You want a little Jesus to run the city and if he’s not available – how about a really solid performer who likes the job.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  October 16, 2011  –  The city is in the process of hiring a new city manager.  The last manager “stepped” aside when it became clear that his five year contract was not going to be renewed.

Applications for the job close October 24th and the word is there are a number of excellent candidates who have sent in applications.  If you want to be considered send you resume along to:

The job of city manager is the most important one within the city – nit so much for the work the man or woman will do but for the leadership the person will provide and for the relationship the Mayor and the City Manager can create.

City Manager is a flag-ship level job - most important one at city hall. No slackers please.

When Roman Martiuk left the job, unexpectedly to many but no surprise to the small group that oversee the operation of the city day to day,  Many thought the Mayor’s right hand man Frank McKeown would seek the title.  McKeown has made it very clear he has no interest in the position.  And if you know McKeown you realize he takes a “project” focus to the work he does.  But McKeown knows that a city manager should be and will tell you that this is the one person the Mayor communicates to staff through.   A Mayor is not in place to run a city – he is there to communicate the wishes of council to the city’s administration and the city manager is the funnel into the administration.  The two must be of the same mind.

The city manager is hired by the city council.  All seven members interview the candidates and boil it down to a short list and select from that list to choose the candidate they want.  The process is overseen by the consultants that were hired to first develop the protocol that would set out what the city wants and then sort through the applications and arrange for the interviews.

The protocol is in place and is set out below.  What does it tell you about the kind of person the city wants?  Some comment has been added and appears indented beneath several parts of the protocol.

Reporting to the Mayor and Council, the City Manager provides the cornerstone leadership for all aspects of business and services.  The City Manager is expected to facilitate strategy formulation, manage strategy execution and implement Council directions; develop new governance models for Council and the Executive Team to ensure a focus at the strategic level and on critical issues; lead the organization to be innovative – not just best practice but leading edge; build the relationship between Council and staff and enhance collaboration to deliver a “we are in this together” climate; and be a change agent to make a difference.

Note the use of the words “to facilitate strategy formulation”.  The job is to make it happen but not to create it.  Previous city managers forgot that part of the job and some senior staff need to be reminded of that aspect as well.

The City Manager is expected to be a visible leader; to proactively develop critical internal and external relationships; build a strong and effective executive team; and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of programs and services delivered to the community.

Efficient and effective applies to any successful commercial operation – problem is that a municipal government is not a commercial operation and many fail to remember the words.

The City Manager candidate must possess a progressive track record of success in a leadership role within a multi stakeholder organization.  The ideal candidate will have significant and varied leadership and executive experience.

As an ideal candidate, you have experience and a demonstrated track record in the following:

A transformational leader who has the ability to vision and explore creative and innovative service delivery models, promote new ideas and implement new solutions or processes.

This what the city doesn't want - looking for a facilitator, an innovator and a doer that will work very closely with the Mayor and his Council.

Significant political acuity; able to deal with the culture of the City and navigate the formal and informal channels; able to network with Council, the Executive Team, management groups, the media and the private sector.

A solid strategic visionary and implementer of plans; experience in the development of strategic plans including developing operational priorities and associated resource allocation requirements – ability to translate strategic vision into plans for implementation and execution.

As a relationship builder; establishing, building, and maintaining strong and reciprocal relationships with Council and staff; enhancing collaboration between Council and the Executive Team.

“Collaboration between council and the Executive Team” easier said than done.  Council members will certainly focus on this when they do their group interviews. Will the candidates look askance at some of the members of council and wonder if it is possible to collaborate with them?

A strategic communicator; able to adapt and tailor the conversation / presentation to a variety of audiences and contexts; understands the importance of both formal and informal communications.

Ability to break down organizational silos. Given the many challenges facing the City currently and in the future, the City Manager needs to exhibit a strong horizontal style of leadership – lead initiatives across the organization, rather than using the more traditional up and-down approach.

This is a challenge for any organization – how long do you think it will take the new city manager to figure out just where the silos are and then bring them into the horizontal, across the board approach the city is looking for.

Talented broker and strategic negotiator in both an “at the table” sense as well as behind the scenes.

A bold decision maker, who is not afraid to make a mistake and have the ability to learn from it. Track record as a decision maker – absolute results oriented and performance driven; links short term actions and long term goals.

How much room is your council prepared to give for mistakes making?  Did they give the previous city manager too much room?  $9 million + was one heck of a mistake.

Breaking down the organizational challenges and getting department directors to work to their potential is one of the challenges for the new city manager.

Excellent interpersonal skills, capable of relating effectively to a diverse range of people, personalities and styles (both internal and external) – demonstrated ability to work collaboratively with stakeholders across the City and in establishing and building relationships with all stakeholder groups; an objective sounding board and voice, able to listen to vested interest groups and make objective recommendations that are best for the City; ability to speak the ‘partners’ language, establishing rapport immediately; exhibits a character of integrity and develops trust easily; willingly accepts the trust delegated by Council.

Drives for results and accountability at all levels; pragmatic, delegates responsibility and holds individuals accountable for results/performance; encourages the establishment of high standards and stresses the importance of continuous improvement; asks tough questions and addresses sub-standard performance quickly and effectively; assumes responsibility for decisions / results.

Holding people accountable and deciding that some are not cut out for the job they hold – moving them on – will the new city manager cut those who clearly can’t do their jobs ?

Exhibits a “Boardroom” presence – credible and articulate, able to present and sell concepts and plans to Council, the Executive Team and other external stakeholders and partners.

To have a city manager with some passion for the city and willing to work with council to make what we have even better – imagine?

Track record of building strong teams; demonstrates the ability to energize, motivate and lead an organization to achieve objectives; demonstrates the ability to build a sense of confidence and consensus, and create a positive and constructive work environment; sensitive to team needs, shows honesty and genuine interest in their concerns, avoids arrogance and defensiveness, develops sound solutions or approaches; requests, listens, and responds to feedback.

Lot of interesting language in this one.  You can almost hear senior staff and council members recalling past experiences and saying ‘please’, not again.

Enhanced analytical problem solving skills; an ability to think critically; a realist who exhibits a common sense approach to problem resolution.

High energy level, a self-starter who exhibits high adaptability and flexibility to changing systems, conditions, or priorities; responds quickly to requests, meets deadlines and budgets.

Utilizes a variety of management styles, depending on the situation, with a capacity to facilitate groups through issues; leads by example; action oriented, generates original and innovative ideas and solutions – a continuous improvement perspective; high tolerance for change.

Knows him/herself well; capacity to build an executive team to capitalize on strengths and minimize limitations.

Wants to have fun and enjoy the role – has a sense of humour.

Will the person that meets the majority of the points set out above  apply for the job and will your council recognize that person should she or he appear before them?  And can council members set aside their own agendas and choose the person best suited for the job ?   We’ll let you know.

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