This Boy Can Wait
So, I’m one year in to my no longer new job.
In my very first blog I wrote “Birmingham has completely grabbed my attention and is definitely going to give me all the new horizons I need (and much, much more) for a very long time”. How true that’s turned out to be!
The 3rd March 2014 is, however, now a pretty vague memory for me. I know my diary tells me what I did on that day, but I don’t actually have a clear recollection of it in my head. What has endured, however, is an emotion – my excitement at being here. I am still asked almost daily if I am enjoying my job – with a frequently implied presumption that to say ‘yes’ would be a sign of delusional behaviour. But the answer is yes. Why? Because of the opportunities, the challenges, the stimulation and, it had to be said, the occasional madness that come from working in an organisation and a city where something new and/or important happens everyday.
Many years ago (I sound like I’m in my rocking chair already) the Dean of the college I attended told me that, when reading my (history) essays, he was left with the impression of a writer with a grasshopper brain. Now, with all the conceit of youth, overlaid with the revisionist tendencies of the middle aged man, I took this – and still take this – as the compliment it was never intended to be.
Harry Pitt (the Dean) was trying to tell me to get some focus (although some of my alleged friends uncharitably thought he was literally referring so the size of my brain). At the time, I’m sure he had a point – clarity and precision were qualities well worth developing, especially when you only had 1500 words at your disposal.
But, I also held then, and still hold now, to a different – or, more accurately – to an additional view. I think curiosity is one of the most under-rated of human qualities and it should be encouraged at all times. Certainly when I was still teaching, the imperative of developing and encouraging children’s spirit of enquiry was at the top of my list of imperatives. Stuff attainment targets; “why does a spider have eight legs sir?”.
Therefore, I contend that my undergraduate scribblings were simply trying to express the wealth and value of the many, varied and exciting ideas contained within the dusty tomes of the University’s libraries.
And this has particular relevance now, I suggest, as the uncertain times we are in require us to be more inquisitive than ever about the ideas that will be needed to shape the future council – and the future of our great city. Old orthodoxies are just that; old and orthodox. Now, as then, I want to be in an environment where imagination is nurtured and encouraged; where we generate all the thoughts that will be needed to ensure that we continue make a positive difference everyday to people’s lives in a rapidly changing world.
Long live those with grasshopper brains.
Me, Myself, I
My first blog wasn’t all about work though. I wanted to convey some sense of me, the person – not solely the persona of the chief executive. Well, quite a number of you have now come across me and will be making up your own minds – indeed, you may have already made them up.
For my part, I hope that I have successfully explained that my primary interest is to lead a life – private and public – that is underpinned by a clear set of positive values. I want to work in an organisation and in a city where there is a culture of empathy, respect and trust. I believe deeply in the value of forming and sustaining partnerships that are founded on positive relationships. I want to work with good people who want to do good – or create and support the conditions for good to be done by others.
But values are delicate things. They need to nourished, cherished and protected. They need to be backed up by deeds that demonstrate the values in action. This is the kind of organisation we must strive for every day. I don’t believe that we are as off track as some would believe, but we are definitely not fully on course (and message) either – and our mission must be to build a greater alignment of values, along with common purpose, citizen-centred outcomes and maximum impact.
So 2015 needs to be the year that we renew our vows to serve our citizens to the very best of our abilities, whilst also tackling some serious internal challenges of our own – and all within a framework of being clear about what we stand for.
2015 for me, though, will bring other changes and responsibilities. As you know, Kate and I already have one granddaughter (Charlotte) who, just to keep the story up to date for you, started High School in January. Where does the time go?
But change rarely comes in ones, and so it has come to pass (we didn’t ask for the details) Charlotte is to acquire a cousin. Our youngest son and daughter-in-law are expecting a baby boy in May (we think that they tried to order a fully formed toddler but were informed that, when it comes to children, you have to start at the beginning).
We are, predictably, very excited. We also now have a front room slowly (actually, on closer inspection, not so slowly) filling up with all kinds of stuff. This is, of course, normal. Prospective grandparents usually go on some kind of extended shopping spree to ensure the new arrival is fully catered for. This child, however, will be enjoying a change of clothes every five minutes if we’re not careful.
So, much to look forward to. Of course, the only slight worry is the due date, which is perilously close to the elections. As well as some 40 councillors and 10 MPs due to be declared shortly after close of poll on 7 May, I may well be making a further announcement!
Bright Lights, Big City
And so to another fascinating year ahead. I’m not daunted; but I do know we have a lot on our collective plate. But, if we know what we stand for and stick together, then I know that this will be a twelve months that we look back on with pride, love and affection.