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Guidepost #10 – Dave O’Leary

Posted on September 19, 2014


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O'Leary Connection

Welcome to week #10 of the Cookingham Connection. (What happened to week #9?! We think the ICMA conference threw everyone off a smidge… so we’ll revisit #9 next week).

Today, we hear from Dave O’Leary.  Mr. O’Leary is originally from Richmond, California.  He is a graduate of Boise High School.  After high school, he attended Boise State University and received a Bachelor of Arts in Social Science with an Education option.  In 1998, he received a Master of Public Administration from Boise State University. Mr. O’Leary’s public administration experience began in Ada County in 1990 as Commissioner.  He then served as Administration Assistant to the Mayor and the Council from 1991 to 1998 in Garden City, Idaho.  He served as City Administration in Lake Stevens, Washington from 1999 to 2003.  Mr. O’Leary is currently serving as City Administrator for the City of Shelton, a position he began in 2003.

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Guidepost #10:

cookinghamGive credit where credit belongs, and always give the council all the credit you can. They have to be re-elected.

Every year our state professional association gives awards for significant accomplishments in city and county management. Obviously, those accepting awards are good managers. And almost without exception, they use their honored time at the microphone to give credit to others.

Why would they do that?

Well let’s start with full disclosure. Government jobs can be pretty thankless. In this time of confrontational politics, shrinking resources, and increasing complexity, there are generally more troublesome dilemmas than opportunities for accomplishment.

This looks like a perilous leadership environment … It is not.

Think about it… People did not get into a public sector job for the fame or fortune. Most did so because they wanted to serve other people. Frankly, most don’t really need validation. But like human beings everywhere, they certainly love it – passionately.

So you start with a person who is inherently self-motivated. Then you publicly express appreciation for their efforts. The result is an emotional response that brims with constructive energy – and possibility.

It sounds like this message is about regular employees – and it is. But it also is about elected officials. They probably get more negative feedback than any other employee group. Also, without their support, a manager can accomplish nothing, let along something excellent.

So be generous with the credit. People in your organization, at all levels, are earning it every day. And if you pass along a little positive energy, they will return the favor with excellence. The most successful managers already know this to be true.

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