Assessing Municipal Leadership & Organization: A Valuable EAP Experiment!

Article excerpt

"Participants now call me more readily for management consultations and about far more complex and organizationally intimate issues than they did previously."

In the process of brainstorming ideas for a municipal leadership series, our EAP Training Team developed a seminar to assist managers to evaluate both their leadership skills and the functioning of their municipal organizations. We found the seminar design benefited not only attendees, but also EAP consultants and the municipal leaders who volunteered to participate as panelists in this experiment. This article will explore:

* The content and unique design of this seminar;

* The value of offering the survey and "undercover boss" exercise to enhance the EAP professional relationship with client companies; and

* How to implement this program.

Seminar Design

The focus of the AllOne Health (AOH) Employee Assistance Program seminar was on municipalities. We found municipal leaders who were willing to: 1) distribute a 360-degree assessment tool to their employees to assess their management skills; 2) go "undercover" to learn about what was happening in various departments in their respective towns, inspired by the CBS TV show Undercover Boss; and, 3) attend a regional training to discuss their experience in front of their peers.

The Survey

We reassured municipal leaders that the survey was totally confidential and that only they and the EAP consultant would see the results. After many modifications, the 360-degree Assessment Tool examined five key qualities of a leader: Self Confidence, People Skills, Communication Skills, Leadership Skills and Control of Stress.

The survey offered opportunities to check boxes ranging from Very Low to Very High after each of the 36 survey statements. To ensure confidentiality, no room was left for specific comments about the leader from the respondent. Respondents typically elected not to identify what department they worked for.

The survey was distributed electronically to the self-selected municipal leaders. They, in turn, forwarded the survey on to their employees. The employees were instructed to complete the survey within 48 hours and send it back to the EAP consultant via email or manually for review and tabulation. After tallying the confidential results and sending them to each manager directly, the EAP consultant called each leader to ask them about their reaction to the data.

One manager noted with some disappointment, "I always thought I did a good job of communicating with my employees. I really work hard to keep everyone informed about the big picture and across departments, but apparently, some feel I need to work on that skill. This has been a hard lesson for me--my perception of how I do as a leader versus reality." A relatively new manager was overwhelmed by the support from his employees. "I really didn't expect to get such glowing feedback," he shared. Another town manager actually published the survey results in the local newspaper!

"I have always wanted to do something like this, but felt that my employees would be suspicious if I initiated a survey myself. They'd wonder why," commented one town administrator. "Having the EAP administer the survey and make the results available only to me was what made me say yes to this experiment. It takes a little courage to ask for honest feedback from those you manage, but it's great for your professional development!" This was the sentiment of the participants in this leadership evaluation experiment.

The 'Undercover Boss' Experience

The next step in the process was for each town leader to spend three hours in at least two town departments, working side-by-side with his/her employees. We asked them to keep in mind some questions as they went about their day, such as:

* What is it like to work in this department?

* What is the dynamic among employees in this department? …