During my wilderness journey in search of significance, one of the clues that came to mind was that my future would be in public service. I shared this revelation with my mentor and he was quick to pour water on it. Not because I could not perform in public service but because his concern was that I was too nice (mostly naïve) a guy to survive in the public sector. I score low on the gangster scale. I agreed with him reluctantly. But my desire to make my country better was still strong. I even found myself in top golf leadership and I took this to be a sign that I was being prepared for an appointment in Gava (government). I had a good run serving and even interacted with the president then. From there I kept my phone on full charge, and sound ringer at top volume just in case the appointment call came through.

Well almost six years later the call hasn’t come and that president has since retired. The public service desire still lingers and two years ago I applied for a senior government job and to my surprise I was shortlisted and interviewed. That was the first interview of my life and it was quite an experience. Mummy Shark even had to buy me a tie to look the part. I did well but wasn’t surprised at not getting the job. At a certain level, you need to have paid a political price and that I hadn’t done but the experience was well worth it. So, my phone might still ring but maybe it hasn’t rung because there could be a better engagement with the government that suits me better.

And that could be what happened this week. The only way to lift yourself is by lifting others. Let me explain. Last year, I met this brilliant coach in our local ICF (International Coach Federation) chapter. She had joined the year before and was thrown into the deep end as a board member. We chatted on chapter activities and I helped her in the little ways I could. Last month I got an opportunity to do a self-leadership program for men and I pulled her in for her outstanding project management skills. In our second halves, we don’t compete we collaborate. So far, I like this collaborative form of competition.

This week my coach pal invited me to be part of a presentation to a government agency in an exciting opportunity to curate a leadership program. This was a follow-up to an employee engagement program done last year. What makes this program unique is that it has components of leadership coaching, upskilling and 360-degree assessments followed by debriefs. If we do it well it will be a breakthrough in the civil service to grow their soft skills and be a more responsive service to the citizens.

My gift is speaking so I think I did a good job presenting my part on how the coaching would look like. The onboarding session took most of the day. I believe we as the consultant team did well in helping them visualize what we had in mind. We have often heard that a fish rots from the head. That applies to leadership. Once a leader is sumbua (difficult) and is driven by selfish interests then it reflects all over the organization. No amount of consulting or coaching will change things much. And that’s what made our pitch this week so refreshing. An engaged leader.

The leader here had an urgency to do good. That’s hardly seen with senior public servants. Her opening remarks communicated it but also the timelines and structure of the program we have curated reflect that. She needs regular and timely feedback to ensure that we walk the talk. She and her senior team want the program to be impactful both at the organizational and personal levels. What surprised me was when she said that if this leadership program impacts some staff to the point that they realise a better life for them is out there, then it will have been a success. It reminded me of a quote I once read that said,” Train your people so well that they can leave, but treat them so well that they want to stay”.

If we can achieve that at the end of our engagement with this team, I will have done my public service duty to my beloved country. This project aligns with me at several levels and I can’t wait to get started. It will be a manifestation of the public service future that I’ve desired. It also aligns with my mission statement of using my speaking to positively impact people’s lives and communities. Lastly, it reflects what I do, helping folks find and live meaningful lives.

Could it be that all the public service work I’ve done in the past was meant to prepare me for this engagement? Many times we wonder what certain experiences mean when we are going through them. They often don’t make sense but we dig in and carry on. The dots often connect backwards. Some dots are long and take what feels like forever to connect. Well, I will only be able to tell if this engagement is the big dot that we have been getting to after the assignment is done and the value has been delivered.

My personal hashtag has been #OnlyBIGthingsgoingforward. My prayer is that we elevate this organization and its staff so highly that the rest of Gava’s bosses can’t help but notice and desire the same for their departments. The need and desire is there. it’s the how that has been elusive in my view. Once we help public service up their game in a way they can relate to then we will have broken the proverbial glass ceiling and folks will soar. In the process the tide (but not the floods hehe) in our country will rise too, lifting all boats (citizens).

I’ll keep you folks posted. Have a great Madaraka Day kesho.

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