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Well, it is great to have you with us today. My name is Bill Stark Welcome to the LeaderGov podcast. And my partner, Tim Fenbert. And I love giving back. We love sharing some best practices, principles, ideas that successful business people and local government leaders have incorporated into the way they lead. And we love sharing these ideas and topics with each other. We know we've got folks in water plants listening, we've got public safety, folks listening, city leadership, finance, community development, all sorts of different people that lead teams and local government. And so wherever you're from whatever your role or title, this topic today is really an awesome topic because it I think it's going to push some people, maybe beyond where they are. And so our topic today is leading with courage leading with courage. And our guest today is Greg Teague. Greg is the CEO for Croy. Construction. So good to see you, Greg. How are you?
Doing? Great bill. So yeah, Croy Engineering is Cobb County based firm and we specialize in working with local governments all over the southeast.
Yeah, yeah. You know, I thought the tie in that was really, really cool. Because you're a private business, which is an engineering construction oriented business, does a lot of work in local governments. So you get to see how local governments, you know, act, perform, behave, what their patterns are, in terms of done in and in there in that industry, local government, but you do it from a sort of a private industry perspective. And you and I saw each other again, twice now. But recently at the city of Kennesaw, you're in Georgia, and you were delivering a brief talk about this topic of, of leading with courage, and you were delivering a talk to a group of what we call emerging leaders, folks in their early part of their career that had potential for, you know, next level positions. And I just loved some of the points that you made. And I thought, Wow, they're so important. And so we're gonna get into some questions in that four minute, I did want to back up and just kind of introduce you a little bit. I know that you were in private industry in the engineering space for several years, you then transferred over and went to work for local government, the city of Marietta, Georgia, and in their engineering department, when you and I think that was roughly six and a half years, and then after that in the homebuilding industry, and then you moved to Kroy construction, which is here, based in the Atlanta, Georgia area. And I know that you all do a lot of traffic type projects and things like that. But I'm curious, you know, as you look back on your time at Marietta, you know, what, what are the? Was there one person there that really stood out to you as an effective leader, somebody that you just admire? And either their attitude or the way they shepherded you in your in your career, because I know, You've been with Croy now for almost 15 years. So this was a while back maybe a bit earlier in your career. And just as you reflect back on local government, we always like to kind of highlight people that make a difference in our lives. And so before we get into the actual topic, I would just be curious if you've got somebody in your in your life that's really came alongside you at that time? Well, yes. So
there's gentleman by the name of Russell Morehead, Russell was a public works director, and he was the one who actually gave me the shot in my very late 20s, to be the city engineer. And, you know, he always kidded me, he said that he said, I didn't hire you, because you were the most qualified you were the person that I could afford. I was very young. And, you know, I had worked with Russell as a consultant for a while. So we had gotten to no need to know each other through that relationship. But he saw in me the raw skills that he could then shape and guide into that. And one of the things he did for me is very early on, as he put me into a city leadership program, we actually had an internal program similar to the one that you and I were at at Kennesaw. That really helped me and that was my first leadership position that I had had in my career. You know, I'd always just been a staff engineer, and now I actually had a team that it was my responsibility to lead. So Russell, he took a took a big chance on me and again, it was because he didn't have the budget to hire who he needed. But he never disturbed me out there without giving me that leadership and admits that I needed to be successful for him. So he had, I'll forever be grateful for the chance that he gave me because Heaven knows I was not prepared for what he put me into, but he never let me fall.
Yeah, isn't that interesting? It so much of what we do and and local government leaders do is ultimately to investing in people, right, helping them grow in their skills, their abilities. And so this this individual took, made an investment in you. And obviously, here you are many years later, you've you've benefited greatly by what that was what Russell did for you. So thank you for sharing that I want to jump into this topic of of leading with courage. And I just, first of all want to ask you, why is this an important topic for you? Why, why? Why focus on this idea of courage and leadership? Well, as we all
progress through our careers, whether we are engineers, where there were, you know, public administrators or things like that, we oftentimes get a lot of training on the technical skills that we need, but very often we don't get, you know, even with a college degree, you're not getting a lot of leadership training. So oftentimes, if you've done your job really well, you're gonna get promoted out of it to do something else that you've had no training for. And that takes courage to take on that new thing, that something that you have, you know, there's not, I'm really good at math. So that's the reason I went into the engineering, when you go into, okay, now I'm managing a team of people, and you're dealing with HR, and you're dealing with, they didn't teach us that in engineering school. So you have to have that courage to say, Alright, I'm gonna take on something new, something that I've not necessarily had the background in that I wish that I had. But you got to lean into it, that that was something that was very important to me and say that I want to be able to help those folks on that team, achieve what they want to achieve in their positions, and whatever their next position is going to be. But it takes, you know, for me, courage is not the absence of fear, it's been scared to death and saying, I'm going to forge ahead anyway, because that's what needs to be done. So it's always been a passion of mine to say, I don't have to know all the answers, I just have to have that courage to lean into it and say, we're going to determine how we're going to do this as we go.
Yeah, you know, that kind of brings to mind one of the one of the faults or quick questions I wanted to ask you about, and you had made some comments in your talk about this idea of being uncomfortable, as a leader and being comfortable being uncomfortable that that things are always going to come at us, we're always going to have some dilemma, some challenge. And I think you even said, you know, we've just got to confront reality head on, we can't we can't dance around some of these things. And, you know, that's, that's life. Right? That's, that's hard. And so often, I know, in my my past, I've dodged problems, and I've put a stayed low, stayed quiet, you know, hid in the corner while things passed. And usually it doesn't, it's not very helpful. So I'm just curious if you have any thoughts on that, or maybe a story related to this idea of just getting in there and being okay, being uncomfortable. Just charge ahead. You know, you know, just confront things head on. So,
I attribute a lot of that to the time I spent as a city engineer, in that. As an engineer, most of us are very OCD, we like to have things planned out, we like to have our list, we like to check things off. And for those of you in local government, the thing you know, is every day when you get into the office, it's going to be a new adventure. It's there's a pothole that, you know, a sinkhole that's developed over a storm drain somewhere, there's been a, you know, bad weather come through, whether it's a snow storm or tornadoes. So just when you think that you have everything figured out, and you've got all everything in a nice box, God will show you he has a sense of humor, and he will change it up on me. So, you know, for me, it's where I was able to excel and where I was really able to see that successes instead of shutting down because whatever popped up that I wasn't expecting that day was not on my list, I was able to incorporate that in and say, Alright, here's how we're going to adjust, you know, every day, it's kind of sit down saying, okay, my priorities were a, b and c yesterday. Now it's C, B and A because C became more important than than a did because of something that was outside of my control. And having that flexibility and having that adaptability to really say okay, what's my critical path here? What are the things that are making the biggest difference for the citizens is that you know, is it something that's a public safety issue, then that's gonna go to the top of the list? Just those type things. So I think really, it's, it's knowing that you're not ever going to have it all figured out, you're going to have surprises that pop up every day. But that doesn't need to shut you down. If you if you just curl up in the corner and say, I can't deal with this because it wasn't on my list, then that's not going to serve your citizens and your employees. So it's you really had to adapt, you say, alright, I'm just I'm going to lean in to whatever this new opportunity is. Come up with a game plan, and then just know that tomorrow, we're going to do the same thing over again. But that's particularly in local small governments. That's that is laugh every day.
Huh? Yeah, yeah, I really liked that. I know, something else that we talked about, when we were together with the group was this idea of, of trust, and building a team trust with the people that you work with your peers, and of course, subordinates if you have people reporting to you and this idea of of trusting others to do their jobs. And this other idea of admitting mistakes, you know, trusting others to do their job can be kind of a scary thing, right? Because what if they mess up? What if they don't do it as well as me? What if they embarrass me? What if the city council sees that it's not perfect, and so there's this fear that I think creeps in, when we hand things off, we delegate things to other people, but you talk about trusting others do their jobs, to build that bond of trust. And you talk about admitting mistakes, which was built which builds a certain trust between people, or any any thoughts? Could you just elaborate on those those ideas around building trust, as you try to be a courageous leader. So
having trust in those employees does take courage because it's, you know, it, particularly if you're in a city engineer, and public works director or other kind of director top position, if something messes up, it's your phone that's going to rain from the fourth floor, wherever mayor and council are sitting, when something doesn't go, right. But the reality of it is, you can't be everywhere all the time. You have to trust your people. And if if your team doesn't feel like you are trusting them, then they're going to start taking their hands back and saying, Okay, well, they don't trust me. So I'm just going to wait on specific direction, on everything, they're going to quit doing that. And what that does just continues to break down the team, to where you become the logjam yourself, because people are, are scared to make a decision themselves? Because they're gonna say, Well, you know, it doesn't matter what I think Greg's gonna come in and tell me to do it differently. So having that courage to say, okay, they're gonna do it differently than I would do it if I were them. But if the outcome is what's good for the city, the county, the citizens as a whole, it doesn't have to be exactly the way that I would do it. I want to I need to have to focus on what is that overall best outcome. And if you can do that, but part of that building that trust is being vulnerable to say, you know, we're all imperfect beings, and not being afraid to in front of your team admit, hey, I made a mistake. You know, I've had a project one time that I just I had my mind made up, we needed to do something exactly this way. And I had a gentleman who had 15 years more experienced than I did that was, you know, one of the field guides saying, I don't really think you want to do this. I think we should do it this way. And then ended up he was correct. And what I didn't do is I didn't say, oh, yeah, okay, well, I'm not gonna say anything. I actually had a meeting with him and his crew. And I said, you know, what, I screwed up. Don, he was telling me this is, this was a better way to do it. And he was right. And I'm gonna listen to it, you know, I'm gonna take, and what that did is that built that trust, because it wasn't the, you know, Grange wearing a suit and tie, because he's got to go up to the fourth floor. I got the respect to those guys that are wearing blue jeans and boots every day, because they're down, you know, in the ditches doing that. But they saw that I was willing to admit a mistake to acknowledge that somebody they know and trust had a better idea. And that just built credibility for me. And that made them having more faith in me and my leadership, which made our entire team that much more
of it. Hmm, yeah, you know, it's almost that's a great, that's a great way you put that it's almost like trust begets trust. And fear begets fear. Because if I'm fearful that you're going to mess up the project, and I don't provide it to you, I don't I don't delegate it to you. You're right. They're going to say, Well, why should I take a risk? If he doesn't he or she doesn't want to invest in me. Watch out sit back and wait. And so the folks on your team kind of don't have that assertiveness that is sometimes necessary. So it's funny how we model we model
thing. Yeah. And it's so necessary, particularly when you have those storm events that come through. Because that's, that's really that true test of, you know, city, Griffin is a city that just recently experienced some very bad tornadoes coming through. And when you have events like that, if you have one person that's got to make every decision, then everything's going to shut down, you're not going to be able to get power back on and get roads cleared, and get the public safety vehicles to those residents that need them. If you don't get out of the way yourself. So it's having that courage to say, These guys know what they're doing. Trust them, support them, give them what they need, and then get the heck out of their way and let them do what they do best.
Yeah, you said a couple other things, when we were together, when you shared with the team the other day, you mentioned not panicking, right? So something on unknown bubbles up not to panic, you talked about building a plan just a minute ago, and standing by your people, I have your back, I want the best for you, I'll cover for you if we make a mistake, because I make mistakes. And so I really like that, you know, the tone of that, as a leader. And we, a lot of lot of the people listening to this podcast are supervisors and managers, they may be new city managers, so county managers, so maybe these are some new ideas, maybe it's an encouragement for them to step into some of this, I wanted to ask you about this other idea that you shared, which was about feedback. And and this this, you know, we're so leadership training a lot of times says, you know, you're supposed to give your employees feedback, which which you are, but we're also supposed to seek feedback on from employees, from our peers to us, how can I get better. And I heard you share that. And that's a really good reminder, to not be afraid, again, fear, courage to not be afraid of getting feedback. And so could you just elaborate on this idea of being open? I know you had a story about financials at your organization, one time that you began to share and, and get feedback and input from the team on that? Could you just share on that for a moment? For?
Sure. You know, we all have the means that once you make it into a leadership role, we've got expectations. So for me on a private business, you know, we've got certain metrics we've got to hit so that we're running a healthy business. And oftentimes, we'll tell our people, okay, you got to be more billable, you got to have more billable hours on something. And oftentimes, leaders fall into the trap of the, you know, the old parenting thing of because I said so.
the employees don't understand the why. And in particularly in my business of, you know, I've got a bunch of left brained engineers, they went into this world because they like problem solving, they let the data analyze it. So we made a conscious decision that we've got to just quit saying do this, because I said so. And we've got to give them the data and give them the information that helps them understand why, here's why this is important. Here's why. If you do this, here's how this benefits you and your department and your employees. And what that did is it gave us again, it kind of ties back into trust that we're talking about before they can double check us. And it's not just because we said so now they can see the one. And I think that same thing applies back to you know, on the city, government side and county governments. Those employees want to know the why they want you there in in local government service, because they they have a servant heart most of the time. They like working with the public, they like providing things. So taking that time to open it up and share the why. And listen, because sometimes you tell them the why if they don't understand it, if it still doesn't add up, if they're adding up to two and getting five, you have to be able to listen and say okay, that the way I'm communicating this is not getting the point across then that it's incumbent upon us to change how we communicate with our people. Oftentimes, we fall into the trap of well, they just don't understand what I'm saying. What they don't understand what we're saying. It's incumbent upon who's trying to get the message across to change how you're saying, if you really want to do that communication piece on it, but helping sharing some of that information. And particularly for us the reason I use the financials, that's something that a lot of people are just they're scared to death to share. They're like, Oh, you know, somebody could use that against us. If if employee leaves, then that would be something against and I might look, if they're not smart enough to do the math and determine a lot of this on their own with the information we're already giving them, then it's probably not the right employee for us, you know, so let's, let's treat them as screw parts of the organization, open this up, share, answer the question openly and honestly, that they're going to ask about it. And if you'll truly do that, that gets that buy in and that trust and with those individuals, and really, for us what it's done on our side by doing that, they still don't like getting measured on the metrics all the time. But they understand why it's important. And they really pay more attention to those details, which has helped us be healthier overall, and has allowed us to do more for our employees to help improve their morale and their how they view the company as a whole.
Yeah, yeah. Thank you for sharing that. Greg. It seems to me that there's this, the easy thing to do would be for me, just to tell you what to do, right, here are the three things I need you to due today. And that's not a lot of risk. On my part, I'm telling you what to do. And you either do it or you don't. And yet, at the same time, what you're talking about is, is having a discussion. Now, we can't have an hour long discussion on every tactic that comes up. But but we can't spend a few minutes kind of backing up and saying, here's the perspective, here's where we came, here's why we're here. Here's why we're doing this, here's the outcome we're looking for. And so it sounds like to me this, this, this idea of having a discussion, and inviting other people to participate in and get clarity, we talked about clarity a lot is just a really important part of leading. And, and, and being open to questions and feedback, which again, gets back to the word courage, because sometimes, they may give me some feedback, I don't want to hear and so I tend to avoid things I don't want to hear. So it does take courage to step out that
it does. And one of the things that we have found out and I live by this mantra is in the absence of information, people are going to fill that absence with assumptions. And typically those assumptions are much worse than what the reality is. And that's kind of where we got to on the financials is, if we weren't giving them the data, if we weren't giving them the information to fill that curiosity that they had, then they were just making assumptions. And these assumptions could be based on whatever they saw. And typically it was, human nature is it was a much different, much worse interpretation of what could be done what the reality was. So that was the other thing that we found out is just killing the rumor mill, by being open and honest, has done tremendous amount of culture improvement for us
here at the company. Oh, yeah, yeah, I was thinking about rumor mill and gossip, as you were saying, I'm like, wow, this really breeds just this guessing game of what's going on, and what's the real motive. And if you lay all that out, up front, you know, it's gonna gonna eliminate a lot of that. And we goodness, we need less gossip, that's for sure. Right. And to your point earlier,
you can't have that detailed conversation on every single subject, but it's, it's like training, which is what your your laugh is all about is, what you're trying to do is say, All right, we're establishing that upfront, here's how here's how it goes. So that, you know, if you build that trust with them, if you build that relationship with your employee to where they own one or two projects, or one or two scenarios, they do the in depth, then the next thing you tell them, they're going to have that trust, and they're not going to need to pick it apart to every little detail. That will be you know, times you reinforce that, you know, throughout by saying if something comes up, that's kind of an outlier and say, Wait a minute, this doesn't fit with what we've talked about before. So you reinforce it there. But it takes a little extra effort upfront, you know, to get that training done upfront and get that trust established upfront. But once you do that, it saves you so much time over the duration of that relationship with that employee.
Yeah, yeah, we we think of it as we often say, leaders should have a focus on the future. They should be about planning and thinking down the road, they should inspire their team or engage their team and whatever it is that where we're going because that's inspiration or you know, giving them some sort of that there's engagement with the employee and then and then supporting the employee once you're on the road. And a lot of these things we're talking about today, I think fit in that last last phase of, okay, we've got to support our people and sometimes it's scary. Sometimes we got to do things we're not comfortable with. But it's going to come back, really as a great benefit for our department. So thank you for thank you for sharing that. You know, Greg, I know that you work with a lot of local governments, public works, you do transportation projects, I think mainly, I'd love to hear a little bit more about the types of projects you get involved in. So if you wouldn't mind sharing just a little bit about the kind of construction projects you work in. And then let us know how cities and counties can reach out to you if they have a project they're working on or a question or something I'd love to connect some of our listeners with with your organization.
Well, Bill, thanks. Thanks for that. So we're Croix engineering, and we do any kind of civil engineering infrastructure type support for local governments Junaid we do roadways is what we're best known for. But we do airports, we've got 25 airports across Georgia that we are the engineer of record on we do water and sewer stormwater, any kind of infrastructure that local government needs. That's kind of our specialty. And that goes to my background, our founder, Jim Froy, he was the DoD director for Cobb County for many years worked in state government as well. So that's really kind of our specialty, the best place to find out about us is on our website, which is just www dot froi engineering.com, which will take you and show you all the different services we do, but also give you our contact information. And we'd love to, we'd love being that trusted advisor. You know, that's really our best role. You know, we do everything from, you know, we can do the plans for you and manage the construction with a contractor where we can just be that advisory to help you decide do I want to do this project versus that project? Or what are the, you know, what's a good cost estimate for a project? Because I know with local government, you're always concerned about what the budget is? And how do we actually come in and help you make the decisions you need to make so that when you go back in front of your mayor and council or county commission that you've got the information you need to give them that trust and that they have and moving forward with those projects.
Yeah, well, that's great, thank thank you for taking a minute and doing that. And I hope that some of our listeners can take advantage of your expertise and if they have a need in this area, definitely pick up the phone and call you guys. But But I want to just say thank you for the work you do in in our communities in making roadways bridges and other transportation you know, things a success in the way you're you're doing particularly here in Georgia. And thank you for your your leadership in this area, I know that you are keen on giving back to the community. And so just being even with us here today and sharing some of your stories and your experience in a very frank way. A very, you know, open way is very much appreciated. So thank you for being with us today.
Bill, thank you for the opportunity. And I would encourage all your listeners to really invest in that leadership training for their employees. That's that's what allowed me I came in as a city engineer, went through the leadership training made it up public works director and it's really helped me in my career. But you you guys are oftentimes basing your you don't have the salaries to compete in that open market that you do with private companies, but you can invest in those internal leaders and help grow them into the employees that you need. So it's a little plug for what you guys do every day as well.
Yeah, thank you and appreciate you all listening today. If you have any topics that you want us to cover in future podcasts, just let us know. You can go to our website. We are gmail.com or email me at Bill at leader dove leader gmail.com And we look forward to having you on another podcast coming up soon. And thank you for listening and we hope you make it a great day in your local government.