Dear Management Doctor:
I attended your 2-day seminar for Planning Directors a couple of years ago and found it to be quite informative. Since that time, I have also taken on additional responsibilities within a reorganized Community Development Department. Some of the staff I now directly or indirectly supervise are not planners but are trained building inspectors or maintenance staff.
In light of reduced staffing in municipalities, I imagine that many Community Development Directors find themselves now having supervisory responsibilities over staff with varying areas of expertise (i.e., engineers, inspectors, operations/maintenance, information technologies or administrative support to name a few). Their respective skill-sets can be widely varying and can pose interesting supervisory challenges, particularly if the Director is not an expert in "their field."
I believe there would be a significant amount of interest in future sessions on specifically supervising or directing non-planner municipal staffs,
William J. Heniff, AICP
Dear Non-Planner Challenged,
Thanks for your excellent email. The key to managing people is starting with the recognition that we are all different and can be motivated by different things. There are many different types of planners just as there are many different types of non-planners. Some management techniques are generic and useful across almost everyone. Others are specific to individuals. Increasingly, I see former Planning Directors becoming Community Development Directors and, as you indicate, need to manage more than planners. Here are a few thoughts to help you get started.
The Management Doctor
Interesting question. In my experience, the best way to manage any group of people, especially those of different specialties, is to admit that you aren't an expert in every field. Acknowledge that they will often know more about the technical aspects of issues and that you need them to advise you in order that the department be successful. Each staff member has something to contribute. A planner that becomes a manager isn't in that position due to their planning expertise as much as their ability to manage projects and people.
Sarah S. More, FAICP
I empathize with your situation as for several years I managed a one-stop shop and found the same problems you are encountering.
We engaged Paul Zucker and implemented a vast majority of his recommendations. My most difficult aspect was empowerment. Please make sure staff are properly prepared for empowerment otherwise it could/will backfire.
Good luck and Happy New Year.
Just in case you haven't heard this joke/description before, the following describes the difference between engineers and planners.
We planners, in our careers, begin by learning a little bit about a lot of things. As we go along in our careers, we learn less and less about more and more. Pretty soon we know nothing about everything. Engineers, on the other hand, begin by learning a lot about a few things. As they go along in their careers, they learn more and more about less and less, and pretty soon they know everything about nothing.If I'm really lucky, when I tell this joke to an engineer, the light dawns and (s)he realizes that together we can conquer the world! True!
Polly Carolin, FAICP
Just a comment from one of your former clients, the accidental city management professional. Your City of Troy study is very helpful as we embark on a very serious fiscal crisis. Literally, the City of Troy may collapse and I've been asked to help restructure the City. In the short time I've been a multi-discipline manager, I've found the following to be true. I felt compelled to write this because of the challenging times. Not really sure if these comments are pertinent. Use them if you want. If you are interested we have a lot of information regarding the restrictions on the City's website. Really look at the special election link and presentation on 6-year organizational restructuring plan.
Mark. F. Miller