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Podcast: Leadership in Times of Crisis – The Drucker Playbook

Posted on June 19, 2020


Lawrence Greenspun Tanya Ange GovLove
Lawrence GreenspunTanya Ange
Lawrence Greenspun
Director of Public Sector Engagement
Drucker Institute
Bio | LinkedIn
Tanya Ange
Deputy City Manager
City of Boulder, Colorado
Bio | LinkedIn | Twitter

Don’t be clever, be conscientious. Lawrence Greenspun, Director of Public Sector Engagement for the Drucker Institute, and Tanya Ange, Deputy City Manager of Boulder, Colorado, joined the podcast to talk about leadership in times of crisis and the new Drucker Playbook for the Public Sector. Lawrence shared the story of Peter Drucker and the principles of leadership that inform their training and approach. Tanya discussed how the City of Boulder is using the Drucker Playbook to train staff and develop leaders.

Host: Alyssa Dinberg

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Learn More

Drucker Playbook for the Public Sector

Governing: Leadership Training for the Public Sector

Leadership in a Time of Crisis

Tanya Ange: Innovative culture ongoing focus for Boulder, Colorado

From intern to second in command, Ange adores municipal management


Episode Transcript

Message

Hey GovLove listeners. Ben here. Before we get to today’s episode, I want to share an announcement about a fellowship program that ELGL is offering in partnership with the Government Finance Officers Association. This fellowship is around the Popular Annual Financial Report. It will pair graduate students and local governments to create the PAFR and help organizations get that coveted GFOA award. We know that COVID-19 has made it difficult for graduate students to find meaningful summer professional work experiences due to hiring freezes or just you know, coordinating remote work. And we’re hoping that by matching graduate students that need that experience, and PAFR is a great experience with local governments that want to upgrade their Popular Annual Financial Report. We can find a match that will meet everyone’s needs. So applications from local governments and students that want to participate and be matched are due by Friday, July 3. You can find out more by going to the ELGL website, elgl.org. Thanks.

Alyssa Dinberg

Coming to you from Denver, Colorado, this is GovLove, a podcast about local government. GovLove is produced by ELGL, the Engaging Local Government Leaders network. We engage the brightest minds in local government. I’m Alyssa Dinberg and today I’m joined by Lawrence Greenspun, Director of Public Sector Engagement at the Drucker Institute, and Tanya Ange, Deputy City Manager at the City of Boulder, Colorado. The Drucker Institute works with thousands of leaders from major corporations, nonprofits and government agencies to make them more effective. Welcome to GovLove Tanya and Lawrence.

Tanya Ange

Hello.

Lawrence Greenspun

Thanks for having us.

Alyssa Dinberg

Thanks for joining me. I really appreciate you both taking time out of your busy schedules to be here. I’m super excited to hear from you. Today’s episode we’ll dive into what the Drucker Playbook for the Public Sector is and how it’s applied in times of crisis. We’ll learn from Lawrence what the playbook is and how they’re training rising public sector leaders during times of crisis and in their everyday work. Tanya will talk about how the City of Boulder has been using the playbook to build leadership capacity throughout the organization. This capacity has been exceptionally beneficial during times of crisis such as now. So if you guys are ready, we’re going to get started with one of GovLove’s signature lightning rounds. We start every episode with this and it’s just so our listeners can get to know you a little bit. Are you ready?

Lawrence Greenspun

All set.

Tanya Ange

Yes.

Alyssa Dinberg

All right. So Tanya, if you will go first on this one – you unexpectedly find yourself pushed on stage to give a TED talk. What is one subject you can discuss for 18 minutes without any preparation?

Tanya Ange

So I was thinking about this last night Alyssa and I would say planning a dinner party menu and corresponding light settings. I think, I thought of that right away because I can’t wait to host a dinner party and have friends and family at my house.

Alyssa Dinberg

Ah, yes. I completely agree. I miss having people over. Lawrence, what about you? What is one subject you could discuss for 18 minutes with no preparation?

Lawrence Greenspun

I could go on the surprisingly positive long term, psycho social impact of having been a Philadelphia sports fan in the late 1960s, early 70s. And I chose that because I was a Philadelphia sports fan in the late 1960s and early 70s and ….. a healthy respect for the underdog and that things don’t always turn out the way you’d hoped.

Alyssa Dinberg

That resonates with me more than you know, because I am from Atlanta and I am a Braves fan or kind of a Braves fan. And they are just like the team that consistently disappoints. They make it like almost there and then they lose. So…

Lawrence Greenspun

It is very frustrating.

Alyssa Dinberg

It is very frustrating. Okay, number two, what is the best self care tip in time of quarantine? And Lawrence, why don’t you go first?

Lawrence Greenspun

I would think that a nap is never the wrong choice. [Laughter]

Alyssa Dinberg

Yep.

Tanya Ange

So, I so agree with you, Lawrence. And I’ve been found instead of having lunch sometimes, actually, I take a nap at noon. But for me, my best self care tip is actually morning runs. So making sure that I’m spending time outside and embracing nature.

Alyssa Dinberg

That one doesn’t surprise me at all, Tanya, that answer for you, not at all. Good for you. I wish I had that. I really do. I wish I could run. And so last question. And this is something that I ask everyone that I interview. If you were a vegetable, what would you be and why? And Tanya, why don’t you go first.

Tanya Ange

So I would be an avocado. And I truly believe an avocado is a vegetable. It is not a fruit. So maybe it’s because I’m complex. But avocado goes great on everything.

Alyssa Dinberg

It does. That is true. What about you, Lawrence?

Lawrence Greenspun

Well, that’s a good choice Tanya. Definitely describes you. I choose a turnip because a little research revealed it kind of seems the least popular vegetable. And that is not that I think I’m not popular, but I don’t want to be eaten or consumed. [Laughter] And that was firmly rooted where I was going to enjoy my turnipness without worrying about somebody coming along and picking.

Alyssa Dinberg

You know, of all the interviews I’ve done, nobody has ever given that answer. [Laughter] So congratulations. Nobody’s ever considered like I don’t want to get eaten. [Laughter]

Lawrence Greenspun

I’m very self protective in these times. [Laughter]

Alyssa Dinberg

I know I love it. That’s great. It’s perfect. All right, so let’s, that was great. I enjoyed all of your answers. Let’s shift our attention to the Drucker Playbook. And Lawrence, can you tell us briefly who Peter Drucker was and how a public sector leadership and management training program can be named for him?

Lawrence Greenspun

Sure, sure. So without going into too much history, Peter was born in 1909, in Vienna, Austria, and his first job, and one of his first jobs in his 20s was as a reporter in Berlin, and Vienna. Well, if you can do the math, if you’re born in 1909, and you’re 25 years old, and you’re in Berlin and Vienna, you’re watching the rise of the Nazis. And Drucker looked at this and he said to himself, how did this happen? How did a madman like Hitler come to be voted into office? What, what happened in this society and in the world, that people were willing to look at this person as a, as a leader that they would get behind. And Drucker came up with this notion. He said, modern society is a society of organizations. And when organizations fail in their greater mission to society, it creates a void, and something will fill that void. We’ve had a failure of leadership, Drucker said across all sectors, our government leaders have failed, our business leaders have failed, our educators have failed, there are nonprofits. And it’s created a void where people are willing to trust. Drucker describes it, he says, a madman magician who will come in and promise them everything and its opposite, and saying I can solve all your problems. Drucker realized that if we could have a healthy, meaning a robust, thriving society, we need to find a way to train our leaders to make our organizations more effective and equate consciously set out beginning in the late 1930s, to create a field of study for leadership to increase their effectiveness. He called it management and Drucker  literally started the discipline of management with the notion of creating a healthy, robust society. He said, and this is a line that means a lot to us at the Drucker Institute. Performing responsible management is the alternative to tyranny and our only protection against it. Drucker literally said, the way we can avoid something like the Great Depression and World War Two and the rise of the Nazis, from coming again, is to train leaders through effect for effectiveness through the practice the discipline of management. And so for 60, some years, Drucker served as an advisor to public sector, private sector, nonprofit, education to leaders from all areas, always with the goal of creating a more just, robust, thriving, healthy society. Well, about eight years ago, nine years ago, I guess at a Drucker Institute staff meeting, our mission at that time was stimulating effective management and responsible leadership across all sectors of society. And I opened up my mouth, and I said, we don’t work in the public sector, we can’t really claim that as our mission, is unless we engage with the public sector, that which I volunteered to do. And at that time, my wife and I had just moved to where she’d been based in South Bend, Indiana, where this new young Mayor had just been elected. And I thought maybe this guy would be interested in working with us to figure out what it would mean to create a a playbook for effectiveness for American cities, for government leaders in American cities. So nobody had heard of Mayor Pete Buttigieg then, but I assume a lot of people know who he is now. So I got in touch with Mayor Pete and he said, we’d love to see what, what a Drucker Playbook for the public sector would look like. And he basically allowed me to embed for a year in one of his departments, the South Bend Department of Community Investment, and while my mission was to provide rising public sector leaders with tools for effectiveness, one of the things Drucker said is, you have to figure out who your customer is and what your customer values. So I didn’t create a Drucker Playbook and go to the South Bend Department of Community Investment with it. I spent a year in the South Bend Department of Community Investment, learned what their training needs and interests were and together with them created the Drucker Playbook. We then piloted it. So I delivered that in person. I know I couldn’t move to every new city we wanted to work with. So we piloted training rising leaders in Louisville and Memphis, did that online, trained the two groups together, realized that would still be difficult to do. And so we eventually made a recorded version of the Drucker Playbook for the public sector that we’ve been sharing with mostly local government entities across the United States. But we’ve worked some with the Department of Agriculture, and even done some training with the Reserve Bank of India, the Central Bank of India. So that’s how there came to be a Drucker Playbook for the public sector.

Alyssa Dinberg

So you mentioned that the playbook for the public sector is just a portion of what the Drucker Institute does. Can you just briefly because I’m sure some of our listeners are curious, what are some of the other types of organizations that you work with?

Lawrence Greenspun

Yes. We have, the Wall Street Journal every year publishes a list of rankings of American corporations. They call it the Management 250 or the Management 500, that’s based on. We took 41 criteria that Drucker gave for what makes an effective organization. We found publicly accessible data to rank each of the corporations on these 41 criteria, and then write them from one to, we actually have a list of 732. The Wall Street Journal, just publishes a part of it. But we have a ranking of effectiveness according to Drucker based principles of organizational effectiveness for American companies. We do some consulting based off of that in the, in the private sector. We run a program called spring cleaning for nonprofit organizations that helps them specifically with a concept that’s near and dear to Tanya’s heart, which is planned abandonment. Drucker’s notion that more than figuring out what we need to do as organizations, we need to figure out what we need to stop doing. So we run a, a prize every year. It’s called the Drucker prize for nonprofit innovation, that has been one thing in the past, but going forward in the future, it’s going to be related to this spring cleaning project that will focus on nonprofit planned abandonment. We also run a multi sector program called the City of Lifelong Learning. So we went back to Mayor Pete, a few years ago and said, how would you like to explore with us what it would mean to become a city of lifelong learning? And he basically indicated mayor’s come and go, why don’t you focus on the library, the St. Joseph County Public Library as your primary partner for that, but the City of South Bend and the library system and the Drucker Institute have been working for the past two years to figure out how you would, what it would mean to create a city of lifelong learning in the United States. We’re literally launching that next week here in South Bend. We’ll be looking to work with other cities around the country in the future.

Alyssa Dinberg

That’s really exciting. It’s good to know the history of it. It’s I have heard of the Drucker Playbook, but I didn’t realize that Peter Drucker started this movement so long ago. So I want to hear a little bit from Tanya about her experience with the playbook and the training. So Tanya, what drew you to the playbook for for training in Boulder, and what’s been the impact that you’ve seen from those who have gone through it?

Tanya Ange

So I met Lawrence actually at an Alliance for Innovation conference and was quickly drawn in. I think you can hear Alyssa, he is just a powerful storyteller. But the story and the meaning behind the playbook and based on Drucker’s management principles is, was intriguing to me, and in Boulder, at the time, and this was three years ago, we wanted to really develop a leadership academy for rising stars within the organization. And so the Drucker Playbook is actually core to that training program that we offer annually to our employees, and some of the modules, and Lawrence referenced the planned abandonment and innovation module is near and dear to my heart. Because I think that’s a skill set within local government that it’s easy to start services but to try to change how we deliver services, or actually stop delivering services for the community can be a challenge and with the fiscal realities of COVID, I think this module is important as ever, and really proud that many of our employees have that skill set within the organization. Other modules include building bat blocks of effective leadership, managing oneself, effective communication, measuring the right things the right way. So not just collecting data or creating metrics to just have them but what are we measuring, and tying that back to our mission and vision, and then accountability and values. And we’ve had great feedback from our employees on these modules. The modules are actually self led by our Leadership Academy employees. And so I do also just want to just briefly mention too and Lawrence, you talked about some of Drucker’s questions. And right now that’s very important, given the space that we’re holding and COVID. So preparing our employees to ask these important questions, what is our mission of our services? Who is our customer? What is the value? What are the results? And this has meaning, what are the current results in terms of our mission? And what are our desired results? And how will we track those results achieved, and what’s our plan? So if we look at the City of Boulders response in COVID, we’ve really been tying back to these questions, but then also really looking through an equity lens as well. So appreciative of having the Drucker Playbook as a foundation for us to build on. That’s fantastic.

Alyssa Dinberg

So we’re going to get a little bit more into how Boulder has used the Drucker Playbook to make those decisions. But right now, Lawrence, if you could tell me what were Drucker’s insights about leadership in times of crisis, and how have you integrated them into the training for public sector leaders confronting COVID-19?

Lawrence Greenspun

LG Thanks. You know, as I said, Drucker’s whole conception of leadership and management was born in the crises of the Great Depression, the rise of the Nazis and World War Two. So he really saw that his whole concept of how we go about being effective as emanating from this process in which organizations had failed. And Drucker said, there is a core text or concept when confronting a crisis. This is I think, applicable in this COVID situation. But in any crisis situation. This isn’t just for in the public sector or an organization. This is something for your family. So in for Tanya mentioned managing oneself. This is for managing yourself. Drucker says it all comes from this basic concept. Don’t be clever, be conscientious. By don’t be clever he means, don’t look for the quick fix, the miracle cure, the you know, the, the magic bullet that’ll solve all your problems. Instead of trying to be clever in a crisis, be conscientious. Conscientious means, you know, with great thought. Con science with, you know, with scruples, with morals. So to be conscientious, he basically said there are three steps involved in terms of being conscientious rather than clever. The first one he said that the biggest problem when confronted with a crisis is the desire to act, to do something. Our inclination as leaders is, there’s a problem. Let me charge in and solve it. Drucker said, that’s the problem. It’s not a matter of what can be done, but a matter of what must be done. And so the first step in response to a crisis, Drucker said, is to is to step back, to observe and to say, what are the new realities we are confronting. And so when I work with a team in responding to a crisis, the first thing we do is we may make a list of what are the new realities. Half Our staff is working from home. We’re facing a 40% budget reduction. We can’t interact directly with our, with our constituents, with the residents of the city. Make a list of realities. That’s step one. Step two is, still don’t do something. Rather look at those new realities and see what questions they prompt. Drucker said that and this is a quote – “in the few places where management has produced positive results in turbulent times, right in times of crisis is because managers have asked the right questions, and not because they came armed to the crisis with a set of answers”. Answers Drucker said become obsolete, questions do not. Answers commit you to a particular fixed course, questions give you flexibility and latitude. So my advice still through Drucker and those of you facing a crisis situation, whatever it is, is, one, make a list of the new realities. Drucker said you have to focus on what is, not what used to be, not what ought to be, not what you want, what is. Look at that list and ask a few questions. Drucker said the right answers are the result of asking the right questions. Step three, is to figure out based on those questions, what do those questions imply, must that must be done? Again, not what can be done, but what must be done based on those questions. And then you bring all the typical tools of management and effective leadership to bear to create a plan based on what must be done. So those are the three core things he said. They’re all based on that notion of don’t be clever, but to be conscientious, to work in a meticulous fashion. He had two other really big points about leadership and he often used the phrase turbulent times. He has a book called Managing in Turbulent Times. Two other points he made were – did a tie and this is a quote also. “A time of turbulence is also one of great opportunity for those who can understand, accept and exploit the new realities. It is above all, a time of opportunity for leadership”. And I would say go back to a point, I think Tanya and I are both trying to emphasize, for those of you listening, which is, innovation is a wonderful thing. It’s a great word. I’m not against innovation. I’d rather talk about entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship has nothing to do with business. Entrepreneurship, the definition of entrepreneurship, it’s a word from the French economist JB Say. Around 1800 he said, “entrepreneurs shift resources from areas of low productivity and yield to areas of high productivity and yield”. So entrepreneurship has nothing to do with business. I’m not trying to say be more like business. I’m trying to say be an entrepreneur. Shift your resources from areas of low productivity and yield to areas of high productivity and yield, which means we need to be ready to abandon those things that are not producing, not giving a yield based on the resources we are putting in it. So yes, a crisis is an opportunity to innovate. The prerequisite to innovation Drucker would say is, let’s figure out what we should stop doing. What can we abandon? I bet there are all kinds of things that you and your organizations were doing, maybe forever, that you’re not doing right now. Any of those that you and your constituents don’t miss, don’t start doing them again. Use those freed up capacity and resources, and then figure out, because I’m sure this crisis has also revealed things we ought to be doing or need to be doing, or as Drucker said, must be doing. You’ll only do them well, if you first stop doing other things. When organizations ask me to come in and run a workshop on innovation, this is what I always do. I say, people will be sitting there I’ll say put your hand up if you have lots of free time on your hands and nothing to do. I’ve asked a 1000 people that and not a single hand has ever gone up. They are, well raise your hand now, if you have lots of extra money lying around and unused resources and never a hand has going up. I said, okay, our workshop on innovation is now over, because you can’t innovate if you don’t have any time, and any resources to devote to them. However, if you’d like to do a workshop on planned abandonment, to figure out what you can stop doing to free up resources in time, I’m happy to continue that way. That’s the fourth piece of Drucker’s insights on what to do during a time of crisis. The last one is that Drucker said that effective leaders anticipate crises and act in advance to either prevent or mitigate them when possible. Well, this crisis is already here. But what about the next crisis? Right? Drucker talked about the recurring crisis. I bet all of you can say something, a crisis that comes up every single year. Drucker said the recurring crisis, we know it’s gonna happen and every year we’re like, Oh my goodness, I can’t believe there’s so much absenteeism right before Christmas, because people are taking off. And yet we do nothing to prepare for it. Or every time we say, well, we created all these great reports to convince the council to support this program and sent them these detailed reports with data. And they just voted it down. Well, you know why they voted it down. They’re not reading your reports, your 60 page reports. And yet you follow the same tact every time and are in crisis mode, to try to convince them after they’ve turned it down. Drucker said, an effective leader will anticipate a crisis and try to mitigate it. And so the fifth thing he said to do is look for the recurring crisis, the thing that keeps coming back that you can create, and then what are the crises we can predict will come. We knew there was going to be a health crisis. We didn’t know how it would hit. How have we prepared for it? I can tell you right now there will be a climate crisis at some point where you are. What are you doing to prepare for it? I can tell you right now that eventually, some tragedy will occur where a police officer does something to somebody in a community that’s often underrepresented, or not serviced as well by the city as or a government entity is it could be, and there’s going to be a problem in the community. What are we doing to prepare for that to happen? ….. Drucker can all these can be applied, no matter where you are, in not just in a government setting, but in your family, in your church group wherever you want. Drucker said effective leaders anticipate crisis. The last thing I’ll say, look at the famous picture of George Washington crossing the Delaware River. If you look, he’s in like a kind of canoe. There’s 10-12 people in the canoe, and if you look at them, they’re like poking ice away and rowing and they’re they’re all busy working. Look at Washington. He’s standing forwards straight up with his eyes straight ahead, looking for danger on the horizon. Your people will work much more effectively, nose to the grindstone, getting the job done, if they know the leader has her eyes up, looking forward, anticipating any trouble, saying we better move to the right, because there’s a rock coming up, we better move to the left, because there’s falls coming up, we better stop because the British are standing there waiting for us. So let’s not proceed. There needs to be that trust that’s gained from knowing that while I’m doing my work, you the leader looking ahead and will let me know of any danger coming. That’s Drucker on the crisis.

Alyssa Dinberg

So I want to go back a little bit. And this question is for both of you. Tanya, for you as the user of the playbook and Lawrence for you as, quote unquote, the administrator of the playbook. As you mentioned, organizations are constantly dealing with crisis and especially in local government or government as a whole are very rarely planning ahead for crisis because they’re dealing with what’s directly in front of them. Tanya, was there a specific incident at Boulder that moved you forward to actually take the steps to start implementing the playbook? And then for you, Lawrence, what, what do you say to organizations that are interested in participating, but, but feel like they don’t need it now or feel like maybe they’ll do it a year from now? How do you encourage them to do this now so that when the crisis does come, they’re prepared. Tanya, you can go first if you’d like.

Tanya Ange

Yeah. So I think it’s about capacity and investing in your employees. And so there’s a couple phrases that Lawrence stated that really resonate, resonated with me and, that’s new realities, and employees as the entrepreneur. So first on new reality, I just want to share a quote from Drucker that I really appreciate. And it is, “the only things we know about the future is, it will be different”. And I really think that is true today. Because given the COVID pandemic, we don’t know what the future looks like, but we know it will be different. So how do we start preparing for that, and it really is about going forward and not looking back, but learning from where we’ve been, and paving the road of the future. And I think our employee development program, which includes the Peter Drucker Playbook has really established our organization to be able to do this. And it’s not just for the person who is at the top of the organization. It is something that is needed throughout the organization. At Boulder, our leadership philosophy is founded on, on the concept that we have leaders at all levels. And this is really showing up throughout the organization. And that ties to Lawrence’s comment that employees are entrepreneurs. We have employees across the organization right now doing amazing things. Creative design of how to change service delivery, to reach vulnerable populations or marginalized communities within Boulder, to transitioning makerspace classes to Zoom, to providing services virtually to seniors in our community. And I think that’s, it’s not coming from the city manager’s office or department directors. It is really coming from leaders at all levels of our, of our organization. And that is that entrepreneurial spirit that Lawrence had talked about and the Drucker Playbook talks about. And it’s really giving employees that permission to innovate, and to really transform public services for the future. So even when we started the Drucker Playbook, we had no idea that COVID would happen. Yet making that investment today has enabled us to have just an amazing workforce that can provide public services to our community for the future.

Alyssa Dinberg

Lawrence, what’s your perspective from your end?

Lawrence Greenspun

Tanya also said some things that I think are really important, and I’ll re emphasize and play off them. And when we first developed the Drucker Playbook, and we’re bringing it around to mostly local government entities, I heard over and over again from people like say in Tanya’s position and people from talent development and performance management, saying you know, our biggest concern is the future leaders of our organization. We have all this great knowledge at the top and skill and experience. But as those people leave, how are we going to replace that? People say, we know we’re going to replace it. We’ve hired great people. How do we prepare them to step into these new roles? And so we’ve tried to refine over time the Drucker Playbook to make it specifically a playbook for what we call rising leaders, the people that will be the future leaders of the organization. And to you know again, as Tanya highlighted so well, on you provide them with insights, lessons and practical tools that they can use as they step into, as they fulfill their current roles and prepare to step into, to new and expanded roles. The way I look at it, and something that comes back to me is, Drucker was very much focused on the notion of effectiveness and performance. He said leadership isn’t a matter of personality. Leadership isn’t a matter of title. Leadership is effectiveness, which he defined as doing the right things well. We need to figure out what the right things are to do first, and then we need to do those things well, right. It’s what must be done. Not what can be done. Drucker has this great line, “There’s surely nothing so useless, as doing with great efficiency, what should not be done at all. So what we’re trying to do is cultivate leadership at every level of the organization to define leadership, link it inextricably to effectiveness, which is performance, which is doing the right things well, and then providing people with practical lessons and tools to do that. In terms of a crisis, I would just say that, just as, as Tanya said, there, there aren’t crises time and normal times, ultimately. There’s just our times. And it’s our responsibility as managers and leaders to whatever number of resources we have, apply them to produce the greatest outcomes for a mission, which is whatever that mission might be.

Tanya Ange

So I also think in times of crisis, and this is woven throughout the Drucker Playbook, is mindset and having a leadership mindset. And this is no matter what position you hold within your local government. And there’s a joke amongst many at the City of Boulder that the city manager’s office should actually be renamed to Center of Many Opportunities, because it’s very common that I will approach team members and say we’ve got this opportunity. And so it is how we look at this pandemic or how you look at challenges and really seeing that through the lens of what’s our opportunity, and how can we lean forward and deliver services for the community that are better tomorrow and serve a wider net than they do today? So I think for all of us, think about the mindset and how you enter your space each day, whether it’s with your family, or your co workers, and having that opportunity mindset is so important during this COVID pandemic and actually any day.

Alyssa Dinberg

So, Lawrence, I know we’ve talked a lot about Drucker. Is there, is the training all Drucker based or are there additional components to it?

Lawrence Greenspun

You know, Peter Drucker would have been the last person to say, take my ideas and follow them. I don’t think he would have said that. There are some fundamental concepts or mindsets that Drucker shared, but ultimately you need to manage yourself and lead yourself. And a key part of the Drucker playbook comes from you know, my, my Drucker emphasized you have to work from your strengths. My second day on the job at the Drucker Institute, the Executive Director, sat me down and said, tell me three of your strengths. And I tried to say things that I thought related to the job. He said, no, I want you to tell me three things you’re good at that have nothing to do with Drucker or this job. I said, well, I was a Jewish Studies major in college, how many Jewish Studies majors are there so I said, I probably know a lot about Judaism. I’m a good storyteller. And I play really good defense in sports. He said, it’s now your job to make those three things part of your work here. I said, what are you talking about? He said, I don’t know. They are your strengths. But I know you’ll be more effective for your using your strengths, put them to work here. So storytelling is a key part of the Drucker Playbook. And what I try to accomplish through the storytelling is to get people to realize that you should take your own experiences and insights, infuse them with some of these bigger concepts from Drucker and use them going forward, that you’ll be most effective trying to be, you are at your best rather than Drucker at his best. I can share a story that I think illustrates that process well, but I don’t know how much time we have.

Alyssa Dinberg

Yeah, please, please.

Lawrence Greenspun

Okay, so in this I’m going to relate this back to the topic overall. In the spring of 1991, in early April of 1991, John Hines, United States Senator from Pennsylvania was flying to a meeting in Philadelphia in a small plane with just his Chief of Staff and the pilot and co pilot. The plane approached Philadelphia International Airport, pilot put down the landing gear for delaying the year go down but the little light in the cockpit that would come on to indicate that the landing gear was down and engaged didn’t come on. He figured it was just a short in the lighter and it seems like, radioed in to the to the tower in Philadelphia to let them know that. There was a helicopter in the air near nearby and heard the call and said, hey, you know we’re nearby. We could do a flyby and see if the landing gear looks down. I want you to go back to what I said before when you’re faced with a crisis. Don’t act, step back and say what are the realities? What are the new realities we’re facing? Then don’t act, ask some questions. They didn’t ask a question. They said you know what we’ll do a fly by and flew by and they said, hey, looks like your landing gear is down. We’ll circle by again. The tower in Philadelphia said hey, look, this is the United States Senator John Hines. Can you make sure. The pilot with nothing but good intentions came by one more time to look and unfortunately, the helicopter propeller creates a kind of vortex. It pulled the plane down onto the helicopter. Helicopter and the plane crash to the ground. The helicopter crashed in a in front of an elementary school in the bus circle in front of the school. The airplane crashed in the playground in the back of the school where my first grade class was out at recess. And one of the little girls from my class Lauren was killed. I was asked to identify her body, a white sheet in the middle of this playground, pulled it back in two big brown round eyes asked me questions without answers. That was Thursday. Friday school was closed. Sunday I gave the eulogy at Lauren’s funeral. Monday, we came back to school. From eight o’clock to 8:50 there was a staff meeting where we talked about all kinds of things. At 8:51 I started walking back to my classroom and behind me were the principal, the guidance counselor, the school district psychiatrists and some people in suits I’d never seen before in my life. They followed me into the classroom and said, Hey, we need to talk to you about how you’re going to handle this when the kids come in. I said, don’t worry, we’ve got it. He said, what are you talking about? This was, you know, a tragedy. One of the children were killed, we need to have a plan. This is now 8:56 in the morning, they say to me, you need to have a plan. I said, don’t worry, we’ve got it. They started to talk again, I said, be quiet and sit down over there. The students are coming in. The students walked into the room, nobody said anything to them. And they went to the front of the room and sat down in a circle. And I sat down in a circle. And I said Thursday was a really bad day. And I talked for a little bit what I saw and heard and felt and, and people talked about what what their experience was and what they’re thinking about over the weekend and what their fears were and and I said quite honestly, to the kids, I said, I didn’t know what to do with Lauren’s desk. I didn’t want to just get rid of it. But I didn’t want anybody to feel uncomfortable, you know, and Lexi said, oh, I have a really pretty cloth at home with flowers. Why don’t I bring that in and put it on Lauren’s desk? And Selma said, we grow flowers at my house, why don’t I bring in some real flowers and we can put them on the desk. And Chris said, I’m really good at making cards. I’m going to make a card to put on her desk. And I said, that sounds great. I said, what about Lauren’s picture hanging above her cubby and her work? And one of the, one of the children said, I live on the same street as Lauren. I bet her parents will want them. I’ll bring them to Lauren’s house. And Joe, one of the girls said, Oh, I’ll go with you because I’ve been to her house before we can bring it together. And one of the other students said, I want to make a card for Lauren’s brother because he must be so sad, and so scared. And will you bring that. Everybody talked about what we were going to go do and who’s going to help who with what and they went and they did it. I walked over to the table with the tear stained adults sitting there. And after a minute or so the school district psychiatrists said to me, that was amazing. How did how did they know to do that? How did they know how to do that? And I said, that’s how we start every single day. We sit down in a circle in the front of the room, and we talk about what’s on our minds. We talk about what’s going on. We talk about what needs to get done, who needs help doing it, how it’s going to get done, and then we go do it. I didn’t know when the airplane was gonna fall on Lauren. But I did know if 25 people were going to be working together seven or eight hours a day on the same thing, stuff was gonna happen. And if we waited for bad, difficult, challenging things to happen to begin talking, and have lines of communication and sharing and knowing and bonding and trust, if I waited until I needed them to hold up the weight of an airplane fell on Lauren, they would never hold. But if they were there from the beginning and those bonds of communication and sharing and knowing were built on, Billy was mean to me at recess, or grandma and grandpa got me a new bike for my birthday, or why is it, why is it getting colder and colder outside? Only because we had talked about all those things every day, were we able to talk about what happens when an airplane fell on us? Communication in relationships, communication in relationships, communication in relationships, whether it’s a crisis, whether it’s local government, whether it’s your family, whether it’s your loved ones, communication in relationship needs to be there, to do everything else we need to do well. And so if you want to take one insight or lesson from Peter Drucker, he said, the bonds of trust that lead to effectiveness need to be embedded by leadership from the very beginning and you embed them by talking to each other He wrote, of course, this is some somewhat dated, he said, don’t write memos, go and ask. So I would say don’t write emails, go and ask. And if you can’t go and ask, don’t accept that. Go talk to the people. And that ultimately everything else about effective management and responsible leadership is built on that foundation of relationship. And I would say that what I gave, there was something I hoped illustrated a lot of points that we talked about today. One was is, the Drucker Playbook isn’t about Peter Drucker. I could care less if you forget the name Peter Drucker, seven seconds after you finish the Drucker Playbook. The point is for increased effectiveness. Are you doing the right things? Well, one of the reasons we emphasize that is, I bring my own personal strength, hopefully some strength as a storyteller to the Drucker Playbook. As part of the process of illustrating of you use, you use your strengths to do these things well, right. Innovation management, all these things are a means to an end. The end is a healthy, productive, thriving community and society at large. That’s what the Drucker Playbook’s about. And then finally, the story illustrates the understandable desire in a time of crisis to act. And the tremendous danger there is in acting before assessing and questioning. And so it’s never too late in this time of crisis or any other time to not jump them in and feel as a leader I have to do something, but as a leader to figure out what’s the thing that needs to be done, who’s good at the various parts of that, and let’s build the team to come do it well. That gets us back to Drucker’s main point that performing responsible management is the alternative to tyranny. They’re only protection against it. Because if we do these things well, our communities will trust us. And we’ll be able to work together and they’ll invest in us as we invest in them. And there’ll be communication and relationship. And if we don’t get this right, we’re flying too close to the plane. And you know it’s that James Taylor’s song, Sweet Dreams and Flying Machines in pieces on the ground. I don’t want the pieces of your community to break up. So we need to think carefully about what we’re doing. Think about the tremendous strength and talent and ability we have to impact things for the good. That’s what this is about.

Alyssa Dinberg

That was a really beautiful story. I know. I’m kind of speechless right now. Honestly. Well, thank you so much, Lawrence. That was fantastic. Unfortunately, Tanya had to drop off. She, as local government professionals, we think she had something that she had to deal with that was that was time sensitive. Lawrence, so if you could be the GovLove DJ for the day, what song would you pick for the exit music for this episode?

Lawrence Greenspun

Oh, well, I’m actually prepared to answer for both, both Tanya and myself because that is, we’ve said several times the notion of planned abandonment. If we’re going to do any of these things, well, we need to figure out what things to stop doing to break away from. So I would pick the Taylor Swift song, We are Never Ever Getting Back Together. [Laughter] As a reminder, to practice planned abandonment and to be willing to step away from the things that are not producing results.

Alyssa Dinberg

That is absolutely not what I was expecting you to say. But that’s amazing. I love it.

Lawrence Greenspun

This will probably be the first time the same person being interviewed brought up turnips and Taylor Swift.

Alyssa Dinberg

Yeah, I would definitely agree with that. Both of those answers were not ones that I was expecting.

Tanya Ange

Great and I did hear the Taylor Swift and I was so not expecting that Lawrence either. So mine right now, I love just fun, upbeat music during this time. So mine is Dance Monkey by Tones, and I.

Alyssa Dinberg

I actually don’t know that song. I’m gonna play it. Listen to it.

Lawrence Greenspun

I’m dancing to it right now. Unfortunately, you can’t see it. [Laughter]

Alyssa Dinberg

Well, thank you so much for both of you for taking the time to speak with me. I really appreciate it. And I think that this episode will not only be really beneficial for our listeners right now in this time of COVID crisis, but also moving forward. And I really hope some of our listeners take what both of you said to heart and start planning for the future versus the right now. So thank you so much.

Lawrence Greenspun

Thank you. It’s really been an honor. It’s great to connect with Tanya again and it just brought an opportunity to share you know learning work with all of you.

Tanya Ange

Yeah, thank you. I agree. And Lawrence, every time I hear you speak, I learn and grow in each conversation. So thank you for being you.

Lawrence Greenspun

Thanks Tanya.

Alyssa Dinberg

Well that ends our episode for today. For our listeners, you can reach us at elgl.org/Govlove or on Twitter @govlovepodcast. GovLove is hosted by ELGL. ELGL is the Engaging Local Government Leaders network. We’re a social startup with the mission of engaging the brightest minds in local government. Please subscribe to GovLove through your favorite podcast service and leave us a review so people know that GovLove is the podcast for local government topics. And if you have a story for GovLove, we absolutely want to hear it. So please send us a message on Twitter or email [email protected] Thanks for listening. This has been GovLove, a podcast about local government.


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