The culture of the School encourages responsiveness and the consistent feedback from officials is that we do a great job. When something goes wrong, however, the Durham Bulls have provided us with a great example of how to respond. Admit it, apologize, and fix it. No excuses.
Faculty and staff still show a remarkable willingness to experiment with new approaches around what we do and how we do it. It should not require unusual courage to take smart risks in our work. Lives are not at stake. I want to continue strengthening the culture of innovation and creativity at the School.
The School works in an environment that is very different than the one facing Google. We can’t adopt their hiring standards, including the growing number of their employees with any college education. Google offers a provocative model, however, and it is worth reflecting on whether the School’s hiring process can be improved. After all, hiring is critically important because ultimately it determines the quality of everything else we do.
In thinking about Rich’s contributions and their importance, I couldn’t help but reflect on the nature of our relationships with lots of other public officials. A number of the zoning officials who spoke were emotional and had to compose themselves before continuing their comments about Rich. It was because they have worked together closely—as partners in the professionalization of their field—over a period of years. It was because they know that Rich has been focused on meeting their needs rather than his own.
Our history is great, but I’m even more excited and optimistic about the School’s future. The mission has not changed, but how it is carried out has changed over the years, and it will continue to change. It is supposed to work that way. Mr. Coates was the ultimate change agent and he would embrace the School’s evolution.
Many of our professional staff divisions recently have distributed (electronically to save money, of course) their 2012-2013 annual reports. In reading the reports as a group one comes away with a couple of strong impressions—the School’s work is supported at a very high level, and our staff is tireless in looking for ways to support us better and more efficiently. Continuous improvement is the order of the day.
In today’s political climate, it sometimes is hard to remember a time when people genuinely thought that government, especially the federal government, was capable of tackling complex problems. JFK inspired people to reach for goals beyond their grasp—to try things that seemed impossible.
There are hundreds of books written every year about leadership. They focus largely on big questions, and nearly all of them talk about the importance of creating a shared vision. I have no quarrel with most of what is written about leadership—my problem is with the element that too often is ignored. Visionary leadership is not enough. Effective leadership also must include the ability to implement a vision for change, which inevitably involves the less dramatic work of management and administration.
This year’s public administration conference was the best ever. The sessions were good and attendance was strong. Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, did a nice job of talking about the importance of public service and bipartisanship in delivering the Deil S. Wright Lecture.
Can we connect our work to a narrative that officials and prospective donors find inspiring? In addition to the practical benefit of our services, can we place our work in a larger context that has an impact beyond the education of individual officials? Many public officials have incredible affection for the School. Can we describe our relationship in a way that makes it even more meaningful for North Carolina officials?