Member Spotlight: Carl E. Weber

One of the key aspects of public service management is understanding the priorities and motivations of your employees. I help local governments understand that "Good Management is Good Risk Management.”

ARTICLE | May 4, 2016

Carl E. Weber, a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA), and Certified Professional Motivators Analyst (CPMA), is the director of Member Services for Primex3 (the New Hampshire Public Risk Management Exchange).

How did you get your start in the public sector and where has that led you?

I served in the Navy for 4 years and then came back to New Hampshire. I started public sector work as an intern for the city of Somersworth, New Hampshire. Then I went off to grad school and got a job with the city of Norfolk Police Department as a management analyst while in grad school. After getting my master’s, I became the first town administrator in Rindge, New Hampshire, and then became the town administrator in Amherst, New Hampshire. Then I got the job here at Primex3, which I really saw as a continuation of service to New Hampshire communities. Instead of just serving one community, we do work with a multitude of towns and counties, allowing me to extend my service to local communities on a broader level.

Why public service?

At the end of the day, we are the ones serving people. Law enforcement, teachers, and other public servants are trying to make a difference in the world. I think that is the hook that helps attract people into the public sector.

What does Primex3 do and what is your role there?

I have been with Primex3 for a little over 10 years, now as their director of member services. I am part of the management team, and the marketing and membership department, which is really about coordinating service levels, and making sure that needs are met. As we see trends or issues in communities across New Hampshire, we partner with our member communities to address those issues.

Primex3 is a nonprofit risk pool and partner established on behalf of many towns, cities, and schools in New Hampshire. We often mention that “Good Management is Good Risk Management,” and strive to help our members manage their operations well by offering education, training, succession planning, and consulting that build their capacity as organizations and leaders.

Though our services do not include full-blown recruitment for member communities, we will go into a community to facilitate the conversation and help them think about who they are looking for in key positions. What are the requirements, obstacles, and real essentials of a position, and what should the hiring process look like? We encourage communities to have candidates practice some of the skills during the process, either having the candidates present on community issues or analyze a present issue or problem.

Businesses are asking how to keep talented folks on board. And I think the public sector is going to really wrestle with that as well: How can managers make public sector work continuously attractive for the next couple of generations?

What can managers do? Is your organization involved in succession planning, etc?

We run a three-day Supervisor’s Academy about five times per year for first-time, or potential supervisors to give them a broad array of leadership, management, and risk management perspectives about coaching employees. We teach them a little about themselves behaviorally and are expanding into more interactive and simulated learning where leaders can practice their skills in a safe environment.

More and more, we are helping members identify potential talent within their own organization, and create plans to move them up through the ranks through an Emerging Leaders program. When we talk to many members, we hear that in five to seven years most of their department heads will be retired.

Some of the content you have created covers motivational factors and coaching techniques. Could you describe some of the ideas you put forward?

Some of our programs start with behavioral assessments, where we get to get a sense of who people are behaviorally, but also we touch on some of their motivators. One of the motivating factors really made me think about when Rebecca Ryan was at ICMA. Her talk impacted me a lot, because I really started to think about how we have this live first, work second change. Where typically it was always put work first, we are seeing subsequent generations come through with the attitude that they do not necessarily want to sacrifice work, but they have to have it in balance. I think that has helped raise a lot of awareness.

We talk about that frequently in our leadership programs; though you inherited a particular work life balance, you need to be sensitive to other people’s priorities. For some, time off might be more important than money. Managers should be asking themselves, “How do I need to potentially modify my style to best meet the needs of this next group coming in that might be different from me?” I think that helps a lot.

We also do a lot on coaching. Recently, we got our supervisors t-shirts with the word "Coach" on the back, and told them we would make them wear them in the workplace, to remind them that their role as a leader is to coach people along the way. These programs are really about us providing the right tools to give people the sort of prompts that you can be a better coach in the workplace. You can cultivate a different leadership style if you really are intentional about it.

One of your slides discusses employer and employee priorities, and how both parties respond when asked what they think the other party’s priorities are. Often, employers and employees respond precisely opposite of how they are perceived to prioritize things. What are your thoughts on this?

That data came from an ICMA publication. I have created a worksheet that supervisors fill out, to evaluate what they think their employees have and what they hold dear? Afterward, they go back to their workplace and have their employees fill it out. Then they see how far off they are. When they try that experiment, they are blown away. Before the experiment, supervisors assume employees want more money, or promotion and growth. But some of their priorities are to understand that employees have a personal life. They may have some personal issues but they still want to be included in things, and appreciated for a job well done.

Multiple experiences with ICMA have really helped me look at these results and ask, “What are we talking about when it comes to what people are motivated by? And how do we encourage that in the towns, and cities, and schools, here in New Hampshire?” Money is not always the best motivator, but it becomes important if you're not doing the other things, like recognition, meaningful work, and the really important things that people want to do.

I think understanding the motivation of your employees and potential is going to be a real key to attracting people into the public sector. Whether that is making a difference in the world, making people’s lives better, feeling like you accomplished something, or a more traditional stay here for 25 years and have a good retirement and good benefits. I think we are seeing more and more people want to make a difference in the world. The public sector needs to market that better.

How else has ICMA helped or influenced your career?

I started my ICMA membership when I was in college at UNH. Then in grad school, I applied for a scholarship to go to my first conference, the one in Vancouver, and it was great! I think ICMA has been a great resource to stay sharp, fresh, and close to the action. One of my fears of moving from direct administration to this role was, "Will I still be relevant in that world?" ICMA has played a huge role in allowing me to stay current with what the issues are and how best to deal with real-world municipal problems. The publications and e-mails provide great advice.

I felt really connected to ICMA for the first time during the ICMA mid-career manager program, because all of a sudden I was more engaged and involved. The program included a little bit of personal coaching, and for me, that helped reinvigorate that passion to connect with ICMA and managers that are outside of my own circles here in New Hampshire. I learned what the big issues in Oklahoma and California were, and realized that there are some common threads, but different advice along the way. That gave me the prompt to join the task force on the job hunting handbook, which I think has been really good, because we help with a lot of organizing recruitment efforts. I wanted to make sure that I could lend a hand along the way, and so I was really happy to be a part of that.

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