New Year’s Resolutions for Elected Officials Who Want to Leave a Legacy That Matters
In electing me to office, my fellow citizens have entrusted me with the sacred duty of shaping the future of our community. Because I am committed to creating a future that is brighter and healthier and more beneficial to all citizens than when I was called to lead, I will:
- Base my decisions on the next generation more than the next election, committed to the ideal that my loyalty must be to the entire community (both now and in the future) and not merely to those who got me elected.
- Focus on mission, vision and values as the benchmark for my decisions and recognize that my responsibility is the pursuit of the greatest good for the entire community and not the satisfaction of any particular group’s agenda.
- Make decisions based on fact based evidence and not allow myself to be manipulated into bad decisions for the future based on the decibel level of critics.
- Recognize that “it takes a smart man to know where he is stupid” and have the wisdom to be smart. Accordingly, I will value those who have the courage to tell me what they really think and will listen sincerely to those who disagree with me to truly understand their perspective, recognizing that understanding other perspectives makes me a better leader.
- Embrace my responsibility to govern rather than to manage; recognizing that if I am doing staff’s job I am not doing my job, while also understanding and embracing the appropriately exercised governance role of holding staff accountable.
- Place a greater emphasis on solutions than on problems; while refusing to offer solutions before I understand the problem.
- Understand that mutual trust is the foundation for everything and that if I refuse to trust others they will be unable to trust me.
- Protect the integrity of the process more than the rightness of my position; I will fight hard for my issue but then unify behind the governing body when the decision is made because the decision was made with integrity of process, even if I disagree with the outcome.
- Understand that my deeply held beliefs, values and positions will be strengthened, not compromised by courteous, respectful and civil discourse. I will not treat someone as the enemy just because we disagree.
- Treat everyone with dignity and respect because of who I am as a leader… not because of how they treat me or what I think about them.
- Be a role model for civility. I will not treat my colleagues or staff in any way that I would be embarrassed if my five year old child treated someone the same way.
CEO, Strategic Government Resources
The Leadership Feeling
I have been fortunate to work for and with great city management leaders. My career was given a start by a city manager after I told him that I had no idea what he was talking about during the interview. Then, there was the city manager that challenged me professionally and gave me my first big promotion and the city manager who literally tiled my kitchen floor and comforted us during a concerning pregnancy.
There are numerous other examples from leaders from within our profession who have taken the time to invest in me, my family, and my career. Whether career advice or encouragement in passing from leaders and colleagues, or the gift of years of advice, encouragement, and challenges from my mentors, this profession has generally been very friendly and focused on the betterment of local government and the future leaders for local government.
Last week, May 28th marked the one-year anniversary of the passing of the legendary Maya Angelou, an American author, poet, and actress. Ms. Angelou’s career spanned more than fifty years. She was involved in the Civil Rights Movement and spent time with national and world leaders.
In honor of her passing, I read some of her more famous quotes from various works and speeches. One stuck with me:
People will forget what you said,
People will forget what you did,
But people will never forget
How you made them feel.
As leaders, we often get caught up building a persona that we think leaders should possess or finding the words that we think leaders should use. At the end of the day, it is not about what you say or what you do; it is about how you make others feel.
So, take time to mentor the future generation of local government. Take time to get to know your employees. Take time to show that you care about your citizens. Take time.
When your career is completed, you will have developed future leaders, impacted your organization, and bettered your city.
Executive Search Manager
After the Flood
I live and work out of south central Texas, in a city on two rivers, not far from the Blanco and San Marcos Rivers. The San Marcos and Guadalupe Rivers are my playground, as I participate in canoe races year-round held from the headwaters to the mouth, most notably, the Texas Water Safari. I teach canoe classes at Texas State University. If I ever had a “home away from home” designation to give, it would be for these rivers. I absolutely love being on the river, and those rivers specifically.
On Memorial Day weekend, those rivers raged. The Blanco River, which runs through the small town of Wimberley, then San Marcos (the fastest growing city in the nation), before it converges with the San Marcos River above Martindale, flowed at a reported 223,000 cubic feet per second. That’s 2.5 times the flow of Niagara Falls, I read in a report. As a frame of reference, “normal” flow for those rivers is 100-300 cfs on average. If you’ve seen the news reports, you’ve seen the devastation. As several folks have said, “we’ll never see the river look like it did before, in our lifetime.”
I’ve spent days volunteering primarily in Martindale, a tiny town with massive destruction. I’ve worked directly with a dozen of the homeowners affected. My heart is so heavy for Lupe, Mario, Annette, Raquel, Pete, Fernando, Clavio, Paula and Tom, and the list goes on. We gutted their homes. We threw away memories and ruined tools, clothes and food. I did not want to write about the power of nature or how we can manage things in the face of disaster. I could not bring myself to write about something so hurt-filled. While there are lessons to be learned there, I was personally not ready to write about it, while we’re still knee-deep in mud and devastation, and still, this past Saturday, additional flash flooding.
However, Sunday afternoon, I stopped in to check on my new friends in downtown Martindale. The sun was finally out after weeks of rain. Flooring was being put in Lupe and Mario’s home. Angelica, their 8 year-old, gave me a big hug. There were smiles on everyone’s faces.
I will never forget the smiles. It was a completely different world at that point. 36 hours prior, when we arrived at their home, it was hard to know where to begin. “Just throw it all out,” Lupe told my crew. “I have a few boxes to save, but that’s it.” I walked past her at one point just standing there with tears running down her cheeks. Flash forward to Sunday. Their home is drying out. Friends have arrived to help install their plywood flooring. Lupe is offering my work partner and me things to eat and drink, hugging and laughing with us. Her attitude has had a 180 degree change, and that makes all the difference.
There is so much to be thankful for. There is much to be happy for. We are alive. We have community. And the happiness we can find gives us the advantage to succeed.
If you’d like to make a donation to help the people of this flood-devastated area, please visit http://www.unitedwayhaysco.org/give
Get in the Driver’s Seat, pt. II
This week, we’ll continue our look into what commonly drives employee engagement – also known as the contribution and satisfaction of an employee. The first three were: employee perception of job importance, clarity of job expectations and roles, and regular feedback from supervisors and managers. But wait! There’s more:
Providing opportunities for advancement within your organization is a great way to keep employees motivated to do more – and to not look outside the organization for advancement. Unfortunately, many local governments are unable to add new positions at any whim, so the opportunity for a less tenured person to advance depends on the turnover above him or her. There are a couple of other ways you can provide opportunities, though, without a “plus one.” One of the best ways to help promote an employee’s strengths and provide opportunities for enrichment and development when you’re limited by actual advancement is to assign them to a city-wide committee or to assign a project that benefits the local government as a whole, outside normal or typical job duties. You might find that your employee can serve the organization better in another capacity, position, or department, even! I’ve seen several circumstances where employees shone brightly once assigned to additional tasks beyond their regularly assigned work, and that led to a lateral “promotion” of sorts. Who do you have in your department who you KNOW can do more for the organization, possibly elsewhere?
The next driver is an obvious one: clear communication. Keeping your employees informed of what is going on and what expectations are is a critical way to keep them assured that they matter and that the work they do matters. A sure way to kill engagement? Keep your employees in the dark. But we’ll table that for now. Stay tuned next week for employee engagement killers…
Additionally, the perception of values in the organization is another common driver of engagement. At SGR, we believe that the alignment of employees’ work with the values of the organization is one of a manager’s/supervisor’s greatest tasks; in fact, aligned independence with the values and mission of your organization is the ultimate goal of coaching and managing employees’ performance. Do your employees know the core values of your city? Can they recite them? Do they – or you – understand what those look like in your city? Values are the common characteristics or guiding principles that an organization adopts to put in their budget document and hang on the wall in the City Manager’s office, right? Or, maybe they’re simply what we evaluate employees on once per year during the performance evaluation process, just to mark “meets” because we haven’t truly connected our employees – or ourselves – to them. Unfortunately, these are what we see values used for, when it could be so much more! Values are what we hired employees to be, to live—to use as a guide for their behavior. They are the common foundational principles that we must hire for, train for, evaluate for, and coach with. It should be a part of our daily conversations. This, to me, is the most important driver yet! There’s one last driver, however. And this one, you should take notice of, my friends.
The final common driver of employee engagement is the quality of relationships in the organization. Relationships matter, the most. Your employees have relationships with coworkers, management, and subordinates perhaps. Of these, the most important relationship, in terms of impact on employee engagement, is the employee’s relationship with you, his or her supervisor. Relational leadership is the foundation of all leadership – this is what you will see and hear in what we teach and how we lead, how we serve at Strategic Government Resources.
My friends, life isn’t about work. It’s about relationships. It’s about the quality of the time we spend with others. It’s about serving others and putting others’ needs above our own. I hope you understand that much of what drives employee engagement comes easily, once you put your employees’ needs above yours. It’s a radical – yet simple – way to lead. I hope you’re game for joining the cutting edge of supervisors and managers in the driver’s seat!
Good Deeds, Pt. 2
Last week, I challenged you to join me in doing 15 good deeds. This past Sunday was Good Deeds Day, a worldwide movement of 900,000 volunteers in 58 countries who take part in a celebration of “doing good.” Several of you joined me, and I thank you!
Together, we did small things and big things, all of which made a difference in someone else’s life. And for that, we are all better. A few things I know that happened out of #SGRGoodDeeds:
- A meal was pre-paid at a burger joint for a future customer.
- Fresh cookies were left at neighbors’ doors.
- Many attempts at being kinder drivers occurred. A lot of patience and waving, and one more extra car being let in, in traffic took place!
- A Pay-It-Forward chain was started and sustained (in case one car accepted the kind act but didn’t pay it forward) at a coffee shop drive-through known for kindness, called On The Grind Coffee, owned by Mark Parmerlee. Mark and his employees epitomize extraordinary customer service, and they have seen customers take it upon themselves to frequently and spontaneously participate in pay-it-forward chains. Kudos to you, Mark, for inspiring your customers to do good. You make New Braunfels a better place!
- A tip and a sweet note for a hotel maid to have a “beautiful day!”
- Shared a treat and watched a movie on a shared iPad with a seatmate on a flight.
- Picked up a woman’s tab at a restaurant – she had the five most well-behaved children (ages 7 and under) on record, ever, in the history of dining – she deserved that and a medal.
- Chocolate and banana bread delivered to office mates.
- Surprised a friend with coffee.
- Let a man with flowers and a card ahead of me in line to check out at a store. When he declined the offer, I said, “You look like you have somewhere to be.” He smiled and went ahead.
- Promoted and donated to friends’ fundraising efforts for American Heart Association and Walk for Multiple Sclerosis.
- Helped an older woman without her glasses operate the microwave at the hotel.
I hope that, as you do good deeds, you find them to not be cumbersome, expensive, or uncomfortable. I hope that you find them to be quietly gratifying, that they bring you a sense of peace, even. And that they become natural-feeling, part of who you are.
I was raised to act out in kindness to strangers and neighbors by my parents. They’re both educators in the public school system, so serving others is part of their core. Neither has a problem making friends with complete strangers, so I come by it honestly. Courtesy, respect, kindness, and generosity were standards in my family, and was in the family of a classmate of mine, Kliff Kingsbury, whose natural instinct for good deeds made the news recently. He usually makes the news about being the best thing since tortillas for Texas Tech football or looking like Ryan Gosling…
so, I’m happy that he was recognized for doing something more… human. This gentleman was also raised by educators, so I know that he had instilled in him the same things that I did. I knew his mom better than his dad, and she was an amazing woman; we have honored her every year since her death with the Sally M. Kingsbury Sarcoma Research Foundation fundraiser. When I read this article about the man I’ve known since sixth grade helping an elderly woman after a wreck, I said, “Of course he did. His momma raised him right.”
While you and your employees may not have had the benefit of being raised by public servants, you can begin instilling these traits and encouraging these acts now! You’ll make someone’s day, encourage better customer service, even help someone’s life. I challenge you to continue doing good deeds. If you want to encourage others to join you, please continue using the tag when you post #SGRGoodDeeds. Thanks again for joining me. It makes me happy!
5 Needs for Recruitable Folks
As in ancient times, talent has become the coin of the realm. Companies that multiply their human talents will prosper. Companies that don’t will struggle.
Companies need to hunt for talent continuously so as to capture people when they are ready to make a move. You have to reach people who aren’t looking for a job.
Everyone in the company should be a talent scout.
Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones, Beth Axelrod Boston: The War for Talent
It’s a simple fact. Once you have the right product or service, then having people with talent makes a big difference.
This much we know for sure – the wrong people can send you plummeting in a hurry. It is the right people that set you up for the success you seek.
So, if you are going to win the war for talent, then you have to become ever-more intentional about getting the people with the best talent to come work with you.
So, imagine that you are one of those (possibly) ready to make a move. You are “recruitable.” What are you looking for in the company you move to? Here are five must-haves, five needs of recruitable folks…
#1 — I need the skills
If skill development, and continuing learning, is as critical as we think (and, it is!), then a company has to provide ongoing, perpetual skill development and learning opportunities.
The fact is that no one is equipped for the job they will be doing in the coming year(s). There are more things to learn, to keep up with. It is harder to “stay ahead” than ever before. Companies that understand this, and truly provide such ongoing skill development and learning opportunities, will be much more appealing to those who are “recruitable.”
#2 — I need the encouragement
Companies hire… people. These are real people, who need feedback – appropriate “negative feedback,” for improving their work; and much, much positive feedback. People like to be recognized for what they do well.
Every single leader/boss/supervisor/manager needs to become a master of encouragement. (The book Encouraging the Heart by Kouzes and Posner should be mandatory reading for everyone in a leading/managing position).
Put it this way: if people dread going to work because they are ignored, or constantly criticized, then they will go elsewhere if they have any talent at all. Your entire corporate culture has to become a culture of encouragement.
#3 — I need help with my pipeline
Though we talk about self-starters – and, self-starter skills and traits are truly wonderful – for those who are not the Super Bowl champion self-starters, they need help with their “pipeline.” When to contact others; who to contact; who to learn from; who to sell to; who to network with. Companies need to get really good at match-making assistance. Putting the right people in touch with the other right people.
In sales, this is obvious. Helping people in sales with their pipelines is an absolute must.
But, do not make the mistake of thinking that this is only about sales…
#4 — I need the rewards
First, the obvious. If a person is not paid enough (enough to take money worries off the table; enough to be genuinely competitive with other possible places to work) then you will not keep your best people.
But, after there is enough “money,” then it is the other kinds of rewards that matter. Go back to Kouzes and Posner’s recommendation to “personalize recognition.” Reward people for work well done, and give them tangible rewards that are unique to them (you “know” them as individuals, and reward them accordingly). Personalize their recognition.
#5 — I need to be happy when I show up at work
It really does boil down to this. If a person dreads going into the work place, they will be very “recruitable” by another company. If they love the people, the connections, the environment, the opportunities, the challenge, and they believe the work they are doing makes a difference for the better for people, they will be quite “unrecruitable.” A truly happy and productive person is really hard to steal away.
So, here they are. “Recruitable” people think this way:
#1 — I need the skills
#2 — I need the encouragement
#3 — I need help with my pipeline
#4 — I need the rewards
#5 — I need to be happy when I show up at work
Provide all five of these, and you have a much better shot at recruiting those recruitable folks.
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis