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.
We are excited today to share with everybody in local government. Another great topic on our podcast. And this one, you know has to do with this topic of setting high impact goals in local government. And you know, leader gov, we really do enjoy, we love selecting topics like this that are very relevant for local government and getting folks in the field folks in the trenches doing this kind of work and talking to them. And then sharing those ideas with you whether you're in County, government, city government, it's kind of all the same. And so today, today, our topic is setting high impact goals. And how do we do that? Why do we do that? And what are some examples of how that's done? Well, and today, we have a special guest with us. And it's Sherry Hobson. Matthew, she is the county manager for Henry County, Georgia. And, Sherry, if you wouldn't mind, just tell us a little bit about how big is your team? How big is the county? Where is Henry County? Just give us kind of a real brief overview.
Well, excellent. And thank you, Bill for having me on. I certainly believe that this is a topic for all managers, anyone who's in a supervisory role, you've got to make sure that you're identifying those high impact goals. So as Bill indicated, my name is Sherry Matthys. And I have served as county manager for Henry County, Georgia, which is part of one of the metro counties in the state of Georgia. At one time, Henry County was actually one of the fastest growing counties in the nation, and we expect it experienced a population boom. And we really struggled with keeping up with the growth and making sure that we were providing a level of service to the constituents that I believe deserve to be provided that level of service. So Henry County, again, is located in the state of Georgia, it's about 30 minutes south of Atlanta. So most people know Georgia for Atlanta, but we are comfortably south of Atlanta, and we service about 240,000 residents. Here in the county, I have a team of about 32, department directors with seven key team members within that 32 department directors. And we are just a growing county with lots of needs lots of population growth, but also a county that struggled with keeping up with that growth, but also making sure that we understood why we were coming in as a county or as employees to serve daily. So excited about being on here and certainly excited about sharing what we defined as our high impact strategic goals.
Yeah, thank you for that, for that overview. And I wanted to ask you, I think everybody on this podcast today listening can relate to this because we have day to day functions that we have to have to take care of forms, we have to fill out for the state all kinds of like administrative, we call it management stuff, right day to day stuff. But we also as leaders need to be thinking big picture, big goals, transformative goals, not small, we got to do the small, but we also have to make room make time for the big ones. So there's a tension, we believe there's a tension. That's a good tension between the day to day small stuff and the big stuff where we need to be going in terms of goals. Can you just speak to that tension? And what I know that you all have developed three really big strategic goals for the county? Can you tell us how you deal with that day to day tension of in the weeds versus thinking strategically?
You know, I think he put it best. It's that tension in that balancing act. And one of the things that we pride ourselves on is figuring out what are our today issues? And what are the tomorrow issues as the senior executive in our organization. My focus is more on the tomorrow issues, what from, you know, 20,000 degree view? What should I be working on to make sure that we are enhancing the relationships not only amongst our internal stakeholders, but our external stakeholders? And I think that's how our team develop, you know, three high impact goals. Now, I will tell you, we didn't start at three, you know, we believe that we could hang the moon, the stars and everything else. But what we had to really do is take a step back and ask the question, what are we doing great? Where do we need to improve? And how do we build on those relationships? And I think that's how we were able to narrow down to three leadership development, customer service standards of excellence, and then tracking those strategic goals. It's great to have goals, but if no one's tracking to make sure that we are hitting the mark, then why haven't and so I think that was one of the things that our team internally decided upon. And I'll say what was most important about this is it involved all 32 department directors, it wasn't a matter of the county manager coming in saying Hey, today we're going to work on leadership development. it, we're going to grow individuals in our organization, we're going to make sure that they're ready to ascend into that next level. It came from our leadership, it came from those directors who may have been a 1520 year employee who was promoted to a new job. And then they're like, now what? Okay, it's great, you know, I understood how to do the technical things. But what about the leadership piece, I think for any organization, you've got to grow your leaders, but you've got to help grow your leaders. So I think having a leadership development plan, having it in place, so that individuals know when you sign on to work for the government or work for this agency, you know, what the stepping stones are. So that was very important for us, but also the customer service piece. Many, many county governments really struggle at not only the external customer service, but how we interact with each other. You know, if someone calls in they need something, we've got to be able to make sure that we understand what the ask is, but that we're providing a degree of customer service. But the question then becomes, well, what is customer service? Where do you want to me, and I always use my analogy, I want to be epic, I want to be like Disney World, I want to make sure that when somebody shows up, they have an epic experience, but also want to be a pleasure to serve you, which is Chick Fil A's motto. And so knowing that you have the ability to get to those levels, but also having a standard of excellence, so that anyone who applies for a job understands this is what we expect if you're going to work in our community. So it was it was really simple. Once we built from a list of about 15 to 20 things, narrowing it down to three specific things. Because I think in any form, whether you're at the CEO level, or if you're the person that fill in that pothole, you want to grow in your organization, you want to feel like you're providing a high level of expectation when it comes to serving customers. But you also want to make sure that the public holds you accountable, your elected officials, are you accountable by making sure that those goals that have been set that we're tracking them and making sure that we're hitting the mark?
The last Yeah, well? No, that's the wonderful three goals, I want to just clarify for the audience. One was developing leaders all across the county. Number two, it was improving customer service from X rating today to y rating tomorrow. So a measurable change in customer service quality, and then implementing and utilizing a performance management goal tracking system. Those are the three goals. Now you wanted to ask you about the teams. This wasn't something that you were in the weeds on these three, you led the effort, and not even your seven cluster leaders lead the effort necessarily? How many people were on each of these teams, cross functional teams? And how they come together? And what how would you say that helped getting these goals, you know, implemented the fact that there was a diverse cross functional team put together for each one.
So Bill, I think for me, that was the biggest part of making sure that the process was going to be successful. The teams were split up, most teams average between 10 and 12, staff members, and they were from various disciplines, I may have had someone from the fire department, sitting at the table with my public works team, or my communications team, or even my transit team sitting with my planning and zoning team. And I allow them to determine who's going to lead the charge, you have 12 team members who's going to be the captain this week, but who's gonna be the captain in two weeks, he's gonna be the person that makes sure that we're having meetings that we're sitting down, and we're having conversations. So a lot of it fell on the staff, my biggest directive to the staff is that we need to make sure that we've identified what these high priority goals are. And we need to make sure that we own it, and that we are the cheerleaders for it. Because one thing I think I mentioned, I have a workforce of almost 2000 employees. It's only 32 of us at the table plus me so 33 at the table, but how do we take what we're developing and sell it to our team? Because that's how you have to get it done. And I felt like creating the teams gave me the upper hand and saying, okay, not only have I bought into it, but now I have 32 leaders that have bought into the leadership development, the customer service, their strategic goals tracking system, and now they're going to tell someone else who's going to tell someone else who's going to tell someone else. And so it's more of a getting their buy in and making sure that they support what I call the mission. You know, it's it's, it's easy to come in and say we're going to do this Henry County is going to be a county of excellence, but making sure that everyone understands that excellence. Everyone understands, you know what the story is that we want to tell is the biggest part. And so I would I would push to anyone that's looking if you've never had high end Have goals, identify those goals, but make sure that you have champions, and make sure that those champions are having conversations communicating. The other thing is I removed myself from it. Once the teams were identified, I allow them to meet, to sit their schedules to brainstorm. Again, it's not a matter of who's sitting in the county manager seat, it's a matter of making sure that your leadership team understands what the goal is. And I think out of it morphed individuals that may have been assistant directors that now we'll be able to easily ascend to a director role. But it also gave me an eye an opportunity to identify some of the quiet storm individuals that I have those quiet employees that are waiting for you to ask them to be involved. And so it really afforded our teams an opportunity to work better together to work with individuals that they may have never worked with, my fire team would have never worked with my transit team. There's you know, Public Safety's very tight knit, but to see them interact with each other, and to really develop from what we were looking to do. Make me excited. And I was really excited and just really elated. But I also want to take this time to say Bill is started with a lot of guidance from you and the leader golf team, having those tough conversations, because I'll be honest with you, a year ago, I didn't think we would be at this point. And just to see our team excited about where we're headed. I've even heard him say I know why I'm getting up in the morning come into work there is.
Yeah, you're welcome. Hey, I want to go back and sort of drill down on a couple of things there. Number one, I want to just for the audience's listening, you said that the leaders of these three teams rotate on a regular basis, I want to be sure everybody heard that. It's roughly every month or two, a small group of the 10 or 12, two or three people are captains. And those captains are rotated, brilliant idea gets everybody invested and committed. The other thing I wanted to ask you about, these teams got together on a regular basis dictated by the team. And they established milestones, they had dates next to the milestone activities. And then they reported back, they communicated back to the cluster leaders to you, there has to be that accountability, right? So there's a cadence to this, there's a regularity to it, there's a rhythm to it, that if we forget to meet and don't update, then it just disappears. Right? It just so what what would you be curious your thoughts on this idea of creating a rhythm for meeting so that it becomes a priority?
Absolutely. It's kind of like you getting up going to work every morning, you know that to go to work, you got to put your pants on, you got to brush your teeth, you got to do your hair. If you don't do that, then you can't go to work. And I kind of relate it back to this. If you don't get in the habit of saying once a week or twice a week, where are we with leadership development? Are we meeting the mark have we done what we've set out to do. But we also had to create timelines and set some expectations. It's very critical to go ahead and book the meetings, whether you have anything to talk about or not have the meetings. And so that was one thing our staff really, really pushed, making sure that if we knew that we had benchmarks, timelines, deadlines, things that needed to happen, we were having those meetings. Every time all team members can show up. But there was a meeting held. And once that meeting was held, follow up provided, you need to make sure that there's always a person there, that's taking notes. But you've also have to have that one accountability person who's going to hold everyone else accountable. And it doesn't have to be the captain. It can just be the person to say, hey, look, we have a meeting on Friday. Where are we? Is there something I need to be reporting back? Hey, we've got to give the county manager an update. Again, I removed myself from it because I wanted to make sure that the leaders understood, it's up to you to make sure that the county manager knows what's going on. I may not ask about it. But it's okay to say hey, look, we set this benchmark we committed to January 2023. We're going to do XY and Z. Here's an update on where we are. And I found that to be more relaxing for the staff, because your team always wants to make sure that you look good and everything's going well. But again, I think it also held them accountable. And I assure you, if you put it down, you won't come back to it. You've got to continue drilling it. And then even after we've implemented the leadership development plan, the customer service standards of excellence in the strategic ghost tracking platform. It doesn't add at that point you You've got to keep massaging it, you've got to go back and assess it. You know, as your population grows, as your employee base grows, you know, we may have thought, hey, it's easy to do a customer service survey, but by just picking up the phone, well, now you know what now that we're growing, our demographics are changing, people don't want to talk on the phone, maybe it's a text message, maybe it's a QR code. Maybe it's just a ring a bell when you walk out of the building, but the captains are driving it. And I'll be honest with you, you know, you think as a director, everybody knows what to do. There's some directors that are really good at the technical, I can get it done, I can change the light bulb, but the leadership piece is where they struggled. And so that's one reason why the plans are so important. But to make sure that we're consistent and that we are meeting, if not bi weekly, every three weeks, there should be some form of an update. And then the bigger picture is you've got to take it from this group and share it with the team.
Yeah, yeah, I wanted to ask you about that kind of as a final detail, which is the launch the communication of these three big ideas to 2000 people, most cities and counties that are listening to this, obviously, aren't as large as Henry County, maybe they have 100, staff, maybe 500 staff. But we still have to be sure everybody knows what we're trying to do. And so I love the idea that it wasn't when he gold, it wasn't even 10, it was three, you know, and I can get my head around three. But we've got to communicate that to the employees, right? Maybe train them on what their part is in it, right? Maybe make some commitments to the employees, hey, here's what you can expect when we're finished with this, which kind of holds us accountable, right. So I'm just curious how you would what you would say about this idea of effectively launching and packaging, maybe even marketing these things to your employees, so they feel connected to it, so they feel a part of it.
So this is my favorite part, because it's a FaceTime with the employees. But it also for me, it was really thinking outside of the box. So we have a couple of things that we're doing internally to launch this to the employees. One, we're doing employee townhall meetings, we do them either in person, or virtually, we give the employees an opportunity to provide feedback to us. But that also gives them an opportunity to have some one on one time, not only with me as the manager, but with their department director in their cluster later. The other thing that has worked for us on making sure that all the employees are getting the same information is I do county manager videos, it's a quick, typically three minutes, a quick three minute video, Hey, today, we're going to focus on this goal, our goal of making sure that we are fiscally responsible, and this is what we're doing to remain fiscally responsible. And then finally, we have the pleasure of having our own video team. So we do a lot of videos, we take our road on the show, it may be a matter of hey, I'm out in the parking lot, our video team goes up to a cluster leader, hey, Henry County is committed to what and having that cluster leader get that information out, and then just sharing it with with our employees. Because I truly believe that the only way that this can be successful is that you got to make sure that the employees understand. But they've also got to know what we're what we're focusing on. So again, employee townhall meetings, email videos, and then just the little virtual videos that we send out to our employees. And with us entering into, you know, a new year, one of the things at the top of the year is going to be that employee video just to say, hey, welcome 2023 This is what we're focusing on. So that's that's what we're doing here.
Yeah, well, you know, and you're also it sounds like trying to be sensitive to and aware of the way different people communicate. Now, you know, when I was coming up, it was, hey, send me an email, it comes in a big brown envelope, you know, and you sign your name when you get the envelope. And, hey, that didn't work today. You know, it's got to be on heck, it's got to be on Twitter. So I liked the fact that you're using video and you're using different environments, and particularly those townhall meetings we talked a lot about today, we talked about making it three goals, not 20. We've talked about putting a team together cross functional team, giving them autonomy, empowering them, kind of forcing them to have specifics, milestones, dates, activities, reporting in on a regular basis, making it visual, putting it on the calendar, and then communicating it out to the employees in a way that engages and lets them know that they're a part of it. And so a lot here and a short period of time, but this has been really a great conversation. Sherry, thank you so much for taking the time to do this because, you know, we want to equip other local governments and give them ideas and thoughts on how to excel. And it's not just the day to day, it's also the strategic high impact goals. And we want to do it with people in mind. Right? So thank you so much for any closing thought or you think you would share with the group?
Well, I will say, again, Bill, none of this would have been possible again, without and I have to give you and your team a just hearty thank you. In bringing together a team. Again, I've served in this role for five years. And believe it or not, this was new for my team, this was new for me, and being able to embrace it and really see it moving took a lot of time and effort. And I think that's my closing comments. It will take time, it will take effort, but you have to be committed. And I assure you, once you're able to identify those three, no more than three high impact goals, you'll be on your road to making sure that you're probably one of the most envied communities out there. And you know, one of our things is we are here to serve. We're Henry committed. And so we're really excited about where we are what we're doing. I hope the next time I'm on here, I can share with you how we've implemented these plans and what our next steps are. So thank you, Bill, for having me. And certainly a pleasure to be alone with you today.
Thank you, great to see you and great to have you with us. And we appreciate everything you do for your team and ultimately that trickles down to the people in Henry County. So hope you have a great rest of the day. And again, thanks for being with us.
Thank you so much. Bill is such an honor to be with you. Have a great day.