As part of our look at the challenges facing middle managers, CGE spoke with Joseph Beres, lead for the Operations Branch Culture Initiative at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
As a middle manager in the government, what keeps you awake at night?
As part of a branch of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) that focuses on operational delivery and whose employees are spread across the country, I frequently find myself thinking about:
• how to communicate the forest (bigger picture) to our employees who are focused on the trees and the leaves (day-to-day operational reality)?
• how to help employees embrace change and see themselves in that change?
• how to maintain the organizational knowledge that may be lost through retirements/departures?
• how to ignite personal passion for the corporate mission and mandate and how it links to their day-to-day work?
• how to foster a culture of accountability and individual contribution (“what can I give”)?
• how to reveal and continue to develop the leader that each of us has inside?
As managers, we must all find our own answers to these questions – and support those who are on the journey with us.
What is the greatest challenge facing the management cadre in government today?
I believe that the greatest challenge and opportunity for management is to refocus attention to the people side of the equation to touch the hearts of our employees. We then need to balance our employees’ personal needs with the work that needs to get done. This is an area I’m passionate about – finding how to encourage and inspire passion in people to do their best job and be as creative and supportive as possible in doing that work.
I was always haunted by this question: why do we have difficulty unleashing the potential of our good people? Stress, increased workload, and change will not go away and like any workplace, we can do a better job of dealing with that stress. Even at its best, our current management approach tends to focus on juggling priorities and putting out fires. For different results, we need a different approach.
Our only hope to break the grip of the current paradigm is to adopt a new management approach – a new culture – that puts people first, that inspires them to their core and gets them emotionally involved and engaged in what they do.
My hope ultimately is to encourage everyone to be the CEO of their own job. That can only be done one employee at a time. This would be characterized by inspiration through purpose, managers who set personal examples of honesty and integrity and who, overall, exhibit public service leadership. We would continue to deliver our objectives while building genuine, enabling, one-on-one relationships that would combine elements of discovering passion, motivating, empowering, coaching, giving constructive feedback, managing performance and fairness among employees. That’s how management can open the door to increasing productivity and morale.
What gives you the greatest satisfaction in your job?
The most rewarding aspect of being a manager is having the opportunity to work with people – peers, colleagues, clients, members of the public – and through my daily and routine interactions, making a difference in their lives, even in the most subtle ways. While giving attention and a helping hand to others, I have received so much more, and this has contributed to my own personal growth on this journey.
My current assignment allows me to continue to live out my passion for people. I’m humbled to have the opportunity to contribute to the future culture of the CFIA’s Operations Branch. I’m excited to envision the “people half” of the culture equation and I believe it will eventually be in balance with the “system half”, thus creating an ideal image of what the organization can become.