Starting Vibrancy at the Top -George Cuff


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What can our elected officials do today to ensure the vibrancy of our communities in the future? George Cuff understands that we must have creative leaders who are focused on the “where to from here” as much as the “here and now.” George has been described by monthly municipal magazine, Municipal World, as the “governance guru” of Canada. He has been involved with local government since the 1970s, with experience at the administrative level and as an elected official, having served four terms as the Mayor of Spruce Grove, Alberta. George’s consulting firm, George B. Cuff & Associates, provides specialized consulting services to the public sector, including governance reviews, trouble-shooting, and training of elected officials. The catchphrase “getting Cuffed” has even been adopted to describe his candid style of advisory services. George will describe the importance of creative leadership; outline the key challenges facing local government today; and explain how innovative professionals can play a role.

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Starting Vibrancy at the Top -George Cuff

  1. 1. Creating Vibrant Communities Starting Vibrancy at the Top George Cuff October 1, 2013
  2. 2. Spirit in Service for Vibrant Communities
  3. 3. George Cuff Starting Vibrancy at the Top
  4. 4. Creating Vibrant Communities The Speaker Series: Urban Systems- Edmonton Office George B. Cuff, FCMC
  5. 5.  36 years of consulting experience; own firm since ’84  Consulting largely to senior levels in the public sector  12 years as Mayor of Spruce Grove, Alberta; former President of Alberta Urban Municipalities Association & Federation of Canadian Municipalities; received Award of Distinction from both Introduction to George B. Cuff, FCMC
  6. 6.  Author: Magazine articles since 1979; two books “Cuff’s Guide to Municipal Leaders, Volumes One and Two; 2 books of articles “Off the Cuff, Volumes One and Two  Reports for +500 organizations; +500 seminars in all 10 Provinces, 3 territories; some international Introduction to George B. Cuff, FCMC
  7. 7. Leadership Impacts Creative Communities
  8. 8. Leadership is About Learning In a study of 90 top leaders, leadership experts Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus made a discovery about the relationship between growth and leadership. They reported “It is the capacity to develop and improve their skills that distinguishes leaders from followers”. Successful leaders are learners. What is Leadership All About?
  9. 9. Leadership is about Self-Awareness The late English Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli commented “To be conscious that you are ignorant of the facts is a great step to knowledge”. What is Leadership All About?
  10. 10. Leadership is About Preparation Former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier stated “You can map out a fight plan, but when the fight starts you’re down to your reflexes. That’s where the roadwork shows. If you cheated in the dark of the morning, you’ll be found out under the bright lights.” What is Leadership All About?
  11. 11. Leadership is About Influence Harry A. Overstreet, author of the Mature Mind, a required text for our university class 40 years ago, states "The very essence of all power to influence lies in getting the other person to participate". While you may be able to demand certain actions as a manager, you will only capture their hearts by effective persuasion and by example. What is Leadership All About?
  12. 12. Leadership is All About Integrity General Norman Schwartzkopf spoke of the issue of integrity when he said, "Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without strategy". What is Leadership All About?
  13. 13. Leaders  Understand the need for role clarity  See beyond; possess the necessary vision  Recognize it is they who are accountable  Focus on their primary client  Are resilient; they bend on issues; not on principles  Sense the need for maturity in decision-making style and comments
  14. 14. The Essence of Governance: The Cotter Pin of Communities
  15. 15. The Queen of Oak Bay understood the importance of the cotter pin on June 30th 2005 when its absence caused the ship to collide into the docking facility resulting in damage or destruction of 28 smaller crafts. The cotter pin is the linkage between fuel control and engine speed. Its loss meant that the ship’s speed could not be controlled.
  16. 16. Governance is a poorly understood concept given that it affects all of our lives from birth to death. It underlies what our decision-makers do and how they do it. It is at the heart of issues and their resolution by those we elect to govern us. In effect, it is critical to our well-being and central to how we treat others. George B. Cuff, FCMC September, 2012
  17. 17. What is Governance? The process of exercising corporate leadership:  by the governing body  on behalf of its members (the citizens)  to the community & organization as a whole  in terms of purpose, control and future  while providing oversight to ensure that the mandate of the municipality is achieved.
  18. 18. How is it Achieved?  Effective decision-making by Council; clear processes  Good administrative advice/reports  Reasonable avenues of input for the public  Thoughtful reflection on the key issues/priorities  Council makes its decisions and management carries these out as effectively and promptly as possible
  19. 19. Good Governance Stems From… “I presume the public interest to be what people would choose if they saw clearly, thought rationally and acted benevolently.” Walter Lippmann
  20. 20. Clarity of Roles the Key!
  21. 21. Key Roles (of a Mayor & Councillors)  Leadership: Set direction & priorities; advocate  Governance: Pass resolutions/bylaws/policies  Oversight: Ensure fiscal fidelity; relate to auditor  Assess: Evaluate City Manager, results of Plan(s)  Connect: Listen to citizens & delegations  Correct: Resolve issues; make tough decisions  Bridge-Building: Reaching out to others  Monitoring: The eyes of the community
  22. 22. A Vibrant Community will be Connected to its Council
  23. 23.  Who is the public?  Generally viewed as the totality of residents and businesses lodged in your municipality  Who does a Council see on a regular basis?  Those who appear as delegations or who come to audit the meetings  Are these folks the “public”?  Maybe not…but they should be heard and respected Council’s Linkage to the Public (1)
  24. 24.  How should Council communicate?  As best as it can within the resources/time that it has  How is that done well?  Depends on each community…who is at home during the day? Who attends meetings? When are agenda packages made available? What newspaper coverage is available?  Does every Council use electronic means? Most if not all do; does it work? Sometimes  Can a Council improve its connection? Council’s Linkage to the Public (2)
  25. 25.  Today’s local governments are served by those with much better academic training & relevant experience than previously  Good managers are still very scarce; we have not developed solid training programs which are requirements  Communities that dismiss top managers readily are still too prevalent; their track record at attracting future quality people is not positive What I See as Trends (1)
  26. 26.  Council members generally younger than heretofore; being elected no guarantee of being elected!  More Councils are not meddlers; better at resisting the temptation to manage  Considerably more pressure on Governments to engage in longer term budget and business planning for local governments What I See as Trends (2)
  27. 27.  Pressure building on Governments to re-think the survival of very small communities  Electoral apathy still a very significant factor in most elections; low turnout rates at local level still a troubling factor; how to build relevance  Connecting with the new, young generation is a major challenge; staffing of volunteer bodies like fire departments & service clubs a huge challenge What I See as Trends (3)
  28. 28.  The publics increasing need for everything now, not in a week! (consequence of social media, internet etc)  Real need to be facilitators in the process as opposed to being subject experts (public has huge access to information)  Growing the capacity of employees to be successful in a multi-disciplinary environment What I See as Trends (4)
  29. 29.  Tendency towards the doom and gloom based on a smaller world  Taxpayers do not want to pay any more for services despite the value they get from City services  Baby boomers retiring albeit slowly; a lot of good positions will come open over next few years  We need young people ready to step up What I See as Trends (5)
  30. 30. Your Role in a Vibrant Community?
  31. 31. Vibrant Communities Need (1) 1. Quality thinkers and planners a. Who are not constrained by history b. Who are respectful to those who led the way c. Who make up for lack of experience through creativity, perseverance, connections
  32. 32. Vibrant Communities Need (2) 2. Staff who function as team players a. Understand need for integration of resources b. Silo mentality dysfunctional 3. Managers who are human a. Remember that you are dealing with people b. People not as impressed by how much you know, as how much you care
  33. 33. Vibrant Communities Need (1) 4. Managers who function at the head and heart level a. Understand your need to be human b. You have your own frailties c. Apology is good for the soul 5. Defeats perceived as opportunities a. Roadblocks not final b. Creative people look for solutions not kleenex
  34. 34. Keys to Success at a Young Age (1) 1. See that you are their champion a. You admit to mistakes & deal with theirs 2. Commit to your own ongoing development a. We all are a work in progress; do not stop learning 3. Maximize the potential of those around you a. Focus on their career development
  35. 35. Keys to Success at a Young Age (3) 4. Be ethical in your own behavior a. Tone at the top begins with you 5. Be open to the ideas of others a. Encourage others by commending their ideas 6. Don’t pussy-foot around problems; tackle them before they derail you a. Problems are cancers (they grow); be decisive
  36. 36. Keys to Success at a Young Age (4) 7. Own up to failings; take responsibility for those reporting to you a. If you are a champion, be accountable 8. Celebrate successes, particularly of others
  37. 37.  The capacity to see beyond their position responsibilities  The desire to integrate functions, departments  The understanding of how to manage up  Willingness to embrace change as a constant  Recognition that delegation and mentoring essential  Capacity to stay focused on the basics  Willingness to manage themselves What Distinguishes the Very Good from Average
  38. 38. Vision and Creativity
  39. 39.  In order to discern the reason most progress is painfully slow look to the leaders we elect  Most focused on the “here and now” because their constituents do Making a Vibrant Community: The Need for Vision (1)
  40. 40.  Many lack the tools or support of colleagues to see beyond, to be dreamers of big dreams  Our focus in local government has been on planning  Not bad, unless what you need is vision Making a Vibrant Community: The Need for Vision (2)
  41. 41.  Proverbs states that without vision the people perish  Time for elected officials to recognize we have good planners and administrators; the public needs thinkers  Elected officials need time to reflect Making a Vibrant Community: The Need for Vision (3)
  42. 42.  Most of us are caught in what we know; the older you get the more that contents you  Young people are trapped in “nothing of today is good enough!” which may well be true except…  Care needs to be taken with what you throw out; with what will you replace it? Is it better or just different? The Challenge of Creativity (1)
  43. 43.  Opposition is guaranteed regardless of how good the idea; most new inventions, ways of thinking even music encounter resistance  Most problems faced today with new development or over-crowded conditions or difficult to place infrastructure result from poor vision  Projections of what’s coming in terms of travel, space, work, home life, climate merely that… The Challenge of Creativity (2)
  44. 44. “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome”. Booker T. Washington, American educator, author and political leader The Challenge of Creativity (3)
  45. 45. “Small things maketh perfection and perfection is no trifle”. Michelangelo The Impact of Creativity (1)
  46. 46.  Each of the following were labeled as slow learners, not likely to amount to much, idle, or bizarre  Albert Einstein: told his cousin re their impending close relationship “I’m your relativity relative”  Charles Dickens: liked to hang out at the morgue  Ludwig von Beethoven: wore dirty clothes; left food out to rot; never married! The Impact of Creativity (2)
  47. 47.  Thomas Edison: slept with marbles under his arms so when he slept and thought of a great idea, his body would jerk & the marbles would fall  Creative ideas will inevitably be resisted  Many of these might alarm political leaders  Worthwhile ventures will succeed The Impact of Creativity (3)
  48. 48.  Municipal leaders looking to make a difference  Easier to get on the local agenda than federal or provincial radar  If it looks supportable, it likely will be  If you can mobilize others, your idea gets a hearing  If you can connect it to a local agenda priority, your possibilities are endless Dynamic Leaders: Dynamic Communities
  49. 49. What Results  A community that believes in itself  A community that celebrates achievement  A community where the talents of everyone are utilized and appreciated  A community with a clear sense of priorities  A community that reaches out to its neighbours  A community where young children can age, go to school, find work, raise families, contribute, retire
  50. 50. I’m Almost Done!
  51. 51.  Easy to point out the foibles of others  Communities will stagnate without an infusion of new ideas  Vibrant communities only happen when good people take charge; when the notion of being a pedestrian in life fades; when doing for others is paramount Where Do You Fit?
  52. 52. Sir Wilfed Grenfell (1865-1940) a medical missionary to Newfoundland and Labrador once said: "The service we render to others is really the rent we pay for our room on this earth. It is obvious that man is himself a traveler; that the purpose of this world is not 'to have and to hold‘ but 'to give and serve.' There can be no other meaning.” Where Do You Fit?
  53. 53. I want to live my life so that my nights are not full of regrets.“ -- D.H. Lawrence, British novelist "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, you are a leader.“---John Quincy Adams So You Want to be Successful
  54. 54. The Change Imperative The only man I know who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me. ... The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them. --George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright
  55. 55. The Adage of the Sparrow A farmer comes upon a sparrow lying in the middle of a road. He asks the sparrow “Mr. Sparrow, what are you doing?” The sparrow replies “Why, can’t you see? I am holding up the sky.” The farmer says “But you are so small. Look at your spindly legs. You can’t hold up the sky! The sparrow replies “One does what one can!”
  56. 56. Achieve What?? If Columbus had turned back, no one would have blamed him. No one would have remembered him either. (Anon)
  57. 57. “How wonderful that no one need wait a single moment to improve the world.” Anne Frank (1929-1945)
  58. 58. Creating Vibrant Communities Please stay tuned for our 2014 line up via Facebook and our website –