

    We have a way to go in embedding this but we are making progress and in the area I work we saw a +17% improvement in the staff survey Leadership questions (56% overall). Not good enough by far but at least heading in the right direction. The focus on Leadership has driven the right behaviours from Leaders at all levels and certainly some challenges to Leaders not demonstrating behaviours in line with the statement.

  27. Comment by PAUL LUNT posted on

    I feel that throughout the year our senior leaders have patronised us with spin on the SDSR and the 30% cuts due to begin shortly,on one hand they say how fantastic its work force is then on the other how further efficiences and cuts are required.They have little or no control over the major issues like pay and terms and conditions which are imposed on us from ministers and we are now to endure another 5 years of freezes and uncertainty.Until the PADR is scrapped I have no faith in any leader,I donot hear any views expressing discontent with it,do you all really think it serves a purpose to demonise and de-value people or are our leaders just pandering to ministers and not prepared to fight on our behalf?

  28. Comment by Andrew Mackay posted on

    For me, this seems to be aspirational (and nothing wrong in that), however there seems little incentive for managers (and in particular senior managers) to change their behaviour. I think a real change might occur if a manager's performance bonus was not paid until perhaps 80% say in the People Survey that managers demonstrate the behaviours in the statement.

  29. Comment by g posted on

    "57% of you said in the People Survey that your manager did demonstrate the behaviours in the Statement, that fell to just 35% for senior managers."

    I wonder what the outcome would be for us mere mortals at the bottom of the ladder if we returned a 35% result in our behaviours (or anything we were asked to do over a year) in the department???

    The imagination boggles.

    • Replies to g>

      Comment by IO posted on

      Don't worry, a sideways move or promotion is on the cards for them.