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Bill Stark 0:05
Hello, everybody, and welcome to LeaderGov's podcast. My name is Bill Stark and I along with Tim Fenbert. Tim and I both are founders of LeaderGov. And we really, really love having special guests come and share with us on different topics related to local government, you know, including leadership and teamwork and all the things that go with that. In this case, today we're going to be talking about this topic of diversity and, and also even even diversity to the level of personality. And we know that you all the folks that are listening, whether you're part of a city or a county or just a department, that having a diverse team and having a sense for how to create and foster that diversity is really an important topic for all of us. And we could all learn and grow in this area. So we're glad today to have with us, Bob Leake. Bob is the CIO for the county, a Clark County, Nevada, which is Las Vegas area. And so Bob, welcome and great to have you with us. Thanks, Bill.
Bob Leek 1:18
Really happy to be here.
Bill Stark 1:20
Yes, Bob, I would love for you just to take a moment if you don't mind. And we've known each other of course, because many of your supervisors went through our leadership development program. I really enjoyed getting to know you. And um, you have really an interesting background, too. I know you spent some time on the east coast before you went to the west coast. So tell us a little bit about where you're from. And what about your journey in local government just in just in a minute or two.
Bob Leek 1:47
I appreciate that bill. I moved here to the Las Vegas area and Clark County about 20 months ago after spending 20 years up in Portland, Oregon. I moved to Portland with my wife, she and I met in Atlanta of all places and took an opportunity to to move to Portland, I took a couple of roles there in the retail industry. Some listeners may be familiar with egghead egghead.com That's kind of where I got my initial introduction to technology. And spent a few years there, went to Banfield Pet Hospital. And then ended up with Kaiser Permanente in the Northwest in so pet health care and then human health care and leadership roles in technology. And after about 10 years at Kaiser Permanente decided I wanted something new and a new challenge and ended up with Multnomah County which is the county that Portland Oregon is in. I'm confident that my background in healthcare helped me land that job because Multnomah County's a big provider of health care. It's the largest group there at the county, but it covers the whole gamut of county services. And in close partnership with the City of Portland. I joined them as the deputy CIO and then as part of a succession plan, stepped into the CIO role, and was the CIO for about three years when COVID hit and all the impacts that COVID has had on every organization, and particularly on local government. My wife and I decided to take a step back and think about, you know, what, what do we want to do, where do we want to be, and decided to take a move and ended up here in Clark County, took the deputy CIO role and through the departure of the CIO, that hired me, and I really appreciated all the leadership and support that she gave me during the time that we worked together. As of May of this year, I stepped into the CIO role here at Clark County. So I'm leading all of the technology efforts for the county, about 2.2 million people that live here, about 46 million or so that visit on an annual basis, and about 150,000 businesses that are based here in Clark County. And so that makes us about the 10th largest county in the country. And really happy to be here and the possibilities around really rethinking the delivery of local government services.
Unknown Speaker 4:22
Yeah. And total for your department IT services to 300 employees.
Unknown Speaker 4:31
Yeah, we have about 200 in our IT department, and then there's probably another 100 it are technology professionals that are embedded in the various departments. I'm a huge advocate of kind of a federated model, centralize what should be centralized, help the departments own and use their technology and do that all in the spirit of partnership. And so, you know, there's terms for it, like shadow IT and so forth. That's that's really not how we operate. We operate from a sense of how do we ensure or that the services we're delivering to the public can be done both digitally. And in traditional ways, because you know, there's six generations out there and in the in the public and you have people that that trust somebody by seeing the whites of their eyes and standing across the counter from them. And then you have others, my kids included that never want to step into a government building and want to do everything. So we have to do both of those at the same time.
Unknown Speaker 5:27
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well, you know, this topic of diversity is really corsets, a very popular topic today. And I, you know, what, what I certainly don't want folks to do and I don't want to do personally, is just give it lip service, right? Like, oh, yeah, well, we'll check a box, you know, we'll hire three more females and, you know, whatever. Let's take this seriously. And let's really look at the why, you know, what's the value? What's the benefit? And what's our role as leaders in fostering a diverse work environment? And I'm just kind of curious why this is important to you, you know, why? Why you think it should be important to local government? What's What, what are your thoughts on that?
Unknown Speaker 6:10
You know, Bill, for me the topic around diversity, I may start in a place that's a little bit different from traditional thought and, and the way that I introduce this topic, when I talk to folks, is that every one of us is diverse. And so diverse isn't what someone else is, in terms of, they're not like me, and that makes them diverse. I am also diverse, and I have a diverse background. I'm an immigrant from the Netherlands, that makes me a white Northern European man who immigrated to the United States at four years old, and I have an immigration story. And I grew up in the South, I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina, and then ended up in Atlanta, and then ended up in Portland. And so my diversity is the sum total of all of my experience. And, and so when I introduced that with folks, I tend to pause there. And then I asked a question. So describe your diversity. Oh, wow. Love that. And it's such a great place to start with folks, because it's it sets up the opportunity to build trust with each other that acknowledges and recognizes, even though we each might have a bias based on how we present externally, right, I'm white, I'm a man, they quickly find out that I'm married, I have kids, right. All of those are my characteristics, my my demographic characteristics, and I'm really curious about other people's diversity, and I love hearing people's story. And so why is that so important to me and local government? Well, it's because we deliver services to the public, right? As a retail organization, you may specialize in a particular type of customer, I think of Rodeo Drive, right? Rodeo Drive doesn't really market to people that might be inner city youth. There's nothing wrong with that. That's just what they've chosen to do. But in local government, we have to deliver services to everyone. Which means that as I think about the population here in Clark County, that's about 40%, Caucasian, but then 20%, African American, 20%, Asian, 10%, Native American, and then a smattering of all the others, we have to think about and come to grips with the fact that each of us is diverse. And we have our lived experience. And that means we have unique needs. And that's the root for me of why diversity is so important in local government.
Unknown Speaker 8:33
Yeah, yeah. Right. And we often see a lot of local government staffs that really don't come close to reflecting the community either. And I often have wondered how can they really do a robust job of representing all of those constituents when they don't really have much in common with them in many ways? And so yeah, I see the I see the value here. And I love your point about asking me about my diversity, you know, I think that's so endearing, because it well, I feel like you're respecting me, and you want to know who I am. And you're letting me be heard. Right. And that's a very endearing a very kind thing, and it sort of draws me into the conversation. Right, right, as opposed to the stereotypes that we think about around diversity. So yeah, I wanted to ask you, how have you seen this emphasis on diversity and personality, which we talked about personality in our in our training workshops, but how have you seen it really benefit your team? What What's the payoff here that our listeners can can be thinking about is, as they think about these, these ideas?
Unknown Speaker 9:50
Yeah, you know, I think personality is one aspect of an individual's diversity, right? So lived experiences another the relationship you might have with your parents or Your friends, is another right, where you fall with respect to your connection to religion. I mean, all of those are various aspects and components of each individual's diversity. What I found fascinating when we did the personality activities through the leader golf program, is it gave me a rich picture of our leadership team, and in terms of their personality, and then starting to think about, you know, why are we here, and we're here to provide service to the public. And our leadership team plays a key role in all of that. So how do we acknowledge that, if each of us is diverse, and each of us has our own personality? How can we bring all of that together and take a look at that across the broad spectrum of our leadership team, to begin to recognize that leveraging our strengths, and then complementing our weaknesses, right through things like professional development programs, but instead of saying, well, so and so doesn't have a strength in this area, so we should hire for, you know, we should hire outside or, or they're weak in that area. And so we need to put them on a professional development program. What we found when we did that personality assessment is, we actually covered the full gamut of everything that we needed in order to be a really strong leadership team. And so the aspect of of acknowledging everyone's personality through that effort that we did, and then talking about how they complement each other. And so taking, you know, maybe an easy one for people to come to grips with is introversion and extraversion. Right? I am a very social introvert. I'm a wallflower, I stand off to the side, I'm not on the dance floor. But I'm a very professional extrovert because of the role that I need to play. And my role is to evangelize and to talk about the possibilities of a better future in public service through the use of technology. And so when I go to social events, I tend to find the extroverts that are social, and I pulled them aside and I say, Look, you know, me, I'm socially introverted. But I would love to meet five new people today, I just need you to help with the introduction, right? Just walk right into a group of people. Hey, I'd like to introduce Bob, and now I can be professionally extroverted. Yeah, yeah. And so I think harnessing our personality and recognizing that it's a very key component of our diversity was really instrumental in us thinking about how do we use our entire leadership team in order to deliver what it is that we do on a day to day basis?
Unknown Speaker 12:46
How have you seen that benefit? I mean, I love the idea of complementing and you just gave a great example, that that's a huge benefit. Where where the extrovert is kind of shepherding you around the room. And and even in business settings in cities and counties, you know, one team member has a certain skill or ability that I don't have, and of course, so one plus one equals three, all of a sudden, that's kind of the benefit. Any other any other sort of team dynamic benefits that you've seen come from this effort?
Unknown Speaker 13:19
Yeah, you know, there's, there's a key one, and I give a lot of credit to our former leader here, Nadia Hanson, who was the CIO that brought me on board, she and I had very complementary decision making styles. And so when you think about the roles that many of us have in, in our leadership, where were counted upon to make decisions, what Nadia and I found is, she's ready to make a decision and then analyze was that the right decision. And I tend to analyze so that I present options for consideration in order to make a decision. And we found that that was really complimentary for the role of the respective roles that we have. And now that I'm in the leadership role, I am cautious in my decision making. And I need people that help to draw that out to say, you know, what, Bob, you're over analyzing this, this is a pretty simple decision. It's either A or B, how much more data do we need to provide to you in order for you to make a decision or to support my decision that I would like to make? And so I think in addition to that introvert extrovert, I think on the decision making continuum, if we step back and look at our personalities, and think about the role that we have to have, finding that finding and harnessing that diversity in our leadership team is really beneficial.
Unknown Speaker 14:39
Yeah, I think to have goal setting. You know, oftentimes, our many leaders are kind of averse to bold goal setting. And sometimes it takes those bolder personalities that are a little more risk averse or not as risk averse to step in and say hey, Let's, let's think bigger, you know, let's, let's think five years from now three years from now not not a goal for next month kind of thing. And so again, yeah, it's a compliment. It's a tremendous benefit. I love that. Tell me about inclusion because this is another. It's not a buzzword. It's a reality. But but it's an emerging word that many of us might not understand, tell me how diversity and inclusion kind of are connected.
Unknown Speaker 15:24
Yeah, I think Bill over the past few years, this is the area that I've really spent the most of my time and attention. And it's, you know, not to oversimplify again, but to say if each of us is diverse, and that's true, okay, then how much more can we do around our diversity, and I've shared a couple of ideas around respect for the other individual curiosity, right building that trust based relationship. But inclusion is where it all really does come together. And so rather than foster a diverse culture, because the true ism is I have a diverse culture, because I have more than one human being right, we have at least two, that means we're diverse already. What we're focused on, and what I've been focused on over the past few years is building inclusive cultures. And for me, that inclusion is to respect for the diversity of each individual, but to make it safe for you as a as bringing your diversity to the table to make it safe for you to fully participate in whatever way it is that we're doing. And so the the behaviors, and what we believe success looks like in creating an inclusive culture, is where we focused our time and attention.
Unknown Speaker 16:40
Yeah, I think about an extra effort here to you know, this is a lot of work. It's not, you know, you think about a lot of predominantly white cultures that we work in, where there is a in the south anyway, a large African American community. And, you know, maybe we're going to have to work a little harder to find candidates that, that provide the employee employment, the leadership, the person, we need, we want. And so it's going to create a little extra work. But But again, we're the benefit, the payoff is this rich tapestry of experience and backgrounds and found, I'll just share a quick story, Bob, we, we love having joy Marshal on our team joy is a facilitator for us African American young lady around, you know, young would just say she's young, and we'll give her age away. And, you know, she looks at things so differently than I do, and has just a completely different approach and vibe and way of articulating things. And it's just made our facilitation so much richer. And I think so much more beneficial to those that were able to serve. So but I don't know, I would just ask you to do you do you have the experience to that it does take extra effort and time. It does.
Unknown Speaker 18:07
It's a huge amount of effort. And it's it's not measured in an initiative or a program, it's, it really is a way to think about that if you're going to build an inclusive culture, you have to commit to that. And that commitment includes the extra effort that you talked about. And in our case, it started with coming to consensus or an agreement around what we felt an inclusive culture would be. Now I have my definition of what an inclusive culture would look like. And once we started to ask everyone, what do you think an inclusive culture would be? There were really four characteristics or behaviors that came out of that. And they are empowerment, accountability, courage, and humility. And so, so we didn't stop there. Then we asked everyone, what's your definition of empowerment? And you could immediately and I'm sure the listeners are now thinking, what would my definition of empowerment be? And it might be well, somebody told me that I can make decisions. And another person's definition of empowerment might be, I am allowed to make decisions and not be questioned about them. Right? You could do that same exercise around accountability. What does accountability mean? And then when we got to courage and humility, it was really fascinating to see people's lived experience and their personalities come to life as to what they felt courage and humility were. But out of that effort, what we discovered is a shared set of definitions about what we wanted our culture to be. And there became that opportune moment to say, if this is who we want to be and how we want to act and behave with each other. Here's an opportunity that if this isn't the place that you want to be, maybe you should think about finding a different place because If you're going to be part of our inclusive culture, then these are the expectations that we have. And it was a very tenuous moment in which we weren't encouraging anyone to leave. But we recognize that each individual might have a short journey or a long journey based on their past their background, their personality, their cultural difference, and all of the gifts that they brought to the table. And so that that aspect, that's I totally agree with how you characterize the bill, that was a lot of hard work. In fact, that was about 12 months worth of work. Before we even got to a point where we said, All right, now we have a shared set of definitions, and a shared sense of vision and outcome. Now, let's go do the next set of work, which became applying those behaviors with our teams. This was all done with just our leadership team. Let's apply those behaviors with our team. So we went from about 30 people out to about 200 people, and went through that exercise each person with their team. Wow. So you can imagine about two years into this work, everybody was thinking, what are we doing? Because, you know, this doesn't feel traditional? I mean, wasn't it okay to measure that we had more women or more African Americans or that we were creating opportunities for underserved or unserved communities to participate in the work that we're doing? Yes, yes. And yes. But the the magic really became when we settled on a definition of what a successful program would look like.
Unknown Speaker 21:34
Yeah, yeah, getting everybody on the same page. And taking the time to do that, again, you're asking other people for their input in their perspective, and, and respecting where they come from, and their unique background, their diversity, I love that. If somebody wants to start this process, you know, how do you how do you measure success of this type of of effort? How would you have you seen that measured in your world,
Unknown Speaker 22:06
you know, I'm going to add a third term to this. And it's, you know, it's typical, and when you see this reflected diversity, equity and inclusion. And so I'm going to just a quick note on equity, equity as an outcome, right equity, if one thinks about, and people can look up various pictorial representations of equity, one of the most striking ones is the one where you have the kids that are trying to watch a baseball game. And the tall kid doesn't need a box to stand on. And the medium sized kid needs one box, and the short kid needs two boxes. What we evolved that to is to say, well, what if there was no fence? What if everyone could just stand on their own and watch the baseball game, right. And so this idea around equity, different from equality, right, with equality, everyone gets the same amount of resources or help with equity, you get the amount of resources and help based on what you need as an individual. And so when we thought about our diversity, equity and inclusion program, and how to measure the success, I will, I'm happy to share that three years of effort into it, we settled on only one key measure for how well our program was doing. And it was around employee engagement. And so the question that we asked every four to six weeks was simply one survey question on a scale of one to 10. How engaged are you in the work that you do and the organization that you work at? And we would measure that, and we would analyze those results? And we would see variation in the results. So an individual might answer a high level of engagement. And then a few months later measure a low level of engagement. And then we would look at what was happening at our organization. Well, when, you know, we went through economic downturn and, and other external factors. When there were external factors like layoffs that were looming, the engagement level went down, because people were fearful for their jobs. And they started to worry about, you know, am I going to be able to stay, and high levels of engagement tended to correlate when raises and bonuses were being paid out, which is kind of logical. But what we also found is social circumstances, right? If we think back over the last three to five years, the things that have happened around the country that have had a really real impact on the social fabric, we could see the level of engagement of particular individuals and associate and correlate that to activities that were happening outside of the office, or we would have events that happen would happen in the office. And we could correlate that a positive event. Let's say a birth of a child for a co worker might increase the level of engagement because we celebrated those kinds of things or birthdays or retirements but negative activities that would happen inside of our organization, we could see the correlation. And so the success of our diversity, equity and inclusion program, we decided could be measured through the level of employee engagement. And through that, that gave us plenty to work with in terms of how do we support our workforce? And what can we do to foster this inclusive environment that we had all defined together? It wasn't Bob's environment, it was an art environment that we wanted to foster together. And so that was the secret sauce that we came up with. And maybe that's a little bit of a short circuit, for some of the listeners are short cut for some of the listeners. But I'm passionate about this work. And I really would love to see every organization take on the challenge of creating an inclusive culture.
Unknown Speaker 25:47
Yeah, I, you know, struck by the fact that you said you, you you take you survey your employees on multiple occasions for engagement. Yes. Like multiple times during the year, this is like a normal practice. Yeah, it's
Unknown Speaker 26:02
it's something that, you know, having only been here for a few months here at Clark County, it's something that I'm going to introduce here, but it was something that we were doing in Multnomah County. And it was, it was random, right. And it's a one question that came through email, we use the tool from a partner that we worked with. And so every so often in your inbox would come to this question, and you click on the one to 10 scale, and then there was a textbox, to share some context or some comments. And that's what we would review. And it was important to us to not do it, we got to a trust level where it wasn't done anonymously, because we wanted to make sure that if we were discovering trends, or could see particular areas of concern, that we were able to follow up on that
Unknown Speaker 26:49
directly, so by department or by person, or
Unknown Speaker 26:53
we did that by person, and then we would roll aggregate the results we had about 14 teams, right? statistically significant, you know, could always be called into question, but when you roll them up the you know, when you get the whole department, we could see where our level of engagement was. And then if there were particular concerns that were getting flagged, then we would have a conversation about what can we do to acknowledge this situation and not fix it, but address it. Because fixing it tends to be an external onto the situation. Instead, we might say, you know, we've noticed your level of engagement has been dropping recently, you know, are you comfortable enough to talk with us? Or can we provide some help to you, or your team in order to do that. But yeah, I have to start with, you know, if I go all the way back to where we started, you can't do that if you haven't built trust in the relationship between a supervisor and their employees or between management and the employees or along the organization. And so if I go all the way back to respecting you as an individual, and you're a diversity, and three years later, we're able to survey and see what your level of engagement is, I think that was a really powerful story that I love to be able to tell
Unknown Speaker 28:09
Well, I like to this idea, you bring up a paying attention to cultural events, and and knowing that they shaped engagement, that they affected engagement. And we need to be paying attention to those things as leaders, external things in society and, and things that are happening internally. And be sensitive to the quick last question, just maybe a minute or two, because we were a little tight on time. But I wanted to ask you about young professionals, we have supervisors listening to this we have, you know, we might have a supervisor of a parks, parks and rec or maybe even senior care facilities, all kinds of recreational folks listening Public Works, folks, but there are a lot of people listening that are probably less tenured in their role. And I just wonder if there's anything specific you might want to say to them, they're probably a little more dialed into some of this stuff. And then me I'm 61 years old, any any thoughts? You know, for for younger leaders coming into local government now what you might might say to them?
Unknown Speaker 29:14
You know, Bill, I spend a lot of time mentoring others emerging leaders, sharing my story, and I think that my answer to this, it has two or three components. So one, you really need to know yourself. And so that means really understanding who you are, the result of of your, your, your environment, the area that that you've grown up in, the experiences that you've had, and really come to grips with that and know you know, when someone says Who who are you that you have a story that you can tell about that. And that story is going to evolve? I bet if I asked 25 year old bill, and now 61 year old but I bet your story's a little different through through all of that. And so, my first guidance is know yourself. And then two, if you really believe in that each of us is diverse and we bring something to whatever it is that we're doing, then the second piece is to be curious. And to do and establish that trust between two humans in a way that engenders the opportunity to work together. Because we're at work, right, we have our life, and then we have work. And so at work, we're expected to achieve outcomes. And that's my third guidance for emerging leaders, is be really in tune with where you work and what the outcome of where you work is. When I worked for Egghead it was margin, right, the idea to make as much money as we could, when I worked at Banfield, it was help pets be healthy. When I worked at Kaiser, it was help humans be healthy. And now that I'm in public service, it's to make our community better. And so if I'm in tune with myself, and I have a healthy curiosity and respect and celebrate the diversity each of us brings, and I'm tuned into our business outcomes. That's the foundation for great leadership. That's my advice.
Unknown Speaker 31:14
Wow, that's very powerful. Thank you. I love the way love the way you summarize that. So applicable for really anybody but particularly younger folks coming into local government. Thank you for that. And thank you for just spending some time with us today on this important topic. And I, I really, really cherish this idea that we're, it gets back to the metal frame, which is relationships and trust. And so much is built on that we just want to encourage local government leaders out there to keep a focus on those things. Because if we can get good, they're the outcomes, a lot of goals, a lot of the strategies can take care of itself. But thank you so much for being with us today, Bob,
Unknown Speaker 31:57
we really appreciate it. Really appreciate it, Bill. Thank you.
Unknown Speaker 32:00
Yeah, next time I'm in Las Vegas. I'll I'll come give you a ring.
Unknown Speaker 32:04
I'd be happy to host you here and make sure that if you're in Las Vegas that you spend a little bit of time gambling, that's an important revenue center.
Unknown Speaker 32:11
I hope you have a great day. Thank you again, take care. Thanks,
Unknown Speaker 32:17