GovForum; May 2018 – Restoring Trust in Public Sector Institutions

A big thank you to those of you who attended our fourth Emerging Leaders Forum, Building Community Trust in Government, held on Wednesday, May 2. It was a thought-provoking session with great relevance to the current state of prominent government and non-government institutions in Australia. Many thanks as well to the generosity and expertise of our three panellists, Philip Hardy, Deidre Mulkerin and Janet Schoner, as well as the Deloitte Public Sector team.  Rory Gregg, a Partner in the Deloitte Public Sector practice, began the session drawing on findings from the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, presenting a picture of general decline in public trust in all sectors, and placing this is in an international context. This sparked a number of topics for broader discussion; what are some of the challenges that we must consider? Why does trust matter? What is driving the trust deficit? And, what are some of the promising solutions that can be explored in restoring some of this trust? From this, a deeply insightful conversation between the panellists and the audience touched on events including the current Royal Commission into the Banking and Financial Services Industry, concepts of misconduct, integrity and respect, and tangible insights into what can be done to generate genuine trust with the communities and colleagues we work with. Phil Hardy shared a quote that enveloped the nature of the day’s session:

“Trust is the residue of promises delivered”

A few themes dominated the panel discussion, and we’ve highlighted some standout points below:

Misconduct vs Conduct; Organisations are set up to take risks and mistakes are a part of doing so. These mistakes do not have to undermine the social contract that exists between the public and leaders in fields of public service. The loss of trust that is the bedrock of the social contract is driven by the mistakes organisations choose to ignore, and the decisions that are made around acknowledging mistakes and making a commitment to do right wrongs and do better.

Relationships; Both Janet and Diedre referred to their experiences within the social sector and work taken on in partnership with marginalised communities and vulnerable individuals. They emphasised the significance of relationships and respect when working with communities who have been subject to systemic abuse and exploitation. Contributing factors to developing meaningful relationships included transparency, respect, inclusivity, honesty, acceptance and accountability. Tying this all together, Diedre captured the elusive and vital nature of trust, stating that it “is like motherhood, it’s the meaning of everything”.

Bravery; For those working in the public service, there remains the ongoing task of managing the nexus between government responsibilities, capabilities and the ultimate purpose to serve the people. Where ministers are keen to drive outcomes, the role of secretaries and advisors is to consult in a way that is brave and frank, true to their genuine belief.

Institutional inequality; Growing inequality was seen by the panel as one of the leading contributors to declining public trust in institutions. When there is a disconnect between effort and result, particularly in what it takes to live a meaningful life and contribute to today’s society, people look to institutions to demand answers and seek practical responses.

Looking forward; Moving forward into a time where consumers and the public are placing greater emphasis on institutional ethics and similarly where institutions are engaging with data and best-practice as to how to function in the interest of the public, the panellists and audience members are confident in the restoration of community trust in government. If the work our panellists referred to today is at all representative of the attitudes of their respective government agencies, we are certainly just as optimistic! Again, thank you to all those in attendance, the three panellists and both Rory Gregg and the Deloitte Public Sector team. If you have any questions about this session or the GovForum in general, please do not hesitate to contact our team. If you can think of others that might also enjoy the GovForum, please let us know, we’d love to invite them along.


GovForum Sept 2017 – Shaping Strategic Thinking in Government

The discussion started out with defining strategy and the role it played in the panellists respective portfolios, before veering into the intersection between strategy and execution, and environmental and internal challenges facing public sector leaders today, and what it takes to successfully develop and implement the strategy. Here are just a few of the key takeaways shared by the panellists:

Aspire and imagine. Strategy needs to be aspirational. It should be underpinned by a compelling and bold vision for
a better future and supported by clear, articulated problem statement to focus the team around. Put simply, it is about establishing where we are now and where do you want to be in the future.

Be values-based. Value-based strategies are critical of the public sector, as they enable multiple organisations and departments to believe in and understand how their work aligns with and supports the strategy. As Niki Alcorn observed, private sector leaders often have to define a noble purpose – one element where public sector leaders can leverage the inherent impact and purposefulness of the organisation’s mission and objectives.

Focus, focus, focus. Organisations need to focus on specific areas without trying to ‘solve a thousand problems at once’. Communicating these focus areas are equally important, and one of tips shared by the panellists included establishing a ‘top 10’ priorities list and using this communicate broadly across the organisation and out into the field.

Continually reinvent. In an age of continual technological disruption and innovation, setting out a strategy and then updating once every five or ten years is no longer viable. Strategies have to be kept alive current, allowing the ability to pivot in implementation as new insights and changes emerge. This requires appropriate governance, enabling technology and data systems to harness the information and inform decision-making, and an agile, outcomes-focused organisational culture.

Collaborate. One of the key challenges identified by participants centred around collaboration, and specifically, the role collaboration across government agencies in delivering the Government’s strategic priorities. Interestingly, participants also cited collaboration, as the part of the solution and the most critical enabler to effectively implement these priorities. Panellists echoed the importance of collaboration and that benefit that comes from actively harnessing the value that different parts of the government and building relationships and experiences to enable this. Click here if you would like a copy of the forum handout


GovForum, November 2017 – Managing change within a risk-averse culture

Confronting the fear of change; “People are not resistant to change as such, rather they fear what they may lose as a result of the change.” Peter Severin – Commissioner Corrective Services Department of Justice. Like a burgeoning wildfire, fear can plague change in any organisation. This is particularly important as we see a lot of NSW Government agencies in a constant state of change. It’s critical, therefore, that public sector leaders pay particular attention to their perspectives and mindsets when supporting team members come to terms with what change may mean for them.

Respecting the organisational legacy whilst driving change; Acknowledging and respecting organisational and cultural legacy is critical during times of change. As leaders in government, we are often confronted with the realities of having to work with established legacies and ways of working. These legacies often manifest themselves in organisational culture, systems and the ways of working. Accordingly, it’s often easy for leaders (especially newly appointed) to become critical of these agency-specific legacies without understanding how they came to be in place. Melanie Hawyes suggested that most often, these decisions (or legacies) were made in good faith, and with the best information available at the time. Similarly, Paul Newson highlighted the importance of perspective in one’s own introspection: “When critiquing your performance, don’t be so harsh – there are some things you had control of, but many more that you didn’t.” Particularly in such volatile periods of change, it is important to remember that we are all humans.

Building genuine relationships; Often relationships can be overlooked in the light of enabling effective change. Our panellists spoke passionately about the unintended consequences of under-investing in relationships. Furthermore, relationships allow us to be aware of the diverse experiences our colleagues and peers have been through and allows us to share learnings. Having a robust council or “dilemma sharing” to help during hard times and often developed through our relationships, can minimise the pain leaders often feel when leading and managing through change.


GovForum, May 2017 – Coaching & Leading

Susannah Le Bron and Jane Ridley were so generous with their time and in sharing their leadership stories and advice – we would like to take this opportunity to thank them again for their participation. With all nuggets of wisdom shared in the short space of time, it’s hard to pick the key points to remind ourselves of – but we’ve tried to below. GovForum; June 2017 – Coaching and Leading

On their style of leadership; The leadership style that has worked the best for Susannah is one of collaboration. She likes to keep things human – referring to ‘people’ as opposed to ‘staff’. Susannah always insists on having the person who is making a recommendation or proposal to her presence at the table where the decision is being made- regardless of level or grade. Their voice is important. Jane shared how she needs to be energetic in her leadership because frequently the jobs she takes on are those that others don’t want to do – transformation! Her top tip is to be very self-aware when leading and coaching; know your own strengths, your weaknesses and your values, and how you might lend these to other people. Take the opportunities to lead and mentor outside of formal sessions – it can happen every day in all your interactions. Additional bonus tip – use analogies – especially soccer ones!

Preparing yourself for difficult coaching experiences;  When providing difficult feedback, Susannah and Jane both highlighted the importance to give full attention to the session and devote enough time to solve the issue at hand, or at least put a plan in place. Both prepare to the coaching meetings with notes if necessary, for instance in the form of mind maps, and encourage colleagues to do the same. They recommended to call out if you think things are not being said or avoided, always finish by asking if there is anything else to say.

Our panellists recommended to always take the view that no one comes to work intending to do a bad job. It’s a leader’s job to find out what else is going on that this might be happening. Linked to this, Jane always includes a standing agenda item on her meetings with team members called ‘personal’, so that her people have the opportunity to talk about anything – so much else happens in our lives outside of work.

What we learned from you;  We got some great leadership tips from the room too:

  1. Be authentic and let people know who you are. Be observant of changes in your people.
  2. Recognise the context that your team has been working in if you join a new one – sometimes what you consider to be management basics haven’t ever been done before.
  3. Regular conversations are so important to have so that you can then have meaningful or difficult ones when needed.
  4. Digital channels help with keeping communication light, current and regular.
  5. But it’s really important to also back this up with face to face communications

The difference between coaching and mentoring. Mentoring is about you, your experience, what they can learn from you. Coaching is about your people. Top tip – document the number of times you say ‘I’ in a coaching conversation vs the number of times you say ‘you’ – ratio should be 3:1 in favour of ‘you’!

Leadership resources for you: Our panel facilitator Pip Dexter remarked that Jane and Susannah possess at least four of the six signature traits of inclusive leadership. Jane mentioned that she uses mind maps and the LSI tool.  See how Deloitte CEO Cindy Hook describes her leadership style, and the approach she advises to developing yours