About Municipal Strategic Planning

bullseye and arrow

When candidates run for municipal Council, they do so not only because they have a passion for helping their communities, but they also often have ideas and goals for the community.   

From my experience, the most successful municipalities are those where Council and staff work as a team to achieve identified goals. That’s why it’s imperative to undertake a strategic planning process early in a new Council term.  The process serves important learning and teamwork objectives for both Council members and staff and really starts to get the team pulling in the same direction.

Many great articles have been written by various municipal scholars and organizations on strategic planning, so I’m not going to start reinventing the wheel here, but there is merit in taking a look at a few great examples that will remind us all of what Municipal Strategic Planning is, the value of Strategic Planning for communities and how a municipality goes about undertaking a strategic planning process.

What is Strategic Planning?

#1 – Source: MMAH Municipal Councillors Guide

Strategic planning is a process by which an organization defines its strategy or direction, and makes decisions about allocating its resources – both financial and staff resources needed to pursue this strategy. Through the strategic planning process, a municipal council can develop strategies, goals, objectives and action plans to achieve the future it desires. Once a strategic plan is adopted, a municipality may wish to measure its success over time and review the plan periodically to ensure that it still aligns with current issues, challenges and realities.

Why is it important for Municipalities?

#2 – Source: Bill Winegard, Municipal Strategic Planning Associates

Undertaking a strategic planning process at the beginning of each Council term is critically important to successful municipal governance by:

  • identifying where consensus lies among members of Council
  • establishing priorities for the term and indicators of success
  • enunciating at a meaningful level the commitment of the Council and Corporation to the community and the results that the community should expect
  • aligning the efforts of staff with the direction of Council
  • motivating Council members, staff, and other partners to work purposefully, and to monitor and take pride in their accomplishments
  • sketching out a council term action plan sequence that keeps the most important things top of mind
  • balancing a promising vision with feasible resources

How Do We Undertake a Strategic Planning Process?

#3 – Source: AMCTO – Continually Improving Municipalities to Achieve Strategic Success

A strategic plan is not static, but should be a guiding document which sets out the vision and priorities of the municipality. In this way, it establishes a framework that the municipality’s operations can align with. Strategic success is often seen as being able to achieve the initiatives in the plan.

However, equally important but often overlooked, is the need to ensure service delivery yields value for money for taxpayers. This can be accomplished by linking daily operations with the strategic goals of the organization and developing mechanisms to ensure a continual improvement of organizational performance.

#4 – Source: ICMA Blog Post on Strategic Planning, by Sara McGuffin, Town Manager, Amherst, Virginia 

Through this (strategic planning) process, small communities can remember what makes them unique, focus their efforts on what unites them, and move toward a better future, and do so in a way that pulls the community closer, rather than drives it apart.

Strategic planning that involves the community, incorporates the unique vision and goals of the community, is agreed to by the elected body, and tied firmly to our budgets, will keep residents, staff, and elected representatives focused on the business, as well as the vision, of government and how to make the community a better place.

Are there any Tools to help Small Municipalities with Strategic Planning?

#5 – Source: ICMA Strategic Planning in Small Communities – A Manager’s Manual, by Sara McGuffin, Town manager, Amherst, Virginia 

The Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators (CAMA) recently circulated this tool from the International City/County Managers Association (ICMA).  

This resource will help local government leaders remember what they know and find additional tools to do their budgeting and strategic planning better. You can also download the introduction to the manual by Sara McGuffin here.


When developed with the insights of Council, staff and the public, a strategic plan represents a shared view of the municipality’s future, encourages public commitment and supports the ability for the municipality to move towards achieving the identified, mutual goals.

By, Susan Shannon, AMCT

CEO, muniSERV.ca



Are you practicing SITUATION AWARENESS?

Situation Awareness is a skillset that should be practiced daily and is a valuable tool for staff.

Increasing situation awareness, through constant development and use increases security, protection of staff, protection of assets and overall resiliency of staff and the organization.

Training Situation Awareness benefits every department across the organization.

This training can take many forms. The focus however should always be the same. Elevate the staff member’s capability of being aware of their surroundings and the different influences, factors, items, and people that make up the environment they’re in. Situation Awareness is a mental image of what is happening all around you. Hearing, seeing, feeling for information and the various cues and clues that those influences, factors, items, and people are making in that environment and piecing them together so that they can have a good idea of what is happening and then using that information to predict what happens next.

There are many reasons why we need to be situationally aware.

  • Personal Safety & Security
  • Crime
  • Workplace Safety


Personal Safety & Security

Situation Awareness training can greatly improve an individual’s personal safety and security, regardless of if they’re at work, home or at play. Being aware of the environment you’re in reduces the risk of placing yourself in harms way or removing yourself from harms way. Being aware of the individual that wants to or is about to cause you harm or steal some of your personal belongings, unfortunately in some locals, environments and situations is much needed. Unfortunately for most, we traverse through many different environments on a daily basis that vary in degrees of safety.



Levels of crime or criminal activity vary geographically and from environment to environment. Unfortunately, criminal activity affects many of us, especially crimes against a person, theft, verbal abuse, physical abuse all the way to the far end of the spectrum of terrorist events. In efforts to be continuously aware, individuals should keep themselves abreast of local news and events and equally important when travelling, their destinations local news and events.

Workplace Safety & Security

It is everyone’s collective and individual responsibility to make and improve workplace safety and security. Law enforcement organizations, Crime Stoppers chapter always encourage us to “See something. Say something”. This very same message applies equally from our personal lives to our working environment. “That’s not my job” just doesn’t cut it anymore. Situation Awareness training assists organizations in bettering the safety, security and overall resiliency of their employees resulting in a more safe, secure and resilient organization.


Situational Awareness Training Delivery

There are options for organizations when seeking out Situation Awareness training.

  •          In Person
  •          Virtual Classroom


In Person Training

It has been said that In Person training is the best delivery method and most beneficial for the participants. It can create an environment of interactivity between the instructor, the participant and with the other participants also. Our delivery of this training will only take up to half a day.


Virtual Training

The recent and ongoing pandemic also allowed us to pivot the training and provide it in the virtual world in the varying platforms of virtual meeting spaces. Virtual training offers benefits also in that, we can bring together staff from geographically challenging locals where costs to bring them together is prohibitive making an even larger training group more feasible.


The benefits of Situation Awareness training are many for al individuals. Increased personal safety and security, increased security culture in the workplace and increasing the individual’s knowledge of the environment around them. Whether it is a high or low risk environment, situation awareness belongs there.

The value of the training, the value of the results shouldn’t be overlooked or underestimated.

Should your Municipality need assistance, contact Michael White Group International today, and we will be happy to answer your questions. Visit michaelwhitegroup.com/contact/


Are Your People Being Poached? It Might Be Time for a Leadership Check-up.

In the 2016 Ontario Municipal Chief Administrative Officer Survey, CAOs identified “poaching” of their employees as a significant problem. One CAO bluntly summed up the issue,

“It feels like the succession plan of some of my neighbours is just to recruit my best people with higher comp.”1

In 2022, the challenge of keeping good people continues and it is not limited to municipalities. While compensation is certainly a consideration in luring people away from their current employer, there is another variable that plays a significant role in employee retention. If the adage of “people leave managers not companies” is to be believed, it is prudent for an organization to consider current leadership health when addressing the talent retention issue.

In conversations with my clients confronting this challenge, I lead with this question:

In order to avoid the stiff competition of the current talent market, what are you doing to keep your good people?

This question is followed by a probing of their current leadership health.

·      Are your leaders self-aware and willing to set aside their own biases in their daily leadership practice?

·      Do your leaders have an objective understanding of what motivates each member of their team?

·      Do your leaders have the resources to lead effectively?

·      Do you collect data on a regular basis that provides insight into leadership successes and challenges at all levels, and do you create action plans in response to the story of this data?

I. Are your leaders self-aware and willing to set aside their own biases in their daily leadership practice?

There is no shortage of evidence reinforcing the importance of self-awareness in leadership.  Getting to that self-awareness through honest introspection, however, can be a humbling experience but at the same time, self-reflection is a powerful lever in recognizing one’s biases and realizing greater leadership potential. Ensuring that the organization’s leaders are provided with objective, frequent and reliable feedback about leadership behaviour at all levels can be a powerful strategy in retaining great employees.

II. Do your leaders have an objective understanding of what motivates each member of the teams they lead?

 All members of the team are “wired” differently and therefore require a differentiated leadership approach. Understanding what motivates and demotivates team members and applying this knowledge in the leader- team member relationship demonstrates the leader’s willingness to recognize and respect team members as individuals. Respect and understanding of unique qualities are powerful motivators for an employee’s loyalty to their manager and their desire to remain with the team (and the company).

III. Do your leaders have the resources to lead effectively?

There is an entire industry that has grown out of leadership development. In my own professional experience and that of my clients, there are three metrics that separate “one day wonder” leadership development efforts from those that gain traction and become hardwired into company culture.

1.     Simplicity – Leadership training and materials that are overly complex and require significant amounts of time and effort will not get used. Full stop. The measure of success for simplicity is the ability of leaders to immediately understand and apply new knowledge and materials in their daily leadership practice.

2.     Relevance – Leaders must see a direct connection between leadership development initiatives and their current situation. Moreover, they will need to be convinced of the benefit for themselves and their team.

3.     Accountability – Many leadership development initiatives fail because participants know they won’t be held accountable for implementation.  Perhaps the most powerful accountability strategy is for all levels of leadership, from front-line managers to the C-Suite, to embrace, model, and set an expectation for the implementation of a leadership development strategy.

IV. Do you collect data on a regular basis that provides insight into leadership successes and failures in your organization?

In the same way that leader self-awareness affirms areas of strength and challenge so too, does organizational self-awareness. How do employees feel about coming in to work every day? How do they feel about their boss or the people they work with? Do they have a sense of satisfaction in their job?  The answers to these and other important people-related questions will have impact on the success or failure of the organization because every business problem inevitably includes a people problem.

There are important considerations when conducting an organizational self-assessment:

1.     Measure what matters.  Specifically target those people areas that have the greatest impact on the achievement of organizational objectives

2.     Select the tools and strategies that will yield the most useful objective information and provide a macro view of the entire organization as well as a micro view of each department. These dual perspectives shed light on the performance of all leaders in the organization.

3.     Administer the assessment and collect the data in a timely manner.

4.     The process does not end with the assessment! Analyze the data and create an action plan with key performance indicators and timelines. Everyone in the organization needs to feel that their contribution made a difference.

It takes courage for an organization to “hold up a mirror” to itself, but the payoff is understanding current employee sentiment which is a powerful data point in strategizing for employee retention.

The best option for avoiding the current “war on talent” is to keep your good people from leaving. A talent strategy that includes asking the right questions about leadership health, conducting an objective assessment of current leadership practices, and creating an action plan informed by the story of the data, will be instrumental in the engagement and retention of great employees.


1Ontario Municipal Chief Administrative Officer Survey 2016,  A Candid Look at the Issues on the Minds of Ontario CAOs, SurveyCorp, Spring, 2016

Mitch LePage, a former public sector leader, is a Managing Principal with Predictive Success Corporation and leadership partner to private and public sector clients including municipalities. To discuss your talent strategy or challenges, you can reach Mitch at [email protected]



UCaaS is critical for any authority service improvement

what is UCaaS?

Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS)  is a network of cloud-based telephone system that controls the flow of calls coming in and out of your organization. We replace your on-premises PBXs, as well as your SIP, PRIs, and POTS lines. UCaaS enables you to use a variety of hosted programs and services (including instant messaging, video conferencing, file sharing, and email) over the Internet from any location and at any time.  In addition, UCaaS provides security, allows flexibility, and integrates well with your other software applications including MS Teams. UCaaS systems are updated frequently by the provider ensuring that your communication methods will always be up-to-date in our ever-evolving world.

Why UCaaS is critical for all customer-guided corporations?


Experteers can easily answer this for all municipalities and companies who care about their customers.

First of all we have to emphasize about the importance of continuity in all circumstances, UCaaS provides the best option to avoid your business any hiccups along the road because of any reasons. UCaaS is available on any communication device, laptop, or PC anywhere at anytime to be able to efficiently communicate with your customers.

Security is another crucial requirement for all connected networks, voice calls, video conferencing, and instant messaging are parts of all departments communications to enable them to work properly and deliver services. Experteers, as part of security provider, enable first layer of security by having all our servers in Canada, maintaining 100% availability by having four communication centers in main four cities in Canada in Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver, and Toronto, and to maintain the second layer of security by having all SOC certified centers.


When you have UCaaS, you’ll be able to use all the latest functions and features without any additional cost. You’ll also have the assurance that your information is kept safe and secure in a reliable data center. Having the ability to keep your communications up-to-date allows you to remain competitive and helps to increase your overall performance.



UCaaS allows organizations to add and remove users (for example, temporary employees) without any significant infrastructure changes or capital investments. UCaaS also provides seamless work experiences for your employees since they are cloud-based and accessible from any location – great for those working remotely.



By using a UCaaS system, your productivity increases. All of your employees have unified communications support that is sharable amongst all departments, and UCaaS integrates well with your other software applications (like CRM). UCaaS keeps communication lines open and provides ways for your employees to log into various devices to access their information (such as voicemails).




When switching to UCaaS, there are minimal upfront hardware costs – you only need phones. You will also have the ability to choose the services you need (and not waste money on the ones you do not). UCaaS allows you to concentrate on growing your business by decreasing your dependence on capital investments.




We at EXPERTEERS are helping municipalities, utility companies, and medical centers increase employee productivity by adding a state of the art Unified Communications Solution, enhancing collaboration and increasing employee efficiency.

  • Enable your team to work remotely (hybrid)
  • Train employees more efficiently with sentiment analysis
  • Monitor key performance metrics with automated reports
  • Boost company performance through detailed analytics & collaboration
  • .. and more

Let us help you improve your client experience, call us at EXPERTEERS to learn how we can help enable your business for success in 2022.


Experteers is a system integrator SI and managed service provider MSP for the following services:

– SASE / SD-WAN: to secure all ur networking between all branches.

– NGFW: Next Generation Fire Wall centralized to keep all networks secured in almost real-time updated system.

– NMS: Network Managed System to keep your visibility on all network elements and servers to improve your systems availability.

– Cyber-Security on all endpoints and servers




Great Coaching Begins with a Foundation of Trust

A coaching relationship involves two (or more) people who make up one team. Two people, same team, sounds obvious enough. Sometimes, however, coaching initiatives will bypass this fundamental consideration and drive headlong into the transactional stuff of imparting information. People are all “wired” differently, and it is that mutual understanding of this “wiring”, as well as applying established principles of effective teams, that contributes to the success of a coaching relationship.

The 5E Coaching framework, a five-step coaching methodology first introduced by The Predictive Index, begins with laying the foundation of trust between the two partners based on an objective awareness of each other’s behaviours and drives. In the succeeding steps described below, this awareness is leveraged to:

  • Recognize patterns of gap and fit
  • Formulate coaching objectives, and
  • Establish the “rules of engagement.

Step 1 – Enroll

The objective of Enroll is to build the foundation of trust between the partners in the coaching relationship. This trust naturally flows from the vulnerability that happens when the two individuals share information about their own behavioural drives and needs. An objective behavioural assessment* is helpful in providing these personal perspectives and mitigate the possibility of bias. Understanding a person’s disposition to such workplace realities as leadership style, response to conflict, mode of communication, approach to people interaction, adherence to detail and comfort with change, will be helpful in the subsequent stages of the 5E process, and lead to greater understanding of each other’s behaviours and motivations throughout the relationship.

Step 2 – Envision

In Envision, the mentee’s behavioural information is contrasted with the behaviours required by the role or skills being targeted. From this analysis patterns of gap and fit will emerge that inform the next stage of articulating concrete coaching objectives.

Step 3 – Establish

In Establish the partners develop consensus on the specific areas of gap and fit uncovered in Envision and formulate SMART** goals to build the adaptive capacity necessary to bridge gaps, and leverage areas of natural fit. Success criteria are agreed upon, key performance indicators are identified, specific activities are planned and expectations for the accountability of each partner are clearly established.

Step 4 – Execute

The objective of Execute is to do just that, effectively execute the plan. Awareness of each other’s behaviours and drives as well as the trust created in Enroll will be essential in responding to such potential flashpoints as delivering and receiving critical feedback, getting past one’s personal bias, managing competing priorities, addressing demands on time and sustaining commitment to the project.

Step 5 – Evaluate

Any initiative worth doing is worth reviewing. Included in the formative and summative debrief conversations will necessarily be an honest analysis of each partner’s impact on the process. This very personal perspective will be greatly aided by the foundation of trust that is developed in Enroll and reinforced throughout the 5E coaching process.


Great coaches recognize that laying a groundwork of trust is the first step in a productive coaching relationship. Taking the time to be more self-aware and partner-aware requires vulnerability but, as Patrick Lencioni points out, individual vulnerability reinforces the trust of an effective team. Coaching initiatives that don’t recognize the “wiring” of the individuals involved and ignore high-yield team strategies, deprive the partners of an essential opportunity to support their relationship, establish meaningful objectives, and ultimately guide the process to a successful conclusion.



* In my coaching work with clients, the Predictive Index Behaviour Assessment is used to inform the process of sharing information between coaching partners.

**SMART goals – Specific/Measurable/Achievable/Realistic/Time-Bound

Lencioni, Patrick (2002). The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, A Leadership Fable. Jossey-Bass.

Mitch LePage is a former public sector leader and currently serves as a Managing Principal with Toronto-based talent strategy firm Predictive Success Corporation. Mitch supports people strategy for private, public and not-for-profit clients. To learn more about 5E Coaching or to discuss talent strategy issues contact Mitch at [email protected]


Tips to Run a Successful In-Person Meeting

Over the last two years, many of us had to learn how to connect differently than we were used to. Instead of putting on our best suit, we’re still in our jammies from the waist down. Instead of shaking hands we’re pushing unmute.

Slowly but surely, the world is beginning to open back up. Where it’s safe to do so, many meetings are returning to an in-person format. Since we’ve all become accustomed to doing things virtually, it may take a little time and effort to get back into the swing of the face-to-face meetings. Here are a few tips to help make your meetings run as smoothly as possible.

Set the Agenda:

Municipalities know this, but meetings always run more efficiently when there is an agenda to follow. Having a clear agenda helps set the expectations. If the conversation starts going off track, you can always point back to the agenda items to steer things in the right direction. Setting out estimated times each agenda item should take for discussion, will also help provide direction and keep folks on track.

Start on Time. End on Time.

While it may seem polite to wait for some late arrivals to join, there’s a bigger downside to holding off until everyone is in the room. First and foremost, this sets a bad precedent. Accommodating the latecomers shows the others that arrival times are lax. This can spiral out of control quickly. Secondly, the attendees who’ve prioritized arriving on time are now feeling frustrated that their time isn’t being seen as valuable.

Set Ground Rules:

Having a few basic ground rules around meeting etiquette can help provide great flow in your meeting. Some solid rules, or expectations, can be something simple like; participate, get focus, maintain momentum, and reach closure. If you list these rules at the top of your agenda, both new and returning attendees will understand the direction of the meeting.

End with an Action Plan:

We’ve all been in meetings where the conversation seems to go around in circles without resolving anything. It’s important to establish a plan of action for the agenda items that need follow-up. Assigning certain people to particular tasks and plotting out a course of accountability will ensure that your meetings have purpose and value to all of those involved. We’ve conducted meetings by video teleconference for so long, (and honestly, we’ve become pretty good at them), it will be an adjustment for everyone to start attending again in person. But a well-organized meeting, and Chairperson with good leadership skills, will get us all back
in the swing of things soon.

Oh, and one more thing – dig out that suit again. Things may have changed over the last couple of years, but it’s still not considered socially acceptable to wear pajama bottoms to an in-person meeting.


Reflections on Working in a Municipality

I recently was asked to discuss, “Managing Your Career from Start to Finish”, with the graduating class of the University of Western’s Municipal Public Administration program.

To prepare for it, I was asked to reflect on the trajectory of my career and provide some thoughts and tips I might have on launching a municipal career.  

It was an interesting task – not one I’d really given much thought to before. 

The graduates were surprised to learn, that when I first became interested in a career in municipal government, many municipalities in rural Ontario were managed by husband-and-wife teams.  Not good financial management at all but back then it worked.  

This is a far cry from the professionalism municipalities deliver today.  While constant changes in legislation are frustrating to municipalities, they really have served to improve municipalities over time.

When my local husband-and-wife team announced their impending retirements, I started taking the AMCTO Municipal Administration Courses and going to Council meetings – not only to understand municipal operations better, but also so the Council would get to know me.  And it worked!  

I applied and my first municipal job was as Clerk/Treasurer/Tax Collector of my local municipality.  

So, here’s some strategies that may help you land your first municipal job

Do some homework;

  • Research the municipality and the department of interest
  • What are the issues? What key projects are they working on?
  • Go to a Council meeting in person once things open again so Council and staff will start to get to know you, or watch some online to understand the protocols
  • Volunteer to help at municipal/community events
  • Look for a summer job in the municipality to get a feel for what it’s like to work there
  • Ask if you can job shadow the CAO for a day (at no charge) 
  • Investigate OMAA Bursary program http://www.omaa.on.ca/en/about-omaa/the-omaa-bursary-program.asp  It’s a Bursary program offering $5,000 annually to support the education of future municipal government leaders and promote the role of CAO. The program runs to 2025.


My personal belief is that those launching municipal careers right now have perhaps the best opportunity in recent history, for quick career advancement, because so many municipal employees are eligible for retirement in 2021.

Many are staying on past their retirement dates, however, to help their communities through COVID, but I predict there will be a mass exodus of employees soon as the COVID crisis begins to ease. We’re already seeing an increase in municipal job postings.  

As for the trajectory of my career – well, I eventually became the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and helped the municipality through restructuring, worked with the province in issues and project management, and eventually decided to set up a municipal consultancy and develop muniSERV.ca. and muniJOBS.ca

To me, a career in local government is still the most challenging and rewarding work you’ll ever do. 

Like I always say, You can take the girl out of the municipality, but you can never take the municipality out of the girl.”  


Susan Shannon, AMCT

Founder & Principal, muniSERV.ca & Shaping Organizational Solutions (SOS)

[email protected]  Phone: 855.477.5095


Podcast Interview with Ripple Analytics

Do you dread conducting annual employee reviews?

Ripple is a platform for providing quick, anonymous team member evaluations. By rating colleagues based on the Big 5 Personality Traits, Ripple turns objective feedback into actionable information.

CEO, Noah L. Pusey, brings a unique perspective to growing Ripple, drawn from nearly two decades of experience establishing and building law firms in New York City.  He has counseled and advised individual and corporate clients in various practice areas including business development, growth strategy and general transactional matters.

Noah has firsthand knowledge of the flawed employee review systems used by many companies – having participated in hundreds of annual evaluations over the years, so he has set out to change they way they’re done!

Listen to this podcast to learn more: https://truecomparepeo.com/2021/05/06/noah-pusey/


Being aware – situationally aware

Our world has always been in a state of perpetual change. Now more than ever, it is perceived to be doing that at an ever-rapid pace.

Positive changes such as economic growth, and technology advancements to note a couple. Unfortunately, with the positive, comes the negative. A continuous cycle of persons who wish to do harm.

Safety and Security experts inform us that violent events will continue to happen. The violent extremist motivated and driven by an ideology, to the targeting of individuals, place of business, worship, acts of violence that permeate into every vertical, sector of business and government.

Active safety and security programs are continuous reviewed, modified to face existing and the new challenges of tomorrow.

To make your safety and security programs more effective, the program needs ambassadors, staff.

Ambassadors need to be aware. Situationally aware.

Situational awareness training provides your staff with valuable intelligence & time when facing safety and security situations of potential harm or danger.

Being situation aware is truly a change in mindset.

It is a way of thinking that will focus a person’s behaviour, their outlook, and their mental attitude. People that are aware are no longer vulnerable but capable.

Capable individuals are always prepared. Capable individuals are not complacent, they use technology to enhance their preparedness and response and their planning always includes a contingency plan.

Situationally aware staff improve the effectiveness of your safety and security program.

Situationally aware individuals enhance the workplace and enhance their personal safety and security.

We can Help.

Plan the Work. Work the Plan.

Should your Municipality need assistance in Situation Awareness training, contact Michael White Group International today, and we will be happy to answer your questions.

Michael White Group International is Arcuri Group LLC approved Situation Awareness Specialist Certification Training provider.



What Post Pandemic Leadership Will Look Like For Canada

By: Kartik Kumar

National Practice Leader, Municipal Government and Broader Public Sectors.

The past year has been incredibly volatile across all industries. While some industries remained steady and stable, others suffered significantly. As we begin to emerge into a post-pandemic way of life, new beginnings will always call for new leadership and new perspectives. 2020 has required an incredibly unique set of leadership skills that were constantly challenged month after month with scandals, social justice issues, quarantine and climate change to name a few.

As restrictions begin to loosen with more and more Canadians being vaccinated, there are several critical leadership qualities and competencies that will serve leaders well in the public sector for a steady, safe and final reopening across Canada. Below are some of the leadership qualities I foresee as essential for leaders to transition public sector services and organizations into a post-pandemic life. 

9 Critical Skills Leaders Will Need Post-Pandemic.

Strong Digital Communicators. As we saw throughout the pandemic, timely and factual information must be distributed to reach large audiences very quickly. Future leaders will need a balance of skills to understand how to best leverage communication platforms and tools such as tweeting and texting for urgent public alerts.

Adaptability. As workforces begin to return to the office, new leaders will need to be adaptable and encourage a hybrid model of remote and in-person work. Future leaders will need to embrace this and shift the cultural perspective to value productivity over physical presence in an office. Most employees and teams understand the best ways they work and future leaders will have to flex and accommodate accordingly while keeping an eye on productivity. 

Digital Transformation Champions. As workforces went fully remote for over a year, many organizations were blind-sided by this drastic shift putting an immense strain on technology and resources. This unexpected transition to entirely digital delivery for services, meetings, events and more will remain with us even after the pandemic subsides. Future leaders will need to champion and continue to support a hybrid model for digital and in-person services to their communities and citizens even post-pandemic.

Transparency and Trust. As we saw with scandals, social justice issues and even vaccination delays creeping into 2021, trust was fractured across the economy and Canada. Effective post-pandemic leaders will need to be transparent in order to build confidence and trust back up within governments, municipalities, public services and more in order to move past the severe impacts of COVID-19. 

Tenacity, Courage And Resilience. Many difficult decisions were made in 2020 that riddled industries including the public and private sector. In order for municipalities to recover from these hardships in the long-term, leaders will need to be bold, tenacious and resilient. Future leaders will need to redefine their strategic direction and vision after a year of diversion, delays and disruption, and take these skill sets with them into post-pandemic planning. 

Motivation And Influence. As we discussed earlier, trust and transparency will be critical to instill a renewed faith in governments and Canada’s economy. As we emerge into a more familiar way of life, strong leaders will need to motivate and influence communities to impart a feeling of safety for restarting the economy again. By providing an initial assurance of comfort and trust through transparency, strong leaders will then be tasked with pursuing this momentum and convincing communities that the end of the pandemic has arrived through influence. 

Empathy. Even beyond catastrophic pandemic times, strong leaders must always remain empathetic for their teams and communities. In order to be successful, strong post-pandemic leaders must remain steadfastly empathetic and recognize the individuals and stakeholders that were essential to survival over the past 14 months. In addition, effective future leaders must be mindful and recognize the impact COVID-19 has and will continue to have on society’s mental health. By remaining vigilant to these risks and possible side effects, leaders will be able to better support the well-being of their teams and their communities across Canada.

Collaboration And Partnership. The pandemic has shown us the true benefits of collaboration and information sharing. Future leaders will need to heavily rely on partnership for building a new future together. Within the last year, there were key strategies and projects that worked well and others that were less successful. More often than not, collaboration and partnership attributed to Canada’s success during a time of volatility and future leaders will need to continue building upon these relationships through collaboration. 

Innovation And Flexibility. Many municipalities, local governments and even libraries depended upon innovation to help them adapt to chaotic and unprecedented times. Post-pandemic leaders will need to lean heavily into innovation which will in turn demand flexibility. Whether leaders are tasked with finding alternative revenue streams, incentivizing workforces to return to the office or even accelerating new businesses to open and return to urban areas, creative thinking and flexibility will be a critical skill to set these initiatives in motion and course correct the future for Canada’s economy.

During the pandemic many people and communities fled cities to suburban areas for more space and a better work life balance offered by remote working. As a result, these smaller non-urban satellite “Zoom Towns” needed to adapt quickly as residency increased and their micro economies grew. Below is one such example of a small municipality that met this challenge head on, and relied heavily on their innovative leaders and agile teams to plan and prepare for this.

Modernizing For Urban Lifestyle Through Innovative Leadership

As the pandemic subsides, the question arises for those that fled urban centers in search of more space and whether or not they will remain or return to the larger cities? Some will undoubtedly return to urban life, however, others have found a renewed appreciation for life outside of the city, such as the Town of Innisfil. A recent article discussed the innovative ways that the small urban satellite Town of Innisfil, located 45 minutes outside of Toronto with a population of ~37,000, is reinventing itself through a highly nimble and flexible approach to economic development. 

Today, the Town of Innisfill is challenging the status quo and applying learnings from their larger, more urban counterparts, allowing the Town to scale quickly and innovate quite literally from the ground up. The Town of Innisfil is taking new measures for transformative city planning, public transit and more with its sights set on becoming a central GovTech hub for Canada. 

Within the article, Dan Taylor, Economic Development Catalyst for the Town of Innisfil said, “The reason we’re able to be quite innovative is we’re small and nimble. Our senior administration and council are fairly closely aligned. So we have great thinking in our leadership — both politically and administratively”. Taylor continued to add, “…Our Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) said, when we do economic development, we want to be an accelerator. We don’t want to just be a facilitator. We want to put our foot on the gas and really play a different role”.

In order to keep their small community thriving post-pandemic they’ve decided to innovate in a few different ways including:

  • Offering economic incentives for GovTech start-ups to relocate offices and establish headquarters in the Town of Innisfil away from the larger city centers, allowing talent to remain local and drive innovation centrally. 
  • Planning and building an urban environment zoned using concentric circles for streets and avenues. By building the infrastructure of a modern city-within-a-town, referred to as “The Orbit”, the Town of Innisfil will offer residents the benefits of city dwelling without overdevelopment and losing the intimate feeling of the Town.
  • Piloting Uber as the Town’s main official form of public transit. This on-demand format of public transit reduces costs and increases efficiency as demand increases or subsides. By leveraging an existing platform through partnership and collaboration, the Town of Innisfil was able to plan and create a new mass transit system with little infrastructure investment.
  • Accepting cryptocurrencies for residents to pay taxes. The Town of Innisfil has begun accepting digital cryptocurrencies from residents to pay for taxes. 
  • Planning a new rail transit to connect the Town of Innisfil directly with the neighboring city of Toronto to offer streamlined commuter options and increase connectivity to the larger central Canadian hub. 

The Town of Innisfil was able to innovate and set these strategic plans in place as a result of their leadership. Instead of taking the traditional approaches to economic expansion and development, senior leadership within the public sector saw an incredible opportunity for true innovation and sought out creative solutions. As an entire collective municipality, the Town of Innisfil has resources readily available to drive these fresh, new and innovative programs. However, even on a much smaller scale, innovation knows no boundaries.

Innovation Within Canada’s Public Libraries For Today And Tomorrow

Another example of innovation on a much smaller scale, are the many ways in which leaders across Canada’s public libraries transformed, adapted and innovated as they were forced from a primarily in-person model to an entirely digital resource and online service. 

In a recent interview, Vickery Bowles of the Toronto Public Library system, mentioned the ways in which the Toronto Public Library had to innovate and adjust as the pandemic thrust both the private and public sector into a digital transformation spiral. 

Within the interview, Bowles commented on how the library was able to adapt. “The transition to the online environment was critical for people to give them the opportunity and to make these connections”. Bowles added, “Through a lot of innovative thinking, hard work and dedication on behalf of our staff, we dropped everything and we just focused on what we needed to do as a result of being closed and rethink how we deliver our services”.

Some of the small yet innovative ways that leadership within the Toronto Public library system met these challenges included:

Developing and Delivering Programs Virtually. Through webinar and video platform technology adoption, the Toronto Public Library was able to work with their team members to innovate, launch and deliver over 550 programs to over 40,000 attendees in under 6 months. These programs ranged from children’s story hours to yoga for young adults. 

Curbside Pick Up And Drop Off. To keep book services available to communities while reducing the risk and spread of COVID-19, Toronto Public Libraries allowed for members to reserve items virtually and collect items in-person from a safe distance.

Waiving Late Fees. Libraries began waiving late fees due to quarantine guidelines and restrictions set in place at the beginning of the pandemic. Interestingly enough, the Library discovered that late fees were acting as a barrier to access for lower income families and members. By eliminating late fees, Toronto Public Library usage has increased across these communities – a core mission of the Public Library.

Strengthened Digital and Municipal Partnerships. By partnering with eBook platforms and offering a digital reader option to members, library membership increased during COVID-19 as individuals sought out alternative ways to engage their minds at home. Additionally, Toronto Public Library later partnered with food banks to offer their physical library branch spaces to them for delivering food services to the shared communities that both the Library and food banks serve.

Providing Equitable Internet Access For All. Some Toronto Public Library members depend heavily upon the availability of technology and internet access to participate in government programs, online education, etc. To continue providing these members equitable access and remain connected, Toronto Public Libraries innovatively developed internet connectivity kits that include a laptop, WiFi hotspot and laptop bag. These kits were designed to deliver these resource rich services all from the safety of a member’s own home. 

Many of these new digital services and methods for the Toronto Public Library will remain ongoing post-pandemic due to their success. As a result of these innovative and flexible approaches, library membership has increased during the pandemic. 

As we have seen, innovation and flexibility will remain top of mind as a core leadership skill set in our post-pandemic society. However, municipalities and public sector organizations will be challenged with identifying the best leaders and candidates that have cultivated and align with these leadership attributes.

Innovation, Diversity And Inclusion. 

Diversity and Inclusion has been a common thread and discussion point for many leadership teams across the public sector for over a decade at this point. New ways of adapting and growing will require fresh and new perspectives at the leadership level. 

Oftentimes innovative leadership qualities are found within diversity candidates that can challenge the status quo to effectively impact change across the organization and community. Typically, diversity candidates have experienced and mitigated a lifetime of adversity and obstacles. These experiences, both professionally and personally, foster new ideas, creative thinking, innovation, agility and influence. However, the biggest challenge that the public sector faces when it comes to finding and appointing diversity talent at the leadership level includes:

  • Access To Diversity Candidates
  • Diversity Mandates Representation
  • Elevating Inclusion To Allow Diversity To Flourish

Access To Diversity Candidates

Many municipalities see the value that diversity can bring to their leadership teams but don’t know where to start their search for this elusive talent. For many years, organizations and municipalities unknowingly created a culture of homogeneity thus shrinking their own internal talent pipelines as a source for diversity talent. Instead, public and private sector organizations must partner with external experts to help identify, appoint and present the most qualified and capable diversity candidates for leadership roles. For example, in the past year, I’ve worked with several public sector organizations and municipalities to identify, hire and onboard several strong female leaders across Canada.

Diversity Mandates Representation

One element of diversity that some organizations fall victim to is the pressure to hire a diversity candidate as a check list item to appease public demand and stakeholders for visibility reasons. I’ve worked with many clients in my career as an executive search consultant, and the key to hiring a diversity candidate that can provide the best value to the community is the simple concept of representation. 

I often challenge clients, counselors and hiring committees that request a diverse slate of candidates to examine what diversity looks like within their community internally and demographically. Sometimes the personification and perception of diversity by selection committees may not always align with the true values and representation of the communities they will be serving – this is critical when considering a diversity hire at the leadership level. As a best practice, a diversity candidate should be representative of the larger community in which they will serve, while also maintaining the leadership attributes required by the role. 

Elevating Inclusion To Allow Diversity To Flourish

The other caveat that municipalities and public sector organizations overlook when hiring a diversity candidate is the necessary inclusivity training and acceptance of new and different perspectives by other senior leaders. Inclusivity programs allow for the broader leadership team to adopt and best leverage new perspectives offered by diversity candidates in powerful ways. By elevating cultural sensitivities and awareness to the existing senior leadership team and creating a more inclusive culture, senior leaders can learn how to better work together and support one another. As a result, this awareness and inclusivity will increase collaboration and knowledge sharing and trickle down through the organization to more junior teams. As this cultural shift slowly takes place, success can be measured by the amount of diversity talent attracted to the organization, thus building an internal diversity talent pipeline for the future.

About The Author.

Kartik Kumar is a Partner at Legacy Executive Search Partners and has over 15 years experience in successfully executing 250 projects within the Public and Private sector, including municipal government and public libraries. Kartik has a Bachelor’s in Business Management from Ryerson University and an accredited certification in Diversity and Inclusion from Cornell University.

Prior to joining Legacy Executive Search Partners, Kartik has held several Managing Director roles within large national and international executive search firms. He has successfully developed an executive search practice across Ontario and Canada within Municipal Government and the Broader Public sector.

Contact Kartik Kumar at [email protected] for Senior Leadership Recruitment within the Public Sector across Canada.