The Real Challenges Public Sector Leaders Face
Doing more with less has become the constant theme for management working in the public sector today. In spite of continuous efforts to create efficiencies and produce results, expectations continue to grow.
The dialogue around delivering results generates discussion in every team environment. How do you manage when you’re expected to constantly do more? What are the best leadership choices you can make? How can you be resilient?
Generally there are four major challenges that public sector clients tend to focus on. These include:
The Focus On Outcomes
Since the 1990s, governments have placed a greater emphasis on outcomes-based results for leaders. At the time, the emphasis and thinking was that government should behave like business. Outcome-based initiatives make sense and have taken hold over time. They encourage people to think things through and connect their actions to specific results. Government workplaces have changed focus from outputs to outcomes. This isn’t a left wing/right wing ideology. It’s simply what everybody looks for today.
The Paradox of Innovation and Creativity
There’s a lot of talk in the public sector about innovation and creativity. But this requires an ability to take risks and make mistakes. Consider the stock market and how people make their investments. If you want to make a bigger bang for your buck, you need to take risks. The public sector, however, is generally an extremely risk-averse environment. So how do you balance pushing the envelope in an environment that really doesn’t look favourably upon making mistakes?
The Public Perception of Value
Public services are, by nature, subject to increased media scrutiny and government regulation. Public perception is a big deal – people expect results. Missteps can lead to very public consequences. You don’t want to be the person to try something that didn’t go well and find yourself on the front page of a major newspaper. On the other hand, you don’t want to be considered as lacking initiative. It’s very complicated – knowing how to achieve the right balance in the public eye takes time.
The Need To Build More Resilience (To Deal With Factors Such As Stress And Mental Health)
Leaders in the public may feel like they’re running on a treadmill, trying to keep up with expectations of politicians and the public while simultaneous trying to retain their own personal equilibrium. Developing relationships and keeping the lines of communication open with all the various parties that they’re expected to work with is challenging. Public sector workplaces can be incredibly stressful – people feel there’s not enough of a work/life balance. There’s a great amount of pressure to deliver and be high-performing contributor. Managing stress on a daily basis is especially difficult, as doing less or hiring additional people isn’t usually an option.
Although many people are not well equipped to handle these daunting challenges intuitively, coaching can give them the tools and insights to handle stress and manage their work/life balance more effectively. Good leaders are able to develop their own resiliency and foster it on others, Building resiliency is key.