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Higher Performance In Public Service


BY Suruj Rambachan

As  Minister of Local Government and before that as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Mayor of the Borough of Chaguanas, I have worked with public servants and have faced the challenge to get more work done, since I truly believe that there is a lot of unutilized potential and capacity in the public service. Many people have asked me and commented on what they perceive to be a high level of performance in my Ministry and wherever I have worked in the public service. Let me say that there is no magic to getting more done in what has often been described as a non-yielding bureaucracy.

What then is the formula? It starts with the beliefs of the leader/manager. I believe that most people are capable of higher performance. I believe that it is the task of a leader to inspire a higher level of performance. I also believe that people want to perform, to do better. I believe that people feel better about themselves if they can celebrate their achievements. I believe that appreciation is still one of the best methods of motivating people to do a better quality job and giving more of themselves. Finally, I believe that people already know how to solve many if not most of the problems which confront them at their workplaces and as well they know the changes that are needed. This is a good time to ask of yourself, “what is my philosophy about people and as well what are my beliefs about the people I have at my Ministry?”

The real challenge for leaders is whether leaders are willing to give the employees the space and the resources to do the job. One of the most important aspects of the leadership style required to get higher performance is collaboration, the leader’s ability to listen to the ideas of others, to discuss and to have a common understanding. Collaboration takes immense patience. However it brings about commitment and dedication to the task, for it is through collaboration that people feel appreciated and take ownership for the results. In general people do not like to be dictated to. They will prefer to be consulted and shown the merits or demerits of their suggestions.

In all of the above it must be remembered that people must still be held accountable for results. Accountability is deemed fair when people have the tools and  human resources as well as the management support  to carry out the task. In addition, people must know that they  will share whether tangibly or intangibly in the results of the work.

So there is no magic in getting the public service to perform at a higher level. It is about the following:

  • your beliefs about people and their potential for higher performance
  • adopting an active style of collaboration
  • giving people the space and resources to do the job
  • demonstrating appreciation through acknowledgement
  • sharing in the gains from the results whether tangibly or intangibly.

A piece of cake you may say! Well old managerial habits do not change that easily. It will take a conscious effort on the part of the Manager to make the first change.

You see unless Mangers change , the people will not!

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