Emerging Generations in Local Government – 13

Cookingham Connection - Melanie CWe’re continuing our series in the Cookingham Connection with a perspective from an emerging leader in local government. You heard what the city manager of Tualatin, Oregon had to say about Cookingham’s 13th guidepost. Now hear it from the perspective of Melanie Curl. Melanie is the HR Employment Specialist for the City of Keller, Texas. She earned her bachelor’s in English/Communication Studies at the University of North Texas.

Guidepost #13:

Don’t let the “cranks” worry you too much, for if you do they will outlive you.

As with Ms. Lombos, when I contemplated the 13th guidepost, my mind immediately went to “negative”. Frequently, I’ve found that “cranks” are unhappy for one of two reasons: 1. something changed that they didn’t want to, or 2. something didn’t change that they did want to.

“Turning a crank” also came to mind when I pondered the word, as in turning the crank of an old coffee grinder. Those cranks had purpose, but they required a lot more effort to produce the end result. However, with the proper preparation, tools, and effort, coffee got made. How do we apply this mindset to the working world?

  1. Make sure the gears are well-oiled.
    We’ve all heard the phrase, “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.” I’m not suggesting we jump every time someone complains. There are only 24 hours in a day! However, in many cases, the crank simply wants to be heard. Taking time to actively listen, ask probing questions, and get to the heart of their issue demonstrates to them that they are valued. If their gripe is that the copy machine jams every hour on the hour, that’s something reasonable that could be dealt with. If it’s that they want a 10% raise, wellthat’s something else. Take time to respond to them with, “Here’s what I understand is the issue; here’s why we can’t do exactly what you’re asking for; and here’s some options for moving forward from here.”
  1. Is the crank overloaded?
    In our zest for a trenta-sized end result, is too much being shoveled upon a tall-sized employee? Are expectations being clearly communicated? Are they appropriately skilled or being sufficiently trained to be successful at their job? If the answer is “no”, that’s something we can positively impact. If it’s “yes”, and they’re still cranky? Well…
  1. Repair the mechanism, or find a new one.
    If you’ve had the conversations, they’ve been trained and have all they need to be successful, one message could be: “Here’s the end result we’re going for. I want you to be part of that success. In order to do that, we need xyz from you. If you don’t/can’t provide xyz, then you need to understand that is going to impact your employment with ABC Company”. That phrase, “Manage them up or manage them out” comes to mind. We always hope that the crank can be “repaired” and be part of the success. But if they can’t, find people that can.

I’ve heard the moans and groans from managers who inherited “cranks”it can be such a challenge! Negativity can be toxic, contagious, and draining for someone who is working hard to lead a team. It can be even harder to hold onto your confidence and not let yourself be mentally undercut.

Michael Jordan said, “If you accept the expectation of others, especially the negative ones, then you will never change the outcome.” Don’t let yourself get sucked into the vortex of other people’s crankiness. Have “safe zone” people that you can vent to and mentors to guide you; power walk around the building; hide the good candy in your desk. And remember: “negative people need drama like it’s oxygen. STAY POSITIVE and take their breath away!”

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.

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