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How to Move the Public Sector to Action

Let's be clear - the public sector has brilliant hardworking people whose hearts are invested in facilitating private sector development. Granted, not everyone is like this, but it helps to know when seeking to secure buy-in from the public sector, there are allies on the inside you can partner with to champion your cause.

Whether you are a business advancing your agenda, or a private sector organization representing your members, you already know that working with public sector bureaucracies can be frustrating. That is until you get an insider's perspective on what all the “hold-ups” are. Then, your eyes are suddenly opened to the complexities of building coalitions and gaining consensus, or at least, quorum, in large, matrixed, political environments.

So, how do you move the public sector to action?

1. Know Their People, Policy and Strategic Positions

Your first step is to know the people, policy, and strategic positions of the public sector organs you want to move to action take on the issues you seek their action on. The power to facilitate or block actions is often vested in multiple decision-makers across multiple institutions and departments. Find out which institutions, departments, and leaders have what decision-making power then frame your position within their context (not yours).

2. Secure Leadership Sponsorship

Like it or not, in every context, there is an in-group and an out-group. If you are not in the public sector, you are already in the out-group. With each institution, department, unit, and team, come layers and complexities of group thinking and norms. To successfully influence action, you need to secure group leadership sponsorship, both vertically and horizontally across the groups you want to champion your agenda.

3. Show Empathy

Forbes named empathy the most important leadership skill. Harvard among growing research, proves that emotional intelligence matters more than intellectual quotient. Rather than approach public sector counterparts like you hold the monopoly on knowledge and expertise because you come from the private or development sectors – adopt a humble and empathetic posture, seeking to connect and support, rather than correct and sabotage.

4. Prove Value

What is valuable to you, may not be valuable to another person, team, unit, department, or institution. Now, imagine you seek buy-in from several public sector constituents and each assigns values to different things differently. You can see very quickly how challenging it can get to motivate action.

Research to find out what value your counterparts seek and that can be obtained from facilitating your request, and help them gain that value in the process of supporting you to gain yours.

5. Equip Implementors

The most effective way to motivate others to adopt and run with an action is to equip and empower them to grow to be able to do so.

As a Certified Change Management, Project Management professional, Executive Coach, and Business Trainer with 19+ years of experience supporting individual and team productivity and performance, Modesta Mahiga LLC's Principal Management Consultant, Modesta Mahiga, says, "Mindset and motivation will always trump technical skillsets. Yet too many capacity-building programs focus on technical skill sets and do very little to equip and empower the mindset and motivation required to deliver expected results."

To effectively motivate public sector implementors to action, it is imperative to integrate, indeed, prioritize, mindset and motivation to technical skills development.

This requires you to discover their vision, values, and aspirations, identify their barriers to forward movement, and co-design methods to support them to own and drive results. This holistic approach to capacity building looks like different things for different individuals, teams, units, departments, and institutions. To be effective, you will have to tailor your approach to their needs and context.

How to Move the Public Sector to Action

As you can see, moving the public sector to action is a long game; you have to invest in building relationships, proving value, empowering ownership, and building the capacity to deliver. It takes time and effort, not to mention relational and financial capital. If your motivation is partnership, you will make the investment, knowing it will yield appreciable returns, not only for furthering this particular action but also for creating the platform upon which you can table and secure buy-in, for the many others to come.

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