The role of senior managers in local government is rapidly changing, says Gavin Turley. “So now, more than ever, we need to ensure emerging leaders in the sector are professional and skilled, equipped to tackle challenges, transform services and deliver for their communities.”
Gavin is regional manager, New Zealand, local government solutions, at Civica which provides specialist systems and business process services to the sector.
“There are a host of challenges facing local government leaders and managers in the 21st century,” he says, “delivering services, greater community aspirations, lack of finance, managing staff, engaging citizens, best use of social media, forming new partnerships; and rapidly-evolving technologies and socio-economic demographics.
“And to top it off, they have to contend with the government wading in to change things on the fly.”
Gavin has been involved in the local government sector since 1983: working for many years for a number of local authorities and later becoming part of the supplier community. Civica sponsors the LGMA Management Challenge which in New Zealand is managed by SOLGM.
In a short speech to the challenge teams, Gavin says Fortune magazine recently stated that the most valuable people today are increasingly relationship builders. “Remember, being an effective manager and leader is something you learn.”
Talking with Local Government Magazine later he says emerging leaders need to have a deep understanding of their community and of how the different parts of their council fit together.
“A local authority is made up of 15 or so completely separate businesses… When people talk about how businesses should stick to their knitting, in local government we have about 15 different knitting patterns.”
He suggests mid-tier managers learn as much as possible about other parts of their organisation. He also says local government would benefit from helping talkback hosts better understand how the sector works as many show considerable antipathy towards it.
“The public needs to understand that councils are not just looking after hundreds of thousands of dollars of spend but also millions of dollars worth of assets. And that requires a very different mindset.
“That’s the key to understanding what local government is about,” he says. “Local government is a custodian too.”
This article was first published in the May 2015 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.