C. Seth Sumner, ICMA-CM
"Take time for your family and take time for yourself." As early as my first municipal internship and as late as two months ago, mentors and councilmembers have shared this advice with me.
In our profession, we refer to it as work-life balance, not vice versa, because there is always more to do as we often are fixated on following our passion of serving others.
Today, as city manager of my hometown, as well as a husband and a father of five-year-old twins, I find myself needing to heed this advice more than ever. My son has started calling me out whenever I miss story time due to working late. We need a good life-work balance to be most productive for our family, for ourselves, and for our community.
"Stay cool." I received this piece of advice during the economic downturn between 2007-2009. I was working as an administrative intern under an amazing mentor. During a controversial and tense council meeting, I noticed that my mentor was taking intermediate notes but not responding to the many inappropriate and rude comments being directed at him.
After the meeting, he showed me his notes. It was a pad of paper with the phrase "stay cool" written over and over. He told me that his father had shared this advice with him early in his careerr. No matter how rude the council, residents, or visitors become, it is our job to stay calm, logical, and unpolitical. When you are about to blow up, write the phrase to remind yourself to stay calm.
Over my career as a city manager, this advice has been extremely helpful. These two words have helped me cope with uncomfortable and sometimes outrageous comments from people.
Shellharbour City Council, NSW, Australia
Some time ago, a former city manager told me "culture trumps strategy every time." At that time, the advice seemed overly simplistic. Surely if the strategy was brilliant enough it could overcome any obstacles, right?
Then, relatively recently, I was given the opportunity to be a city manager myself and reality hit. I immediately embarked upon thinking how we could focus on strategy to improve the services we provided. Very quickly, it has become self-evident that all the systems in the world won't help you if don't have values alignment, unambiguous accountabilities, and expectations and modelling of acceptable behaviors.
The words of that manager rang true and, as a result, I am now pursuing with equal vigor, organizational cultural health as well as looking after strategy, processes, and procedures.