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Welcome, everybody to the leader golf podcast. We are glad that you have joined us today. And thank you for taking a few minutes from your day to invest in yourself to be a better leader. And ultimately, to better serve your team and serve the people around you. We really appreciate you being here. My name is Bill Stark. I'm one of the cofounders of leader. Gov along with Tim Fenbert. And we love being with you and sharing ideas and concepts around leadership and teamwork that can benefit each of you. We've got folks listening to this from all coasts and everywhere in between all sorts of job titles, Public Works and finance and city and county leaders, libraries and all sorts of groups and different folks listen to the podcast and wherever you are. In management, wherever you are, geographically, you are absolutely welcome. And we love you, we care about you, we want the best for you. And that's really why we do what we do. We want you to thrive in your role in local government. And so we're excited today we got a great guest, Jeff Fisher is with us. He's the Director of Public Works for one dot County, which is Kansas City, Kansas. And I'm going to get him to share a bit about his career. Just a minute, we're going to talk about this big, big topic of trust. Today, and we're going to try to talk with Jeff. Jeff, we're going to try to cover everything about trust in 18 minutes. You think we can do that. Give it a shot. Yeah. Hey, Welcome, Jeff. It's great. Great, Peter. Glad you're with us. Yeah, thank you. Yeah. Hey, before we get started, I've got a couple of questions. I wanted to ask you about trust, you know, but could you just want to rewind just a little bit? Tell Tell the folks listening, where you started in local government, what city or county and what what role you're in? And then I think you had a second place of service before you came to the unifying government there in Kansas City, could you just share maybe just a minute or so?
Sure. When I got out of college, I immediately started consulting, law love that spent a lot of time out of town. But I've started a new family didn't want to be gone as much as I was. And so I started doing the team at the city of grain Valley, Missouri. Population about 13,001, small town, bedroom community growing really fast, though, at that time, and learn to love public service really fast. And so I served there, that community for about six years, then decided to move on and join the City of Belton, Missouri, both suburbs of Kansas City, and also served there six or seven years before deciding to join the team here in Kansas City, Kansas. Yeah, all of the public works.
Okay. And today at it at the unified government there. Obviously, the city and the county are one unit. How big is your team? How many? How many employees are in the public works department there?
There are 300 plus a 320. Okay, the seven functional units? Yeah. What
are those seven units, normal roads and building maintenance? That kind of thing?
Yes, we we have wastewater, stormwater engineering, lead streets, buildings and logistics, solid waste. And then we've got two new units added to our teams, GIS, GIS and parking control. And then we have Asset Management. Okay. I think that's
yeah, a lot, a lot of ground to cover there. And I know that you're kind of a student of leadership. And I like that about you. I like the fact that you're curious and we know that leaders are well, from our experience, effective leaders are typically very curious you know, they'd like to learn and grow and not know you'd like to read and study about leadership and some really excited to chat with you for a minute about trust. Just would love to hear from me, you know, in your in your career, as you think back about your almost 20 years in public works. Tell us if you could just share how have you developed trust on the teams that you've led and the people around you? What are some ways in which you've done that because we got A lot of folks on today that are younger in their career, and they're looking for ways to build those trusting relationships.
So I think some things that are really important to always remember is don't ask anyone to do anything you haven't done or wouldn't do, and always do what I say I'm going to do and rare occasion that I'm not able to do that really bothers me, I think, I think that's really important. And then listening, I was not a great listener, as a younger person and had to learn how to do that well. And then, as you're listening, you find things that are bothering the person, or might help them do their work better, or might help them be a better leader or manager. And, and you help them with those things, no matter how small they might be, or seem to me. And, and then give them plenty of room to do things the way they believe are best, you know. So we, together, we identify what needs to happen, and then give them a lot of latitude, figure out how to make those things happen. And you build trust through that and make make them feel safe, that they can speak up, say what's on their mind and without any consequences.
Yeah, so I So you mentioned a lot there. I'd love to unpack just a couple of those thoughts. One of them is working together with the person to sort of develop the end goal. Okay, where are we going? Right, that's kind of incumbent on the leader, where are we going? What's our end goal? But you're saying do that collaboratively when you can. But then you said, sort of leave them alone and let them figure out the best way to get there, you know, as opposed to micromanaging. Right. Right. And so how have you, what have you, I assume you've you've seen a good response to that over time, when you've given people that kind of freedom, that kind of leeway?
Yes, absolutely. It's simple empowerment, right? We hire people for a reason that we believe they're bringing something to the table. So if we micromanage them, then we're not allowing them to, to do what they can do best. So let's figure out what the target is. Sometimes that does need to be the leaders vision, or something that the leader feels strongly needs to be accomplished. But a lot of times we can do that together. And the target might actually might change for the better I and then give them the support and the latitude they need to figure out how to get there, but then think through.
Yeah, yeah, it really kind of honors the person doesn't. Does. You also mentioned consistency, and authenticity or being authentic? Yeah, I think I heard you say that when you say you're going to do something you want to deliver. And to me, the word that comes to mind was consistency and consistency sort of breeds? Like a safety like, Okay, this guy's for real he, he does what he says or she does what she says. And I would imagine in that sort of world. You know, there's a certain comfort that comes with that, again, trust, right, I can be comfortable, because you're going to do what you say, and how have you seen that benefit? The teams that are around you?
Well, you know, I think of an example of like, which happens often in our business, you get a complaint or request from a citizen or from a commissioner, even elected person. And so I'll get, I'll get the request or the complaint, I'll go to the right, staff member and say, Okay, what do you think about this? Can we do this? If we can't do this? Why can't we do this? And then we, we educate the person? If we can do it, then okay, how are we going to do that? When can we have done? And? Because when I go back to that person and say, Okay, this is how we're going to do it. And this is when we'll get it done. We need to do it. It needs to happen, because because we're gonna build trust with the community too. Right. Right. And so, but through that conversation about how we're going to do it, and how long it will take and it empowers them puts gives them the ability to to determine the path to that target. Yep, that happens all the time. Right? And when I first got here, we didn't have a good history of being transparent and doing what we say we're going to do. In fact, we just wouldn't tell people what we were going to do. And that just doesn't work. And so if we're going to wait not only need to build trust amongst the team, amongst each other, we also need to build trust in the community. Yeah, yeah.
All right. So be Be careful about your promise. Think through your deliverable. Can we do it? What might get in the way? Let's be realistic, and then deliver, let's be consistent. Yes, you're right. So that that that provides trust, that that repetition? That consistency is a very powerful builder of trust? I like what also you said something about being authentic and transparent yourself? And, and being kind of an open book, you know? Can you can you share just a little bit more on how you do that in your world?
Well, we know that we know when we see authentic, and we know and when it's not people know, and they, they're not going to trust me, if I'm, if I'm not just me, and, and they can't trust me as much if I'm not transparent, if I'm not an open book, if they don't know how I think about things or what my values are in the same for them. So build that relationship where we have an open discussion and talk about ourselves in a way that they may know each other. That that, okay, now, now we know how to operate and interact with each other and achieve goals more effectively.
Yeah, yeah, I think about when a leader is leading a meeting, you know, how's everybody doing? And how was your weekend, this kind of thing, you know, from time to time for us to share, you know, I had a terrible weekend. You know, something happened with my kids. And, hey, team, frankly, I'm a little frazzled today, I'm not totally here. disjointed, and you know, sharing, you don't have to say what it is, but just just to share how you're feeling. And that, that being real, that being transparent, is for some weird reason. It's like a magnet, it actually draws people to us. We think it pushes people away, but it actually draws up to us in a crazy
ride. It's sort of counterintuitive, I guess. But the more likes and more authentic we can be if I'm if something's bothering me, or I'm struggling with something, which just happened a couple of times this year, in fact, me and my leadership team have I've, I've shared that. And it has made us stronger, because we have a level of trust and camaraderie. And when they know that something's bothering me, they sort of rally around that support me. It's been really nice.
Wow. Wow. So I wanted to sort of switch gears a little bit, Jeff. And so that's a lot of outstanding ways to build trust. A lot was said there and, you know, just a short period of time, but kind of switch to this idea of developing others, and how does building trust connect to developing others? And how have you seen sort of this level of trust, this ability to build trust, impact, your ability to develop the people on your team? What What's that look like there in your local government?
Well, it's, it's foundational. I mean, if we just think through almost every day, examples of our, our getting work done, and how we coach, how we coach people, if it's just like in sports, right? If, if there's not a level of trust, they may not listen at all, or they may not receive coaching as well. They may not even follow instructions. So if, if I don't have a level of trust with someone, are they really going to believe what I'm suggesting to them? Are they gonna? Are they going to implement things that we talked about? And the way that we talked about that? Without that trust? I don't know. I've never I've never seen a person go above and beyond or, or do a great job if they don't have a good foundation or relationship with someone that's based on trust. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, I
wanted to ask you about something like, giving feedback to people. You know, we know that sort of a management skill, I guess they you know, feedback, regular feedback. But thinking about giving feedback to people that don't trust you as a leader, or giving feedback to people that do trust you as a leader.
And I know
what comes to mind as we kind of talked about the whole feedback thing, because we know that's so important yet some people don't give a rip what your feedback?
Well, I learned a long time ago, the hard way. You know, when when I need to have a discussion with someone, it needs to happen very quickly. If I hold it in, I don't tell someone what I need to tell them or what they need to hear. The longer I hold it, then the worst outcome. And whether it's good or bad, telling someone immediately what's on your mind in a very constructive way. And I and I, I believe doing it in a very positive way is the best, best way to get it. If you don't have that if you don't provide that feedback. Or, you know, final ask for feedback immediately. The same outcome I have not getting best outcomes, if we don't communicate, don't talk about how things are going good or bad. Immediately. Yes. Learn how to do that. Not perfect. And for sure. I think it's really important to relationship and trust. Yeah, and how,
how honest will people be in their feedback to you? If they don't trust you? So I certainly wouldn't, I would hold back, I wouldn't give you my honest opinion, if I didn't trust you as a boss. Right?
Right. That's right. It has taken it is really amazing. You know, as adults, depending on our age, and how long we've been living this life, we are conditioned every day to distressed, it's unfortunate. So in trying to build strong team, pursue greatness. It's amazing how persistent you have to be intentional, you have to be our authentic, you have to you have to be yourself. And you have to do those things to build trust. And it's very fragile. In some cases. So it really requires you waking up every day and being committed to building trust, so you can get the best
outcomes. Yeah. Last Last question I wanted to ask you had to do with sort of teamwork and sort of day to day operations. And, you know, this, this whole idea of trust, you know, how have you seen kind of low levels of trust, or maybe high levels of trust, affect the way your team operates? You know, maybe maybe an example where people have held back and the team has suffered, or maybe where trust was high, and y'all really knocked it out of the park, can you any, any examples or stories sort of come to mind either on the positive or the negative side in terms of just day to day functioning of
the team? Yeah, the Think about the situation we have here, we have seven functional groups and public works here. And and you can see, you know, each functional group sort of has their own personality, and largely dependent on the level of trust on each of those groups, and each group has, has a different level of trust. And so it's, you can see it based on a number of things like we hit some adversity, each team will respond to that a little bit differently. And largely based on low trust they have within their team. And and so as they like, like I said earlier, it can be very fragile. So if a team is, is on that path, but haven't yet built, the level of trust that's required to face adversity and shine. All it takes is one person misunderstanding something or We've been handling situations right? It can really, it can really break down the trust very quickly. And then leadership has to work really hard to build that trust back up or address the issue very quickly. It's, it's paramount to everything we do. And when we, when we don't have level of trust, you see, you just see signs of it. It's like, for example, how many yesterday it was interesting. This this organization was you know, it's very much sort of a family, this community has a residence requirement is, it's homegrown and assess a lot of the employees here have been here a long time they're from the community born and raised. And over the last few years, there's been some changes and, you know, bringing in new people maybe aren't from the community, but you know, like Halloween, for example, that you would see a lot of people dressed up in Halloween costumes and having fun with that. Yesterday, you did not see that. And to me, that's an indication there's something something going on. And it's not good to figure out what that is, and get back on the right path. Culturally.
Yeah. Wow. I love what a great, great example. For the folks listening to this. It's being observant as a leader and looking around and seeing what's going on. And do you have that kind of family teamed? Spirit? You know, that camaraderie that allows people to dress in costumes on Halloween? If not that, yeah, that's telling you something that's telling you something about the level of trust and the culture as you say, yeah. Yeah, I like something else. You said there too about about misunderstandings, you know, if it's a team that still in the development of their trust, and there's a misunderstanding, which always happens, right, we always say things we don't mean, they come out the wrong way. People take it the wrong way. Those are misunderstandings. And if I know Jeff, and I can trust you, and you say something to me that that I misunderstand. I kind of shrug it off. Because I know you've got my back. We have a high level of trust. We we see eye to eye, we trust each other. But if I don't trust you a misunderstanding it you're right, it fragile is a really good word. And so I really like like the way you kind of frame that up for us. Any final thoughts as we kind of close out our time together who Jeff
Oh, my that I, I would incur at real strong convictions. The importance of leadership and quality leadership and difference between leadership and management. You know, here, I've been really blessed to be able to work with some really exceptional people. And they've really embraced the culture of things. And, and the idea that there's a ton of value and development, leadership at all levels, all levels, giving all giving people access to opportunity, because they have stronger leadership skills. And I would just encourage folks to really think about how they're how they're either how much commitment they have leadership and understanding leadership really is. Thanks. Yeah, thank
you. Yeah, you're welcome. It's, it's great, great to be with you. And I really appreciate your perspective on trust. And I can tell that you. You do invest a lot of your own time in learning about leadership and trying things and of course, no team is perfect, but I do know, a lot of the folks on your team and I really appreciate the effort that you all are making to build healthy li leaders within the unified government there and if folks want to check out the the UG the wine dot unified government, what's your website there, Jeff?
That is WWW dot WYMT coo wi co KC k.ywycokck.org
You said All right, God, Oregon. Great. Well, Jeff this year, Kansas City, Kansas public works director is great. Great to hear from you. And thank you for sharing kind of your life with us some of your journeys and struggles along the pathway of building trust on teams and we wish you all all the best and thank you again for spending some time with us.
Yes, thank you and we appreciate Leader Guide. It's been great working with it, same here. Have a great day.