Council Communication Challenges

Since being elected to Council for the first time back in November of 2010 I have found there to be one area of operation that Council that I have observed is consistently our Achilles heel. That is how we communicate with our residents and rate payers.

Up until recently I have been assisting our administration to refine their public consultation processes by showing examples of where I believe we have failed during my time on council and other examples of where we have been successful. We have often failed to see things from the point of view of our ratepayers and therefore missed the mark on many of our consultations, including the recent DPA2 consultation that I have blogged much on.

We have been guilty of both under consulting and over consulting.

Our Community Management have been working on a new communication tool kit, making use of my observations along the way.

I have in the last few months been agitated however in a deeper way by observations of how our officers communicate to people, be it one on one, or in a group setting. I have had over my three years as a Councillor a number of complaints from rate payers about how they were treated by staff as well. One such complaint prompted my calling to that rate payers home just yesterday.

As a small business person I learnt a long time ago that it is not my technical skills that count the most but my ability to communicate to my client. Technical Skills are important to be sure. I would not want to be seeking goods or services from someone who does not know their product.

But having said that, knowing their product from the point of view of what it does is nowhere near as important as knowing your product by way of the benefits it provides a client.

Before becoming a building inspector I owned a Pergola & Verandah business. At the end of the day though what I was offering people was an outdoor living environment. When I was developing a proposal for my clients I endeavoured to find out form them what they were looking to achieve in the way of outdoor living and then using my technical knowledge to design something that would provide what they were needing.

My observations indicate that, like so many businesses large and small, and on  my experience the public service, Council’s employees do not have the necessary skill set or experience to communicate on the basis of their client’s needs. And you, our ratepayer, are our client.

I have watched our people, people highly skilled and/or experienced in their area of expertise, fail to gain the confidence or respect of the ratepayer they are engaged with on a particular topic.

These observations I have been prompting our management with recently, including in a one on one with our CEO just last week. Today I hope to meet with one of our managers working on the tool kit to give her an undersigned of my observations.

Indeed I am prompting that Council must seriously look at investing in our people developing the most necessary of skill sets a person dealing with the public should have. I wish us to seriously look at developing our training program to include training in dealing with people, body language, the art of listening, conflict resolution. There is a range of skills to be learnt when being placed in a position where you are dealing with the public.

Would you not love to have only positive experiences in dealing with Council.

This is something motivating me to continue in my role as your elected member. It is too important for all of us not to have this one addressed and I can give you an undertaking that this is something I will pursue if I remain one of your elected members come this November.

And quite frankly, it has been a while since I have attended a workshop in any form of communication. I probably (no…I know I need) some more training.

 

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