I first became involved with CS Local in 2012, when I was Operations Manager at Birkenhead Land Registry. I was preparing my people for the latest in a series of restructures – and potential office closure – while at the same time engaging them with the Civil Service reform agenda. Then I met Kathie Bates, and she convinced me that CS Local could help me with the challenges I faced, and that I could offer something in return.
Fast forward four years – what has that two-way collaboration looked like? Well, for one, I’ve been a fairly consistent member of the Steering Group. This is the cross-departmental body, made up of senior managers from a wide range of backgrounds, that validates and signs off the enormous annual work programme of CS Local North West. This has given me a valuable overview of the programme and is enormously rewarding. Steering Group deals mainly in high-level figures and returns, but here each unit is an engaged citizen, or a civil servant developed beyond the parameters of their normal day job. This is often achieved through dexterous use of volunteering and good will, at minimal cost to the taxpayer and the parent department.
I’ve had a walk-on part at the CS Local Academies, including this year’s trailblazer for middle managers. These are very much about taking people out of their normal working environment and challenging them to work together across departments. It’s also about giving them a finely judged level of support – not too much, not too little – to help them learn skills for themselves. In addition, I’ve got hands-on with a number of Academy projects. Actually, as these are also very much about letting people work out their own solutions for departments and citizens, hands-off might be a better phrase. It’s fair to say my own skills of facilitation and delegation have benefitted from this experience – after all, the role of a leader in CS Local is very much to enable, rather than to do.
The highlight of my time with Civil Service Local was Civil Service Live in Liverpool two years ago. I love the event anyway, as the sheer energy of the thing is fantastic, but on this occasion I was lucky enough to play a small part in the planning, and to help facilitate a spot- mentoring showcase. This gave visiting civil servants the opportunity of a 15 minute appointment with one of our senior leaders from the North West. As one of those leaders, I can say it was personally so rewarding. We were able to provide people with a sounding board and a few answers and ideas to enable them to deal with the challenges they were facing. I’m pleased that one or two of them have contacted me since, to keep in touch and to share news of successes and promotions.
That, for me, sums up Civil Service Local – it encourages us to make the very best of what we have, and it reminds us that it’s our people who make things happen.