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Over-whelming our way to best city outcomes?

Most people don’t start work to be a whelmer.  Mediocrity might be a common destination, but it is not a common goal.

It is a learned behaviour.  Sometimes a very sensible one.

Imagine yourself facing a task that you are not technically equipped for (you don’t have the skills, knowledge and networks to get things done well).  And you would rather not have to take the job on either; cooking a big meal for the in-laws or doing your on-line tax return.  Both your technical skills and your psychological state are less than optimum.  We ALL find ourselves in this unfortunate position at some times in our life, don’t we?  We are likely to be, and be seen to be, an under-whelmer.

 

  • What support do we need?
  • What might help us in the face of our potential to underwhelm?

And there are some tasks that we might feel are crucial and really want to tackle – indeed feel compelled to tackle – but again, don’t have the technical skills or the knowledge to tackle with any certainty.  We get stuck in, we do our best, we try some stuff and inevitably make some mistakes. We create a mess.  If we can retain our enthusiasm and passion we learn and move forward.  And if we can’t, well we still learn, but we lose the passion, decide not to push the boundaries and settle for the quiet life of the whelmer.  Many organisations are great at subtly punishing people who take the risk and make mistakes.  They confuse their nascent overwhelmers for current underwhelmers and point them in the direction of mediocrity, mistakenly thinking that this is progress.  I am certainly in this position when it comes to my somewhat uncertain leadership of Disrupting Poverty in Leeds!

  • What support do we need?
  • What might help us in the face of our potential to underwhelm?

But gradually over time we acquire the technical skills that are required for proficiency, and we may even learn to look forward to the challenge, to enjoy the test.  Our technical proficiency and our motivation are both high.  Now we are likely to be seen as an overwhelmer.  Soon everyone will be asking us to help them with their tax returns, give away our hard earned cookery tips and tell the all we have learned about Disrupting Poverty.  We are in demand.  We have ourselves a reputation.  But, how long can we sit on our laurels before we start looking for the next challenge?  Before we once again feel compelled to head into a project where we don’t know the answers, where we know we will almost certainly make mistakes before we make progress?  Because many of us, if we don’t move on, lose our mojo.  We lose the fire in our belly and again become whelmers.  The experienced hack who has fallen out of love with their work.

  • What support do we need?
  • What might help us in the face of our potential to underwhelm?

Those of us who have picked up the cudgels to develop more and better Leaders for Leeds, and approaches to leadership that will achieve ‘best city outcomes’ are highly motivated, but, if we are honest, technically under-equipped.  Sure we all have our toolkits of pet ideas and theories, our hard earned experience from the field, our favourite gurus and case studies, even some ideas – but developing coherent approaches to leadership for a city of nearly 800 000 people, in a complex and demanding context?  And for sure we don’t have enough time or apparently any money.  But I guess this puts us in the position of many would be leaders in Leeds, and in a prime positions to learn some valuable lessons.

  • What support do we need?
  • What might help us in the face of our potential to underwhelm?

Answers on a post card please….or in the comments….