Up until now, the top ten list has likely seemed rather generic. Fuzzy features around jobs, not elements you could “target” or “search” for in a formal job board for example. The next two though are pretty clear.
I want to be a manager.
You might be thinking, “Wait, isn’t he already a manager?” Yes, I am, and I want to remain one. I like managing people. I am comfortable in expanding my “reach” through delegation. Obviously, sure, I can get more done if I have minions. 🙂 But I also really like two other aspects.
First and foremost, the management layer helps me to ensure that I stay “strategic” (item #07 on my list). Managing lets me exercise the judgement function that I like, combined with ensuring a broad direction and vision for my team. I always want my team to know where we’re going, why we’re going there, and some of the place markers on the road to get there. They can plan the route in some cases, and the mode of transport, so to speak, but we all know the destination and general approach to the journey.
Second, I like seeing employees develop. I like helping them too, and I’m supportive, but I really like giving them opportunities and seeing them flourish. I also like spotting talent, recruiting it, and letting it gallop off in a good direction for the team. Harnessing them in a way, without trying to constrain them too much. It is part of the reason that I am so supportive of co-op positions, even though I haven’t had any lately (just too light on suitable workplan options). I’ve invested time and energy in post-secondary recruitment, I helped organize an event on recruitment and retention. I even like doing PAs to see what they have done in the past year and where they want to go in the next. I can’t talk about specific examples, that info is under HR privilege, but I love hearing what they’re doing now and where they’re going.
I have mentioned one example previously, so I’ll expand a bit on it. One of my co-op students raved about me to her future mother-in-law, and as much as that raving benefited me, it was also gratifying to see. That during her time with me, a single semester, she learned a lot, saw a future in the public service, developed some skills, and wanted to come back. Which she attributed to working with me. In short, a “good” experience. And lots of people have said they want to work for me, particularly if I become an EX.
Which I’m agnostic about. While I like management, I also like getting my hands dirty sometimes in the files. Right now, I report to a DG, and some see that as the worst scenario — all the responsibilities of being a director without any of the perks. However, for me, it is all the benefits of flying solo without any of the costs of being a director. I am not doing an EX job, I know that, even if some other people think I am. And it’s inspiring to see that some people at multiple levels think I should be an EX or that I’m EX-ready now.
Yet there is another thread in government. Many experienced executives say the best two jobs in government are either EX-2/3 (i.e. a Director-General) or EX minus 1 (pre-executive, i.e. my current level). One huge disadvantage of being an EX-01 is that you are accountable for a lot — the workhorses of the EX cadre. And with lots of non-EX reports to manage. If you are an EC-07, like me, you usually have a Director above you — someone who is accountable for all the work of the division. Sure, you have responsibilities too, but ultimately, it’s on them, not you.
So many EXs say that unless you are planning to go to EX 2 or 3 level, there is no point in becoming an EX as the pay increase above an EC-07 isn’t significant enough to warrant the extra headaches. There certainly are a lot of EX-01s around that put in a lot more hours than I am as an EC-07 and who run into work/life balance challenges pretty fast. There is also a popular refrain that “You can’t choose your first EX-01” and that is a huge problem for me.
Because I’m not about the level. I don’t care if I ever get promoted again. I am all about the work. I want to manage people, but I don’t need to be an EX to do that. I feel like I’m adopting the William Lyon Mackenzie King approach to career management — “Not necessarily promotion but promotion if necessary”.
I am not blocking myself from an EX job, but it has to be about the job. I won’t take an EX job just to take an EX, I have to want the job. I’m also opposed to people applying for jobs just to make a pool, even though they don’t want the job itself. I think that just mucks up the HR system and bogs it down. I encourage others to do it, of course, but I am against it in principle and thus rarely apply because I don’t see jobs I actually want.
Which I confess recently burned me. There is a job I really wanted, and I missed it for two reasons. First, my french was expired, despite a year of pushing to get the refresh training I needed. Second, it was an EX job and I wasn’t in any EX pols. They went with someone else who wants their EX and who was fully bilingual. An easier fit, too, for them than for me. I would have made the same decision if I was the DG. It still means that the specific job I wanted, in that case, was an EX. If I want something like that in the future, I’ll have to make a pool.
Yet when I say management, I don’t mean I have to be a director. I just have to have some staff to help develop.
#03. Management — Not about level of position, but scope and seeing employees develop.