Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Conference Call with Departments Heads and Assistants

Dear Department Heads and Assistants:

I have scheduled a conference call for 10:30 a.m. today. I want to be joined on this call by all department heads and assistants. Assistants is loosely described as those persons granted sub-supervisory authority by you, your department structure or the based pay ordinance.

I, on yesterday, approved the suspension of 7 police officers and 2 clerical staffers. I have every intention of making myself clear that we must be accountable for our roles in city government.

I am no longer of the mind that simply talking to department heads will get things accomplished. I have handled everyone with the highest regard and respect for individual styles. I see a culture developing that protects people and protects positions more than requiring performance.

I am being put off in one way or another by too many of you. I am continually asking the same questions and not getting answers. None of this is funny to me. I am not laughing. I easily work more that 60 hours per week. I am generally at work when you come and when you go. I will no longer accept anything less than premium performance.

You need to know EVERYTHING about your department at all times. You need to know your budget matters. You need to know your bill payment status. You need to know about your overtime. You need to know about staffing and scheduling. You need to know vacation status as well as sick day status. You need to know the patterns your employees present like taking every Monday off or smoking dope on the Holidays. You need to know everything about your department. 

I expect and therefore demand that there be cross communications between and among departments to assist in improving our service to the public. I will work tirelessly to see that our citizens get from you and our employees the service that is expected and for which they pay.

Consolidation has been for the most part very kind to department heads. One department head is always singled out and tied to the mayor. Otherwise, each of you have benefitted tremendously from consolidation. You have more equipment, more staff, more benefits, higher pay and higher paid staffs.

Today is the last day that I will be put on hold by any of you. If I ask for something to be done, that is what I want. If you cannot get it done, find someone within this city who can. If more time that I have alloted is required, communicate that to me.

I expect you to make sure that all employees do at least the following:
  1. Show up for work on time;
  2. Perform at a premium level while on the clock;
  3. Respect authority;
  4. Respect our citizens and treat them in that fashion;
  5. Be neatly attired and groomed;
  6. Do not allow their pants to sag;
  7. Do not wear earrings without also wearing panties;
  8. Practice fuel efficiency by not allowing vehicles to idle extended period of time;
  9. Observe the speed limit laws while driving city vehicles;
  10. Do not smoke in city vehicles;
  11. Do not expose chest area;
  12. Follow the chain of command within your department;
  13. Leave best parking spaces for citizens other than employees;
  14. Observe energy conservation techniques; and
  15. Be prepared to provide an honest day's work for an honest day's pay

I am concerned, however, that some departments use the chain of command to choke ideas and keep employees from getting their questions answered. Employees should be made to understand that questions should originate within the department and if they are not satisfied with the answer, they make take their concerns higher without fear of retribution. 

However, retribution is appropriate where the employee sidesteps the process and does not allow the department a chance to address the question and the department head is surprised when I ask about the problem. We must honor the process in order that everyone benefit from a level playing field.

Our agenda will include:
  1. DHR's late posting; no posting
  2. Hiring Practices
  3. Employee Handbook
  4. Deferred Pay
  5. Shop locally ads
  6. Pep rally at 4:30 a.m. at Cad Polk Stadium on 11/14/08
  7. City Council Agenda 11/18/08
  8. Budget -- cut department head salaries by 46% or equal to highest hourly staffer and allow overtime;
  9. Christmas Party 12/13/08
  10. Drug Policy
  11. Thanksgiving Schedule -- Publish in Paper
  12. Christmas Schedule --- plan to publish in paper
  13. Pay Advice advice to employees ---- 11/21 12/14 12/23 01/08 01/22
  14. The Million Dollar Conversation
  15. Employee Morale (August 24th)
  16. Christmas Parade (City Float)
  17. Alleys
  18. 138 South 6th Street Kerry Brewer
  19. Jesap (August 5th)
  20. Freedom of Information Requests for Joe King (and others Landfill)
  21. Fireworks at game on Friday?
  22. Vehicles and Equipment Cleanliness (June 9th)
  23. Fixed Asset Report (department head responsible for accuracy)
  24. FLSA -- pay overtime where necessary
  25. Billy Ray's reasons to shop locally (April 21, 2008)
  26. Abulia
  27. You get the best efforts from others not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by building a fire within. --- Bob Nelson
  29. Payroll Calendar 2009 (March 14, 2008 Payroll Calendar Corrected)
  30. Which vehicles go home and why (March 4th)
I suspect we can move quickly through these items and complete this call in an hour or less.

I close with this adapted letter. I hope you will share it with your employees.

Dear Employee:

You’ve been hired to handle some pressing needs we have here in the City of Helena-West Helena. If we could have gotten by in not hiring you, we would have. But we’ve determined that we needed someone with your skills and experience and that you were the best person to help us with our needs. We have offered you the position and you have accepted. Thanks!

During the course of this year and throughout your employment, you will be asked to do many things: general responsibilities, specific assignments, group and individual projects. You will have many chances to excel and to confirm that we made a good choice in hiring you.

However there is one foremost responsibility that may never be specifically requested of you, but that you need to always keep in mind through the duration of your employment. This is The Ultimate Expectation and it is as follows:

Always Do What Needs To Be Done Without Waiting To Be Asked

We’ve hired you to do a job, yes, but more important, we’ve hired you to think and act in the best interests of the City of Helena-West Helena at all times.

If we never say this again, don’t take it as an indication that it’s no longer important or that we’ve changed our priorities. We are likely to get caught up in the daily press of business, the never-ending changes of our operations, and the rush of activities. This may make it look like this principle no longer applies. Don’t be deceived by this. As long as you are employed with us, you have our permission to act in our mutual best interests. 

If at any time you do not feel we are doing the right thing – the thing you most believe would help us all – please say so. You have our permission to speak up when necessary to state what is unstated, to make a suggestion, or to question a Staff action or decision.

This doesn’t mean we will always agree with you, or that we will necessarily change what we are doing; but we always want to hear what you most believe would help us to better achieve our goals and purpose and to create a mutually successful experience in the process.

You will need to seek to understand how (and why) things are done the way they are done, before you seek to change the existing work processes. Try to work within the systems that are in place, but tell us if you think those systems need to be changed.

Discuss what is presented here with others in the organization so that we might all get better at applying The Ultimate Expectation.

(The City of Helena-West Helena)

p.s.: Like much sound advice, the U.E. seems like common sense.


James F. Valley, Mayor