Hiring and Evaluating the CEO: What Councils and Managers Need to Know

March 4, 2013

By Julia D. Novak and Catherine Tuck Parrish

Julia Novak, President, and Catherine Tuck Parrish, will lead the Leadership Training Institute seminar entitled, "Hiring and Evaluating the CEO: What Councils and Managers Need to Know" on Saturday, March 10, 2013 at the Congressional City Conference.

Nobody said it would be easy...but did you realize it could be this difficult? Selecting the manager or administrator for your city, town or village is arguably the most important decision you will make as an elected official. Once you've hired that person, the real hard work begins: setting goals and evaluating performance.

As elected officials, you play a critical role in shaping the future of your community. The Council must establish priorities, enact policy, and provide direction and clarification to an organization that exists to carry out your policy initiatives. Success depends on your ability to be clear in the direction you provide and priorities you set, and in your city manager's or administrator's ability to motivate a workforce around those priorities.

Most supervisors (in both the public and private sectors) will agree that one of the hardest jobs they face is hiring the right person for a job, and then evaluating his or her effectiveness once in the position. How do you find the most competent manager to help you navigate the most challenging economic times, motivate and lead city staff to deliver excellent services, and demonstrate skill in working with a wide diversity of residents and businesses in your community? When your community needs to hire a new manager and/or evaluate your current manager, the process can potentially be overly politicized, rushed, or mishandled due to a lack of experience. In most other key decisions, elected officials can depend on staff expertise to inform their deliberations, including input from the manager or administrator. However, in hiring and evaluation processes, staff is not usually in a position to advise elected officials as they might on other issues. This session will lead you through the steps of the hiring process and help you position your new manager for success.

As council members, voters hold you accountable for getting things done: plowing snow, filling potholes, collecting garbage, and developing policy answers to vexing problems facing your community. You (the collective body called the City Council) have one individual you can hold accountable for the same thing: your city manager. It is your job not only to provide direction but also to evaluate the effectiveness of your city manager. Have you ever evaluated the CEO of a multi-disciplined corporation before? Have you ever conducted a formal performance evaluation that requires a group to speak with one voice to an individual? It 'Isn't easy, and shouldn't be taken for granted.

How do you set realistic goals and hold the manager accountable for the implementation of vision and policy set by the council? This interactive half-day session, specifically designed for the NLC Leadership Training Institute, will help elected officials navigate the processes of hiring and evaluating their top appointed official. It will also assist the manager/administrator in effectively working with elected officials during the evaluation process so that their resulting feedback is constructive, meaningful, and useful in improving the manager/administrator's performance.

Julia Novak is President of The Novak Consulting Group; Catherine Tuck Parrish is Executive Search Practice Leader at The Novak Consulting Group.