Unlike many magazines, you rarely see a single individual pictured on the cover of Public Works. There are usually at least two people—public works manager and consulting firm liaison for an award-winning project, city and county road supervisors who partnered to get federal funding—and sometimes more.
That’s because it’s all about the team. Ask any public works manager you admire about the key to success and you won’t hear a story about personal excellence. Instead, you’ll hear how goals are exceeded because of the men and women who staff the department.
This refreshing lack of self-centeredness in the current Era of Ego isn’t unique to management. In fact, it’s so prevalent that it’s easy to take for granted.
I didn’t even realize I had until I read one of the articles in this special salary report issue, “Training for the future” on page 38). A little anecdote leapt off the page. Students who get to class late during a week-long professional development program are fined $1. Where does the money go? A charity of the students’ choice.
Well, of course. Blood drives during the American Public Works Association’s annual convention. Water for People fundraisers at the American Water Works Association, and Water Environment Federation annual conventions. All of these organizations have local chapters, and all of them give to local charities. For example, my APWA chapter collects toys from Christmas luncheon attendees.
The impulse to give is common among public works. The male employees at one suburban Chicago department raise money for needy kids every year with a mustache-growing contest, one of the more creative fundraisers I’ve heard of. (“A hair-raising situation,” Public Works, December 2010.) I’ll bet each one of you could share at least one similar example. Feel free to do so by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This generosity of spirit is remarkable because it confers a dual benefit. Your teams are already out there doing the myriad thankless tasks that hold a society together. Few people probably realize how much the community benefits from the extracurricular activities that public works employees can’t seem to help themselves from undertaking.
Talk about putting your money where your mouth is.