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Peter says his key role is "Setting the tone. I walk the floor quite often and am just me. I think it's far more important than other more mechanistic things that managers convince themselves they should be doing".
Peter told me that in his view the first priority of management is to manage oneself. It's about trying to managing the mind and developing the right attitude. He said, "The one thing I have free is the attitude I get up with in the morning. I have the choice. I could decide to think too much about myself, be anxious and ambitious or I could take the ego out of it. The best attitude is 'no attitude' but in order to get to no attitude you have to realise that you have the choice. Ego inhibits flexibility of thinking, unless you are conscious of it, it is easy to trip over it. Taking the ego out allows me to be more open and thoroughly receptive of people and their emotional values. The need is to look out at what is going on around you and seeing it for what it is, being thoroughly receptive about what is coming in at you from outside. This is not possible if you're thinking too much about yourself."
Peter said that structure has also been important to make the organization more strategic and resilient. In his words: "The units are too large for the Directors to be anything other than strategic. Even if they wanted to, they could not operate at the day-to-day operational level of their Team Leaders and survive. And it allows me to operate at the whole-of-Agency level. I know other organizations that divide themselves up to units that are far too small. Small units are much less resilient in the face of inevitable staffing gaps, and managers get pulled down into operational task and details, which makes them less effective."
"We work in ways that achieve a wide contribution from everyone. It has become quite a habit," he says. "It's happened from even before we were a stand-alone Agency. We do it seriously; it's not just consultation. We form groups of people who want to be on that group. They have terms of reference but the groups identify their resources and if necessary bring in specialists help. The groups are fairly small but they are open so even if you are not directly involved you are not excluded. This creates strong policy 'ownership' across the agency and allows leadership to blossoms at all levels".
Interviewed by B Holland 2005