Self-reflection #1

Over the last year I’ve been encouraged by colleagues and managers to take on a stronger leadership role both at work and in the wider sector I work in. In some ways it’s a little bit after the fact; I was on the National Digital Forum board for five years and could have used that position more actively, rather than the training ground it became. But that’s all by the by, and I guess I must have done something right given the thanks from the NDF community I received at the most recent conference. (And It felt good to give the closing address there and take the opportunity to speak about all the good that the cultural heritage sector can do for New Zealand at the moment.)

One of the things that resonated with me at the conference was Seb Chan talking about the importance of reflective writing and taking the time to write things down. It gives clarity to your thoughts, and is a reference point to return to later. So that’s what I hope to be doing more of in 2017, starting with this post.

Developing leaders in the public sector is a big focus for the State Services Commission. We’ve started looking at it at work and have kicked off with a couple of assessment tools, including the TMI profile and the Clifton Strengths Finder. I’m not usually one for personality profiling but I took them seriously and am starting to see their potential.

From the TMI I’ve learned that my current strengths lie in the areas of reporting and advising, backed up by the upholder-maintainer, and creator-innovator roles. Cheerily it suggests I shouldn’t be a project manager (which I’ve never liked), and should be more in the thinking/analysing/writing space, with a bit of doing thrown in. That seems like a good place to be. From the Strengths Finder I’ve also learnt that I’m currently strong in relationship skills, with a little bit in the getting things done area.

Where I’m weak is in the areas of influencing others and setting strategic direction. Both of these are areas I want, or maybe need, to develop. While the relationship skills are important and useful for influencing, it’s limited to people I already know and have a relationship with. A focus for next year will be on how I move into working with new people and influencing beyond my personal relationships and sector?

We’ve got some big work underway at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, including the Te Tai Treaty Settlement Stories project, and taking a fresh look at our digital publishing strategy (which includes Te Ara, NZHistory, and other websites that we manage). Te Tai and our digital strategy will rely heavily on being able to bring other organisations along with us, and get them to see our projects as something they want to contribute to.

So now I’m thinking to my self: is it enough to simply be clear about our objectives and the interventions we’re seeking to make (that’s government-speak for what are we trying to achieve?), or do I need to be more of a salesperson? Probably both, and I’ll look to develop influencing skills over the coming year. For now, it’s enough to list a few of the interventions and keep them in mind:

  • Strengthen Iwi/Crown relationship through co-creation of shared stories, and building enduring partnerships beyond Settlements
  • Collaboration and reduced duplication – clearer lines of responsibility for different areas of work in the sector / digital space
  • Proving the value of our interventions within the wider cultural sector strategy
  • Shifting the mindset of NZers through better understanding of our history / histories
  • Making history publicly engaging and consumable – means we need to develop new ways of telling the stories beyond lengthy text and weighty tomes
  • But also, making digital history academically respected – the light and deep views are both important

That’s enough reflection for now. Happy holidays all!