Bridging the Generations in Local Government – 10

Cookingham Connection - Dave OWe’re continuing in our Cookingham Connection series today as we hear from Dave O’Leary. O’Leary is the City Administrator for the City of Shelton, Washington. He also served as city administrator for Lake Stevens, Washington and Garden City, Idaho. O’Leary obtained his Bachelor of Social Science and MPA from Boise State University.


Guidepost #10

Give credit where credit belongs, and always give the council all the credit you can. They have to be re-elected.

Every year, our state professional association gives awards for significant accomplishments in city and county management. Obviously, those accepting awards are good managers. And almost without exception, they use their honored time at the microphone to give credit to others.

Why would they do that?

Well, let’s start with full disclosure. Government jobs can be pretty thankless. In this time of confrontational politics, shrinking resources, and increasing complexity, there are generally more troublesome dilemmas than opportunities for accomplishment.

This looks like a perilous leadership environment, but it is not.

Think about it. People did not get into a public sector job for the fame or fortune. Most did so because they wanted to serve other people. Frankly, most don’t really need validation. But like human beings everywhere, they certainly love itpassionately.

So you start with a person who is inherently self-motivated. Then, you publicly express appreciation for their efforts. The result is an emotional response that brims with constructive energy and possibility.

It sounds like this message is about regular employees, and it is. But it also is about elected officials. They probably get more negative feedback than any other employee group. Also, without their support, a manager can accomplish nothinglet alone something excellent.

So be generous with the credit. People in your organization, at all levels, are earning it every day. And if you pass along a little positive energy, they will return the favor with excellence. The most successful managers already know this to be true.


The Cookingham Connection blog series is published in partnership with Emerging Local Government Leaders (ELGL). ELGL members are local government leaders with a passion for connecting, communicating, and educating.

One response

  1. […] in local government. You heard what a city administrator in Shelton, Washington had to say about Cookingham’s 10th guidepost. Now hear it from the perspective of Marc Nelson. Marc is a Special Projects Coordinator for the […]

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