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Whole Person Organizational Cultures©

Gerald R. Wagner, PhD.
October 2016

Table of Contents

ROLE MODEL City of Centennial, Colorado: Building a Culture from the Ground Up.

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Annual Signature Event – the Centennial Under the Stars Laser Light Show – which was named Best Annual Event in Colorado Community Media’s Reader’s Choice Awards!

Annual Signature Event – the Centennial Under the Stars Laser Light Show – which was named Best Annual Event in Colorado Community Media’s Reader’s Choice Awards!

Are your employees enthusiastic and committed to their work? Do they contribute to your organization in a positive manner? Do they generate innovative results? The City of Centennial’s do.

Centennial is the 10th largest city in Colorado and a suburb of Denver. It hosts a population of 107,201 that is supported by an extremely lean city staff of 65 employees. The city itself follows a contract model of municipal government, where other public and private organizations provide many services including law enforcement and public works.

Staff from across departments volunteer their time to put together Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches for Mile High United Way.

Staff from across departments volunteer their time to put together Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches for Mile High United Way.

Because of the small staff size, City of Centennial staff members are versatile, team-oriented, and truly dedicated to the city and the businesses and residents they serve. But in 2014, due to natural attrition and a very hot job market, employees were being lured away at an alarming rate. It was clear that a new approach was needed in order to retain and inspire the city’s workforce.

Paula Gibson, Director, Human Resources

Paula Gibson, Director, Human Resources

To start, Human Resources Director Paula Gibson implemented a strengths-based program to help employees identify innate talents with the greatest potential to support employees’ growth and success. Each member of the city’s staff takes the Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0 survey, which helps them find their greatest strengths and skills. This program enabled conversations about how people process information, how they relate to one another, and how they can become more productive as a work team.

Paula Gibson also introduced the organization to Gallup’s Q12® survey to measure employee engagement. This a simple, 12-question survey asks employees if their basic and individual needs are being met. Additional questions measure short and long-term team potential.

Gibson said, “Gallup defines engaged employees as those that believe their basic workplace needs are met and that they have a chance to contribute to their company, experience a sense of belonging, and enjoy opportunities to learn and grow.”

The Planning Group works together to collect resident input for the new Centennial NEXT Comprehensive Plan.

The Planning Group works together to collect resident input for the new Centennial NEXT Comprehensive Plan.

Using these tools, the City of Centennial was able to reduce employee turnover from 42 percent in 2014 to 1.6 percent in 2015, and engagement increased to 73 percent from 55 percent. In 2016, the City’s Engagement Index increased again to 86 percent.

City Manager John Danielson said, “Because we have an engaged culture we are able to do things that others cities only dream of, such as driving performance through contract partnerships. Our employees and contractors are constantly challenged to come up with innovative and efficient ways of delivering value to our customers.”

The City then used this success to tie into their performance review process. Reviews now reflect how employees use their talents in the successful achievement of their goals year over year and call out additional opportunities for them to continue to build their talents into strengths by gaining additional skills and knowledge.

Gallup also provides management tools to help guide conversations about understanding and appreciating strengths, building engagement and collaboration, and driving performance. Two of the city’s executive staff, Human Resources Director Paula Gibson and Deputy City Manager Elisha Thomas, are Gallup-Certified Strengths Coaches and meet with individuals and teams on a regular basis to reinforce the city’s strengths-based culture. These meetings are focused on strengths and helping employees to better merge their own talents in with the team environment that the city strives to achieve. Approximately 50 percent of staff have taken the opportunity to meet with one of these coaches in a one-on-one setting.

City staff, contractors, and Council join to cheer on the Denver Broncos at a Superbowl party!

City staff, contractors, and Council join to cheer on the Denver Broncos at a Superbowl party!

Gibson said, “The most gratifying moment in the coaching process comes when employees sit back and I see the lightbulb come on and know that they truly get it. They understand how what comes naturally to them is a great gift to themselves and to the organization.”

Following the implementation of the Gallup resources and the strengths-based culture, the leaders within the city saw adoption of the initiative at all levels of the organization. Staff members started using the strengths language in conversations with one another, and Gibson reported seeing less conflict at work, replaced by conversations around talents to overcome obstacles. Managers began leading through strengths and action planning to help truly ingrain strengths and engagement into the culture of the City of Centennial.

Root beer floats for the Finance department as they do team building exercises at the Eagle Street location.

Root beer floats for the Finance department as they do team building exercises at the Eagle Street location.

Gibson said, “The city also introduced a number of benefits enhancements such as flexible work schedules, a fitness reimbursement, and increased retirement plan contributions, that have helped create a happier workforce.”

Another benefit that the city provides is the creation and ongoing support for the Centennial Wellness Committee, which has adopted the five principals of Wellbeing, including:

Purpose: Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve goals
Social: Having supportive relationships and love in your life
Financial: Managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security
Physical: Having good health and enough energy to get things done easily
Community: Liking where you live, feeling safe, and having pride in your community

(Source: Gallup’s Tom Rath and Jim Harter definition of Wellbeing)

The focus of the Wellness Committee is to improve employee satisfaction and engagement by supporting the five principals of Wellbeing in everyday life.

Health Links Colorado, a nonprofit initiative of health and safety experts from the Colorado School of Public Health, recently recognized the City of Centennial for its outstanding workplace wellness program. Health Links featured the city as its first healthy business success story of 2016. You can read the full interview here.

A collaboration of staff members from 6 different departmental groups to be the very best kickball team ever!

A collaboration of staff members from 6 different departmental groups to be the very best kickball team ever!

Centennial was also awarded the American Heart Association’s Gold Fit Friendly Worksite Award. This award was a reflection of the city’s commitment to the wellbeing of its employees and culture of wellness within the workplace.  Currently, only five municipalities in Colorado and 159 municipalities in the U.S. have received this award.

It isn’t easy to build an engaged workforce from the ground-up, but as the City of Centennial has learned, with the right tools and an inspired workforce, great outcomes are possible. The city strives to foster a culture that empowers and fulfills its employees by providing meaningful and engaging opportunities that bring out the best in each individual member of the team.

City staff members join together to show support for the Superbowl-bound Denver Broncos.

City staff members join together to show support for the Superbowl-bound Denver Broncos.

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ROLE MODEL Little Helping Hands: Creating the Next Generation of Community Minded Leaders and Citizens.

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Based in Austin, TX, Little Helping Hands is dedicated to helping children as young as three learn the value and importance of giving back to the community.

This unique nonprofit organization provides meaningful service experiences for whole families, so children and parents can engage in volunteering together.

Marissa Vogel, Founder and Executive Director

Marissa Vogel, Founder and Executive Director

The team coordinates, prepares, and supervises volunteer activities for youth and families across Austin, partnering with over 70 local nonprofits and groups annually to identify opportunities for community engagement. Activities are shared with families through a web-based monthly Activity Calendar, which offers a range of activities suitable for different ages, abilities, times, and locations. Each activity is accompanied with reflective, educational materials related to the activity, nonprofit, or population being served. Discussions around the volunteer experience are encouraged both within the family unit prior to the activity, and again after the activity.

Youth volunteers pose in front of one of Mobile Loaves and Fishes’ distribution trucks, which they fully loaded with sandwiches, snacks, fruit, drinks, condiments and toiletry essentials to give to the homeless in South Austin.

Youth volunteers pose in front of one of Mobile Loaves and Fishes’ distribution trucks, which they fully loaded with sandwiches, snacks, fruit, drinks, condiments and toiletry essentials to give to the homeless in South Austin.

Little Helping Hands supports a variety of causes, addressing homelessness, animal welfare, youth development/education, elder care, the environment, and children/families in need, among many others. Since its founding in 2009, participants have provided over 40,000 volunteer hours to the community, a value of over $1,000,000 as estimated by the Independent Sector.

As the largest coordinator of family- and child-focused volunteer activities in Austin, Little Helping Hands’ impact is three-fold: the organization leverages youth and family volunteers to make efficient use of local organizations’ resources, empowers children to give back to their community and to learn the value of volunteerism, and, through this value transfer, encourages the stewardship of future generations both within Austin and the greater Austin community.

Family volunteers cut up fruit for a fruit salad at Caritas of Austin. Little Helping Hands donates and prepares food to supplement 150-200 meals at Caritas every Monday.

Family volunteers cut up fruit for a fruit salad at Caritas of Austin. Little Helping Hands donates and prepares food to supplement 150-200 meals at Caritas every Monday.

Research has shown that volunteering in childhood can have tangible benefits on the participant, his/her family unit, and the larger community. An article published by the University of Nevada in 2003 stated that when youth actively volunteer and engage with their community, they are more likely to develop soft skills of empathy, respect, kindness, leadership, and patience. Another study conducted by the Indiana University Center for Urban Policy and the Environment (CUPE, 2003) found that volunteering in adolescence not only prepares participants for college and work experiences, but engages them in meaningful conversation around future careers. Of the youth surveyed, 67% “agreed or strongly agreed that volunteering has helped them decide what they want to do with their life.”

A youth volunteer shows a lemon to the camera at the East Communities YMCA. The photo was taken at one of Brighter Bites’ distribution days where volunteers bag fresh produce to donate to families in low income areas.

A youth volunteer shows a lemon to the camera at the East Communities YMCA. The photo was taken at one of Brighter Bites’ distribution days where volunteers bag fresh produce to donate to families in low income areas.

The CUPE study also explored benefits of volunteering as a family unit, which is important to acknowledge as all of Little Helping Hands’ programs involve a parent component. The study found that volunteering as a family was associated with higher rates of quality family time, transmission of family values, improved communication between family members, and the opportunity for parents/caregivers to model behavior. Similar studies conducted by the Independent Sector have found that youth who volunteer with a parent/caregiver are more likely to volunteer and donate as they age into adulthood.

Three siblings smile for the camera on their way to loading their car with meals to deliver to homebound seniors for Meals on Wheels Central Texas.

Three siblings smile for the camera on their way to loading their car with meals to deliver to homebound seniors for Meals on Wheels Central Texas.

The mission and vision of Little Helping Hands is consistent with this research. The organization believes that engaging youth in a “service pathway” of volunteering and civic engagement from early childhood through adolescence is a critical aspect of youth development, and providing these educational experiences will help to create a generation of leaders who recognize social challenges in their communities and do something about them.

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Leadership Development Council: A Great Repository of Culture Articles.

image17 My friend Marcella Bremer in the Netherlands publishes the Leadership & Change Magazine – blogs about Positive Leadership, Culture, and Positive Change. This month she has “Welcome to the Leadership Development Carnival: October 2016”. It has 31 blogs great blogs that you will want to take a look at. It is an amazing library of materials.

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Austin Culture Ambassadors Planning Team Retreat.

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The Austin Culture Ambassador Chapter started a discussion in early summer on who we are, where we are going, who we serve, and what are our steps for achieving these aims. We had a powerful conversation on these topics this summer with a gathering facilitated by Leadership team member Carrie Vanston (www.corporateculturesthatrock.com) surfacing what our passions for this work are as well as what resources we have to offer the chapter- resources including time, expertise and wisdom.

From this rich discussion, we realized that as a group we needed to build more cohesion, trust and unity before advocating for others in their organizations to have successful cultures. In other words, it was crucial that we really build trust and meaningful connection, so that we could be a role model for others. We reached out to a Culture Ambassador member, Sheila Armitage, a leader of equine and resiliency corporate retreats (www.thewindhorsejourney.com). She volunteered to design a half-day retreat for us on her ranch in Dripping Springs, just outside of Austin. The goal was to uncover what aspects of organizational culture work we are excited about, what our fears and passions are, and then look to the horses for greater insights on our strengths and weaknesses as a team as we move forward into leading the Austin Culture Ambassador Chapter.

It was an exhilarating experience as we each had the opportunity to bring our authentic selves to the conversation. We left the retreat with actionable steps and a clearer sense of direction for the work we had to accomplish. This retreat provided us with insights for moving forward with greater unified vision, mutual respect and trust. We are now collectively more empowered and in sync with our vision and goals for serving the professionals and organizations in the Austin area who would like a network and to provide resources to help them build more humane organizations that truly reflect “human kindness in the workplace.” This is the work that we are committed to support thus achieving the mission of the Academy in the Austin region.

Planning Team Members left to right: Tracie Thor, MAOM, Sr. Director; Alisa Spirit of the Wind, Communications Analyst, UT Austin; Whitney Stafford, Operations Director., Wuest Group; John Fassnacht, Organization Development, Seton; Angela Silverthorne, Austin Chapter Team Coordinator; Brian Vogel, HR Business Partner, Indeed.com; Carrie Vanston, Cultures That Rock;  Sheila Armitage, Wind Horse Ranch and facilitator for the retreat.

Planning Team Members left to right: Tracie Thor, MAOM, Sr. Director; Alisa Spirit of the Wind, Communications Analyst, UT Austin; Whitney Stafford, Operations Director., Wuest Group;
John Fassnacht, Organization Development, Seton; Angela Silverthorne, Austin Chapter Team Coordinator; Brian Vogel, HR Business Partner, Indeed.com; Carrie Vanston, Cultures That Rock; Sheila Armitage, Wind Horse Ranch and facilitator for the retreat.

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