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Welcome everybody that's on this podcast and listening to us. This is Bill Stark, and I'm excited to be here at LeaderGov. With our guest today, Miss Melanie Winfield, she is the assistant city manager at the City of South Fulton, Georgia. So good to have you with us, Melanie, how are you doing?
I am doing well. Thank you for having me.
Oh, you bet.
We're so excited to be here.
Yeah, you know, so excited to hear some of your thoughts on this topic today, which is commitment, and how to get commitment from our teams and employees. And so before we jump into that, I just wanted to ask you first, if you wouldn't mind, just give us you know, a minute or so on your background and local government. What city did you come from? I know that you have some roots in Memphis, anything before that and some of the roles that you played in local government over the last several years.
No problem at all. Thank you for the opportunity I can. So yes, my background in local government began with the city of Memphis as a baby lawyer out of law school. That was my first real job was with the city of Memphis, where I began as the contracts manager overseeing federal grants. And then from there, I served as an assistant city attorney, or I advise very in divisions of the full service city, which included the purchasing department, our finance department, HR, fire, and Police Public Works. Pretty much every department so I often say I wore several different heads in that capacity. And then from there, I also served as a deputy director for the Workforce Investment Network, which is a quasi governmental entity that oversees the Federal Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act funds to prepare the workforce for in demand jobs, as well as provide services to businesses, to assist them with training, and retaining a qualified workforce. And then from the city. So I spent 16 years with the city of Memphis. And then from there, I made a pitstop in DC, where I served as a deputy director for workforce development there. And lead in their workforce development efforts, again, making sure that residents and citizens were provided quality training to prepare them for in demand jobs in the area, but also assist them to meet their workforce needs of the businesses in the area. And from there, here I am today with the City of South Fulton, where I served as the assistant city manager for the past year and a half, and I'm very excited about the opportunity to develop his new and growing city and develop the systems and processes to help build and sustain and model for the City of South Fulton
Yeah, absolutely. Well, thank you for sharing so that, you know it has got to be terribly rewarding to be about the work of helping individuals in a community grow and become the people that they you know that they dream of being through workforce development that's just got to be a terribly rewarding thing and I want to thank you just for your commitment to all those individuals over the years who you've impacted in one way or the other because boy you're talking about life aren't yet you know, your your sense of worth and value in the world is is so, so much tied to how much you can give back through work. And it's just amazing to hear you talk about it.
Well, thank you. I mean, it's been my pleasure. I devoted my life to service I'd look at you know in a day all of So one paycheck from being broke. So I'm looking at it that any of us could have been the ones walking through that door and needing assistance to help prepare them to do an interview or be able to help them land those skills, hone those skills to be able to land that next opportunity. So yeah, that is passionate work for me, and I am just happy to serve.
That's awesome. Well, I can hear in your voice. That's awesome. And I hope that folks that are listening can hear that too. That passion, we are public servants after all right? And so to have that servant heart of really helping those around us with humility, whether it's the people on your staff, team or citizens, it's all about caring for and serving those in the community. So Well, good. Well, I want to ask you about commitment, a lot a big topic. We are training on commitment, doing workshops, and online training on commitment, here at leader. Gov. And just wanted to get some different perspective. Question for you, where wherever you're using your team, it could be a current team, or maybe a Memphis or DC, where have you seen a really highly committed team? And how did that team's commitment impact the team members? What was the dynamic that was going on? When you saw a healthy team? Like highly committed to their goals and objectives? Can you can you share an example like that?
Sure. I would be remiss if I didn't highlight to turn situation on which I'm in, I say new and developing city. I've seen my team be highly committed in ensuring the success of this new and vibrant and young city of South Fulton as the city was transitioning from the county. Many of my team members were there with the community advocates and the those residents who were determined to have their own to chart their own destiny. And so that that commitment has bought board over into the city of South Fulton, governmental services. And so it really drives the team to really be passionate about the work that they're doing and fully invested. It motivates and as far as the team to be better public servants. That commitment makes them willing to go above and beyond their Call of Duty, I can't tell you the countless number of loan nights that the team has committed to doing the work that is necessary to enhance the services to residents, to make sure that we're serving them more efficiently and effectively than when they were prior served. When we then use me there when they were served prior to becoming a city, right, I've seen a new sort of newfound commitment that drives those team members who transition to the city from the county to be more innovative and strategic in carrying out their job functions in a way that enhances services. For example, our Public Works team has reduced the time in which they maintain our right away from six to four weeks, just as transitioning from the county. They will also that commitment also drove them to repave 70 miles of streets, versus the 59 miles that were paved in prior year. So there we saw an increase in our paving of 19%. So again, the commitment just really tries to team to go above and beyond and to do more than what was done in times past.
Wow, beautiful. That's that's so encouraging. Here you are right in the middle of it, particularly with your city, South Fulton being a new city in Fulton County, Georgia here, but to hear how commitment and a high level of commitment creates this desire for incremental effort and a commitment to the goal and even exceeding the goal. And you're right in the middle of it. Obviously, with a startup. That's That's a great story. Well, have you seen, one would ask you about clarity, because one of the beliefs that we have, and then one of the things we train on it later go? Is this idea that being clear, having clarity about your objective, your goal helps grow commitment, if I'm clear on what you want me to do, I'm more committed to what you want me to do. Does that make sense to you? Does that resonate with you?
Yes, Andy, you are absolutely right. In my experience, I know that clarity definitely enhances and increases chances of commitment, whereas a lack of clarity causes confusion and an unclear vision. And so in that instance, you have people just wandering around and not really sure of what it is that they're to do, what even why they're doing that. And so, I find that it's hard to commit to something when you are not clear as to what it is that you are committed to is like allowing someone On to put a blindfold on and guide me on an unknown hype. That can be a little scary. And what makes me hesitant, hesitant to commit to that journey, where's clarity provides a little bit more guidance and helps drive compliance. So, in my prior role with the District of Columbia, I, that was a goal set for my team. But it was to increase the number of individuals who register in our apprenticeship program. So there was no, wow, that was an overarching goal, there was no specificity with to the goal. And so of course, we do what we thought we were supposed to do by, you know, that was a little effort to make a small notch on that goal. However, when the goal was revised to provide more clarity in terms of an exact number in which we work to increase the number of apprenticeships, then and also was that with clarity as to why to be able to show people that when you enroll people in the apprenticeship program, they're not just sitting idly going through training, but they're actually earning a wage. And so it was a way for the team to really wrap their hands around and as you become a lot more engaged and committed into that, right, so that definitely drove us to increase those numbers substantially versus when we weren't quite, we weren't so sure as to what or why we were doing it. We may incremental successes, but it was nothing like whereas when we were told the exact number and the exact target that we had to meet, and the exact reason why then it was an easier sale for us to really get committed to that.
Yeah, yeah, it seems so simple yet. So often, we skip over this idea of just being crystal clear on what we're trying to accomplish. So great storage, still, the thing no one asked you about is this idea of buy in, and we we, we talk about buy in as part of our workshops and our online training. And here's here's the concept, I need to buy in to this decision, this project in order to commit fully. And in order to buy in, I need to weigh in. In other words, I need to have a forum, I need to have some time and a meeting, where you allow me as your subordinate to weigh in to tell you what I think and give you my perspective. So when I give you my perspective, I'm buying into the project, which is going to grow my commitment. And so we encourage that. And I'm just wondering, from your perspective, you know, in meetings that you have with your teams, where you give them an opportunity to to weigh in to ask critical questions. Have you seen that increased commitment to projects and plans?
Oh, that's an awesome question. For me and employee buy in as a primary driver for Team commitment. It creates a sense of ownership and engagement that really motivates an employee to really perform and perform well. Think about it employees are more willing to fill in the gaps to make sure the work that the work that they're trying to accomplish is done. Because like you said, they have an ownership and they also have a stake in the game. So it definitely trust them to go above and beyond to really make sure that this task is being accomplished. For instance, our economic development, that worker is a one man shop, but because he is fully engaged and kind of autonomy to really do the work that it takes to develop economic development within a city, especially with the state of South Fulton a that encompasses more than 85 square miles and a population of approximately 100,000 residents. For this effort to be led by one individual man, he definitely had to be fully bought in, quote unquote, term fully bought in and invested in making sure that those economic development opportunities were here for the city. So therefore commitment and buy in has led to a number of initiatives coming to fruition in a short period of time by just that one man shop. For instance, I we were able to increase our hotel, motel tax credit Convention and Visitor's Bureau implemented in two main street programs in the area of development, our economic development strategic plan, and there are a host of other initiatives that have come to fruition again within this short one and a half year time span. So again, the buying of an employee or team member is paramount to insurance for commitment to the charges at hand.
Yeah, we thank you for that. That does a really good specific examples. And what did I just have one last question for you about commitment it has to do with team meetings. You were in meetings a lot and and and one of the things We like to encourage supervisors, managers, directors, when you're in a meeting with your team, and you're talking about a project or some plan, a couple of things you want to do next month to end the meeting, by going around the table, and asking each person individually, are you clear on what the goal is? And do you understand it? And have you had a chance to weigh in properly? And do you need any more information to be fully committed? So we like to encourage people to ask that kind of question, you know, at the end of the meeting, and actually at let people answer the question, yes, I'm committed, I don't have any more questions and so forth, to a young supervisor out there, Melanie, to a young director of a water department or to a new city clerk, that's listening to this podcast right now, what would you what would be your encouragement to them? In this area of meetings, sort of like staff meetings, to to go around the table and get the team to, you know, to respond, that they that they are clear, and that they have bought in? Do you have any sort of final thoughts on on on getting the team to vocalize their commitment to a project?
Most definitely. So my suggestion on my recommendation to a newer foreign leader will be to not be the biggest and loudest voice in the room, take a step back, take a seat back and allow your team members to leave for the conversations and to do the dialogue. That creates an opportunity where your team is more open to discuss their projects that they're working on and foster collaboration organically where I'm talking about the fourth collaboration. But if you're allowing them to dialogue amongst each other, it fosters organic collaboration. And it creates an environment where the team can generate ideas and brainstorm solutions to address the challenges that they have. One challenge did one team or maybe heaven, another one may not have even been aware of that. But once they're able to freely express those challenges and projects that they're working on. Yeah, oh, those can wrap around and being identify and help them identify solutions to those problems. Yeah, I would just say take a step back at night, you don't have to be the biggest or loudest voice in Rome, allows your team members to lead and dialogue. And they will oftentimes come up with the solutions. And again, once they are falling into it, you're never going to be fully committed to San Diego, Santa to the finish line. Well,
I love that I think that is so wise to let the wisdom in the room, mainly your team, collaborate, solve the problem, when you solve the problem. And figure out the milestones or whatever it is you're doing then then by de facto you have bought in because you created the plant. Hey, that is and the leader doesn't have to be heavy handed or in the in the mix of every moment or every conversation because it's the team that has the wisdom. And that way they can own it and be committed to it. That's that's really, that's tremendous wisdom, we always do want to try to think about directors, managers, supervisors who are new in their role, and just ways that we can help them grow as a as a young leader. So thank you for those those words and thoughts. I really appreciate it. Thank you for taking time today. And I wish you all the best with with South Fulton it is a great city. I've been privileged to be there several times and interact with some of your team members and have been very impressed. I just really want to say thank you for being a part of of creating something new and wonderful in that part of Georgia. And again, it was great, great, great having you having you today. And thank you for everything you shared.
Thank you, Bill for this opportunity. And let me also thank you for the great work that you and your team are doing, not only within the City of South Fulton but beyond me, you are a great partner, a great resource. And just this podcast in and of itself demonstrates your commitment to public service and developing leaders to be better public service. So thank you for all that you
do. Oh, appreciate that. As you have a wonderful day and have a great holiday Christmas season. Okay.