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  • jamesarndt13

Where is the bathroom?

Some lessons you pay for through college tuition. Some you glean from nuggets you discover in conference presentations. Some you learn from the road of life. Some, like this one for me, come from a small conversation with your boss/mentor while you are standing at the copier machine in a City Hall mailroom 17 years ago. You know the ones. Statements made by the other person that they may have forgotten, but one that left a lasting impression upon you. This statement made an impact upon me, because it was so powerful, raw, and accurate.

What was this impactful and revolutionary statement? Was it the meaning of life? Was it a financial strategy that has guided my life over the past two decades? Was it how to understand my better half, Kim, no but that one would have been amazing as well :) No, it was simply this: "Jim, that is not enough time to even know where all the bathrooms are."

Yes, that is it! Oh, I know you are thinking, what does that even mean? My first Mayor, Scott Stahl, and I were talking about the longevity of managers in organizations. A Mayor of almost twenty years in his office really shared with me some significant advice. A new manager has a lot to learn about this new organization when he/she comes into their new post. This is a lesson that all leaders really need to adhere to. You know from my previous blogs that I am an achiever by nature! I push and I pull. I have been affectionally referred to as "Hurricane Jim" by me team members, and those are the ones that like me! So hearken unto my words. Let them resonate with you before you cast them away from your mental vault. I humbly submit to you that they deserve a place in your mental inventory. Let these words of wisdom, even though they seems so elementary, help you along your leadership path.

Think about it. How many bathrooms do you have in your City Hall or corporate office building? Do you know where they are at? Have you been inside them? It takes time to learn their whereabouts just as it takes time to learn the ins and outs of any organization. I get so tickled by the interview question that most C-suite leaders get asked by their prospective Boards. What are you going to do in the first 90 days? My answer, which is the most raw and truthful they will assuredly hear is, I will try to find out where all the bathrooms are at. Meaning, I will get to know the organization and the team. Both the formal and the informal organization.

When I took my seat as the City Administrator for St. Clair Missouri, I knew where one bathroom was located in City Hall. Through my 3 years there I discovered a few more that I originally did not know existed. Deep truth, I walked by a closet for almost two years several times a day until one day I discovered it was not a closet, it was actually a bathroom! Do you not think Mayor Stahl's lesson came storming back into my mind? In my current post as the City Manager for Paducah Kentucky, I am blessed to work with an amazing team and work in an historic City Hall. If you have not been to Paducah, you have to put this western Kentucky town on your bucket list and visit this downtown treasure called City Hall. In City Hall I have been told that there are ten bathrooms. I know of 7. Again, my point stands. I am missing 30% of the data. I have been here for more than 3 years!

There is a lot to learn when a new manager takes over an organization. Lean in, listen, get to know your Team. Praise them. Love them! Laugh with them. Cry with them! And when someone asks you where the nearest bathroom is, don't send them past the closet to the bathroom down the hall.

Keep shining!

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