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Civil Service

Let’s create an environment where “everyone can be awesome”

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Civil Service Leaders, Leadership Statement
Head shot of Catherine Brown
Catherine Brown, Chief Executive, Food Standards Agency

We had a great presentation recently at the Food Standards Agency (FSA) by Meri Williams – who tweets as @geek_manager.  Meri talked to us about leadership and inclusion – and her key message was that the main role of managers and leaders is to create an environment in which “everyone can be awesome”.

Unleashing our potential

After a long career in the private and public sectors, I believe all the evidence that says that engaged and diverse people are the key to building organisations that achieve their objectives.  And I also believe the evidence that says that leadership – at every level across an organisation – is the key to engagement.

It follows that there is nothing that we can significantly influence that is more important to our success than our leadership – because it is that which unleashes the potential of our people, and channels it to achieve our objectives.

So it’s great that our Civil Service Leadership Statement is so clear about what we need our leaders to be: inspiring, confident and empowering.

Growing our leaders

FSA_MASTER_FOOD logoEasy to say – but not always easy to do! So what have we done in the Food Standards Agency to try and help us leaders and managers grow our ability to deliver against the Leadership Statement?

We have built a management community that all our leaders are part of.  We are spread out all over England, Wales and Northern Ireland, so it’s easy for people to feel left out.  So we have a monthly telephone call that everyone can dial into and participate in – it’s a cheap, efficient way of keeping all our leaders ‘in the loop’ and they tell us they love it.

We also have an active Yammer group on our internal social media network where managers can talk to each other, share ideas and problems, and ask for help. All our managers, from me as DG/Chief Exec to our front-line supervisors, are invited and participate, and I get just as much inspiration from colleagues as they get from me!

We’ve invested in a management development programme called Develop2Gether, which includes quarterly learning and development modules and Action Learning Sets so that we can support each other’s learning and work out how to apply good ideas in practice.

Since embarking on this programme, we’ve seen a marked increase in the quality of leadership shown by our managers, both as individuals and as a community that comes together to tackle organisation-wide issues.

Recognising your stars

Sometimes I think that we underestimate how hard leadership and particularly middle management can be – not always intellectually, but personally and emotionally. So it’s really important that we recognise the efforts and celebrate the successes of our leaders all around the organisation.

Last year, we launched a ‘management stars’ awards scheme, where colleagues can nominate leaders for being inspiring, confident and empowering.  This year 64 nominations were received and the winners were presented with awards at our annual management conference – the theme of which was “Inspire, innovate, include”. The recognition provided by the awards motivates not only our nominees and our winners but also the frontline colleagues who nominate them, and the senior leadership team too!

We all make awesomeness happen

I am not at all surprised that the investments we have made in supporting, engaging, developing and recognising our management and leadership teams have enabled us to increase our overall engagement score in the annual People Survey from 51% to 60% over the last couple of years. We are committed to making this better and better – because until every individual is motivated and engaged to make their best contribution to delivering “food we can trust”, which is our mission as the FSA, we won’t be achieving the most we can for consumers, which is what we exist to do.

And of course leadership – inspiring and empowering our colleagues and making them feel confident – is not restricted to people in management roles. We all make a big difference to each other and the culture that we work within. We can all help create a working world where “everyone can be awesome”. I’d love to hear your ideas about what we can all do to make an even bigger difference – either here or on Twitter, where I am @Catherineb201.

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  1. Comment by Steve Lintern posted on

    Hello Catherine. Good article. I'd say delegation and trust are really important. Too often, any of us can feel like a small cog in a large machine. But that cog is essential to the smooth running of the machine. It's important that the cog knows that!

  2. Comment by catherine brown posted on

    Thanks for your comments - sorry not to have been back til now - I didn't know you'd commented! (And I don't know if you'll know I've replied - it's a funny thing this blogging mullarkey isn't it...)

    Gavin - I'm a big proponent of concentrating on the things where we can definitely make a difference - hence my focus on leadership and team dynamics and mission clarity. The research on pay is interesting - all suggesting that it can annoy people and demotivate them but is not particularly effective in motivating them. In my career in the private sector I saw lots of people who were paid a very large amount of money and remained resolutely miserable and unproductive... But I hear your point nonetheless.

    Paul - thanks for the feedback and for your own contribution to the management community!

    Alisoun - how lovely to hear your example - I'm sure you've given Tanzeed the feedback - but never hurts to do it again - one of the things that leaders (and all of us actually!) need and don't often get enough of is reinforcement for what they are doing that's good...

  3. Comment by Alisoun Probert posted on

    Reading this article immediately made me think of Tanzeed Rahim, a leader within DWP has an extraordinary way of creating an environment in which everyone realises how awesome they are and energy just flies around like wildfire!

  4. Comment by Paul posted on

    As a member of the FSA Management Community it has been brilliant to have been involved in the initiatives Catherine mentions above. It is really great to see tangible improvements such as our improved People Survey score. Also I believe leader and manager confidence has increased, which is more difficult to measure. As Catherine says above there can be incredible emotional strain on managers and being personally able to share experience, pick up some new tips or sound out my ideas with peers in my management community learning set has been really useful to me.

  5. Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on

    Thank you Catherine for your thoughts. I would agree with you that good leadership, having role models in place who can provide inspiration and the empowerment of staff are key to creating a successful working environment. However, pay is also a key component to ensuring that you able to attract and retain talent and help to motivate staff!