…I went along with it, oh, and you paid for it. I had the opportunity to apply for another job in the NHS recently, and I like to think you should take opportunities to be interviewed whenever you can, for no other reason than its a great way to get feedback and ideas about how you are perceived and your strengths and weaknesses. During the interview preparation I and the other candidates were told to use the word “I” at every chance we got, we were specifically told not to use the word “we”…we were assured that the interview panel wanted to hear the “I” word as often as possible. In my heart and my head I knew that this was bullshit; I have never achieved anything on my own…sure, I’ve exhibited drive, persistence, stubbornness, commitment, hard work, even a touch of ingenuity (really) and all the other things you’d expect to apply in pursuit of anything worthwhile, but I’ve always needed and valued the support, expertise and guidance of other people; I didn’t invent the combustion engine, the pen or the computer. We are all only standing on the shoulders of giants.
In this brilliant TED speech about entrepreneurial behavior and development, Ernesto Sirolli makes the observation that no-one he encounters is brilliant at everything. He cites Richard Bransons autobiography in which there are no mentions of the word “I” in the first two pages, but the word “we” is used thirty two times. It struck me that it could only be in the Public Sector (or possibly Enron) that an interview panel would take someone seriously who tried to claim the credit for doing and achieving everything on their own. Of course there is wonderful irony in the encouragement of this sort of behavior in the Public Sector, and that is that when the shit hits the fan there is no-one faster at ducking responsibility than Public Sector Leaders and Managers…when was the last time you heard a Public Sector leader say, “Yes, you’re right, I screwed up and I need to deal with it”. No, me neither.
In my younger days I recall being interviewed for a job at the new Nissan plant in Sunderland, and all they wanted to know was how well you could work as part of a team; I think Nissan are quite successful? Steven Covey, he of multiple infinitely useful insights and a wealth of leadership development experience, talks about the vital need for people to develop interdependence and encourages the habit of giving praise to others unsparingly. And the best definition of great leadership that I’ve come across yet, is that its about creating the conditions in which things can happen..not creating the conditions in which you take the credit for everything.
I still have no idea why I went along with the dumb idea of using the “I” word, in fact during the interview I even found myself apologizing for using the word “we”…it was as if I had entered a parallel universe, a strange surreal world in which everything I held to be true was turned on its head as the Public Sector proved once again that it really is a planet all on its own; a planet that generates its own atmosphere, a planet with its own culture and hierarchy, a planet that speaks another language and a planet that we are all paying to maintain; Uranus perhaps? Nanu nanu readers…