The retreat was held in the meeting room of the Northfield Enterprise Center’s co-working site SPUR on Division Street. (http://spurnorthfield.com)
Working Relationships: Facilitated by consultant Sheila Krejei (http://sheilakconsulting.com/home.htm), the council underwent an analysis of their individual decision-making traits as a step toward developing productive working relationships. Prior to this meeting, Ms. Krejei asked each person to complete a written analysis. During this time together, she explained the DISC theory, and began the process of helping each councilor identify their own style and recognize the style of their colleagues. She spent some time at the end eliciting from each how they might more successfully work with people with styles different from their own.
According to the Krejei DISC technique, there are four different decision-making styles: Drive, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance. People tend to fall into one of the four, but may also have a lesser degree of the other traits. By the end of the exercise, the 7 councilors’ traits were mapped on a quadrant of the four styles so that they could see not only their own placement, but also that of their colleagues. Mayor Dana Graham, and Councilors Rhonda Pownell, Erica Zweifel, and David Ludescher were in the Drive quadrant. Councilors Suzy Nakasian and Jessica Peterson White were in the Influence, while Councilor David DeLong soloed in the Compliance quadrant. (City Administrator Tim Madigan, who also took the assessment but not in some of the other activities, fell into the Steadiness quadrant. ) For a more details about this theory and about the characteristics of each quadrant: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DISC_assessment.)
Council Rules: City Administrator Madigan reviewed and took suggestions about the roles and responsibilities of the mayor, council, city administrator, department heads, employees and citizens as outlined in an undated, unidentified document some of which reflects the City Charter. Councilor Nakasian said she thinks there is ambiguity about who sets the council agenda and about who determines what information comes to the council and in what form. Councilor DeLong said he would like staff to provide more options along with their recommendations so that the council could see what other things were considered. Everyone agreed that there should be less time taken up at meetings by staff and more time for deliberation by the council.
Mr. Madigan noted that it is important for councilors to communicate to staff through him, that there are exceptions in the cases where councilors work directly with staff on boards and commissions. It is important for all council members to have all the information, and if council members have questions about policy issues, he should be in the loop. Naturally, if an employee has concerns as a citizen, for example, whether a sidewalk will be built in their neighborhood, it is appropriate to address the council member directly. On the other hand, when Councilor Pownell said she was glad they might have a meeting with the directors, because for her, relationship creates a foundation, Councilor Peterson White stressed that role clarity and open sharing of information is critical.
2013 Goals: Because of the length of the other discussions, the council got to this item after 9p.m., and was not able to complete the process by their 10;00 adjournment. They had before them the 2012 goals with indications of current progress, and began to look at these although they had in their packets suggestions for additional ones from several councilors and from staff. Mr. Madigan called attention to the need for council direction to the Planning Commission on where to go with the final work on the Land Development Code. He said there are “philosophical issues” at play. When asked by Councilor Zweifel whether they will need a consultant or the city planner for this, he said it depends on which direction they take. Community Development Director Chris Heineman has a list of what has been done and what still needs to be done. “It is a complex code and there are places that aren’t complete and places which need to be corrected.” A joint session with the Planning Commission is tentatively scheduled for March.
When asked whether the council wants to take up a discussion of the Business Park, Councilor Nakasian said it would be necessary to look at the Economic Development Plan for a context and for the benefit of the new council.
Before they take up discussion of the 2013 goals again, Mayor Graham asked that councilors send their addition to Mr. Madigan and then they will rank them and the existing ones.
COMMENT: This was an ambitious evening. Given people’s time demands outside their council responsibilities, a four-hour evening meeting may be as much time as can be allocated. However, something has to be short-changed when there is so much to do and so little time. In this case, it was a thorough consideration of goals and priorities.
In refining the 2013 work plan the staff suggested:
- Identifying areas where more information is needed
- Identify non-consensus and undecided items and determine direction
- Develop a process for focus on issues and projects
- Send items to boards and commissions with specific direction and timeline
At least one other session will be needed i f this is indeed their decision process.
The DISC exercise allowed informally directed interaction among council members, something there is no time for at formal meetings and it provided an opportunity for the seated councilors and the newly elected members to become better acquaninted. According to their website, DISC can help participants:
- Learn to appreciate behavioral strengths, challenges and differences in yourself and in others
- Discover ways of dealing with conflict effectively
- Enhance teamwork and reduce team conflict
- Improve communication skills through determining communication styles.
If the science of the DISC exercise is valid and individuals take it seriously, it tonight’s work may be helpful in smoothing out potential bumps as this council moves forward on what looks to be a busy road ahead.