Telling our story

 telling a story

I have heard the complaint that we “brag” too much, it makes our competing neighbors feel uncomfortable. So we have tempered the way we tell the story, but we still enjoy getting feedback all the same. We take both the positive and negative feedback very seriously and, after a recent city council goals and objectives workshop, we are going to roll out even more programs on employee engagement as well as citizen engagement.

We recently sent out a comprehensive survey in our Community for a Lifetime efforts. We teamed up with AARP and WHO to utilize the tools available to help us through the process. Some people we have found won’t respond due to the politics behind and involved with AARP and WHO. We understand this and hope people still participate in this process. The survey is only one stem in our reach out program, but is a good way for us to gather more information.

Here are some recent unsolicited feedback that we received last week:

Dear City of Auburn Hills,

I am writing to tell you how much I appreciated the Memorial Day Parade. I took my wife and kids there Monday and we had a great time.

First, it was some good old-time patriotic music playing over the speakers before the parade began. Then, I just loved the marching band. But most of all, I really appreciated the dear woman who spoke. I must admit I was moved to tears a couple times throughout her speech and prayer. Please let her know that her words touched me.

It was a good show all around. God bless America!

Thank you,


My company recently finished a construction project in your City and I want to extend a “Thank You” to you and the staff at the Building Department. The plan review and inspection process was realistic and allowed us to maintain harmony and tempo on the job. You exceeded our expectations and experience with the close-out documentation. The Certificate of Occupancy (physical copy) was issued the same day as the final inspection.

The departments’ communication with my field superintendent and overall approach reduced my financial exposure and allowed us to meet my client schedule. I have been in business 33 years, I appreciate experiences like this.

Thank You,

Don’t worry, it will not go to our heads. But we realize a lot of people will be quick to criticize and realize how important it is to our team to hear when people take the time to notice the public value we bring.

Executive Presence

Executive Presence

Read an article that quoted a study by David Morrison, who has worked with professional local government managers for more than 40 years. He was intrigued by executive presence and its impact on successful outcomes in the public sector.

It used a broad-brush question for senior executives in the public and private sectors asking: How is the relationship between local government management professionals, elected bodies, and other groups operating within a local government impacted by executive presence? In interviews with public and private sector executives, Morrison asked:

  • Does executive presence exist?
  • What are its characteristics?
  • Can you name individuals who have it and do not have it?

The results?  It seemed every leader interviewed believed executive presence was real, that is, that executive presence exists. They could point to people who had it, those who did not, and the differences between them. Wow! I must dig into this, but here are the top nine answers from the interviews about the nature of executive presence:

1. You will know it when you see it.


2. It can be a success accelerator or success decelerator.


3. It involves value alignment.


4. Important decisions are based upon it, including hiring and promotional decisions.


5. Information is shared in confidence to individuals with it.


6. Individuals who are knowledgeable and competent are often deferential to those with it.


7. Executive presence is not leadership. It is tied to the role, the achievements, and the accomplishments of the person but is not tied to the actions themselves.


8. Those with it have a certain “wow factor” or magnetism.


9. A leader must be absolutely realistic about possessing the core characteristics of executive presence in order to be strategic about career planning and management challenges.


So those wanting to advance into leadership at the executive level, this might be something to look into.

Midnight Lunch


Just reading a bit on the book by Sarah Miller Caldicott about Edison’s Menlo Park crew. I have just the highlights here but I like how she put her four essential, yet intertwined elements of his (and might I say ours) successfully built team.

  1. Capacity, amalgam of people from different disciplines that allows collaboration to flourish.
  2. Context, approach of reaffirming a problem (we prefer the word challenge in AH) that can drive critical problem solving.
  3. Coherence, ability to encourage debate and dialog while keeping the shared goals in alignment.
  4. Complexity, power of optimizing resources to achieve quality results in the most nimble way.


Wow! We didn’t even know we were mimicking one of the world’s greatest innovators. Way to go team!

Planning for a mess


I know I have touched on this before, but we want to keep an upcoming traffic issue in front of you. We just had a meeting with MDOT and the engineers this week about the University bridge project over I-75. The designs have to be finished up by the end of June so things have to start falling in line. As of now it looks like the bridge will be closed down in 2015 and new bridge put in the same space.

We floated the idea of keeping the bridge open as long as possible and building the bridge to the south, knowing the amount of day time traffic that uses this route. After much thinking and hearty discussion this did not make good sense.

There are two reasons for this. First, it is estimated to be $500,000 less expensive. Next, this will shave up to 10 weeks off the construction time. We have already changed from three year construction (when we started working on this with MDOT) and aiming for one construction year.

Remember, North Squirrel Road will also be reconstructed during 2015, and looks like it will be one-way north for most of the construction process.

We start on Featherstone Rd. next week, which will be one-way west.

Squirrel Ct. work is moving along and we hope to have it open by Summerfest, which begins on June 20th.

What we recommend is for people to start experimenting with different routes now. Find other ways to come and go from work. One last thing, during construction please still attempt to visit the restaurants and other shops in the construction area, I am sure they will appreciate the effort.

Stop. Think.

Today I attempted to go into debt, but could not because of the Memorial Day Holiday.

Really. I attempted to pay for my daughter’s braces during lunch, but the orthodontist office was unexpectedly closed. I called the number and the recording said due to the holiday weekend they were closed today.

Okay, I get that Memorial Day is the unofficial start to summertime, BBQ’s boating, fishing, camping etc…

Does anyone stop and think anymore?

Memorial Day. What are you memorializing?

I think a lot of many people confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle.

Do we still teach that? Or has patriotism gone by the wayside.

I think Monday should be set aside for those who won’t be celebrating. You know, those 19-25 year old kids who will never know what it’s like to go the their kids ball game, see them perform on stage, graduate high school or college…

I still think this day is for those who have given up their life to something bigger than oneself, for the love of our country and our culture. Our way of life meant so much for these youngsters that they accepted the possibility of death, most making that decision in their teens or early twenties.

If they were willing to do that, we can’t put aside a day for them? Have the BBQ, picnic, raise a toast, but not to the ensuing months of summer time, but raise your glass to those soldiers who gave their life for you and me and or their spouses or children who carry the added memory of what could have been.

Let us honor those on this Memorial Day, those who deserve that honor.


Change of Seasons

Yes, Michigan is very fortunate to enjoy all five seasons. Spring, summer, fall, winter and construction…

With each seasonal change we change with it. It could be clothing, food, activity or drive time but it does help us mark the time as it marches by and we continue to make progress year after year. I think the construction season is going to be challenging over the next three years in Auburn Hills.

We will have plenty of private development, World Headquarters, North American Headquarters, R&D facilities etc… But we will also have a lot of public infrastructure investment going in at the same time. We hope people like the color orange because construction barrels will be out in force.

Speaking of changing seasons, with summer just around the corner that can only mean that our annual Summerfest is almost here. I just received word that the State Sanctioned BBQ contest is sold out. With 31 entries (and some big names) this year the downtown area is going to be smelling great in late June.


Management Philosophy

I have been asked by many, “What is your management philosophy?” In a nut shell, put people in places where they can succeed and get them the tools they need to thrive.

Of course, there are probably about five different areas that play into the larger picture. First would be the famous Bo Schembechler, quote “The Team, the Team, the Team”. In my mind the organization is at the center of our decisions. Do the right thing, at the right time for the right reasons.

The second would be to grab input from others. Nobody knows everything, use knowledge of others. This applies to people internal to your organization as well as external to your organization.

Next is to focus on opportunities to solutions. We attempt to remove the word “problem” from our lexicon. Every issue is an opportunity and we should leverage the opportunities to add value.

We should not forget that relationships matter. We actually focus on building relationships. Get to know people before they need you or you need them. Always attempt to allow someone to save their reputation or save face (never burn bridges when you can avoid it).

Finally, exercise Leadership. We need to see the entire picture (or as much as you can) and make decisions based on the best information you have at the time. Then put it into action by the mantra of Adapt, Innovate and Overcome…

Pretty simple really, so simple, anyone could do it.


When Opportunity Knocks

Here is a different event you don’t see every day. Operation Success (a little military jargon for you). This is an event produced by the Oakland County Women’s Advisory Board after focus groups identified that female veterans were an unserved group in our county. You would think we had the collective resources to help, well here is the first effort. This is the first of what we hope is a series of events focused on this audience.

Every service member who Ends Their Tour of Service (ETS) will go through a transition back into civilian life. Could there be obstacles that women face and can they bond together to help each other out?

This event hopes to connect women to resources and to peer support and it will be held right here at Auburn Hills OCC Campus.  The cost is just about right also, it’s FREE!

The Auburn Hills Chamber of Commerce is helping out by handling the registration and can be reached at 248.853.7862. So if you know of any veterans it might be worth passing this information along.

Women Veterans Flyer 3

Never too early to plan



Now is the time, if you are sticking around on Memorial Day, to plan for the Memorial Day Parade organized by our local American Legion Post 143. So pencil on your calendar Monday, May 26th and be downtown prior to 11:00 AM Parade kick off.

Afterwards the Legion is hosting a family fun event at the American Legion Hall, located at 96 Churchill, with hamburgers, hot dogs and chips (while they last).

There should be some crafters there, events for the children and our Police Department will be there between 1:00PM and 2:00PM with free Child ID kits.

Even if you have never been, it’s never too early to plan for your new tradition.



You may have read here, or on one of our other blogs, about how we attempt to infect all of our team with the addictive practice of “Radical Hospitality”. Well, how do we know when it’s working? Like everything else, by observing it and hearing about what our team does on a daily basis through letters or emails (like below). A colleague of mine who runs a nearby city had the opportunity to witness some of this radicalness. He did not identify himself as a city manager. Here is his experience:


On April 15th just after noon, I was traveling south on Squirrel when I struck a pizza delivery box in the road way, the kind that delivery drivers put on the top of their car.  There was no damage to my car, but the box became wedged between my front axle and the road.  I was approaching the City Hall complex and not wanting to drive much further in that condition, parked at City Hall.  However, the box was really wedged tight and I could not get it free.  I proceeded to your Public Safety Building looking to borrow and ax or pole or something just to dislodge this thing.

I was greeted very warmly by a young lady working at the front desk.  She didn’t laugh at me, which would have been warranted, and said she would see what she could locate for me as other officers were occupied at the time.  I understood and waited.  About 15 minutes later an Auburn Hills employee came back into the building with the mangled Hungry Howie’s box in their hand.   I didn’t mean for them to actually go under my vehicle and extract this thing.  I was willing to do that myself.   I didn’t not even tell them which car it was, they just found it and took care of it. 

I was remiss in not getting this gentleman’s name; nor did I get the name of the young lady behind the counter.  As a resident I was very pleased at this level of service, slightly embarrassed but very pleased.  As a professional colleague, I was and remain impressed. 

Please pass along my appreciation.  I hope this finds you well.


Now wouldn’t that make you proud? It does me, and I get to witness it every day. Love those radicals…

  • Peter Auger, Auburn Hills City Manager

    Peter Auger, Auburn Hills City Manager

    Thoughts on running a city, daily musings, and everything in between.