Please excuse the article title. Those who know me well know I love a song. But in all seriousness, we are forever focused on how difficult things are for the sector. Budgets, grants, section 114 notices, the turmoil in places like Woking, getting ICSs right, devolution, the apparent disconnect between national and local government and many other things.
The recent Stronger Things event with New Local focused on how local authorities can co-create solutions for and with local communities. Yes, the money is running out but if we could start again, would we build the sector in this way? It’s easy to get hung up on challenges with succession planning, talent and leadership development and even executive recruitment. I hold my hands up. I’m guilty of it myself.
But maybe it’s time to think a little differently? Next week, this esteemed publication welcomes the great and the good from across the country to The MJ Awards to celebrate all that is wonderful about local government. There is a great deal to be proud of. It is a chance to celebrate. But we need to do so inclusively.
We need to celebrate not just the finalists and winners. Worthy they absolutely are, and this is to take nothing away from their immense achievements, but we must remember they are the ones that have put their hands up to be judged in this harsh spotlight. Behind them sit innumerable heroes – many unsung and uncelebrated – a great number of whom remain in the shadows. Now is a great opportunity to thank you all inclusively for everything you do for our sector, and I’m sure next week’s awards will do just that.
Across many award categories we will come together to celebrate initiatives among others in adults, children’s services, transport, housing – you name it there’s an award for it.
It is one thing to know you’ve done a good job, to feel satisfied or content, whether that’s about your role or your place of work. It’s even better if you know what you’ve done has had a positive impact on your communities. But to feel pride? For me that comes from within. From your soul.
Pride isn’t learned or taught. Artificial intelligence cannot realistically mimic pride.(surely not? Not yet anyway...). It is a most human of traits, and I believe that if you are genuinely proud of what you do, chances are you’ll be doing your best.
Whether you are an officer, politician or supplier, local government is a family. In tough times we batten down the hatches, come together and support one another to carry on doing our best, even if things look bleak. And that is why I think now is as good a time as any to pause, reflect and celebrate what we are all doing. Rather than getting lost in the fog of challenges, let’s instead celebrate and be proud of all that is great about this marvellous sector.
I can only speculate as to the link between pride and wellbeing. I’m no psychologist so I won’t delve into feeling good about either or both of those things at the same time. To be proud is to revel in one’s own achievements or those of others, and wellbeing requires us to be able to look deep within ourselves, particularly when it comes to aspects such as self-esteem.
Self-esteem and pride are like two sides of the same coin. Pride relating to achievements and self-esteem relating to how worthwhile we feel ourselves to be. It is my hope that when we all celebrate the many achievements of the sector next week, it will be with a deep feeling of pride, which I can only hope does not come at the expense of wellbeing.
I am acutely aware it hasn’t been easy. I’ve worked with local authorities for 26 years and like many of you I’ve probably seen it all in that time. The book can wait though.
For the last 11 years I’ve had the absolute privilege of chairing the judging panel for The MJ Local Authority of the Year award. How different the world of local government looked in 2013 when I embarked on this journey, yet many of the challenges we face in the sector remain the same now – it’s just they had different names back then. Fast forward to 2023 and we are still talking about the potential of things like hyper-local decision making but we’re far more aware now of the positive impact local authorities can have on issues such as climate change and digitisation.
I’m not sure many recruiters get to leave much of a legacy, but I do feel very proud of being able to play my very small part in promoting just a tiny fraction of the amazing work our local authorities are doing through the award.
I take joy in knowing that our finalists and winners have been boosted by their participation and I have so often been told that their workforces have definitely benefitted too.
It’s important to me that credit is given where it’s due. With all of these awards, there is a whole host of people behind the scenes doing brilliant things long before they are represented by the winners who stand on the stage at the Park Plaza (or the Park Lane Hilton in years gone by).
The same goes for the judges. Since 2013 more than 60 judges have given up huge amounts of time to judge the Local Authority of the Year award with me. It’s something we take incredibly seriously, precisely because it is so important not just to the winners, but to the finalists and the sector as a whole.
Say what you like about the merits of awards, but if they boost the pride, self-esteem or wellbeing of a single person along the way, then it’s all worth it.
Neil Lupin is managing partner at Green Park Interim & Executive Search
Tel: 07967 826026