Monthly Archives: September 2015

Are public sector leaders of any use to the private sector?

I have been pondering this question a bit lately as I am one of 100s of public sector managers who lost out in a board restructure/downsizing. We are all too familiar with the “cull of public sector posts” and with further treasury cuts proposed there will be many more.

Affected and not that young any more but too young to retire, so what to do? I diligently set up a company to ply my strategy & operational management skills. I built my social media presence & I networked furiously asking anyone & everyone: “What is the success of your independent company?”

I Continued with professional development with a post graduate executive coaching & mentor qualification. I  keep my board room skills honed as a Non-Executive for a community trust.  I offered probono support to my son’s school as a year 11 mentor & to my church where I coach the newest leader there.  I read, I watched, I listened and I blogged.

Now increasingly on the outside looking in I have had time to reflect on the quality of leadership across the public sector and leadership skills more generally.  I joined the public sector soon after the Griffiths reforms That was about increased efficiency & bringing private sector managers into the NHS and professionalising management  I benefited  personally by accessing great learning & development and culminating in my Business School MBA. Now on the outside I find myself  supporting private & independent sector companies, individual entrepreneurs, not for profit & education.  Im loving that so the questions arose;

Do public sector managers transition to the private sector and do you want our skills?

In their report “The challenges of transition: from public to private” Hays and the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry look at the assumptions held on public sector managers by the private sector & public sector views of the other. The reports suggest skills are transferable in some instances and we should be open minded to this.

If you are in the private sector and you look carefully at the public sector (maybe via LinkedIn) you will find people who have operated at a senior level with a range of really valuable skills.

So, what can we offer?

“Management of multi-million pound budgets, including critical decision making • Identification and implementation of cost control and best-value initiatives • Compliance with complex regulatory or legislative requirements • Management and mitigation of risk • Development of people and teams • Management of complex, highly political stakeholder relationships • Knowledge of how governmental organisations work and an in-depth understanding of their requirements”

Many of these skills are invaluable in other sectors & new external insights in the board room are always really valuable.

But do public sector managers transition to the private sector & should you recruit them?

Of course the answer is Yes and here are some tips to recruit the best:

  • Look for those who have worked across a range of organisations
  • Who have experience in a range of settings & geography
  • Those with a flexible attitude & a range of skills to offer you and your share holders
  • those who are still learning & are curious
  • then test if they can get excited about you and your business – find the passion 

BUT BEWARE not all public sector managers can make that transition. Some may like the routine of pay, pension and the structure of a big organisation to hide in. Anyone coming to the private sector will need help to understand what’s different & demonstrate to the private sector they understand:

  • how  objectives have to be met that clearly deliver profit and shareholder value
  • needing to act quickly and with autonomy to respond to the market
  • they will work innovatively, non-hierarchically & within company law
  • there is much less bureaucracy
  • the private sector has some great leadership roles to offer

And of course I am always looking for new opportunities inside & outside the public sector as a coach & strategist

Bitesize Leadership & Curiosity

Welcome to my bite size. One of 12 blogs in a new series looking at leadership characteristics. I think curiosity is an important and under developed skill for leaders.

Being curious can have negative connotations but the proverb was never intended to be “curiosity killed the cat”. It was “care killed the cat” and it got changed in the 18th century to curiosity.   Curiosity is having a strong desire to learn or to know something.

Learning something new grows your brain. Called brain neuroplasticity scientists are discovering that adult brains can still grow and can be trained to improve. The flip side if you don’t keep growing your brain is it will diminish. When you are learning a new skill and you repeat it you grow your brain by making new neural connections.

As a leader wouldn’t it be great if your brain was bigger? Curiosity will encourage your brain to change and grow, enhancing and developing your focus. You will spot opportunity, new people, new contacts, and new ways to do things. This is not magic as it will require work and practise just like developing your other skills required time and effort.

SAID Business School in their CEO report described a new type of leadership intelligence needed in addition to emotional and contextual intelligence. The best CEOs seem to possess something they call ripple intelligence. Quoting Dr.Michael Smets:

“The ability to see the interactions of business contexts like ripples moving across a pond.”

“Ripple intelligence also makes CEOs aware of their own impact and how it may influence contexts that might otherwise seem remote and unconnected. *

Practising curiosity is a tool that could help you develop your ripple intelligence. Think about it in action in business breakthroughs. Richard Branson went on a delayed and disrupted flight and became curious about how to fix it. He didn’t run airlines, he had no experience in that field but he became curious and now we have Virgin Airlines.

Try being more curious it could lead to great breakthrough in you as a leader or your business:

  • Take something apart, look inside see what’s there and how it all fits together and then try and put it back together.
  • Buy a magazine on a subject you do not know about and take time to read it.
  • Take an elder out to lunch (a neighbour maybe) ask about their life story.
  • Ask someone different to you what the latest movie was they saw and then go see it.
  • Learn a language or try painting.

After each activity make a note what am I learning? What is different here? Share these reflections with your leadership coach as they can help you process, reflect and grow that brain function a bit more.

So go on, have a little try at being curious and remember what Albert Einstein said; never lose a holy curiosity.

Contact me for executive coaching, facilitation and keynote speeches at

Pictorial of the blog thanks to @engagevisually

2. FEB. CURIOSITY. Graphic