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My Passion and Gift:  Helping Local Governments Achieve Excellence

My last posting was about “Who am I inspired to serve?” This article is my personal answer.

I have been a member of the Federal Government workforce (20 year Coast Guard career) and a consultant to them (first-ever Executive Capstone Program for the Department of Homeland Security;  FY 2024-28 Strategic Plan for the US Marshals Service) for many years.

My heart, though, is with local governments. With exceptions, their work is more often the direct delivery of services rather than policy creation and implementation. A City or County Manager is responsible for everything in that jurisdiction (Public Safety; Economic Development; Parks and Recreation; Public Works; Family Services; Courts; Permitting; and more). Interestingly, I feel that they are more easily accountable as you may run into them at the grocery store.

Therefore, I feel my investment of time and expertise is more impactful and rewarding with this group.

In short, I help them take “the journey to excellence”.

WIIFM:  What results can come from their committing to the journey?

  • The organization retains its’ “all stars” and they feel valued/equipped for excellence
  • The employees bring energy, commitment, and “their whole self” to the organization
  • Clients feel delighted (with the outcome and the experience) and they bring the organization new opportunities and partnerships
  • The organization has/uses a vision and strategic plan to guide its’ management and budgeting philosophy and decisions
  • The Core Values drive the behavioral/social norms to achieving the desired culture
  • The organization’s reputation and financial standing are solid and enduring

Since 2005, I have worked with most of the northern Virginia local governments (Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Herndon, Manassas Park, Prince William, and Vienna) and College Park, Maryland. The topics have included Executive Coaching/Leadership, Strategic Planning, Core Values, Employee Engagement and Performance, Customer Delight, Measurement, Leading Change, and training for all the above). The umbrella starting point for this is our 8 piece puzzle framework that describes Organizational Excellence.

In 2016, I started partnering with the International City and County Managers Association (ICMA). Presenting at their International and Regional/State conferences has helped me broaden my impact – across many local governments in the United States, Canada, and New Zealand. I do interactive and applied four hour workshops on Strategy (“Delivering Great Results from your Vision and Strategic Plan”) and Culture (“Shaping the Culture of Your Organization”) at these events. I’m pleased to say that my upcoming Strategy workshop at the Austin conference is completely full with 50 City Managers and senior staff.

It’s taken me awhile to laser focus here, but this is my calling.  It’s not easy, though. There are many issues to navigate. I have a proven approach and deep experience in applying it that can help any local government whose leadership (that includes Councils, Boards of Supervisors, etc.) wants to improve and is committed to putting forth the resources and energy to take the journey and reap the rewards.

I’m happy to share more about the Organizational Excellence framework. Please let me know if you or anyone you know needs, wants, or is curious about this journey.

Flowers = Caring = Engagement

May is the month for flowers. Washington D.C. is particularly beautiful in the late April/May timeframe.

I recently got up super early to go see the cherry blossoms (and get a parking spot) before sunrise. It was cold and windy, but was one of those special events. There’s a whole hillside of the National Arboretum that’s really spectacular during the height of the azaleas. And the area around the U. S. Capitol and Union Station is particularly pretty (both trees and flowers) during this time of year.

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The University of Connecticut (UCONN) Women’s Basketball Team has been the definition of Excellence for nearly 40 years. Much of this is due to the leadership and culture built by the Head Coach Geno Auriemma  and Assistant Head Coach Chris Dailey.

EXCELLENCE: In this stretch, the team has had:

  • 6 perfect seasons
  • 11 National (NCAA) titles
  • 34 straight NCAA tournaments (since 1989)
  • 22 Final Fours
  • 14 straight Final Fours
  • 21 Big East Conference championships
  • 10 straight Conference Tournament championships
  • Separate winning streaks of 111, 90, and 70 in a row

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I have Cancer. This month makes 8 years since we found out about it.

I’m not sure how to acknowledge that. Is it an anniversary? Something to celebrate? What emotions am I feeling? Truthfully … I’m not sure.

It’s called a Gastro Intestinal Strombal Tumor (GIST). For awhile I had difficulty remembering that so I did what I usually do and create an association. In this case it was “stromboli”.

The tumor has caused a number of other complications (serious, cosmetic, pride)  – both on its own as well as from the side effects of the medications.

We found it by accident. There were no warning signals. We have not been able to find the cause.

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My birthday is coming up. Normally it’s a blah “Woo Hoo”. Like anniversaries, they are a bigger deal when it’s a “0” or a “5”.

This one is neither of those. But, it is another year of successfully dealing with cancer. I’ve had a malignant tumor since early 2015. It’s wrapped around the aorta and therefore can never come out.

So birthdays DO have meaning to me.

What is that meaning? It’s a reminder of my mortality … a nudge to use every day … to live more in the present. .. and to get more life balance. Reminds me that I am (and need to continue to be) a true Saggie.

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Do You Really Appreciate Veterans?

Veterans Day on November 11th is coming up soon. How will you acknowledge it … or … show appreciation to a veteran?

Let’s start with “What is a Veteran?” Basically it is “a former member of the armed services”. There are five branches of the United States military (armed services). They are: Coast Guard, Air Force, Marines, Navy, and Army. You’ll notice that this definition does not include the men and women who are currently serving. That’s called “active duty”.

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Returning to Work

Here comes the next big dilemma. For both employers and employees.

August is the last month of summer vacation. Some schools restart before Labor Day. Others start after. There are many issues to consider – from both sides. A lot of that has been covered by other articles. I’d like to look at it from the psychological point of view:

Recently the Governor of Virginia made returning to the office mandatory. After that, more than 300 of his state government employees resigned.

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June 2022 is over. Now we have officially had 2 ½ years of tough times. 

Even though we are starting to come out of the pandemic, there are still struggles – health and safety (several angles), uncertainty, political, not enough time. Employers have difficulty hiring, gaining commitment, and keeping qualified people as well as getting new business. Employees’ lives are complicated with more choice, telework decisions, child care, finances, etc.

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Trumpet and Flag Day

June 14th is Flag Day in the United States. 

                Do you know that? I would suspect that a lot of people don’t.

Flag Day comes just about two weeks after Memorial Day. Both have real significance for us.

Memorial Day is for honoring those military members that gave their life for our country.

Flag Day was created to observe the anniversary of the 1777 approval of the design of the first American Flag. Since then, the flag has evolved, but the colors remain and have the same meaning:

Red: Hardiness and Valor

White: Purity and Innocence

Blue: Vigilance, Perseverance, and Justice

                I’ve played trumpet since 5th grade. Played in the Coast Guard Academy’s marching band when we did formal (parade) reviews. I’ve played TAPS at some 50 different funerals or memorial services. Some of these were even for “burials at sea”. Ask me and I will tell you the story about one of them that’s quite remarkable.

The toughest two were for my Mom and Dad. I couldn’t speak or do any part of the eulogy,    but I could play TAPS – outside the church, down the steps, and facing away from the entrance.

This year (as well as the two before it), I participated in a new Memorial Day tradition where trumpeters/buglers, all across America, play TAPS at 3:00 p.m. sharp.

The first year, I just sat on the front steps and played for the neighbors J.   Bear with the photo; it’s tough to do a selfie while appearing to play the trumpet. These last two years I played in front of our County’s Government Center (facing a four lane divided highway) with 100 U.S. flags behind me. 

                So, back to Flag Day and the flag.  What do you do when an American flag passes by at a parade or military event?  What do you do when an official ceremony includes the Star Spangled Banner?  I hope it’s that you put your hand over your heart and give thanks to our country. As troubled and divided as we are now, we are still a beacon of hope that draws people from all over the globe to make incredible sacrifices under dangerous conditions to get and live here. 

                So, yes Flag Day. But for me it’s a reminder of my military background, service, and mindset.  The flag means something. It deserves reverence. I hope this blog serves as a stimulus to think about your relationship with our flag. Doesn’t have to be showy. Just whatever is sincere and meaningful to you.

                What do I do on Flag Day? I add this to my daily gratefulness prayer – giving thanks that I was/am privileged to have been born here and grow up with the freedoms, rights, and protections that we enjoy – due to the vision and sacrifices of those who came before us.

That fuels me to continue their work. I urge you to do the same.

                Thanks for listening.

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