When I was younger, I was apart of the Canadian Cadet Organization. This organization has a variety of aims, including developing citizens. Many of the people I have worked with since then, and some of those I get along with best, are themselves former cadets. Even though we may not have known each other when we were part of the movement, there is a common experience that ties us all together.
The program has always had a big focus on the idea of leadership. Specifically, I will always remember being taught the 10 Principles of Leadership. Whenever there is a problem in an organization, a quick glance down the list of the 10 principles will likely assist you in finding the problem (and, hopefully, the solution). The first principle is stated as such:
Know your job – Know what you are talking about, learn and understand the principles and problems entailed in the work of your cadets so that you can be sure that they are doing their job properly.
This principle points not to only understanding your own job (and that doesn’t mean just looking at your work description), but also understanding the roles of your subordinates. Too often, we fail to appreciate what those around us actually do.
Additionally, it points to understanding the challenges of those around us. We often get caught up in our own set of challenges, while failing to realize the challenges that those around us are facing. As I’ve mentioned before, we need to work with each other in good faith in a trusting environment.
I think the biggest aspect of this principle that we often overlook is understanding where we fit into the whole system. The government is a massive machine, and often our work can feel futile and unfilling. We don’t know where or how we fit into the big scheme of things, and might find it difficult to articulate how the work we do ends up serving Canadians. Truly digging deeply, and seeking to understand what the role of our job is in the bigger picture (and the roles of others!) is crucial to being able to be motivated about our jobs.
This principle is probably more of a reminder to managers, new and old, to always be able to articulate what your organization does and how you contribute to your organization/department in a meaningful way. We have an obligation not just to understand our own role, but also to understand how the machine fits together — understanding what the other parts of this big machine actually do!
The underlying message is that we cannot put our heads in the sand. It’s easy to villify other parts of an organization if you do not understand what they do, or where they fit in to the grand scheme. If you appreciate how the machine fits together, not only do you better serve your larger organization, but in doing so you will likely appreciate where your own efforts contribute to the bigger picture.