CLMs, the “Awesome Factor”, and the Public Service

A few weeks ago, I was out for lunch with some fellow PSR advocates, and the topic of Career Limiting Moves (CLM) came up. In the context of renewal, this is a concern that is often raised by many public servants who are worried that by pushing an idea too far, writing the wrong thing, etc, that they may be performing a CLM. Admittedly, even in writing this blog, I’ve occasionally censored myself worried about how what I’m writing might be perceived by particular audiences. I’ve been thinking for awhile about how I’d like to write this post, as there are a number of issues I think need to be addressed when thinking about CLMs in PS Renewal.

Actual v Perceived CLMs

In a risk averse public service, almost anything new/innovative can be considered a CLM as you are, by making a suggestion, perhaps implicitly stating that the norm needs to change, and therefore that the norm is bad. In making this assumption, I think we fail to give credit to many managers/directors/etc who would see a suggestion to improve the system as just that — an improvement. It is not a drastic judgment on the system as is, nor is it saying that the way something has been done for 10 years has been wrong/harmful the entire time. While certainly there will be the occasional manager who attempts to block an idea, there should be avenues for people to propose their ideas where they don’t have to go through their respective managers.

What I’m trying to say is that there are two CLMs: Perceived and actual. Perceived CLMs is the fear that by making a suggestion or challenging the system, your career will be limited (more on that in a moment), where an actual CLM tends to be a lot more drastic: leaking material, deliberately pulling the wool over someone’s eyes, etc. If you’re respectful and present well thought out ideas, I don’t think it’s an actual CLM.

The Awesome Factor

I have a friend who likes to say that “awesome attracts awesome” — the idea that awesome people tend to like to have awesome people working for them, and they tend to find each other. We’ve all seen/been apart of a unit that just seems to work perfectly together, and that’s a demonstration of awesomeness at its peak.

When we propose an idea for PS Renewal, in a respectful/thought out way, we shouldn’t be worried that it will be an actual CLM. Even if your particular manager is against all things Renewal, pushing the idea forward still doesn’t need to be a CLM, but it does bring with it a certain risk. On the other hand, you start to put the Awesome factor into action — hoping that someone will read it, and think to themselves, “This person is pretty bright — I want them working for me.” Give the Awesome factor a chance to work.

This isn’t advocating being rude, pushy, etc. There are ways to work through the system, even if it does bring with it untold frustration. But as I’ve said before, someone needs to lead by example. There are always associated risks, but until we start taking those risks to improve the PS internally, how can we expect the PS as a whole to start taking greater risks to allow for innovation/creativity?

Don’t be afraid of perceived CLMs. Let the awesomeness show.

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