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City Manager's Blog

Cultivating a Collaborative Culture

Building a new team and culture is a monumental task.  Over the past few months, I’ve asked the team at the City of Brighton to go through a lot of changes, while being patient and giving me their trust.   Recently, our efforts were validated by a long-time  staff leader, and a series of staff feedback sessions have let me know we are on to something special in the City of Brighton. Every city manager has his/her own leadership style. I am not sure I can fully define my style at this time, but I can say the centerpiece is collaboration, “a process where two or more people or organizations work together to realize shared goals.”
As I prepared to write this blog, I came across a 2013 article by Jacob Morgan at outlining 12 Habits of Highly Collaborative Organizations. His illustration below is spot on! 
One principle I would add is that employees must know they are valued, which is very different than hearing they are valued. Organizations and cities are complex organisms. No singular leader can pretend to fully understand these complexities and keep either healthy on their own. Think about the human body; think about the doctor“s” who are there to help us with our ailments and injuries. The plural is essential. Our health cannot, and does not, rely on one singular doctor, but a team of doctors with various strengths and expertise. And, let’s not forget the team of professionals who support the doctors: nurses, technicians, clericals, etc.
This principle of collaboration reaches beyond City administration. It is a principle that I, and my team, are working to build with City Council, the community, and those looking to be a part of our community. Take for example a recent presentation I gave to a group of leaders from Barry County. I talked about “collaborative facilitation” as it relates to economic development. When collaborating with various staff, consultants, community stakeholders, and others, we can find ways to facilitate new developments, new ideas, new amenities, and improvements within our community. We can find ways to address challenges unsolvable by any one individual or group. Collaborative facilitation is about finding and bringing together those stake holders necessary to help bring an idea to reality, establishing their buy in, and cultivating their active participation.
So far this year we have seen some great examples of collaboration.
  • BAS Explorers Camp: A group of first through third graders taking on the challenges of recycling, bike racks, and controlling waterfowl waste in the downtown.
  • Neighborhood Garden: Flextech High School working to bring a neighborhood garden to Kissane Park to support their curriculum and bring expanded access to fresh food to the neighborhood.
  • UMHS Regional Health Center: Facilitating a large employer and regional health care service provider is a “all hands on deck” proposition.
  • North Street Redevelopment: A project to bring new downtown living options to our community.
  • Zoning Code Update: A multi-disciplinary initiative to update the City’s arcane (approximately 30 years old) code of ordinances to make them easier to understand and more conducive to today’s environment.
  • City Hall Refresh: City Hall staff working and volunteering their time to breathe some life into an institutional feeling building that had not seen any “love” in 20+ years.
A mere sampling…
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
       - Helen Keller

Posted: by Nate Geinzer

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