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Well, good. Good Day to everybody and LeaderGov world with me today. I have city manager od Donald from the City of South Fulton, Georgia Odie. How are you today?
I am well excited to be enjoying it. Yeah,
yeah. Well, it's post Thanksgiving. It's the Monday after Thanksgiving. I looked at my scale today. And I thought I'm not even gonna get on the scale, because I probably gained like five pounds. Did y'all have a good Thanksgiving at your place?
today? We had a great one. And I'm hoping that I didn't gain those same five, but it's probably likely that I did.
Well, thanks for being here. today. We've got a topic for city managers, county managers, employees of cities and counties. You know, this is a podcast and training material that that we're making available to employees, managers, and so forth around this topic of culture, very important topic. And we know that you're a new city, South Fulton is a new city. So you're trying to create your culture and shape it and form it and so forth. I thought it would be great to have your thoughts today on culture. So I'll just jump right in and got a couple of questions for you around this idea of culture. You know, we know it's, it plays a major role culture does in morale and activity and and overall effectiveness. And so just wanting to get your thoughts on culture in South North and South Fulton and in some of your past jobs, what why is culture important to you, you know, for the teams that you serve?
Well, so I'll tell you, I've been a part of either rebuilding projects and government or kind of startup situation, similar to what's out bulletin is, and culture is probably the most important part because it's the backbone of, you know, not only how you get things done, but why you get things done, and how you're able to do it as a group. And so culture is probably the building blocks to any successful organization.
Yeah. Why do you think it's important that employees understand the culture or be involved in it?
So I think the main thing about the importance of culture to employees is that it really answers some of those gray area questions, you know, you got your policy manuals, and you hear the speeches, from your leadership, and you kind of know the general direction of your job. But culture really, you know, starting to establish the effectiveness and the level at which you do things. And so I think at South Fulton, we've attempted to create a world class culture where everything we do and how we deliver services as far as class, and I think, you know, having that as the basis for our culture, change everybody, you know, moving forward the same way.
Yeah, you know, I know that this city of South Fulton and probably every other city or county listening to this, somewhere on their website, they have a list of values, and vision. And, you know, values, it seems to me values kind of drive culture, you know, if we value professionalism, for instance, that's going to drive our culture. How have you seen values? impact the culture in places where you've worked? Or South Fulton?
Yeah, I mean, I think the really cool thing is, you know, everyone has this mission statement, a value proposition that, you know, it's somewhere, like you said, on the website, or in a textbook, but the places that I've been that have been the most successful, operate as if those are living, breathing, you know, a living, breathing way of doing things and not just words on a paper. And I think that that value proposition being known and accepted by everybody, really, you know, pushes the organization forward, as I see that not only important, but you know, the guys who do it the best are the ones who really get folks to buy.
Yeah. Yeah, it is amazing how you even think of a retailer like Chick fil A. And with 1000s, and 1000s, of stores? And I don't know, 50 100 200,000 employees, I don't know how many, you can kind of feel the same culture at every store. Oh,
oh, absolutely. You can know what to expect before you get there. Yeah. And
it's like this common culture. It's amazing how it gets carried down to employees in small cities and big cities, workplace ethics. And you when you think about professionalism, when you think about ethics, workplace ethics, how do you see those things impacting the culture? There example?
Yeah, I think that's that may be and when we start talking about workplace ethics and culture, they're not, you know, separate discussions, they're kind of one in the same, I think, for us as a new city, you know, creating ethical standards, aligning priorities, and ensuring that our overall mission, you know, aligns with our value and our ethical standards. And so, you could talk about South Fulton but it'd be the same in the District of Columbia, you know, working with the state of Georgia, strong organizations are also ethically sound organizations and when, you know, things happen, that are outside of your ethical nature, or, you know, the way you you just do business. I think that, you know, that kind of goes opposite and hinders success, but those who are successful, you know, align those things together. And I think at South Fulton we've done a solid job of that, but we really kind of doubled down recently to make sure that those things align. Yeah.
What do you think employees should do? When they sense that the culture is shifting maybe in a negative fashion or, or maybe some elections happen and it kind of shifts the culture or some new employees come on board and maybe influential employees and the culture begins to shift. And maybe it gets to be where people are operating in silos, for instance, and little kingdoms are being built, you know, stuff happens in local government and when employees see the culture, maybe it's a healthy culture when they see it beginning to shift. What do you think the employee should do? I mean, what how do they? How do they have a voice in this in this idea of culture? Do you think?
Well, I think that employees are really the backbone of the culture, you know, it many times people don't look, understand that employees are really the two leaders of the organization, your staff level employees, not not so much your management or even executive leadership's, you set the tone, and you have these cool ideas. But you know, those things can't be carried out unless everyone is bought in. And so when those servant leaders who are on the frontline see issues, or see the culture shifting in a way, that's not acceptable, they actually have the authority to change it, whether it's bringing it to the attention of management, you know, one on one conversations, or even starting groups, you know, to make sure that those things are in place. So I think the power is really with the employee base, and ensuring that the culture is one that not only one that aligns with the organization, but one that they can carry out.
Oh, that's nice. Yeah. Do you have a story? Or a, an example? Whether it was with your work in Washington, DC? Or maybe at South Fulton? Where were you saw the culture shift in a good way? Or may take a turn for the worse? What can you just share a story of how you kind of dealt with a changing culture in your in your work?
You know, I think one of my favorite stories, there was a gentleman named Vernon, I won't put his last name out there. But zoning worked in the mailroom for about 30 years, when I was in the District of Columbia. And we were coming in, you know, doing all these customer service surveys and meetings and forums and, you know, things that really understand what staff saw as the future of the organization, and you know, where we were headed and how they could get involved. And Vernon was one of the ones who mentioned how he did not see the value in his role and changing the culture of the organization. And so not going into a lot of it. But we basically a big function that we had with unemployment insurance. And so, you know, they were 35,000 pieces of mail, about 50% of those being the unemployment checks that was sent out from our organization on a weekly basis. And so, you know, for Vernon, when he didn't understand, and what we talked about, you know, in a pretty open forum was that he might have one of the most important roles in the entire organization. And it is the most important for them to be world class and first class in the delivery of services, because the people don't care about who they talk to. They don't care about whether their situation with understand, understood, but what they care about the most is, did I receive my check? And so the beginning, and the end point of our organization starts with the mailroom. And so, understanding that world class applies to everyone, regardless of how you see yourself and your role. And that if one piece of the puzzle is missing, you know, then then you can't complete the task. And so I think that that example and, you know, honest question and concern for one of our employees kind of stood as the example in the basis for what some people consider, you know, one of the nation's better workforce and economic development, turnaround. And so, the focus and the catalyst, and I'm thankful for learning for, you know, not only receiving but helping me, you know, learn that lesson. Yeah, that's
a great story. And it's kind of helps. It's a great story, because it gets us back to the employee. And the fact that every employee in city and county government is a part of the culture and can impact the culture and has a role to play in the culture. So it's not one of these top down things that that we mentioned earlier. So great. Wow, I love that. I love that story. Thank you so much for taking a few minutes and sharing some of your insights and experiences in local government. And this topic of culture is really important when I appreciate your taking the time and that you really and also just think thank you for all you do and leading a great city of South Fulton hope you have a hope you have a wonderful day
absolutely thank you for having me
okay take care thank you I'll see you later