Cities are workplaces that span many locations and a diversity of employees. Not an easy place for a leader to build a sense of shared values and culture. In this leadership conversation, Patrick Draper, City Manager for St. Albert, explains how he combined a modern intranet with more traditional techniques to reinforce their culture and drive workplace recognition.
Brad: Can you say a bit about how you articulate, drive, and celebrate your culture?
Pat: It happens in a number of different ways. Actually one of the reasons that we subscribe to Jostle is to be able to reflect our culture. The articles we post celebrate success and congratulate people on a job well-done. We use that mechanism to visibly reinforce our culture.
"We use that [intranet] mechanism to visibly reinforce our culture."
We try to live our values. And not just in our regular day-to-day work, but when we get together. I have a City Manager's cup, and we've had softball tournaments, and we've had soccer tournaments, and we've had a Sim City Challenge tournament. These kinds of activities get people together in teams to foster good relationships.
I'm running a program right now called Leadership Forums, where we have six different themes. From financial stewardship, to policy development, to strategic planning. I went out and asked for volunteers, and I had about 75 staff volunteer.
When I describe these forums to the staff I ask them to think about being Greek philosophers. It's getting together once a month for an hour or so, and you're going to talk about these things. You're not going to be writing reports and implementing projects; you're going to be thought leaders. We have people from administrative assistants, all the way up to directors who signed up for it. We appointed people to different forums to make sure that we weren't getting subject matter experts on each of these, who would dominate the conversation. So there will be great learning opportunities, people will learn about a particular area within the corporation and, hopefully, come up with some ideas that can enhance what we do, and they'll bring forward those concepts to the senior leadership team, hopefully for a review and an implementation through the normal organizational structure.
"You're not going to be writing reports and implementing projects; you're going to be thought leaders."
Brad: That's amazing. Where does recognition fit in, how do you encourage that?
Pat: Well, we have an annual recognition evening. We recognize years of service, so there are awards and some surprises for that. And we also have an Excellence Awards Program that happens at the same time. These Excellence Awards have categories like innovation and customer service, where employees will nominate their peers during the year. It's amazing how each year it's growing, in terms of more nominations. When someone wins, the applause from the audience of fellow employees is just phenomenal. They are recognizing, "Wow, this is great. So-and-so got acknowledged for ... they really do a great job in customer service."
Brad: What about the more smaller, sort of real-time opportunities to recognize people?
Pat: Well, again we use the Jostle Shout-Outs, another reason we set up our Jostle intranet. This morning there was a Shout-Out from a GM to the finance team for doing a great job at a counsel meeting on Monday. It provides a mechanism for recognition to happen on a small scale, so you're not always waiting for the annual event.
"It [Jostle] provides a mechanism for recognition to happen on a small scale, so you're not always waiting for the annual event."
We also have little cards that people can fill out and thank someone. For example, for the counsel meeting on Monday, we've been working with our engineering team and upping their game on presenting proposals for new capital projects. The documents were just ... they were light years ahead of where they had been last year. It took a lot of work and I had to push back a number of times, but it came out...the package the counsel saw was phenomenal.
I sent a note to the manager who was leading this saying, "Hey, this was really well-done." At first, he wasn't so sure why he needed to be doing all this rewriting, and adding all this information, but now he kind of understands. I used the opportunity to share with others on the senior leadership team and say learn from this. We got really good counsel feedback, so you may be able to incorporate some of these concepts into work that you do.
Brad: That’s excellent Pat. You're off to a great start with your Jostle intranet, and you're doing a really nice job leading your city. Well done.
Our day job at Jostle is creating a platform that helps leaders engage employees, drive culture, and catalyze collaboration. Through this Leadership Conversations series we seek out top people-oriented leaders to explore these topics with us. If you know someone we should include in this series, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patrick Draper is the City Manager at St. Albert. He is a persuasive leader with broad general management experience gained in corporate, public sector, and entrepreneurial organizations in Canada, the United States and internationally. Patrick joined the City of St. Albert in April 2012 after two years as the President & CEO of the Toronto Region Research Alliance, a regional economic innovation agency. His previous career span of twenty-five years included leadership roles in high-growth organizations including Deputy Minister of Economic Development for Ontario and President of an international consumer products company.
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