A key take away from my time in Kannapolis this week was the importance of building and maintaining relationships. As part of my research into buildings and grounds maintenance, I conducted interviews with the City of Concord’s first buildings and grounds director and the current director. I expected that I might have a hard time getting in touch with Concord’s first buildings and grounds director, until I learned he lived around the corner from my home in Concord and that my mother had been a long-time friend of his wife and him. While I learned more about the development of Concord’s buildings and grounds department and its scope of work, I also asked some questions about which traits a city manager should consider when hiring a buildings and grounds director. Both Concord’s former and current director emphasized the need for an individual who can communicate, coordinate, and collaborate with other department heads. This is especially important for a buildings and grounds director who may be responsible for maintaining all the buildings and grounds of properties used by other departments.
Deputy City Manager, Eddie Smith, reinforced the need to build and maintain relationships in the management field. Yesterday, I joined Eddie for a business lunch with Kannapolis’ director of the public works department. Afterwards, Eddie pointed out that he and his co-workers spend more time with each other during the day than they do with their families. It is vital that they get along and work together. Eddie attends sporting events and engages in various hobbies with city staff, which help develop relationships beyond the workplace. Eddie doesn’t just recognize the public works director as a subordinate employee. He recognizes the public works director as a person. Eddie is familiar with the director’s family, his favorite sport, and his favorite vacation pastimes. He is sensitive to events occurring in many of his employees’ professional and personal lives. Eddie explained how he and department heads disagree with each other from time to time. Disagreements may range from an increase in personnel this fiscal year to the length of a fireworks show. Whether the final outcome is a compromise or not, a manager must be able maintain a working relationship with department heads to address future issues.
In addition to relationships with personnel, I learned more about how the City of Kannapolis builds and maintains working relationships with Cabarrus County and the neighboring City of Concord. Last Tuesday, I attended a meeting with representatives from Kannapolis, Concord, and Cabarrus County. The meeting was focused on an agreement that the three government entities made with a private contractor to process the yard waste produced by both cities and the county. The partnership is meant to provide more effective and efficient service than if each government tried to tackle the issue alone. The meeting took place at the headquarters of the Concord Kannapolis Area Transit. This transit service provides public bus transportation throughout both cities. It is another example of the two cities working together to achieve a common a goal. It was clear from their interactions at the meeting that the respective deputy city managers of Kannapolis and Concord have a strong working relationship. The relationship between the City of Kannapolis and City of Concord is strong because of the communication between the leadership of each city. Candid communication and shared commitments develop trust between Concord and Kannapolis. This trust allows the two cities to work together to do more with less and deliver higher quality services.
This week, I had several opportunities to get up and out of my cubicle. I attended the final bidding for the new Kannapolis City Hall. During the process, I was able to compare the expected expenses to the actual amounts of the bids being made. I also sat in on a meeting with the Kannapolis Fire Department, where I received an extensive overview of the department. The overview included topics ranging from the department’s history and its preparation for a 100th anniversary celebration to the department’s performance measures and goals. Reviewing the department’s performance measures and goals, I was reminded of Gary Latham’s and Edwin Locke’s research on goal setting. A major point from Locke and Latham’s research is that goals should be challenging, but attainable in order to motivate employees. The fire department’s staff was both engaging and responsive during the meeting. I look forward to taking up an offer to take a ride in one of Kannapolis’ fire engines sometime next week.
On a lighter note, I unexpectedly ran into my soon-to-be supervisors with the City of Concord at lunch today. I was finishing up lunch up at a great Greek restaurant called Mykonos Grill (I recommend the Chicken Souvlaki) when Concord City Manager Brian Hiatt and Deputy City Manager Jim Greene walked in with a number of city staff. This run-in reminded me of how close local government officials are to the communities they serve. I’ll be sure to collect some more good experiences and photos between now and my next update.