I attended the February 10 meeting of the Government Efficiency Committee with high hopes that, after wasting over two years trying to justify the creation of a coterminous government for the town and village of New Paltz, this committee would push the reset button and get back to the business of identifying and recommending specific money-saving efficiency measures to increase government effectiveness. Sadly, village trustee, meeting convener and chairperson Sally Rhoads picked up right where she had left off by preaching to the committee about how disappointed she was that the coterminous option had been found to be illegal and suggesting that there might be an opportunity to go back and try again. No other committee member seemed interested in wasting any more time.
The committee is a holdover from a failed attempt to carry out the promised goals of a 2009 New York State grant to provide the citizens of New Paltz with the “facts and analytical information necessary to make an informed decision about the best governance structure at the most efficient cost.” Sadly, the coterminous virus infected the project, and that’s where the committee’s work became bogged down.
However, I digress. This is in my view an item about flawed leadership, and it is the lack of effective leadership of this committee that I seek to communicate here.
Over 75 years of behavioral research, documented in literally thousands of refereed journal articles and academic publications, has identified some of the best and worst behaviors of those given the responsibility of conducting a meeting, leading a team, or convening a group of individuals assigned the task of achieving a particular goal. Simply put, the leadership skill of seeking to understand the point of view of others as opposed to pummeling them with the leader’s single viewpoint has been proven to reduce the amount of time spent in meetings and to enhance the quality of the final work product of the group. The use of sarcasm and negative labels, and the disrespect shown by interrupting others, talking over them, and scolding them in public have the effect of … well, you tell me. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist.
If you have a chance to view the videotape of the February 10, 2014 meeting (YouTube, usia video), which was attended by only five of the thirteen committee members and two members of the public (one of them, me), you will observe several striking examples of flawed leadership.
Spring is coming…
When I visited our True Value hardware store last week, I smiled when I saw the seed-starter trays, potting mix and other gardening items being set out in aisle three. You know, the one on the left with all the seasonal items. The array of goods included an interesting seed-packet display with a little tag you can scan with your smart phone, telling you everything you will ever need to know about when and how to plant all your favorite vegetables and flowers.
Although it is true that the large trailer truck being unloaded outside was delivering giant roof snow-removal rakes, it was also carrying brand new barbecue grills that we’ll all be able to check out in a week or two. By the way, most of the roof rakes never even made it into the store. Customers flocked from out of nowhere, just like the birds when you first put the seed in the feeder. Each pulled their chosen rake from the delivery pallet and rushed home to put it to good use.
Lou Benson, the owner of True Value, whose advice and counsel has helped so many of us over the years, told me that, even as customers are stamping the snow off their boots, they smile when they see the spring garden tools on display. I can testify to that.