Listen and learn from the best in local government

At LeaderGov we want to equip you to lead well.   These enlightening podcasts, from top local government and industry leaders, will help you gain valuable insights into a variety of leadership, management and teamwork topics, so you can lead better. 

You can also listen to LeaderGov Podcasts via Apple, Google Podcast or Spotify


It's great to have everybody with us today on our LeaderGov podcast. We hope you're having a wonderful day so far. And thank you for logging in and taking a few minutes to invest in your leadership. That's what we do at LeaderGov. We love investing in individual leaders within local governments so that we can affect teamwork have great teams, and obviously, at the end of the day, a great product for citizens that really engages communities that makes communities work better. And that's what we're about at leader. Gov. My name is Bill Stark. I'm one of the co founders at LeaderGov and along with my sidekick and business partner, Tim Fenbert. We just love, love love investing in local government leaders. So again, welcome. Welcome to the podcast today, we have got a really special topic and guest today we're going to be talking about the power of values. And we have a special guest Suzanne Phillips with us today say hello, Suzanne.

Hey, everybody. So glad to be here, Bill. Thanks for having me. Yeah, absolutely.

I want to share just a quick background on Suzanne. And then you can kind of give us an update on some things you're involved in. So folks get to know you a little bit. But Suzanne has a very successful corporate background in a number of different arenas throughout the years. And one of the things that bubbled up in her corporate background was this whole idea of purpose and vision and mission. And so for many years, she's been working in this general area that we're talking about today, which is which is values. More currently, Suzanne is a speaker and consultant partner with a group called Think Media that's with a que THINQ Thinq Media, which you want to check that out sometime. And so she has a very successful podcast with think media and also has a nonprofit aimed at parents. So any parents listening right now, if you want to maximize your child's process of being educated, wherever they are public school, private school, Suzanne has some great resources. And that nonprofit is called Beacon Parent, BEACON and beacon parent. And so anyway, that's kind of a little bit about Suzanne, tell us what you're up to today. So tell us something exciting that happened in the last couple of weeks, you can share with the audience. Absolutely.

I actually just got back with I don't even know what they were on. I got back Saturday night after having been up in Nashville to record season two of this podcast, that's a new venture for me. And season one just ended. And we'll be launching Season Two in in January. And it is a lot of it is for parents. It's for leaders and seven, eight spheres of influence. And so we're focused on parents, that's the primary audience leaders, secondary audience and really helping them navigate what's going on in culture today. And so much of that has to do with maybe an attack on some of the values that families feel, are getting off track. And so it's interesting how all that sort of comes back to values. Yeah,

I'm so glad you said that. And I wanted to make that point, Suzanne, that even though obviously, our audience has a local government audience, we can counties and cities and taxing agencies, all kinds of folks, special districts, listening values are so foundational to any organization, whether it is a family, or a church or a nonprofit, or a local government or corporation. And I just think of the power that having a common set of values has within any sort of relational framework, whether it's a family, or a team. And one other thing, Suzanna, want to be sure we keep in mind today, at the local government level, of course, we have the city and the county. But we also have departments, we have the public works department, we have the police department, we have the community development, we've got the Animal Services Department. So even within the context of those departments, I really think it's important to emphasize a shared set of common values within the departments, maybe those are operational values, right? No more core values, things we just are going to stand for at a higher level. But anyway, I wanted to make that sort of point today. And again, wherever you are in local government. This is a topic that is a number one foundational for your leadership and leading your team to define where you want to go. So yeah, just we'll jump right in. And then Suzanne, thank you for that kind of introduction. I I wanted to ask you maybe? I don't know. It's like, it seems like a basic question. But why is all of this important? Why do we need to worry about these fluffy things called values? For goodness sakes, we put them on plaques, we put them in the hallway. And then we never talk about them. Right? So tell me, why is it important to establish values? Even if you have a strong vision or purpose statement? For instance? What's your perspective on that?

Well, I think it's so interesting, when we think about a lot of times organizations don't have a strong vision or mission, but when they do, it's so it's so powerful. And we think, man, we have nailed that we know where we're going. So I think the vision is why we're doing what we're doing, it's futuristic. And I think a mission is, this is what we're going to do to get to the long term, why. So that's why we're doing it and what we're doing it but I, when you think about values, I think about values as this is how we're going to do it. It's how we're going to work together to get something done. And so I'll just, I'll give this example of a family or an education, but what I usually say is more is caught than taught. And so the values create the culture that you work in. And when we have a shared set of values, we move better together, we're more efficient, we're not asking questions and, and really a value, I like to call them core values. And core means heart. And that's the definition of core. So it's what you value, it's what's the heart of the organization you're in. And while I think that that can sound fluffy, if I were going to use an analogy, I would say, Well, you know, in your body, if your heart's not beating, you're not alive, you're not going to last very long. And so it sounds like it's fluffy. But when you get to core, it's the central part of what you're doing every day. Because regardless of what product you're putting out, you're working with people. And if you can't work with people, and you can't, and you don't understand what everybody values, and it's not clearly communicated. The work, the work sometimes doesn't get done. It's not efficient. It's not powerful, or you lose people, because you haven't communicated. This is how we're going to work together. This is how we're going to get the job done. Yeah,

you know, I think about Gen Z. And we do we do some training around multigenerational workplace. And everybody kind of always, well, many people roll their eyes when we talk about Gen Z and younger millennials, work ethic, this kind of thing. But I'll tell you one thing about Gen Z is they want purpose and they want meaning. And if in our local governments, if we don't, if we're not clear on why we're doing what we're doing, with a set of values, we're going to lose Gen Z and these younger millennials, and a quote, you know, that comes to mind, Suzanne is I forget who said it, I'm sorry, but you know, if you don't stand for anything, you'll fall for anything. And I think about that with values, we've got to something's gotta be important, right? We got to stay in for something. Well, let me ask you this, then how are values typically used within an organization? How could they be used, you know, successfully, because we don't want it just to be a plaque on the wall. Right? Right.

And I do think that that's typically what happens, you know, you come up with your list of nine things, which is far too many, in my opinion, right? That you're focused on in there up on the wall, and everybody says it, most people can't quote them. But if you're really, if you really value it, then they should be part of the day in and day in, day out breathing of the organization. And so what I like to say when I'm working with people is, you're when you interview, you're the tool that you use to interview people should absolutely be integrated with the values. When you discipline, when someone's written up, the discipline should be around, I mean, it might be something operational, not having a goal or a target. But an equal amount of that discipline or correction, or a write up or warning or whatever it should be around the values of the organization, because that's the pace that you're keeping. And if you're not working with, you know, if you're not gelling with and moving things along, if you're not valuing something, you're slowing things down. And so like to say, you know, if you can see an interview with people and you don't talk at all about values, and then you hire someone and get upset because they don't work the way you work, or they it's sort of on you for not asking or making that a priority. And so I think a lot of the times when we have to do give warnings or correction or do all of this, you know, all the stuff that takes so much time and energy from a human resource standpoint, I think 95% of the time, it's because you didn't talk about values before you put someone on the team.

Oh, that's so interesting. We just did a workshop on how to incorporate experiential Yeah. And it was telling me a story about how you you Use honesty in your last job. And to weed out to your very point, I love that idea. And for those of you that didn't catch that workshop, it's available to you. But Suzanne, your point is very, we can't expect what we don't inspect what we don't, you know, put out there for people. So what are some ways to then integrate values within, like our daily routines, you know, through recognition? Or like you say, accountability? What are your what are some thoughts on that? Yeah,

well, one of the things that I like to say is voice what you value? So if you don't voice it, you know, no, we're not mind reading. And I think a lot of times, especially when I'm talking, when I'm working with parents, and at home, we just, you know, think we're just doing we're doing our kids are picking it up. And that might be the case, but if we don't voice it, how will they carry it on? So it's the same in any organization, a family is just an organization, right? So when you're thinking about, you know, using values on a daily basis, what I like to do, and when I help people kind of take the vision and mission and frame out their values, I usually say five to seven. And then it's not enough to just say trustworthy relationships. That does nothing. That's the plaque on the wall, stick it on the wall and keep going. Right. But if you say trustworthy relationships, how do you define trustworthy relations? One sentence? What do you mean by trustworthy relationships? What's maybe a little like a clarifying question that you might ask to define that. And then I build that out with people like, by having the discussion around it. When someone when people are trying to lay their core values out, there might be five to seven markers underneath trustworthy relationships that says, we do this. We don't do this. We this, this is what it looks like to practice trustworthy relationship. So the first thing is, is it clearly defined? Or is it just a word on the wall. And once you have that, I kind of call it an eye check. Where every one of those values is written out, explained. And then on a minimum of a quarter Quarterly, we go through and we do an add check on rarely, and I personally rarely do this, I occasionally do this, or pretty consistently do this. So let's say if we're doing trustworthy relationship, we've defined it that we've got our seven things we're working through Bill, you would you would do your check, I would do my check in a team meeting. And then we would share, you know, the third one, I pretty consistently do it with number four, I'm actually not very good at following through on that. So I confessing that. But I'm also letting you know, as my teammates, this is hard for me on this one. So there's compassion and empathy that comes when I dropped the ball. Because I've told you, it's hard. But there's also accountability to say, hey, Suzanne, I know that's hard, I'm gonna hold you to, I'm gonna hold you to this one. So I think a lot of times, you know, doing an ad check on a regular basis, having conversations around these core values, maybe the ad checks quarterly, but the conversation, do one core value a month and a team meeting that you just drill down on. And never stop. It's just always going. I think that's, it's a powerful way. And I'll just add this, you can also do that in a 360. So when I build them out, I build a form that says I, and then I build a form that says she or he, you know, so. So if we really are working together as a team, we should be able to do a 360. And give a fair assessment of this is what it's like to be on the other side of you, in terms of value. Like you might think you're nailing it, the rest of us not so sure. And once the team gets comfortable with the language, and they're really consistent and practicing it 360 Shouldn't be a scary thing. They should be invited if we want the truth.

Yeah, that's, that's some good stuff. You know, I was at a local government recently in one of their conference rooms and had a little tent card on there on the board table, maybe two or three of them that listed out their core values with the description. And but I think I think you're right, we've got to give voice to this stuff on a regular basis. And it's a pretty simple idea. In fact, the the city of Atlanta and one of the departments that we're working with the City of Atlanta. This is not directly about values, but it's pretty closely related. And that is they go go they go around the room and provide each other with recognition about last week I saw you do blank. And if we can tie that recognition to a value. Oh my gosh. Oh, you know, so Suzanne, you know, last week I saw you deal with that customer issue in the lobby. And you had a lot of patience with with that citizen. Patient is one of our values and I just want to call you out I'd say, Wow, that was awesome. I saw you do this and this and you waited till she finished. And so me lifting you up. We're saying this in a group. So you get all kinds of side benefit from this. And so you're right, this idea of finding ways to make it topical. I like it voice Giving Voice to Values. I love that phrase. Because if we don't talk about it, we forget it, I guess,

right? I want to I'll piggyback on that I worked with a doctor's office that was that's rather large, has a very large staff. And we rolled all of this out. And they decided, you know, we went through all of it, we've done the work, we're sort of circling back. And they decided at their annual awards, dinner every year, that they were going to do a values based recognition. And so of the six core values that they have, they vote and someone's recognized for each value. And you know, not just the not just how much business they brought in, or all the practical stuff, that's important marker, those are important markers. But they have implemented this. And it's amazing how much more people are paying attention to it. Because it's it's pointed out.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Right, right. And so I think, to the degree that we can have a vision or mission statement that's big. We were in Illinois recently doing a training. And one of the department heads who's over transportation, said Our vision is to is to modernize transportation in our community, I thought, wow, he was full of life and energy. And I'm like, Gee, I want to come work for you. You know, that's a big deal. We're gonna modernize transportation. And so having something that's bigger than ourselves, whether it's a purpose statement, vision statement, or core values, common core values, it does, it does bring us together. And but you're right, we got to talk about it, it's got to be top of mind. You know, I wanted to ask you just, I know that you do this, this work consulting type work, we do some of it as well. But how do you help people determine what those core values are? Because you know, you could start with a list of 50 and then throw darts, I guess. You could do all kinds of stuff. But what's that? What does that look like? What's a great way to? I mean, because part of it is, I kind of know what I want as the leader, right? On the leader, right? yet. I want to hear from you, boys as well. Right? So maybe, maybe both? How do we do that? Yeah,

it's interesting. I do do both. Usually, I would typically. And a lot of times, I'll work with, you know, really visionary leaders who there's, they're, you're trying to get something out of them. So if there's already a vision and mission in place, I would probably start with the leader of the department, and ask them, you know, what do you personally value because here's the deal. It's one thing to put some stuff on paper that you think you should value, but you'll never walk it out. You have to really get to what are the things that I personally value and then tweak it with the team. But so pulling that out and saying, Well, what does that have to do with the work that you're doing and sort of working through that to get a starting point. And typically, and usually, that's, you know, 10 or 12 things, but we don't, we want to end up with half of that. But then what I'll typically do is sit with other key leaders or the rest of the team and say to them, tell me what you value and how you know, you value it here. And give us sort of a list from the team. And then I'll look for common denominators. To say, you know, you want to value this, but what you actually value is this, because this is what's coming out, is this the direction that you want to go. And then we sort of shaped from there, you know, it's like, well, if you think you, you know, value patients, is that the right word? What does that mean? How do you define that? And so, it's interesting, because people think in startups, I love working with startups, because of the whole vision part. But people think, Hey, I'm going to list our values. And typically, if you do the research, strong core values usually come a year or two after you've been going, because it's actually what, what truly surfaces is what you value. And then you can put words and define it for everybody else to sort of build on and build the organization out. So if you're just going to throw things out, like we should value all these things, you're likely going to have a far more difficult time walking them out because they're not true to your heart. Yeah, yeah.

So but this is an exercise. It takes a little bit of time. And then you've got to whittle it down. You've got to create the definitions, like you say and get all that wording right. And then of course, you got this whole idea of then operationalizing it right. But But you're saying typically five or six start with Maybe a larger group but but whittle it down. And I like what you're saying you're not saying so much. What do we want to be that we have no clue of today that we want to go through? It's Who are we? What do we value today? That's instrumental in our success today.

That's exactly right. You can always build on that, you know, in the detail, the stuff usually comes, the rest of the stuff usually comes out somewhere, like what you want to be, but you're not there yet usually comes out and some of those definitions, this is what we want to look like. But the actual value itself has to come out, you know, it really has to come from the heart. And that sounds mushy, but it's just the core is the actual belief. What do you believe about how you work? Yeah.

What are some typical values that you hear a lot in the people that you work with? Is it? Is it professionalism? Is it being on time? Is it honesty? What do you

integrity, um, some form of integrity, honesty, honesty, security, in a secure relationships or trust, I think. And I would say that if that's not one of your core values, there's going to be a problem anyway, the verbiage comes out a little bit different. But I think if that didn't make it somewhere towards the top, you're likely, we're likely off track to begin with. It's interesting. Sometimes this doesn't come out in this exact phrase, but I try if there's anything close that tried to bring it back, but personal responsibility. A lot of times people will just say responsibility or being responsible. And like, it's not really enough, it needs to be personal responsibility, I have to own map heart that protects people from blame. You know, you can't both blame and take responsibility at the same time. So even I always say, and I say this with families, and I say this with organizations, even if you have if there's conflict, there can't be conflict without two people, it doesn't exist. So even if you only have one or 2% of the conflict, you still have part of the conflict. So tell me your part, it created helps so much to sort of have that front and center, because then every time you get together to talk about it, someone sharing what their part in the solution, or their part of the problem is, and it just is a it's a humble approach to working and authentic. I mean, it's true. So those are those are probably the two that in some form pop out. And then we we shape a little bit to make sure that it starts with self. Yeah,

yeah. Well, one final question. How can you share from your experience, the let's say, the wonderful benefit of this, what you've seen in teams and organizations and families that that rally around these shared values? And then what have you seen as on the other end, where people have ignored this kind of thing? Can you kind of speak to that real quick? Sure.

And maybe a family would be a great analogy, since you know, we're really working as a team or a family to begin with. I think what you see, when there are voiced core values that are repeated and held, people are held accountable, personal relationships grow between people, period, you I understand you, you understand me, you know that I got off, I know that I got off, there's forgiveness. Trust is built from communicated shared values, when everybody's walking it out, 100%. And that, again, makes a team gel. So therefore, like in a workplace, there's less turnover. I mean, you're not constantly we're not doing the HR spend 24/7. And we all know that human resources can absolutely drain us. I'm telling you, you know, maybe not 95% 80% of some of that stuff falls away. If this is the if this is the focus conversation. Yeah. Whether it's a family organization, interestingly enough, when you would not when I'm with parents, a lot now, and talking to parents a lot in this, you'll be able to relate to this, with all that's going on in culture. Most of the conversation is there's something that I don't value or my family doesn't value that's being, you know, shared, pushed, whatever the verbiage is, right. And as I walk with, in this, you'll be able to relate as I walk with families that maybe have kids a little bit older than me, their children are millennials, right? So many of them have at least one child that is not in relationship with them, because they didn't know what the values were. They weren't communicated through if they were assumed and not can He indicated, and then all of a sudden, we don't value the same thing. So I'm not even going to talk to you. And then this cancel culture, all of that happens. I think it's the same in an organization. You know, it's, it's if they're not shared values, eventually misunderstanding happens. We're living in a culture where people can't cancel each other is they? They assume instead of ask, right? And so you have to be walking out with the assumption that people are going to assume and not ask. So don't wait to ask voice it ahead of time, and build around it so that those break and the break in relationship doesn't have to happen. Wow,

that is so that is so good. I was thinking when you were talking about the brokenness in our society of us versus them. And shared values gives us a shared camaraderie, a common foundation of agreement, which we just don't have very much in society. So what a great place to hang out with people who have this shared vision, this shared set of values, that we're all in agreement, there's no gray, there's accountability and their celebration. And we're going to talk about we're going to give voice to the value. I really, really love what you're saying this has been, this has been a great a great conversation, Suzanne. Yeah, you know, I want to let our listeners know that if you would like to speak with Suzanne, I want to give her email address and get your pin out. Either from a corporate perspective, or even from a family perspective. Or if you have a nonprofit, even a church for crying out loud. Suzanne is really good at working with organizations and families in this area. Have a values and purpose vision statements. So it's Suzanne, at Suzanne So Suzanne, and Suzanne, or if you can't, whatever get that written down, you can email me Bill, Bill at leader And we would love to invite Suzanne in to help your organization or your family. So yeah, just to circle back, Susanna, I really like your comments. And I just want to go back and reiterate this idea that the soft skills are hard. The people side, the the vision, the purpose, the mission, the values, it's the people side of the business, and it's hard. And a lot of people minimize it, because they're not maybe people oriented. And that's fine. But I just want to encourage any city or county out there that is not living out your values actively. Let us know we'd love to help. Suzanne, leader gov, whatever. And just encourage you to build those shared values. So we can have a little bit better environment than our current culture. Right. Absolutely. Absolutely. Final thoughts. Suzanne, before we hang up. Now

I just I really appreciate being on I'm passionate about this. And that because I've seen the change, you know, because I've seen the peace that comes and then out of the peace comes productivity and relationship. And so I know it works. So if I can help I'd be happy to.

Awesome. Well, thank you so much. Have a great day. And thank you for tuning in to this podcast. We really do appreciate it. It's so good to be on the journey with you all and if you have a topic that you would like for us to cover in a future podcasts, let me know. Again, my email is Bill at leader And in the meantime, have a great day and we'll see you next time. Thank you