Peter Auger, Auburn Hills City Manager
Thoughts on running a city, daily musings, and everything in between.
City Manager, Auburn Hills, MI
While ironing this weekend I watched the movie Gladiator. Forgot what a good movie this was, how many story lines there were running through this tale of time. The thing that hit me this time while watching was the lesson of leadership versus power.
In case you forgot or had not seen the movie it was set in the final days of Marcus Aurelius’ reign, the aging emperor of Rome. After an epic battle, his son Commodus is angered when the father makes known his wish that Maximus (Marcus’ Field General) be his successor. Power-hungry Commodus kills his father and orders the death of Maximus.
I won’t tell the entire story but Good vs. Evil is not always as easy to see in life as on screen. It reminded me of something I read once and jotted down, the difference between Boss and Leader.
Drives employees Coaches employees
Depends on authority Depends on good will
Inspires fear Generates enthusiasm
Says “I” Says “We”
Places blame for breakdown Fixes breakdown
Knows how it’s done Shows how it’s done
Uses people Develops people
Takes credit Gives credit
Says “Go” Says “Let’s Go”
One of the lesson’s that only time and experience can tell is while both list come natural to different people, those who enjoy seeing others flourish more than viewing their own success almost always fall in the leader category.
No, not race time. Sometimes people have to react, use their instinct, fall back on training and just go. This could be a description of City Management. You never have all the information, but you take the best information you have available at the time and make a decision.
You know that kind of reminds me of Ensign Caplan, don’t you think?
You did take American History in school, right… Okay, I see you are struggling a bit, USS Aylwin. Yes, now you got it, on that Sunday morning at Pearl Harbor when the first wave of planes attacked, Ensign Stanley Caplan was left in charge as all other Officers were off the ship.
The Ensign immediately gave the order to start the boilers. It was almost 30 minutes later when the order came down to get the ship out of port. Since the boilers were started they were able to do so right away.
Not the end of the story. Before getting out of Pearl Harbor, they noticed a motor boat traveling behind them about 1,000 yards. It was a group of command officers waving them to stop. Ensign Caplan did not hesitate and continued at full speed, he was able to get the USS Alywin out to the ocean, probably saving the skeleton crew and the ship.
This is one reason why we spend time in our own organization teaching leadership traits and a culture where employees can make decisions as close to the level where the person is there to do the job. It has been our experience that employees even invest more of themselves to the organization when they see we trust them to do the right thing.
People ask me how you learn about leadership. That is a good question. Some people believe leadership is a trait, you have it or you don’t. Other believe you can learn to be a leader. Could it be both?
Maybe there are some traits that you are born with that allow you to exercise leadership when the opportunity presents itself. I also know you can learn when not to exercise leadership. Sometimes the second is harder than the first.
I am currently reading two books on Leadership. One given to me by a current city council member, Launching a Leadership Revolution and the second was lent to me by a past city council member, Triple Crown of Leadership. Both are good in their own right.
Some people think you have to be smart to be a good leader. I don’t think IQ has a lot to do with being a good leader, now wisdom, I think, is another story. Someone having the ability to use what they learn at the right time, for the right reason, I think shows good exercise of leadership.
Another trait I think goes under rated is being able to judge people for who they are. Knowing how to put the right person in a position where they can succeed is an underrated talent that most successful people who exercise leadership have. I just read an article about Tony Tata, a retired military man who now runs North Carolina Transportation Department had no experience with building roads, mass transit, excreta, but he knew how to exercise leadership and is spearheading a change in how traffic and people get moved around and funded in North Carolina.
So you want to be a leader? I think you need a clear vision, have some of the right traits to know when to exercise leadership, and the wisdom when not too and being able to put people in the right positions so that they can succeed.
So it may not be like what Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”
Today our Mayor, Kevin McDaniel, signed the orange barrel as Channel 7’s Pothole Pledge. Channel 7 is reaching out to communities to commit to filling potholes within 3 days of receiving a phone call. Before we put the Mayor out there to sign such a pledge, I made a quick call to the DPW to ensure that we were already doing this in under three days.
The response I received from the DPW was, “Three days, good, we can slow down then…”
Granted, we attempt to keep our infrastructure in good repair but, just like your home, it is a continuous process. Another challenge is all the roads are not under our jurisdiction. Beyond city streets there are rounds under the jurisdiction of the Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC) and Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).
Now that construction season has begun, you will see many orange barrels in Auburn Hills. We have on our schedule for $20+ million dollars in infrastructure projects over the next few years. Some of these were delayed projects in order to leverage other funding (e.g. State & Federal).
So we hope you have some patience over the next few construction seasons. In the meantime, you will see our pothole crews filling the holes in the road.
By Karrie Marsh, Executive Assistant and Guest Blogger
I recently had dinner with a few girlfriends. The conversation always starts off with quick updates on personal lives and family. Then, working for different municipalities, we tend to brag about what new and exciting programs and events are happening at work. If you would happen to overhear our conversation, it would sound very serious at first.
Then the topics of fun begin. Where our next vacations should be or how we spend the weekend to relax and enjoy time away from the everyday hustle and bustle. Well, the topic of pinballs came up and one friend was all smiles as she gave us a lesson on pinball machines, the older models vs the newer ones, what games were more fun and how many she has in her living room! I am not making that up. That’s when I learned that Oakland University actually has a Pinball Expo happening right now!
The Michigan Pinball Expo will be held at OU at the Oakland Center. It runs from 8:00am – midnight today and Saturday. Sunday the fun continues from 8:00am – 5:00pm. There will be more than 125 pinball machines and tournaments happening. The machines are set on FREE PLAY the entire time.
My rather mature, sophisticated and serious friend, who enjoys her stressful but rewarding job, turns into a 16 year old, bright-eyed, giddy girl as she was describing the fun to be had this weekend at Oakland University.
Visit www.mipinball.com for ticket prices and more information, and have fun with kids of all ages this weekend!
Home foreclosure is a tough topic to speak about. There is nothing joyful or uplifting about someone else’s financial challenges. During Michigan’s last decade we, in the City of Auburn Hills, were not immune from residents having financial issues.
But we were/are different.
The one thing our team did different then many communities was to decide not to stay on the sidelines and shrug our collective shoulders. Members from each of our departments came together to talk about what issues we would be looking at if we had a tidal wave of foreclosed and vacant homes sweep our neighborhoods.
It was a great process to witness. The realization of the little the city could do to assist these people to stay in their homes or maintain their mortgage rates drug the conversation down. But, each department could do something to make sure we would not create slum-like conditions, unhealthy areas and eye sores to blocks within the city. Everyone sees the community from their own windshield, and together came up with a program that kept an eye on all foreclosures and, more so, the vacant homes. Yes, we had to learn there was a difference between foreclosed and vacant homes.
At the height, I believe there were up to around 70 homes we were monitoring and assisting anyway we could (from working with banks to working with neighbors). I just reviewed a report that shows that number is down to 18. That is still not perfect and I do not know the normal number of vacant homes in a city at any given time, but I do know through a cross departmental effort our team pulled together and lessoned the blow to these different areas of the city.
Hats off to the entire team. I know sometimes it must have felt awful to check these vacant homes and for what purpose, but now we see home values rising, less vacant homes on the markets and communities staying intact, not just because you cared, but specifically because you acted.
How long until we are at 0?
I like to say losing your sight is not the worst thing in the world, but losing your vision could be fatal to your organization. This is why we are driven to look forward, not just for tomorrow or next week, month or year. A continuous look forward that we keep evolving as we go to be that platform for civil engagement fostering relationships and bringing more public value.
Our teams are always looking forward, but sometimes it is good to glance back. Just to see if we are changing, or are we just attempting to justify in our own minds that we are doing better.
I had a chance to meet with some of our staff this week looking at some of our fleet. Not only looking at cost, but purpose also. Many times over the last half dozen years we have sold two vehicles and only bought one replacement. We had found a different way to maximize the value of other tools or different technologies or training that allowed us to change.
Another avenue we approached was our philosophy on take home vehicles for staff. Our City Council wanted to reduce the number of employees that were taking home vehicles and over time we have patiently and purposely reduced the number of employees and vehicles in the program.
In 2008, the Fleet Division of the Department of Public Works worked with our Finance Department and was tasked with analyzing fleet cost to the City by many different factors that play into managing a fleet. We looked at maintenance cost and when is the trigger point that the vehicles are out of service as much as they are in service. When do we start to lose significant value on resale, etc…?
We also brought in two private sector fleet companies to see if we could improve on and/or create better efficiencies.
One of those areas was take home fleet vehicles. Looking back we have reduced the number of employees that take home vehicles in half and reduced our fleet cost in half. Overall, fleet numbers are also down and the length of time we keep our vehicle has been extended.
We will keep focused, looking out the windshield, moving forward.
One of the things we do is look at different ways to tell our story in Auburn Hills. It is not as easy as you might think, even with all the great things we have going on. I think one of the challenges is being negative and pointing out flaws is so much easier that looking at the entire picture and a larger perspective.
We all can probably find someone with five minutes that will gladly share something they don’t like. While I strive keep a diverse group of people and different thought processes and opinions around me, the one type of person I attempt to keep at arm’s length is the person who is not happy unless they are unhappy.
Yesterday I was able to attend Automation Alley’s Technology Industry Report for 2013. When looking at numbers there are some real interesting things about our region that make us a great place for business addresses. The jobs that involve technology are quite impressive, here are just a few:
The numbers go on and on. Whether you look at the Midwest or the National level, our region competes very well and is a great area for high tech jobs. It is our talent that drives us as our tech job growth is twice that of the national average. Sometimes we work so hard at keeping our head down and driving forward, well it’s okay to stop and pick our heads up, take a breath and compare how we are doing to what others are doing.
Alright, times up, get back to work.
On March 27, 2014, the Oakland County Medical Control Authority recognized the Life Saving actions of employees from Recaro North America, Auburn Hills Police and Fire Departments, and Star EMS. They were honored at a ceremony this morning for saving the life of a 53 year old employee of Recaro North America who suffered a heart attack.
On February 18, 2014, personnel from the Auburn Hills Police and Fire Departments were called to Recaro North America at 4120 Luella Ln. for a 53 year old man who was suffering from symptoms of a heart attack. While on the way to the business the man stopped breathing and had no pulse. Employees from Recaro acted quickly by deploying an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) that was in their building. They delivered numerous shocks to the man as first responders were arriving. They were able to re-establish a pulse and the man regained consciousness. He was quickly transported to the hospital where he underwent surgery and has since made a full recovery.
The following employees were recognized for their life saving actions:
Doreen Olko, Director of the Auburn Hills Department of Emergency Services said, “This was an excellent example of the benefits of having an AED on location and accessible during an emergency. It was a great team effort by everyone involved.”
Mr. Thomas DeGiorgio, Operations Manager at Recaro North America said, “They are very thankful for the quick response from Auburn Hills and service provided.”
Another job well done!
Ever have one of those moments when you are back in time?
Last night I did. I was invited to the Auburn Hills Boy’s and Girl’s Club to see their Leadership Awards ceremony. I was able to take two of my daughters and walk the halls of my childhood. So many memories. I remember walking the railroad tracks to get over I-75 for the 2 mile walk to the club. I remember the ruckus about letting “girls” into the club.
Ah yes, the basketball, flag football and floor hockey seasons where we thought we were on top of the world. Actually, we were. A great place where boys (and girls) could be boys. We could try different sports, learn how to fail and then how to succeed. Learn to set goals, both as an individual and as a team.
It was a place that no one cared what home you came from, we were just kids. It was also the only place I could get a glimpse of cartoons.
The Club is so much more now. It was great to see kids still learning to grow, taking on responsibility and getting recognized for it. Now there is a focus on academics too. Do you know that 95% (maybe higher now) of club members graduate High School? And…they still have bumper pool, air hockey, ping pong etc…
I think my kids thought I was weird (well, I know they know that) about how excited I was telling about all the great things that happen with the Club. Then to top it off, near the end the ceremony they recognized me as volunteer of the year. What a surprise and honor. I was humbled as I walked up and I could remember those “old men” who use to get awards when I was in the club.
Do you remember those old guys? Some were dads, business owners, worked in the area…but all knew how important it was for our youth to have a solid foundation. If you are in my generation, this is a gentle reminder it’s not too late to be that guy (or gal). You can volunteer, you can participate in fund raising, sponsor something or even just participate in the annual golf outing. I know last year we added other kids that are now men to the golf outing from our time, and boy did the stories flow.
Come on, be that guy/gal to help create a future…