$6,400.00 to maximize meeting efficiency
by Jason Wright / http://www.northfulton.com/ / Milton Herald.
July 09, 2007
To put it bluntly, the experts have been called in to help calm the rancor that can sometimes consume Milton City Council meetings.
In the wake of both citizen and council comments that the city's seven elected officials need to work together more productively, Dr. Doug Griest, an industrial psychologist with the Management Psychology Group, has been hired to help the young team "maximize their efficiency."
He will presumably attempt to calm some of the rifts that have recently overshadowed the startup government's tremendous strides. However, due to professional and ethical standards, Greist could not comment on what he planned to do.
'I don't think it is unreasonable for seven people who are now elected officials to go through some training like this. They've never been elected officials before and they've never been in this role before.'Aaron Bovos City Manager
He could comment on what his company is known for.
"We try to help teams maximize their effectiveness by understanding each other and how they can communicate," said Greist. "You know, teamwork, dealing with issues of conflict. All organizations that work together are going to have conflict from time to time."Griest came with a price tag of $6,400, a discounted rate applied to governments and non-profit groups.
According to City Manager Aaron Bovos, the money came of out mayor and council's education budget – money earmarked for such an outlay."The approach we've taken is [one] of training and education," he said. "I think any time you can improve the way an organization runs, the better off in the long term you will be."
"I feel like it's a suitable investment for the city. We've gotten a lot of feedback that we need to streamline our meetings. It's not about getting along, it's about getting things done. We simply don't have the luxury of being ineffective.'Councilman Neal O'Brien
Bovos said it wasn't one member that brought the idea forward – but it was not the whole council, either. It's been an idea in the works for around three months.
"Council approached staff about the goal to work more as a team," he said. "We've had some great, extremely productive retreats, but council wants to be more productive in the time they spend together."
That's my interpretation of what I've observed."
Greist is in the process of interviewing or has interviewed all seven members of council, plus Bovos. Though it is still in scheduling at press time, a group session will more than likely take place before the July 12 work session and City Council meeting.
Understandably, opinion of the fee and presence of an outside official is varied on council – frankly a consensus would invalidate the need for Griest. There does seem to be one common thread, though – an ability to try it out for the greater common good.
"The bottom line is he's there to figure out how can we increase our effectiveness and how we work together," said Councilman Rick Mohrig.
"There are no hidden agendas – we want to get to where we have a high-performance team," he said. "Now that doesn't mean that everybody always agrees with each other – disagreement and different views can be good. But it's how you manage those differences of opinion."
Councilwomen Tina D'Aversa and Julie Zahner Bailey both said they did not support spending tax payers money on Greist.However, Zahner Bailey said she "hopes council's participation will prove productive."
D'Aversa agreed, adding there seem to be challenge with everyone getting along in a professional way."There's some obvious challenges with personalities, in my opinion," she said.
"I'm not sure why that is, but I guess that's [Griest's] job to determine."Zahner Bailey said she doesn't feel personality is the problem – it's simply the gravity of the issues."As a mayor and council we have to grapple with issues that are serious to the citizens of Milton," she said.
"[Disagreements occur] because of where we stand on these issues."Councilman Neal O'Brien said overall he thought it will be money well spent."I feel like it's a suitable investment for the city," he said. "We've gotten a lot of feedback that we need to streamline our meetings. It's not about getting along, it's about getting things done. We simply don't have the luxury of being ineffective."
Bovos pointed out it's important to recognize the roles the pressure and newness of the job play in every council interaction."I don't think it is unreasonable for seven people who are now elected officials to go through some training like this. They've never been elected officials before and they've never been in this role before," he said.
Bovos also said the training has to do with the forcefulness of personality needed to make it even in local politics."Just realize that all of us are here for the greater good of the community," he said. "We're all going to go about that differently – but overall we have the same goal in mind. Let's focus on the goal – versus some of the extraneous things we're drawn to."