No matter how good you are at what you do, there will always be someone who is better than you in some way.
Envy, though natural, doesn’t help. But finding out how they do what they do, learning from them and using that knowledge is the route to improvement.
And you needn’t pay a penny. Why? Because leading players in other councils are often very keen to share their expertise. All you have to do, usually, is ask.
Our public services are enormously generous. I’ve worked around public services for over a quarter of a century and senior leaders are amongst the most open and giving that I’ve met anywhere.
So how do you liberate this value and be better at what you do? How do you learn what they know?
First, share what you know. If you have leading expertise in a particular field, make it available. Capture what you know, publish it and share it through conferences, workshops, presentations, products and conversations. One of the best ways to get something back is to give first.
Second, work with your organisational development team to help employees and managers hone their learning skills. As we get older, our habits can become more entrenched, making us less receptive to new ideas. By keeping our learning muscles active and our minds open, we can easily find better ways of delivering more value.
Third, if you are a senior leader, share what you know – and lead the learning revolution. Spend time mentoring and running internal seminars so you can both share your expertise and learn from others. Give every member of staff an hour a month to capture some key learning points and to share those with colleagues. You’ll probably be surprised to find that many of the solutions you seek from outside experts and consultants are already known and working in your own organisation.
Fourth, get out and about – and encourage your staff to do the same. If each of your managers was tasked with bringing in one better way of working (based upon learning from those who are better than you) once every six months, you’d very quickly have a library of solutions to draw upon. These could be programmed into an improvement plan helping you to become better across the board. I’ve recently been meeting with chief executives and other senior officers who attended the SOLACE conference towards the end of last year and it’s been really interested to hear each one mention how valuable taking some out to attend was to them, so they hear and learn new ideas.
Finally, reflect honestly on your shortcomings. You will need to be careful where you make such observations – there are always people out there keen to use negativity to fuel discontent. But draw upon the experience of the airline industry – it actively encourages the admission of errors. They know that cover ups lead to disasters and undermine consumer confidence.
The solution to being better is to always think you’re never quite good enough and to be determined to learn from those who are better.
The insatiable thirst for improvement is not only good for us – for our personal growth and career development – it can, does and will make a tangible difference to our customers.
I’d love to know what you think too?