– The Sun News

Realisation of public service potentials in Lagos

Akintola Benson-Oke

In an edition of the Harvard Business Review, it was noted that, “The goal of coaching is the goal of good management: to make the most of an organization’s valuable resources.” Similarly, a noted expert, Ed Batista has noted that, Coaching is about connecting with people, inspiring them to do their best and helping them to grow. It’s also about challenging people to come up with the answers they require on their own.

The quotes above indeed align with the vision of the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s administration for the Lagos State Public Service. The ultimate goal of all of the administration’s investments in training workshops is for the Lagos State Public Service to attain that optimal state of performance and effectiveness where its units and teams and departments are headed by persons who understand what leadership means and who have developed their leadership potentials and have enhanced their performance skills. It is only at such a point in time that the Public Service can experience exponential growth.
However, Governor Ambode’s administration fully appreciates that there is need to chart a path to attain the desired end as opposed to merely talking about its importance. Otherwise, the efforts would be meaningless and would amount to undertaking a journey without a map.

The creation and adoption of such a path is the purpose of this 2-day training workshop. As I have indicated at several other fora, once the Lagos State Public Service is able to attain that optimal state of effectiveness and productivity through the aid of coaching, no problem will be too complicated, no task too herculean, no challenge too huge, and no task too complicated for it to confront head-on.

Stated differently, the ultimate goal of the Lagos State Government is to equip every officer of the Lagos State Public Service with leadership tools while the vehicle for achieving this is consistent coaching for every officer. Thus, the Lagos State Government would invest in every public officer by designing and delivering coaching instructions that would increase the knowledge and skills of every officer such that the multiplier effect on the public service would be dynamism, responsiveness, effectiveness, machine-like precision, and exponential productivity.

In this opening address, I will describe the tenets of this administration’s vision of desiring every officer to be leadership-equipped. After this, I will dwell on the benefits of coaching and how coaching can help in the pursuit of that vision.
The Akinwunmi Ambode administration’s vision for the Lagos State Public Service includes a calibrated leadership compass that will be evidenced by a number of qualities in every officer that will be impossible to discount. One of these is assertiveness. Among others, assertiveness and self-confidence will enable officers to:

(a)Say “no” positively and effectively;

(b) Recognise different types of behaviours and its potential impact; (c)Become able to resist the pressure and dominance of excessively dominant people; (d)Stand up to bullies and bullying tactics; (e)Exert a little more control in situations that are important to you; (f) Recognise potential conflicts and adopt skills to manage them; and (g) Talk confidently to people and be heard.
The vision also includes mentoring. One of the key tenets of leadership is the need to pass on knowledge and experience to others. Most great leaders throughout history have made it a priority to grow and develop other leaders who can come in, take the reins and lead more effectively.

Yet another tenet of the vision is effective delegation of authority. Delegation of authority is a process in which the authority and powers are divided and shared amongst the subordinates. When the work of a manager gets beyond his capacity, there should be some system of sharing the work. This is how delegation of authority becomes an important tool in organisation function: Through delegation, a manager, in fact, is multiplying himself by dividing or multiplying his work with the subordinates.

The possession of emotional intelligence is another personal attribute that indicates the presence of leadership potential and which forms a critical part of the vision. This is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, and those of the people around you. People with a high degree of this attribute know what they are feeling, what their emotions mean, and how these emotions can affect other people. In leadership, being in firm grip of one’s emotion is sine qua non. After all, who is more likely to succeed: a leader who shouts at his team when he is under stress, or a leader who stays in control, and calmly assesses situations? I am therefore hopeful that you will be led to seek the development of the elements of emotional intelligence which include:

(a) Self-awareness. (b) Self-regulation.

(c) Motivation. (d) Empathy. (e) Social skills. Furthermore, every officer aspiring to leadership must develop, possess and maintain problem-solving skills. Developing the mind frame for deploying these skills is one of the essential soft skills that is mandatory for success in today’s rapidly changing world. According to Zoe Bendan, the mind frame for successful problem solving calls for:
(a)a laser-like focus on the solution and not the problem; (b) an open mind that entertains and tries ‘All Possible Solutions’ – even if they seem ridiculous at first; (c)viewing problems neutrally as opposed to viewing them as ‘scary’ issues; (d)thinking by changing direction and approach and looking at things in a new way;

(e) adopting the use of language that creates possibilities by the avoidance of closed and negative language; and

(f) the simplification of tasks by removing all details and going to the basics.
Effective communication skill is another indispensable personal attribute of leaders. In an article for the World Economic Forum titled, “Why the Best Leaders Make Communicating Effectively a Priority,” Walter Montgomery argued that if a leader seeks to make communications an instrument of strategic and tactical navigation, he/she should consider several actions, some of which are unconventional:

(a) Clearly and repeatedly, through both words and actions, send the message that effective communication is essential for organisational success and career advancement. This is a powerful, indispensable message. But it requires consistent, hard-nosed follow-through, including compensation incentives that promote good communication practices.

(b) Inject science into your communications strategy. Neuroscience and behavioural economics, in addition to the best polling and statistical techniques, have opened vast new areas of knowledge that leaders can use to their advantage to heighten their credibility and increase the effectiveness of their messages. Sophisticated research grounded in science is an excellent tool for developing strategies and messages that move people to desired actions.

(c) Mandate a holistic assessment of the communications status quo in your organization. In this assessment, do not be limited by the traditional definition of “communications.” Review both the verbal and non-verbal ways in which the organization projects an image of itself through its various activities. Include a study of every internal and external constituency that presents exposures and opportunities for the organization. Assess how it creates relationships with those constituencies, from the body language of a customer service agent to the treatment of laid-off employees, to positions on sensitive public-policy matters, to the design of products and services, to the public visibility of the leader, and so on.

Along the way, remember that communication is a two-way street, so it is essential to evaluate the organization’s ability to identify problems and opportunities and then reliably report that information through feedback channels up the hierarchy.

Dr. Oke writes from Lagos


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