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Well, a good day, everybody, and welcome to another LeaderGov podcast. It is a hot summer day in Atlanta, Georgia. And so Summer is here, we're still under the semi lockdown of COVID. And so wherever you are, if you're working from home or in a city hall or county, building welcome. And each week, or actually a few times a month, we'll say we we love to interview and get to know local government leaders around the country. And our purpose is very simple. It's to equip, inspire, educate and enlighten local government officials from all around the country, and help help you do your job better, and to help you get things done to help you have a perspective that unique and maybe improved from your past. So you can thrive and be really an effective person at what you're doing. And we like to interview people from different parts of local government, different staff positions that have different insights. And today, we're really excited, because we have Melissa Crowder with us, and she's the assistant city clerk for West Hollywood, California. Good morning to you.

Morning. Thank you for having me. Oh, yeah,

absolutely. It's a delight to get to know you and have having had a chance to speak with you and learn a little bit about West Hollywood. And, uh, y'all call it we Whoa, right? We have we have Yes. But you know, we have not, this topic that we're on today for this particular podcast is about this topic of appreciation, and how leaders can utilize this very simple people concept of appreciation to really, really make an impact in their work. But we're gonna get to that kind of last. But so building up to that, I want to just ask you a couple of questions, we'd love for you just to take a moment. And tell us a bit about yourself, what your role is there at the city, maybe what your role was before you came to California.

So, you know, I've I was born in Alexandria, Virginia, but I've lived in California, most of my life. And I've been in local government. Since 1999. I started with the city of Beverly Hills, I held various roles in that organization anywhere from a legal secretary in the city attorney's office, all the way to the role when I left the city, which was city clerk specialist, and I took a position in West Hollywood, which was a promotion as the assistant city clerk. So I've been in local government for a long time. And it's been you know, most of my adulthood. So that's what I've done.

Awesome family. Yeah. Now, tell us help us to get to know you a little bit more. Tell us in West Hollywood. Of course, a lot of people have visited California and love it. I used to live out there and really enjoyed it. But tell us tell us like a hobby of yours. What do you what do you enjoy doing when you're not slaving away at Weibo?

You know, so I'm an avid reader. And you know, not anything very heavy. I deal with heavy stuff all day in my profession. And so I just like nice nonfiction and fiction novels that are pretty simple. I enjoy my family. That was one of the toughest parts. When we were in the safer at home order was not being able to see my daughter and my granddaughter, and my son in law because they don't live with us. And my daughter is a health care worker. And so that was the toughest part of this because yeah, being with my family, my son is a tribal baseball player. And so baseball is our life for the most part. We haven't had any baseball for quite a while, which is been weird for our family because our weekends were away at baseball games. So last summer, we were in Omaha for a huge tournament, and we were supposed to be in Arizona a couple of weeks ago. And so it's like life has come to a halt in some ways. But just on the on the younger people, you know,

yeah, I know. And I think about the Coronavirus, the impact on just our Connecting as people being able to do things socially which, you know, we're finding is very, very, very important. And it's

Yeah, I actually participate in zoom baby shower on Saturday. And I was like, how do you even have a baby shower, but it was really neat, you know, we play games and we you know, which we didn't get to have have cake or anything, which is probably a good thing, um, since we're all dealing with our quarantine bodies, but it was actually a lot of fun. You know, I've done a couple of, you know, like, cocktail parties with friends. And we actually, I'm in the City Clerk's division, we were doing coffee with the clerks on Wednesdays. So we get our team together and have a Zoom meeting and have coffee and share our I'll share my, you know, whichever son mug you had that day with you, it was a way for us to see each other and to kind of connect and not talk about work and how crazy it's been, but just, you know, checking in, how are you doing? Is everybody okay, you know, because while some of us, you know, we have families, and we're home with our families, we have people who are home by themselves. So,

yeah, I appreciate you bringing that up. And I wanted to sort of play off of that a bit. Cities and counties all across the country are having to adapt to what's going on, much like businesses, of course, but they're also making decisions for the general public. But but you know, what you just mentioned about paying attention to those people, drivers, those influences at the people level, and trying to meet people where they are and comfort them and have compassion and empathy, and having discussions of how are you doing? Not not? How is your role? Not? How are your tasks doing? Right? Are you doing sort of mental health, emotional health? Tell me a little bit more about that. Because I think a lot of cities and counties could benefit from some of the things that you all have been doing. Not only that, which is unique for now, but also you were talking about, you know, how the team comes together, and you all sort of have a culture of learning and people contribute on a regular basis to leading different meetings within the city. Tell me Tell me about some of that.

I Yeah. So you know, we That's one thing about West Hollywood, that's really unique and fine. And that, you know, our city manager Paul Arevalo is, is really okay with others leading conversations, others leading meetings. And one of the things that started prior to COVID was a group called We Are we hope, and they were one tasked with looking at the organization and making recommendations to the city manager, and it was everyone from director level to line staff who were part of these conversations. So you were getting a representation of everyone. And that has actually moved in even while we're home. And we have a weekly we are, we hope call the city manager report to staff on what's going on what their current county health orders are. Where if, when, if we're going back to City Hall, and what that's going to look like. And as we're now moving into four months, since we've been working from home, he's actually we have a different topic each time. So we had our social services staff reporting on how they're delivering meals to seniors in a different way. They're utilizing our transportation vans, which was to pick up our seniors and our disabled community members, they're using those to take food to those seniors who would normally have gone to our community center for their daily lunch. So they're doing that now we're helping the homeless community in West Hollywood, by handing out masks and talking to them about being safe, and you know, installing some wash stations so that they can be safe. It's really challenging in this environment. And some of the innovative things we've done since moving to this around, staying connected with the employees is every morning at 830, Monday through Thursday, we have what's called mindful moments. And it's led by one of the staff members from human resources, and she picks her quote for the day. And she's very honest about you know, where she's at mentally, and then offers a quote, and then everybody is through teams. And so everybody kind of in the chat, you know, will offer an encouraging message or share how they're coping with something or how they're seeing positive. And all this because on top of, you know, the COVID situation, then we had all the protesting going on. And so dealing with a lot of that, and then we've had, they have a group called Hope and connection for those who are feeling kind of isolated. Like I said, we do have some people who they live alone. And so if they can't go to work, and they can't go see friends, how are they staying connected and how are they doing? We have a caregivers group for those who are either dealing with a family member who has COVID or simply has an elderly family member who lives with them or you know, all of us who have shown hildren not only were we learning to work from home, but our kids were, you know, learning from home. And so we were teacher and we were trying to adjust how we did our tasks from home. So I think was Hollywood did a really good job in saying, yes, the work is important. Yes, responding to our community is important. But we have to remember that our employees are our biggest asset, and how do we support them in this environment?

Well, really great, very practical tips and things you all are doing. Very impressive. I'm hoping that other cities and counties that are listening to this are able to kind of key off some of those things. I know that people that we want to serve the whole person when we can, but really even so much more now, obviously, since there's this element of isolation, and so forth, involve. Do me a favor if you don't mind. Could you take your ear thing out? Yeah. I want to see and oh, yeah, both admin. Yeah. And I think you have to put it the other little device to put it in. Because I was getting some Yes. Good. Put those in there. If you don't mind. I was getting some. I don't think it was your hair or anything. Now, okay, now? Yeah.

gonna just use the computer audio?

I think so. Okay. On the bottom left, it says mute there. Yeah. Click on that little arrow next to the mute button.

Yeah. Do you want to use this stereo or microphone? Or? You have

stereo? Oh, yeah. Try that. I can't hear you. There. Oh, yeah. Say something. Now, now you have to use the other one. I think that better? Yeah. There's there's no, what I was getting was a little glitch every 10 seconds. Interesting. Okay. Yeah, there's none of that now. So. Okay. All right. Thank you. Thank you for that. Of course.

Yeah, learning, learning to deal with technology.

The same thing happened to me the other day, and it was my Bluetooth. My Bluetooth was having, I guess having a hard time or something? I don't

know. Yeah, my husband does that sometimes, too. And so he's like, why can they only hear me out of one? Or why can I only hear that matter? One? Yeah, usually the air pods are pretty good. But you never know. Yeah. allergy. It's

whatever. Yeah. Well, we'll go ahead and reconnect them. Okay, well, we're back. You know, that was when to take a little break there, because we had some audio issues. So you may hear a slightly different type of audio right now. Well, Melissa, that wanted to switch gears not a whole lot, actually. Because it's a related topic, you know, this idea of motivation. So excuse me of appreciation. And and in our work as leaders, whether you're a city manager, county manager in finance, tax, tax assessor, whatever. Dealing with people working with people, leading them, giving them feedback, motivating them, keeping them inspired, keeping them focused, all of those things. There are several tools that we have in our in our in our toolkit, and one of them is this idea of appreciation. And I just wanted to share with the audience that's listening. And I think I may have shared this with you earlier, if you give someone recognition on a regular basis, their productivity goes up by 23%. According to a study, that's pretty good jump, you know, by constant, not constant, but regular recognition. You recognize people for something, they do some activity that they did well. But appreciation is different. It's about who the person is. It's not about what they do. And productivity, when you when you appreciate someone on a regular basis, the productivity goes up 43%, it's almost double. It's amazing. And this is a tool that we have in our toolbox as local government leaders. That doesn't cost the city or county any money. It's completely free. Now, I would say it comes from our heart, right? It comes from our interest in caring for people. So this is the topic, it's appreciation. And I just wanted you to speak to a minute for a minute on how you have used this concept of appreciating your teammates and you're on a city clerk team, but you're also on obviously the city team. So you work with a lot of people. How have you seen that play out in your work? How have you used it and what would have been some of the effects that you've seen there in West Hall? would,

you know, sometimes I think the simplest thing to say to someone is, I appreciate you, you know, I appreciate how accessible you are, I appreciate that you go out of your way to help me or help the organization when you really didn't have to, you know, prior to being home, our team, like half of us are off when Friday was not really even half as like 211. Friday and the rest of us are kind of on the other Friday, and we have you ever are avid Star Wars fans. And so, you know, may the fourth is considered Star Wars Day. And so we've done, you know, where we all were Star Wars teachers, I bought the pink pizza, you know, we played Star Wars music we were throughout the day. But we also had fun. And, you know, I've had team members say, you know, I miss those things. And so, you know, Cinco Demayo hit while we were at home. So we actually did a zoom kind of Cinco Demayo thing with our group. But I think telling someone that you appreciate them, you kind of just see this light come on in their eyes, I had one member of the team on when I first came on, refer to himself a scanner, boy, because he's responsible for our content management system. So we use laser fish. And it really hurt my heart when he said that, because I didn't look at him that day, the organization doesn't look at him that way. And having been new to the organization, I didn't know kind of what had happened before he he's been there for quite a while. And so I said, You know what, let's go for a walk. And we went for a walk. And I had found and heard all the things that have been said to him by previous supervisors and boss that kind of made him feel that that was really all he was worth was scanning. And so I make it a point to when we were in the office, go over to him off, you know, how are you doing? You know, hey, we've been to Disneyland lately, because we have in common since we've been home, you know, text or chat with him and just kind of do the same things we would have done when we were in the office. And you know, now he's helping with our public records. Because while as we are all from home people, you know, businesses, so moving forward, people still need access to records. And so he's part of that team. And when he gets to assignments, and he's successful, you just see it on his face, and you see it and how he approaches situations, he's just much more positive. And it's, it's amazing at something as simple as asking someone how they're doing and how their weekend was, or, you know, I appreciate everything you do, I don't consider us I don't look at you that way, the organization and I find value and all these other things. And he's one of those people that seem to grade things that the rest of us don't you know, the three organize the program, because this just doesn't make sense. And he doesn't and it's awesome. And when he feels valued, his productivity just skyrockets. And so I agree with that study that you were doing.

Yeah, it's, it is amazing. We all want to know that we're making a difference that we have some innate value in the world, I would say that's probably true personally, and professionally, am I'm making a difference. Very few people I know, just are there for a paycheck, they actually want to do something of value. And so being able to tap into, and again, just to distinguish to be sure, but he's clear on this recognition is recognizing someone for something that they did, they got a report in on time, they did a great job in front of the City Council at the last week's meeting, they were articulate, they had good slides, whatever that's recognizing them for an achievement. Whereas appreciation is about who they are. So I appreciate your attitude. I appreciate the fact that you're you bring levity to the office, I appreciate the fact that you're so consistent and you're dedicated, you work past five when we need you to. And so those are things that are a little bit more about the person as opposed to any specific project that they completed, per se very powerful. Any other thoughts come to mind to you in terms of where you've seen this work before? Maybe you've been appreciated and what that did for you in the workplace.

You know, I have a phenomenal city clerk. She's actually one of my closest friends now. She was new to her role as city clerk he'd actually only been in the city clerk's office for two years when she was promoted, which was Hollywood is great and doing is promoting from within. And we had two back to back elections, right as we came into the office. And I think you really grow together when you're in the trenches. And I remember the first performance review that we did take her, and she was just, she said, I'm so grateful that I hired you. I'm so grateful that you were here too, because I had a lot more election experience. And not only was it two back to back elections, but there were some weird circumstances around them and how we had to handle things and, you know, in dealing with things we'd never dealt with before, and she said, you know, you were my rock, you were the one who said that I could do it. And I didn't know if I could do it. And oftentimes, our staff will come to us and say, you know, other people in City Hall wish they worked in the city, clerk's. You know, just because, you know, one of our, our admin secretary is on the association board. And so when she was sworn in, we went into our swearing in, and we videotaped it. And we, you know, she was very excited. And it's really, you know, something she takes a lot of pride in. You know, I don't think appreciation has to be this big, huge thing, I think it's just really simple things. And since we've all been home, I've been a lot of rock stars in our organization who have really just stepped up and made life for the rest of us a little easier. We've had to come up with so many new processes for the way we did things, since we've been home that the last one was, can sometimes feel like four years. And our city manager recognizing that everyone feeling a little burnout at this point, telling each other or, you know, I let the team know, if you need a mental health day, to just say, I need to step away from all this for a minute, please take that, because that's important to us, you know, I don't want you to come in every day, or, you know, log into the computer every day. To do this again, you know, I want you to feel like it's okay to say, I need a break from this, because it's been a lot. And now, you know, we're in our election cycle, and like I was sharing before issuing nomination papers within COVID. And making sure everybody stays safe plus all of our regular work. It's, it's challenging. But, you know, I work for a great organization, we, you know, we value each other. We care about each other. And I think that comes through and everything that we do.

Yeah, yeah, that's, we, we often tell people that we work with it everything we do in local government, it falls into one or two buckets. Either it's, it's related to a goal or a task in getting something accomplished, or it has to do with people. And as leaders, we want to be successful in our goals and our vision, mission strategy. And we also want to be successful with people. And it's a learned thing, we can learn how to have better interactions with people. And but it does start with this attitude of I do care about the people around me, and we're going to do something about it, we're going to take action, and make things create an environment where people feel cared for and nurtured and appreciated and valued. And so really, I think, for me, this is one of the sort of underpinning elements of a successful local government is this whole idea of taking care of the team, it's really a little bit about servant leadership, like putting other people before ourselves so

well, and I think, you know, most people go into local government, because they want to help people, you know, they do care. You know, when you see one of your seniors who is food insecure, or, you know, isn't sure how they're going to pay rent next month. That that, that hits you right there. So, yeah, I don't think anyone went into local government to get rich. We do because we care about people. And, you know, that's your community. That's your residents, so to your business owners, but it's your team too. And it's everyone in the organization. So, and I think because we care, you see that in the work product that we do.

Wow, great. I'm so looking forward to publishing this and getting it out to you cities and counties around the country and offering it There's some some ideas and thoughts around how to not only appreciate people, which is that you've kept some good thoughts there. But this bigger idea of how do we care for people in this unique time and space that we're in. So, really, really appreciate your agreeing to take some time and thank you. Yeah. You're a natural, you're a natural. Okay. And, you know, we'll be sure that anyone listening to this podcast, if you're in California visiting, be sure and go check out West Hollywood. I understand it's geographically a small city.

And we're 1.9 Square.

highly diverse, though, right?

It's highly, highly diverse. Yeah. Yeah. Now large LGBTQ community, Russian community, large senior population, we now have some, you know, young families moving in. And so thankfully, we do you know, community surveys often to get a sense of what the needs are of the community and where we're doing really well and where we need to focus a little more resources. So

yeah, well, anybody that's in California visiting go by spend some money at West Hollywood, their tax rolls, right. Yeah.

We just had a roll back in California. So from outdoor dining, we can't do much so Exactly, yeah.

Well, thank you again. It's been a real delight. And hope you have a great week and y'all stay healthy and safe.

You to stay safe and healthy. Bye, everybody.