Goal Setting Is Essential

Goals can align elected officials, staff and community.

Goals can align elected officials, staff and community.

I rarely watch City Commission meetings and if I do it’s usually after the fact, so I can check on an issue I’m interested in without having to wade through the other stuff.

The Commission I served on made the decision to stream commission meetings way back in the dark ages of 2007 when we hired a company called Granicus to film and stream meetings. It was a good investment (although only two of my meetings are in the archives and so much history was missed as a result of not having this technology in the rocking 80s and progressive 90s) residents and interested parties can tune in from wherever they are in the world to catch the happenings at City Hall.

At the tale of end of last week’s meeting, Commissioner Jordana Jarjura welcomed new City Manager Don Cooper and called for goal setting meetings, which she says she has waited a long time for.

It’s a great idea and one that was used to great success in the past. Commissioner Jarjura rightly noted that goal setting sessions done well in advance of budgeting gives policymakers the opportunity to shape the budget according to the city commission’s goals. What a concept.

I never understood how you can have a budget that doesn’t reflect your goals and objectives as a commission. And I wouldn’t want to be part of any organization that didn’t spend the time upfront figuring out what it hopes to accomplish, with clear strategies, budgets and plans to make sure that the goals are achieved.

Goals promote smart budgeting and goals promote accountability and transparency, two things we keep hearing a lot about.

When you work off of a blueprint, it helps you decide whether ideas and proposals make sense. Does the idea advance a goal or objective? If so, it can help you decide whether to support and fund the idea. Consequently, if the proposal contradicts your mission or just doesn’t fit, it gives policymakers an elegant way to say no.

Back in the day, both Delray Beach and Boca Raton used a consultant named Lyle Sumek to work with the commission, senior staff and the community on goal setting. I liked Lyle. He was funny, made sure everybody participated and he worked with cities all over the country so he brought a national perspective to the process. A lot of cities wrestle with the same concerns and Lyle was a fountain of information on how other jurisdictions solved problems or why certain approaches fell short. He had case studies galore.

It probably makes some sense to use a range of consultants over time to guarantee fresh perspectives, but Lyle got to know us and that was helpful too.

We used to meet in the Sunshine as a commission and everyone attended—usually all day.

Separately, Lyle would meet with department heads to garner their ideas and input, an important exercise since ultimately it is up to staff to implement the goals set by the commission.

We also used to engage 50 or so residents, a cross-section of people, to get their ideas and input before settling on the next year’s goals which were printed, distributed via newsletter, web and brochure and at speeches we made at various Homeowner Association meetings. The goals were also framed and displayed at City Hall for all to see—a reminder of what we were striving to achieve. At the beginning of the New Year, we shared our successes and where we fell short, at a Town Hall meeting, a practice started by Mayor Tom Lynch in the 90s, that we sadly abandoned a few years back, at least for a spell.

What struck me during my tenure and during my time covering the commission as a reporter during the late 80s early 90s, was how in sync we were with the community and senior staff.

More often than not, if we named ten goals, the citizens and staff would have 8 or more of the same things they wanted to see accomplished.

Goal setting builds team work and community unity, which was a goal we adopted in 2000.

Charettes, visioning exercises, roundtable discussions, mayor’s meetings and getting out into the neighborhoods also build community and make people feel a part of their hometown.

We did a visions exercise in 2013 that seems to have disappeared. That’s a shame.

Goal setting has been spotty as well.

That’s why Ms. Jarjura’s idea is a good one.

We have a new City Manager and many new department heads, it will be good for them as well.

Then of course, you have to execute.

Here’s hoping they listen to the junior member of the commission, she’s a good one.


Water Cooler Wednesday: The People Equation

Investing in leadership

Investing in leadership

If I’ve learned one thing in my career, it’s that you can have the best systems, the best platform, a great idea, plenty of money and every other advantage but you’ll fail if you don’t attract and keep the right people.

It’s a simple concept, really.

But very difficult to achieve.

Yet, whether you are running a business, a city, a school or a non-profit you will not be able to achieve lasting success unless you create a culture that attracts, nurtures, rewards, ignites and inspires people. Good people.

And if you work hard enough and create just such an environment, you have to realize that your creation is fragile and will not survive complacency or lack of accountability. If you fail to constantly iterate, engage and assess, the gains you made will erode.

Achieving success is just one part of the journey; the key is to sustain success. That’s the prize and it is hard to attain. But worth the effort.

For many years, the cities of Boca Raton and Delray Beach worked with a consultant named Lyle Sumek. Lyle was a former assistant city manager in San Diego and he worked with cities across the country on goal setting and implementation. Lyle had a concept he called “municipal math”; which essentially said it could take 20 plus years to build something of value, but only a year or two to squander what was built if you make the wrong decisions or hire/elect the wrong people. The sad part of municipal math is that once you mess up, it could take 10 years or more to get something back and there were guarantees you would.

Muni math was a sobering concept and it stuck with me. Leadership matters. People matter.

I’m a firm believer that leadership is the key ingredient to success in any endeavor, but  I also believe that we do a poor job of training and developing leaders.

We don’t teach leadership in schools, we don’t study why leaders succeed or stumble, but yet we long for great leaders.

I can think of no other scenario in life in which we yearn for something but don’t take steps to make it happen.

If we want better medical outcomes, we invest in science. If we want better educators, we invest in teacher training. In business, we invest in products and technology. But yet we don’t make a similar investment in identifying, training and developing leaders.

As a result, we watch helplessly as Congress fails miserably to serve our country. We shake our heads when presidents, governors, mayors and other elected officials fail our communities.

In business, we see investments go down the drain; victims of egotistical CEO’s or watch in disgust as a manufacturer looks the other way and produces cars that endanger their customers all because of a culture that enabled people to look the other way.

All are symptoms of poor or inadequate leadership.

I believe that we need to start studying and investing in leadership education and that we need to make such courses available far and wide, in all industries and endeavors.

We live in a great nation. Imagine how much better it would be, how many problems would be solved, how many people would be positively impacted if we were able to develop leaders as accomplished as our best coders, financial minds and scientists. Just imagine.