City Manager explains in book how newbies to the job should behave - sit tight for the first hundred days

By Staff

April 24th, 2024


We want to point out to readers that the content of this article was lifted from Joey Coleman’s x item.  Coleman appears to be upset, saying we “ripped” the content from his x article.  Coleman took the words from Hassaan Basit’s book which wasn’t something Coleman wrote.  Coleman gets credit for covering Hamilton like a blanket.  Does an ego have to get in the way of his solid work?

Hassaan Basit, Burlington’s newly minted City Manager wrote a chapter in The Role of Canadian City Managers, edited by Michael Fenn, a former Burlington City Manager.

City Manager Hassaan Basit one 20 authors writing about serving as a City Manager.

Basit and co-author Patrick Moyle, who was an interim Burlington City Manager, write that the first 100 days are when a new city manager reveals their plans, personality, and management style, all of which will answer questions about how they will lead as the city’s top public employee.

“It will be a time when first impressions take on considerable importance as council and staff assess what they really have in their new leader.”

The new city manager must “present the most positive impression possible based on a thoughtful plan” during this time.

Don’t Make Sudden Moves During the First 100 Days – Wait a Few Months

Basit and Moyle write new city managers should not implement significant reorganizations of municipal administration.

“The biggest mistake and the most sudden move that some new [city managers] make is to implement the dreaded reorganization without taking the time to understand relationships and dependencies within and across departments.”

City Manager Hassaan Basit starting his networking attends an event with City Councillors and Minister of Municipal Affairs. Basit is second from the right.

“To be clear, changes to structure and the people within that structure might need to occur, but you must do this correctly and prudently. The first three to six months is simply not sufficient time to understand the culture,”

They cite other books that show the “gunslinger” approach to change management does not work in municipal government.

Successful city managers know “how to manage change successfully by understanding and respecting the local culture and by thinking rationally and deliberately. They were not prone to making sudden moves.”

Build Networks and Relationships

“The first 100 days should involve the building of three networks, two external and one internal to the organization.”

They state new city managers should seek out more experienced city managers in other municipalities for advice, they should create relationships with “community leaders, such as successful business people in the community, academics, and leaders from the not-for-profit sector, including organized community groups.”

New managers should be in the community, meet with major employers, and avoid becoming trapped inside a City Hall bubble.

They need to meet front-line municipal staff.

“It is imperative that, during the first 100 days, you, as the new CAO, get out of your corner office and meet the employees who deliver the services. The interface between the taxpayer and the municipality is not the CAO, but the civic employee who collects the taxes at the counter, issues the building permit, works in the local arena, ploughs and maintains the roads, drives the transit bus, and so on.”

Be Visible

There is much mystery, uncertainty, and drama during the first 100 days, said Basit. Don’t expect to see him in his office.

“There is much mystery, uncertainty, and drama during the first 100 days, so be visible. If you remain bunkered down in your office or get pulled into the vortex of meetings and processes, the potential for angst and uncertainty increases proportionally to the time spent in your well appointed office. If you are invisible, your persona and personal brand might be developed and defined by others.”

They suggest new managers visit outside facilities “especially those that have been identified in the capital budget forecast” to learn about municipal operations and hear from front-line staff. This will improve decision making.

Find Quick Wins

“There will be an expectation that the new leader will bring positive change and strive to improve the organization. Early wins, therefore, will help solidify your reputation, confirm that council made the right choice, and demonstrate to staff how you go about making decisions.”

Evaluate Existing Senior Leadership

In keeping with their opening advice to not make significant changes during the first six months as city manager, Basit and Moyle describe the first 100 days as “an opportunity to assess the senior leaders” both formally and informally.

New city managers need to determine the state of municipal leadership – is it functioning well or dysfunctional?

By the end of the first 100 days, a city manager “should be able to form a picture of the strengths and weaknesses” of senior leadership.


Basit and Moyle close their chapter with this paragraph:

“The first several months will set the stage for the balance of time you work for the community. A successful first impression can lead to a lasting and positive effect if you have an entry plan, together with the energy and commitment to lead your staff and be of service to council and the community.”

It will be interesting to see how closely Basit follows his own script.


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4 comments to City Manager explains in book how newbies to the job should behave – sit tight for the first hundred days

  • Joe Gaetan

    I guess everyone deserves a chance and the one thing I agree with is this approach would not cut it in the private milieu. The upside being COB staff can enjoy a 6 month hiatus.

  • Howard

    I would like to add a chapter to the book myself. I call it “Numbers don’t lie”. I hope he has Joan Ford’s phone number. It may serve him well to understand what money staff had asked for that was not provided by the past 2 councils. You can’t plan for the future without understanding the past.

    • Anne and Dave Marsden

      We will make sure Mr. Basit is fully informed of money approved by the Goldring
      Council to meet legislative required access and safety standards (failed paving) for Civic Square which the Meed Ward led council set aside. Legislated requirements are not now expected to be met until 2026 and cost an additional $2m plus. With a new CAO and a new Director of Finance perhaps the urgency to have our Civic Square appropriately serve the needs of Burlington taxpayers at an affordable amount of public funds could become a city priority as it should have been when scheduled, summer of 2019.

  • Grahame

    Other successful leaders I have encountered would forward a copy of that book to all his/her managers who may not be aware of it.Then they understand where the new leader is coming from.

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