Changing a city is a huge challenge, especially when you as the Mayor don’t necessarily have the powers needed to allocate budgets and assign tasks. In most cases, it’s all about your ability to create a consensus around problems and the best strategies to solve them.
We helped dozens of cities design strategies and secure the needed buy-in. We found that the crucial element is the ability to make managers, employees and residents the owners of the change. Here are five tips into what works:
Managing a process requires you to think differently. This is not a “one time” thing, but a journey to gain insights from different circles and build their commitment. A process requires you to define stages, in which you ask different questions different groups. You might start by asking your managers what success looks like, and than ask residents how to achieve it. It should take 4-12 weeks to turn everyone into partners.
Whatever happens, never put your priorities up for a vote. You were elected as Mayor because of your positions and values. You should be clear about the future you want to fulfill, and ask about the ways to get there. Do not ask how to allocate budgets. Do ask how a certain budget can be spent to fulfill the vision of a green city. A collaborative leader should ask ‘how’, and not ‘what.’
Start every process by asking your executives how to achieve one of your outcomes, and getting their buy in to ask others. Then, start internally, by asking employees what should be done differently. City employees are your best allies. They represent you in front of your residents. Make them owners, ask them first, and then reach out to your residents.
General questions on policies controlled by the State or the Federal government will only create a problem at a later stage. Once you ask a question, residents will hold you accountable to do something. Hence, ask about things your city can improve. if you have no impact on a certain aspect of government - don’t ask about it.
When you ask questions, everyone want to hear back from you and understand how their contribution helped. In the past, you could publish a short statement summarizing the things you’ve heard and the decisions you made. Today, you can use advanced technology to make it personal (what you said… what we learned… what we are going to do…).