A local council came to Great Managers with an employee engagement issue. Here’s how we helped them develop effective leadership skills.

Organisations with high employee engagement outperform those with low engagement by over 200%.  Despite this, many organisations don’t place enough focus on engagement. This is particularly a problem in local councils. Leadership in local councils tends to focus on achieving fast results. This can lead to a lack of focus on the wellbeing of the council’s people.Leadership in Local Councils

This leads to a decrease in engagement. Ironically, this then goes on to have a negative effect on results

Great Managers have worked with one such local council for many years.  In 2015, the Council came to us with a major engagement problem. This is how we helped them.

A Leadership in Local Councils Case Study

Our client is a council that serves a population of 41,000. Their aim is to encourage the development of a strong economy. Retail, tourism, and agriculture all play a role in this developing economy.

The council works with the local community to create a progressive way of life. Its services focus on offering an outstanding lifestyle, both for residents and visitors.

Furthermore, the council operates in one of Australia’s fastest growing regions. Because of this, the local council faces more challenges now than ever before.

This may have factored into the council’s decision to come to Great Managers. But there was another issue that caused them to want to improve their strategic leadership style.

The Issues

In 2015 our client realised they had an organisational culture problem. They received disappointing results from an employee survey.

This survey focused on the issue of employee engagement. Several councils in New South Wales took part.

Our client discovered that they had low levels of employee engagement. In fact, they achieved the fourth-lowest rank of all of the councils that took part. Survey participants cited leadership weaknesses and a poor workplace culture as key issues.

The council recognised that they needed to improve to get better results. However, they also needed a solid return on investment. Plus the solution needed to provide minimal downtime.

Great Managers offered that solution.

Leadership in Local Councils – The Great Managers Solution

Leadership in Local CouncilsGreat Managers started by identifying some of the council’s key leadership issues.

We helped them to see that they’d allowed the development of a “them vs. us” mentality. The council had several silos, none of which worked in tandem with one another. There wasn’t a shared vision for everybody to get behind.

We also recognised a lack of self-awareness within the management team. Understanding yourself is one of the keys to developing a strategic leadership style. Yet many within council leadership didn’t see how their actions affected engagement.

We identified another key issue from the survey results. Respondents tended to repeat the same phrase:

“We don’t feel valued at work.”

That’s the most damaging problem when a council experiences engagement issues. An employee who doesn’t feel valued will also not have the motivation needed to give their all for the job.

Our training focused on helping the council’s managers develop effective leadership skills. We also showed them how to apply these skills to ensure their people felt valued at work.

Furthermore, we offered a flexible training program that kept downtime to a minimum. Our use of the 70:20:10 approach also helped the council’s leaders develop. It focused on tangible skills that they could apply.

The End Result

Another survey took place two years after the one that sparked the council into action.

That survey revealed a remarkable turnaround. The council achieved the third-highest rank of all those surveyed. The council’s leadership scores have also increased during this time. The same goes for its safety scores.

Siloing is no longer an issue. Plus, the council’s people are far less likely to complain among themselves about issues. Instead, they work together with management to solve the issues.

The council also came away with a greater understanding of the importance of employee engagement.

Leadership in local councils requires more than a focus on results. You need to keep your people happy to ensure they remain productive.

Our client achieved remarkable cultural change because of their focus on engagement.

Leadership in Local Councils – What Can You Learn?

A lack of employee engagement doesn’t only lead to demotivated people. It also means you’re likely to lose your most talented people. In fact, 73% of disengaged employees are searching for new roles.

This loss of talent can have a devastating effect on a local council. The council already operates to a tight budget. Losing valuable people at the wrong times could lead to project delays. This takes money out of the public purse.

What can you learn about leadership in local councils from this case study?

Here are three leadership tips that will help you to confront the issue.

Tip #1 – Break Down Silos

Silos are the barriers that prevent the sharing of information and talent within an organisation.

Councils tend to have several departments, each working on different objectives. Failure to inspire a shared vision within those departments leads to problems. It creates the “them vs. us” mentality that our client struggled with. Instead of working together, each department focuses on its own goals. They may even see other departments as a hindrance.

The process of breaking silos starts from the top of the organisation. Councils have to set a clear direction that all departments have to follow.

Each department will have its own goals within that direction. But you also need to emphasise the fact that these goals serve a larger vision.

The key is that you have a unique vision that you can share with your people. It’s got to be a tangible vision that your people can see and understand.

Your leadership also has to believe in the vision. They have to communicate it with pride and enthusiasm. This inspires the same feelings in their people.

When done well, your vision flows from the top of the organisation and into every department. Department managers must share the vision to ensure it becomes a part of every person’s thinking.

Once your council has a shared vision, it can overcome the silo issue. This leads to higher levels of engagement.

Employee Engagement

Tip #2 – Use the 70:20:10 Method in Training

The leadership in local councils face a lot of challenges when it comes to developing new skills. They’re often time-poor people. They can’t dedicate weeks of their time to attending seminars and training sessions.

They need a way to learn while minimising their downtime.

Great Managers employs the 70:20:10 approach to training.

This model is the result of over three decades of research into leadership training. It works on the basis that 70% of your learning occurs as a result of on-the-job experience. 20% comes from your interactions with others. The final 10% comes from coursework and training.

The model encourages efficient training. The recipient then applies this training in their everyday work. It focuses on the importance of hands-on experience. Plus, it encourages the application of the knowledge learned in training seminars.

This is important as the majority of leadership training providers focus heavily on coursework and seminars. Managers get overwhelmed with a firehose of information and less than 10% of it is retained. They end up unable to apply what they’ve learned in a practical setting.

The 70:20:10 approach flips that script. It allows for shorter training sessions that focus on key information. Then, it emphasises the application of that information via action learning. It also encourages continual learning from how you interact with others.

It’s the ideal model for local councils. It allows for minimal downtime and better application of learned leadership skills.


Leadership in Local Councils

Tip #3 – Reward Good Employee Behaviours

Our client had a serious problem with employees who felt undervalued.

This is a cultural issue. It often stems from a lack of rewards or appreciation for positive employee behaviours. Managers often underestimate the importance of these behaviours. They believe they’re just par for the course.

In some cases, managers tell employees to do one thing while they do another. This creates a disconnect that fosters disengagement.

Improving in this area helps you to engage employees, which ultimately leads to stronger results.

Develop a rewards system that focuses on the feedback that you provide to your people. Great Managers offer feedback at least once per week. Focus these feedback instances on the positives over the correctives. Try to achieve a ratio of three parts positive feedback to every part of corrective feedback.  Note, this is NOT to be mistaken with the “feedback-sandwich” approach which is now widely known to have the opposite effect on the receiver of the feedback.

Good feedback ensures your people feel appreciated. It shows that you’re paying attention to what they do and want to help them improve. This makes it one of the most effective leadership skills that you can learn.

Finally, any incentive systems that you put in place have to reflect on the vision that you’ve shared. For example, you can’t only offer individual rewards if you tell your people that you value teamwork.

Ask yourself if your reward systems actually encourage the culture that you want to create. If they don’t, you’ll end up with disengaged employees.

The Final Word

Effective leadership in local councils revolves around keeping your people engaged.

Disengaged people leads to poor quality work. Your departments may silo off, which means information doesn’t get shared readily. You create a “them vs. us” mentality among your departments, which leads to more problems.

Creating an inspiring vision that you share from the top down goes a long way to solving this problem. So does implementing a training system that meets the unique demands that local councils face.

Finally, always consider the value of rewarding good employee behaviours. Regular feedback and positive reinforcement ensure your people feel appreciated. You also need a rewards structure that meshes with your vision.

Have you struggled to find a training methodology that minimises downtime?

Are you struggling to solve the problems that disengagement causes in your organisation?

Are you part of the management team at a struggling local council?

Great Managers can help you to engage your people and double your capacity.

Register for our upcoming webinar to learn how you can keep your people engaged.