I oversaw a municipality for 23 years in the role of manager. While working late into the evening, I often asked myself if I was doing my best. I would reflect on recent events and question if I was truly helping my municipal team achieve the goals that the Supervisors and employees had set forth. Were there obstacles I could have prevented or removed to allow them to achieve the best results? I cared about the township and wanted to be a strong leader.
I broke the process down into four points that may help you achieve the best results.
Council/Supervisors — Your direct leaders have a vast impact on your performance. Do they support you and your mission? Are you learning from them?
Purpose — Do you understand why you are doing what you’re doing?
Role — Do you genuinely understand your job description, what you are doing day to day, and who you collaborate with?
Personal Life — Yes, the job is a priority but the world outside your job, like relationships, hobbies, illnesses, children, etc., are just as important.
It's been said that good employees don't leave their jobs; they leave bad management. The choice of candidates to become a Township/Borough/City manager, especially during difficult periods, says a lot about the municipality. Is the municipality looking for specific skills in a manager or just choosing the person who is “next in line” for the job. Often, municipal leaders will see the “next in line” candidate as the road to take. It sends a specific message if you have quality candidates getting passed over for promotions in favor of lower-performing folks with more tenure or favored ties. The municipal leaders are responsible for monitoring your performance, identifying areas to improve, allowing you to grow professionally, directing you toward opportunities, and much more. When your leaders aren’t competent, aren't attentive, don’t have time for you, aren’t facilitating growth, and are acting as gatekeepers instead of partners, you’re going to disconnect extremely fast from the municipality.
When money is the only reason for taking a job, you are destined for failure. I can guarantee you won’t be in a situation that produces your best work. The daily grind will do just that, grind you up and spit you out. There is a multitude of reasons people end up in the jobs they have. You can tell the positive reasons from the not-so-positive. Some just want a title and aren’t willing to give the effort needed to achieve the results that are demanded.
When was the last time you reviewed your job description? Are you really a good fit for the requirements? Much has been written about how a tight job market can sometimes force folks to take positions for which they were overqualified. In addition to being tough mentally, this also sets up the individual to be in a position where they aren’t doing their best work. For example, if you're a skilled manager but you’re not managing any people, you aren’t using your full skill-set. It's hard to do your best work when there's more you know you could be doing.
Working from 7 a.m. until late into the evening will inevitably become a burden on your family and relationships. You have to allow time for your family and friends along with some quality "me time." No one can survive by ignoring their job or their family. Do not let the job become all-consuming. Trust me; it is very easy to do. You lay in bed thinking about alternatives and choices you can make at work to achieve the very best. We all want to succeed, but not at the risk of alienating those who love you. A great manager can balance work and home life. Make this your personal goal, and don't accept anything less.
You want to do your best work. In my 30-plus years in local government, I can confidently say I have never encountered an individual who wasn’t seeking to do their best. Many cannot quite express it, but they can all feel when something is just…off. As you grow your government teams and operations, it’s important to keep asking this question of your employees and, more importantly, yourself: Are you doing your best work?
KMS is here to help all of them to achieve that goal. “Fire this thing up,” your best is yet to come.
About the Author
David L. Anthony is a member of the Keystone Municipal Solutions team of experts. He is a veteran of municipal government, having served more than 32 years in various positions of public service. Contact him at email@example.com. To learn more about David and the Keystone Municipal Solutions team, click here.