Category Archives: Trust

Noel Rasor – Emerging Leaders Academy Reflections

ELA Director, Noel Rasor, highlights the achievements of the Fall 2016 ELA class, as well as reflects on the program itself.

ELA Director, Noel Rasor, highlights the achievements of the Fall 2016 ELA class, as well as reflects on the program itself.

Comments Delivered by Noel Rasor, Emerging Leaders Academy Director

On January 11th, 2017


Good Afternoon. My name is Noel Rasor. I’m the Assistant Director of the University of Kansas Public Management Center and the program manager of the Emerging Leaders Academy. On behalf of the Public Management Center staff, I want to extend a warm welcome to our guests, the families, friends and supervisors of the ELA graduates—we truly appreciate your setting aside the time to be able to be here with us this afternoon to celebrate the work these individuals have put into this program over the past 5 months.

Beyond this, we truly appreciate the efforts on the part of all of our guests this afternoon that made it possible for the individuals here in the front to complete this program. You’ve taken the phone calls and handled the urgent matters while these folks were away for class. Families, we know that many of you added a few more items to your own never-ending to-do lists at home to cover things while they spent some time in the evenings preparing, and I suspect many of you helped them track down old copies of certificates and reports that they wanted to add to their portfolios. So, ELA class, please stand and turn around and join me in thanking your supporters for making your participation possible. I know I speak not only for the PMC but also for the graduates when I say we have deep gratitude for the investments all of you have made in your emerging leaders and in your trust of the Public Management Center to offer something of value to these individuals.

As a program that is meant to support the need for succession planning in public sector organizations, ELA targets promising non-managerial staff in government and other public service agencies to help them identify and hone the skills that are necessary for success in higher level roles. But by design this time spent in reflection and skills building also has immediate benefits for the participants and their departments. This is nearly always the case: when we remember to list our eyes from the road and look to the horizon, it offers us insight that we can bring to the here and now. Today’s program recognizes and celebrates the efforts of this group of public servants to elevate what’s important—thinking about goals, values, skills-building, their own strengths and those of the others, and the future– to co-exist with what all that is urgent in the everyday.

Looking to the horizon in ELA involves a lot of opportunities to engage with peers around topics and issues that show up in and shape all of our workplaces. While Public Management Center instructors bring important expertise and great content around topics like communication, ethics, leadership, and managing up, those of you who have been through a PMC class know twe believe that a good class is one in which participants learn as much from one another as they do from any of us as instructors. We structure our classes around opportunities for participants to engage and connect with one another as they leverage the many experiences they bring to class with them. I take tremendous pride in our ability at the PMC to create this environment from the first hour on the first day. Humans may be competitive, but we are also profoundly social creatures with big, active brains. We want to learn and we want to connect. When those of us “in charge” at any given moment create environments that allow for connection to happen, people step into that opportunity with eagerness, and everyone is better off because of it.

So thank you for being here today to help us recognize the efforts and accomplishments of this group of public servants in the Emerging Leaders Academy.  I’m so glad to have you with us to celebrate the achievements of these leaders who, we trust, will be a driving force in your organizations in the future.



I want to bring us to a close this afternoon with some thoughts about how what these individuals achieve in the context of this program shows us about finding our way forward in these tumultuous times of rapid change and competing world views.

One of the things that I most love about the opportunity to teach in our programs like ELA and CPM is that they bring together such a huge mix of people who hold such a variety of public service roles. Sitting together at a table in this group we might have a sheriff’s deputy, a lawyer, a DMV specialist, an accountant, and a fleet mechanic. At the next table you’ll find an executive assistant, a firefighter, an epidemiologist, an IT tech, and a building inspector. And the next table has yet another mix…all this to say nothing of the personalities of these individuals, or the many skills and passions they have outside of work. They bring backgrounds in theater, cheer squad, acoustic music, and tae kwan do. They serve as volleyball coaches, Boy Scout leaders, election poll workers, nonprofit board members, and Sunday school teachers. They organize BBQs to raise money for friends with cancer, and coordinate community groups to paint murals. We have a pilot, an Elvis impersonator, and a member of Box of Crickets (as the English translation is what I can pronounce), voted the #1 Latin band in Kansas City. All this is on top of the work they do managing the stuff that comes with family obligations, and I’m sure this list only scratches the surface.

As impressive as all this is—and let me assure you, this group is pretty impressive—I think they are simply a representative sample of all the talent and skills and passion that surrounds us every single day in our organizations. So that’s the first point that we should all find to be a hopeful and encouraging reminder: our government agencies are staffed by dedicated, passionate people with amazing abilities to address the challenges we face.

But there’s something more noteworthy at this particular moment in time: the extent to which these individuals found common ground and developed real friendships that reach across the divides in their experiences and perspectives. They discovered that they have common experiences in dealing with difficult colleagues, using clunky technology that sometimes makes their jobs harder instead of easier, in being proud of providing good service, in keeping mental lists of all the things they want to and are slowly tweaking to make government work better for its employees and its citizens, in their cynicism because of what they’ve seen and experienced, and in their inextinguishable optimism because of what they’ve seen and experienced. When we create settings for people to come together and connect, they find common ground.

It feels important to call all our attention to this at this very fraught moment in our culture when our attention is so often drawn to what divides us. And I’m quite certain there are some profound disagreements among this group in political perspectives, policy orientations, and beliefs about what is needed to create a strong future for our communities and our country. But quite frankly, mostly this didn’t come up. We were busy thinking about the circumstances in which we and others thrive in the workplace and how we go about creating that. And with that focus, we achieved what I think is a sure sign that something is going right in the class: some self-admitted softening around the edges among a few of our most cynical, road-weary professionals.

All this, I believe, shows us a way forward in these difficult times: be open to finding the goodness in others, and throw kindness around like confetti while you look for it. When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose to be kind. This smooths over the differences, highlights the common ground, and ultimately moves us toward a more perfect union.

Thank you so much for being here today. I hope you’ll stay and join us for refreshments, and I look forward to the next time our paths cross in the future.

Emerging Leaders Academy graduation – Faculty Reflections from Director Laura Howard

PMC Director, Laura Howard, gives her reflections about the course from the instructor perspective.

PMC Director, Laura Howard, gives her reflections about the course from the instructor perspective.

Comments Delivered by Public Management Center Director, Laura Howard

On January 11th, 2017

Good afternoon, everyone.  I am so pleased to be able to share some reflections on the occasion of this Emerging Leaders Academy Graduation Ceremony. It’s been great to participate as faculty in this Emerging Leaders Academy.  I’ve been privileged to get to know in a small way some very dedicated public servants

I have watched individuals learn and grow from session to session. Learning something one day and applying it at work the next day. I have listened to individuals and observed their dedication to both personal growth and organizational success.  I’ve seen folks moving eagerly, outside of their comfort zones.   I have listened to individuals learn new ideas or strategies to advance in their own workplace from people who work in entirely different organizations.

Before I introduce our keynote speaker, I’d like to say a few words to our graduates and to their organizations.

Your organizations chose well when they chose you.   As you finish this Emerging Leaders Academy, I would urge you to:

  • Continue on the journey to recognize, use and leverage your strengths; [Remember, Gallup has found that when people understand and apply their strengths, the effect on their lives and work is transformational. People who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged in their work and three times more likely to say they have an excellent quality of life.]
  • Own your career – be the protagonist of your own career, not a supporting character;

In his farewell speech, I heard President Obama share some thoughts that I think relate well to the idea of owning your own future – President Obama said:

Show Up, Dive In, and Stay At It – Persist, and Sometimes You’ll Win. 

These are wise words – Showing Up is the first step.  You’ve done that.   And when you show up, don’t sit back passively – dive in with your ideas and passion.   And know that sometimes things are hard, and success takes persistence, and sometimes a different path than what we have planned.  Show Up, Dive In, Persist.

And to the organizations and employers, first I would say thank you for identifying and investing in your emerging leaders.   Thank you for understanding the importance of this investment not just to individual development but to organizational success.   But, just as I’ve encouraged the graduates today, I would also urge the employers and sponsoring agencies to:

  • Use these graduates; they’re ready and eager to contribute to the agency as a whole;
  • Let them take risks; give them permission to succeed and to ‘fail forward’’;
  • Look for engagement opportunities;
  • Look for ways to explicitly link the individual development goals of your emerging leader to your organizational goals;
  • Give your emerging leader a chance to help solve some of the biggest challenges you are facing as an organization – let them see behind the curtain; create opportunities for them to share their insights and ideas, and to volunteer for new challenges – this might mean creating ways for them to have a meaningful effect across your whole organization;
  • In the same way that you made a significant investment through sponsoring participation in the Emerging Leaders Academy, recognize and act on the fact that these emerging leaders are a critical organizational asset, that needs to be nurtured and managed accordingly.

Finally, to the graduates, on behalf of the Public Management Center and all the instructors, thank you for the chance to connect with you over these last several months.  It’s been our pleasure and privilege to be part of this process and to be heartened again by the heart and spirit of those invested in the challenging and rewarding work of public service.

Congratulations again, keep us posted moving forward, and know that you are now and forever part of the Public Management Center Family.

Lawrence Public Library Director advises graduates to lead through vision

Brad Allan, Director of the Lawrence Public Library, gives the graduation address.

Brad Allan, Director of the Lawrence Public Library, gives the graduation address.

Comments Delivered by Brad Allen, Lawrence Public Library Director

On January 11th, 2017

Thank you for having me here today and congratulations on your graduation from the Emerging Leaders Academy. I’m honored and humbled to be here with you today. I would never have thought anyone would ask me to give a speech at a graduation, so thank you Noel and everyone at the Public Management Center for this invitation. I guess this is what happens when you are recognized as a leader, so I guess this must mean I am one. It’s a bit surreal I’ll have to admit, but here we are. So let’s make the best of it.

Here’s what I want to say to you. When you are called to lead, lead, and work hard to do it well. One very important thing I’ll say, make sure you want to lead–or are at least willing to take on the responsibility involved in leading. Simple enough, right? Well, maybe, but you’ve already taken a great first step enrolling in this formal leadership academy.

To be honest, I never saw myself as a leader or ever really aspired to become one. I hope that’s OK to admit here. I’ve always been a fan of finding a great leader and helping them, providing the best work and expertise I could to serve their vision. So it’s confusing how I ended up where I am. I’ve always liked being a technical expert, and while I’ve always needed leaders who allowed me to speak my mind, I didn’t want to be the one to make the final decisions that have an effect on so many others. Whoops. Well, here I am now, and perhaps someday here you will also be. Or perhaps you already are.

So a little background on my accidental arrival at leadership and why I’m still doing it and hope I’m doing it well.

I entered the world of formal leadership for the same reasons many others have, I imagine. I didn’t like the ways things were. I had a vision of what I wanted–or maybe didn’t more honestly put, a vision of what I want. I applied for a job as a library director here in Lawrence because I saw an opportunity to create something from the ground up. A new building was being built. It was an opportunity to create something new and different and hopefully better and more fun than the norm. I had a moment of ambition I guess you could say, sitting In Seattle worrying I was in a dead end job. Much to my surprise, I got the job and all the responsibility that comes with it.

I try to accomplish two things at work. First, provide the best library I can to the community I serve. Many people may have many different views of what that actually means. So I use my best judgment, and even more importantly, I seek the counsel of those I work with and those I serve because those are my best tools for deciding what the best library for my community would be. I also make sure to regularly ask myself why I do what I do. I’d encourage you to do the same.

The second thing might sound a bit silly, but I decided I would try being a boss, a leader, whatever, in hopes that I would be a good one, and that there would be one less bad boss out there ruining people’s lives. Bad bosses have been one of the biggest stresses in my life, and as you probably already know, they are the single biggest reason people quit their jobs, even ones they like. I figured that even if I could just be a good boss, I could slightly improve the lives of the few people that worked for me.

So, given these two things, I see my job as a balancing act between running the best library possible and providing the most enjoyable, and hopefully fulfilling, working environment I can. Sometimes, these things coincide beautifully. Sometimes, they don’t. I see my job as bringing these two goals into harmony the best I can.

A leader sets the tone of the organization. I know that’s obvious, but it’s still important to articulate. What a leader says and how a leader behaves affects everyone in an organization. People look to their leaders to know what to do, how to act, how to understand what the rules are and what the organizational culture is like. Being mindful of your words and actions is a huge responsibility as a leader, and as a new leader, I think it’s really easy to forget that what you do and say has an impact like you never had before. So be mindful of that.

Earlier, I asked you to be a good leader, and I’m not sure how much advice I’ve given you in trying to achieve that, so in closing, let me give it a shot right now. I want to ask all of you to above all, lead with compassion and empathy.

Our world keeps changing and becoming more complex at an accelerated rate, and I don’t think it’s going to let up anytime soon. And until the robots come to take all our jobs–and perhaps that will happen sooner than we realize–most of us will continue to work. At jobs. For money. And our work will continue to involve bosses, people I prefer to call leaders.

So in this environment, I ask you to be the compassionate and empathetic leader our world demands. Work stress continues to increase. Life stress continues to increase. It is the job of leaders to provide the best environment for our colleagues to survive –actually, I’ll go ahead and say thrive–in the face of rapid, often overwhelming change and demands. Outcomes matter, efficiency matters, meeting board expectations matter, but none of those goals can be meaningfully achieved, or meaningfully celebrated if we lose sight of human factors. So, have compassion for yourself and have compassion for the human beings that surround you. Seek to understand and empathize with the day to day work struggles of those you lead. As a result, you will contribute to the positive feedback loop of making your workplace a place that achieves two important goals–its mission and vision, and to be a healthy, rewarding place for human beings to punch the clock and get their paychecks.

An organization is only as good as the humans and the human interactions that it consists of, so show your humanity to others and see the humanity in everyone you interact with. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and allow others to show their vulnerability. As a leader, these things are more crucial than they’ve ever been.

So be good to one another. Live long and prosper. Thank you for your time. Good luck and take good care.

Reflections from Emerging Leaders Academy Graduate: LaMonica Upton

LaMonica Upton, graduate from the Emerging Leaders Academy, speaks on behalf of her Fall 2016 ELA class.

LaMonica Upton, graduate from the Emerging Leaders Academy, speaks on behalf of her Fall 2016 ELA class.

Comments Delivered by LaMonica Upton, Livable Neighborhoods Liason for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, KS,

On January 11th, 2017

Good afternoon and thank you all for joining us.  THANK you to the University of Kansas Public Management Center for offering such a great program.  To the supervisors, managers, Department heads who thought it was worthwhile to expose your teams to such a phenomenal program.  Noel, I am so happy that it was YOU that lead us in this journey.  Your spirit and passion are reflected in the work of the PMC and they are BLESSED to have you.

ELA friends, what an AMAZING journey we are completing today.  We all travelled to this place via different vehicles.  For some of us it was:

Our turn – our organizations have a simple selection process “Your up next”

Good for your career path – taking a leadership class was a part of your “Goals” or a directive from the powers that be.

This is what leaders do – I should take this class and it will look great on my resume

Kicking and Screaming – Why do I need to do this, I’m not a leader, this is a waste of my time

Horseshack Moment – “Oooh  pick me, pick me”

The bottom line is that WE all ended up in the same place at the same time.  Kismet, fate, destiny, coincidence, fluke, chance or one of my favorite words to use “Serendipity”.

Reflect on these things:   We’ve learned a lot ~How will/can we use what we’ve learned?  ~Will it make a difference?  YES IT WILL!! If YOU use it!

As we move from this time and place to the next adventure in our professional and personal lives, Let’s strive to be Multipliers of professionalism, Unity, and Love and Diminishers of Mediocrity, Self-Doubt and Hate.  Fulfill your dreams of your GREATEST.

Trust yourself “Who you are”, Embrace the fact that you have something to offer

Don’t let others design your life for you, be intentional in finding situations that play on your strengths.

It is not simply enough to be Present!!! Amy Cuddy says that “Presence emerges when we feel personally powerful, which allows us to be acutely attuned to our most sincere selves.”  Our families, friends and communities need US to show up and when we do it gives others permission to SHINE!!!

Thank you

Gaining the Trust of Your Citizens

Reprinted from the Kansas Government Journal October 2012 issue

Kansans enjoy autumn for many reasons. For farmers, the last harvest of the year is a time to get paid for months of hard work. For others, it’s a brief respite from our often-brutal summers and winters. But for me, autumn’s always been about football.

My dad got me hooked at a young age, but once I started playing the sport I had no chance of ever kicking that addiction. I know it’s cliché for a grown man to think back to the “old playing days,” but one part of those Friday night battles has stayed with me–how much teamwork was required for success. You’ll never gain one yard on a football field unless you work together with your teammates, and that requires a commitment to an important value—trust.

Unfortunately, beyond the gridiron, America is experiencing a trust-deficit. Public trust in institutions has been decreasing since the 1960s, and it’s now at record lows. Only 44% of Americans trust organized religion, 29% trust the criminal justice system, 25% trust the media, and 21% trust banks and big businesses. The federal government is possibly the least trusted, at only 13%. And although institutions closely connected to people like small businesses and local governments are still trusted (65% and 61% respectively), they too are garnering record-low levels.1

This diminished trust should matter to local governments. Studies have shown that as trust in government diminishes, so the does the rate of compliance with the law. Additionally, trust is necessary for a community to work together to fix problems, and without it there can be paralyzing inaction. Trust is also a fundamental component of a healthy democracy, as it encourages citizen engagement in politics and enhances support for democratic ideals.2

Why is contemporary trust so low? That debate is best left to the thousands of academic papers on the topic, but there are a few key factors worth mentioning, many of which are beyond the control of city officials. There is a strong relationship between economic growth and institutional trust, and sometimes trust just depends on the individual (citizens who are younger, have lower life satisfaction, and have more education, all tend to have lower levels of trust). Residents of bigger cities are also less trusting of local governments than those of smaller cities.3

But luckily, there are trust factors that local officials can influence. For example, residents that participate in community improvement activities tend to manifest higher degrees of trust in their municipalities.4 One organization in our state that’s been instrumental in coordinating these trust-building activities is Kansas PRIDE. The Kansas PRIDE Program is a partnership of Kansas State University, the Kansas Department of Commerce, and Kansas PRIDE, Inc., that assists local governments and volunteers in making their communities better places to live and work. PRIDE has facilitated the restoration of a mini-park in Smith Center, maintained historic structures in Greeley, started the farmers’ market in Elk City, and initiated hundreds of other projects in cities across Kansas.

Fighting the perception of corruption is another way to build trust. Even if corruption is non-existent, citizens are skeptical of entities managing large amounts of public funds, so municipalities should be as open as possible. Although transparency on its own is ineffective, educating the public about the local governments’ structure and decision-making processes is a proven way to build trust.

Overland Park, which was one of three Kansas municipalities to receive a 2012 Sunny Award from the Sunshine Review, a non-profit organization dedicated to state and local government transparency, has taken some great steps to build trust with public information. The City’s website,, gives the function and contact information of all governing body members, City departments, and City boards. The City also posts their own governing body manual online, which describes how specific decisions are made. These small steps demystify local government and increase citizens’ trust in their city officials.5

As many city leaders would probably guess, the most powerful explanation of public trust is the degree of satisfaction with municipal services. Recognizing the importance of high-quality city services, the City of Wichita has set up “Neighborhood City Halls.” These halls are in several convenient neighborhood locations, and allow residents to meet with city council members, talk to representatives of the city police, inspection, and health departments, enroll in parks and recreation programs, and get assistance with issues like trash, loose dogs, and dangerous structures.6

The City of Gardner has also taken action to improve municipal services. Each year, the City conducts a citizen survey to see which services its residents are satisfied with and which it needs to improve. This survey provides a comprehensive overview of the quality of municipal services, and is an important tool in its resource-allocation decisions. By providing tools that respond to citizens’ service demands, Gardner and Wichita have increased their residents’ trust in their local governments.

Any municipality trying to gain the trust of its residents needs to remember that trust can only be built up over time, and that any initiative requires the involvement of both parties. Whether that means creating volunteer opportunities, educating residents about how local governments work, staffing centers to respond to service requests, or simply asking residents how they feel about their community, trust can only be established by creating tools for residents to interact with the local government. Once that happens, the city and its residents can work together as a team to build great a community.

Michael Koss a student in the KU MPA program and serves as the Membership Services Manager for the League of Kansas Municipalities. He can be reached at or (785) 354-9565.

2 Sofie Marien and Marc Hooghe, Does political trust matter?, European Journal of Political Research, Volume 50, Issue 2 (March 2011).

How Do We Build Trust?

The popularity of Stephen M.R. Covey’s 2008 book, The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything, suggests that there’s an inherent recognition of how central trust is to pretty much everything else in our personal and professional lives.

At the most recent session of the Emerging Leaders Academy, PMC director Charles Jones spent time with the participants talking about what he foresees for the future of the public sector. His presentation focused on three issues: efficiency, adaptation, and trust.

It all goes better, Charles noted, when there is trust.

Stephen M.R. Covey agrees, offering this communication example at the beginning of his book: “In a high trust relationship, you can say the wrong thing and people will still get your meaning. In a low-trust relationship, you can be very measured, even precise, and they’ll still misinterpret you.”

So how do we build trust? The circular answer is, of course, by being trustworthy. But what does this look like? Here’s the list that Charles shared:

• Tell the truth. If you can’t, explain why. Small lies kill trust.
• Keep promises. Promise less and deliver more.
• Admit mistakes; and say you’re sorry
• Trust others. To be trusted, you must first trust others.
• Don’t micromanage, use rules to empower vs. distrust.
• Hire and promote integrity.
• Walk the talk.
• Respect the ideas of others.
• Say “no” clearly when you have to, but explain.

So easy, and yet so challenging. What would you add to this list? What examples do you have of how trust really matters or how the things on this list really do build trust?

An Under-Used Approach to Building Trust

Last year as I was planning a networking activity for participants in our Emerging Leaders Academy, I bounced some ideas off Terri Callahan, CPM director and instructor extraordinaire. I mentioned the need to help people learn to ask questions, both informational and meaningful ones, of others as a way to connect with others.

Terri offered up a phrase that precisely described what I was wanting to encourage them to do: cultivate a curious spirit.

The phrase captures the idea that it’s an ability that can connect us not just to other people, but also to our own deeper selves–bringing a curious spirit to an exchange with another puts us in the mindset to assume they have something to offer and we have something to learn. In spite of the deepness of this intention, there’s also a wonderfully fun association with the idea of curiosity. It implies bringing some lively energy to the act of investigation, something we can all use bit more of these days.

Even as asking questions can energize us and establish a connection with others, when done with a genuine, curious spirit, it also helps create trust by showing regard. This is all the more important when the person asking the questions is in a leadership role and taking the time to really find out about a staff member.

In this Harvard Business Review blog post, “Learn to Ask Better Questions,” John Boldoni offers some guidance for how to ask the sorts of questions that can both cultivate and reflect your own curious spirit.

When has asking questions helped strengthen your working relationships?

“It’ll be a ‘perfect storm’ for talent when the economy improves”

“According to a worldwide survey of senior managers, sponsored by StepStone Solutions, two years of cut-backs have undermined workplace trust. Combined with increasing demand for executive talent and a sharp drop in graduate recruitment, the survey has found that companies without the right talent strategies risk developing a major skills shortage just when they need employees’ energy and commitment the most.” Read more.

While the survey focuses on the private sector, we have every reason to believe this will affect the public sector, too. What is your agency doing to hold on to the people who’ll lead in the years ahead? What suggestions can you offer to others?