Today’s Morning Buzz is by Jackie Wehmeyer, Senior Director of Strategy and Intergovernmental Affairs for the City of Parkland, Florida. Parkland was named one of the Best Places to Work in Local Government in 2021 by ELGL and a Top Workplace in 2022.
Connect with Jackie on LinkedIn.
What I’m Reading: I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy (I see I’m not the only one)
What I’m Watching: Just finished Severance and I am craving Season 2!
What I’m Listening To: OneRepublic’s “I Ain’t Worried” is my current earworm
My City recently bought the land that used to be a golf course in our community. That’s certainly not a typical effort we would undertake. But, long story short, the City purchased it to have control over the mix and type of commercial and residential development instead of letting a developer do that. Of course, with any development, the City would have control over land use and zoning. Still, it would not necessarily have control over the look and feel of that development in our community. Spending public funds on this purchase was somewhat controversial, but it was decided that taking control by purchasing the land would ensure our residents get what they want instead of hoping they would.
One big argument government organizations hear when considering a controversial new project is, “Municipal government is not in the business of doing _.” I don’t believe government needs to “be in the business” of something to try it out or add it to a plan. Why wouldn’t we develop out-of-the-box ideas instead of doing the same things repeatedly and obtaining the same result?
It made me think that local government generally doesn’t tend to take risks. Understandably, as we are to be good stewards of our residents’ tax dollars, we wouldn’t want to simply throw caution to the wind. But with a new idea, we can treat it as we would a new legislative mandate: we can educate ourselves, plan for anticipated pros and cons, and properly examine implementation. We should research the risks but not be adverse to any risk. Let’s think about stretching ourselves and our organizations. Why not be the first (or one of the first) to do something?
We have creative and engaged residents who give our leaders and us significant input. There is one other group of stakeholders, though, with inside knowledge of how we operate as a government and see the results of our everyday efforts. I believe can get the most innovative ideas from our employees. And the best way to get those ideas? Ask them.
It can be a significant culture shift for an organization to actively solicit new initiatives, but it doesn’t need to be revolutionary. If you prove to your employees that it is safe to propose new ways of doing things or trying new things, they will. Don’t think that because employees don’t come to you with new ideas that it’s because they don’t have them or don’t want to. It’s because they don’t know how they will be received. Just ask and listen.
In the age of the Great Resignation and quiet quitting, let’s make our employees feel valued, connected, and contributing by asking them to be curious and fearless. Employees want to be a part of something bigger. So encourage taking risks and make it an environment that’s safe to do so. Consider ideas you wouldn’t ordinarily, and don’t say no so quickly. Support your employee’s achievable proposals and ensure they are given proper credit.
For local government, it’s time for us to take a chance and do something extraordinary. Now is the time to do things differently. Be bold. There’s no better day than today.