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Sandeep Aujla: Providing local leadership in challenging times

When it comes to the unprecedented changes facing municipalities, leadership consultant Sandeep Aujla is interested in understanding how municipalities can address these challenges.

“When you talk about changes, there are things we know we have to do and things that you can’t predict,” Aujla said. “If you’re talking about events you can’t even predict, that seem unnecessary or are out of the blue, how do you tackle those challenges?”

Steps Toward Municipal Change

Aujla said she sees several things municipalities need to address in order to ensure they are thoughtfully considering all the facets that go into planning for unplanned change.

It starts with the CAO, she explains in the video, and how they come to define success. Whatever tone they set in interpreting what changes may or may not be coming, she adds, directly impact on how the rest of the municipality will deal with it.

Also important are for municipalities to have a good strategic plan with a concrete approach to fiscal stability; a cooperative structure that encourages partnerships within the organization, but also with other levels of government and municipalities; and systems focused on what type of inputs, processes, and outcomes municipal services and programs are generating.

Storytelling in Times of Crisis

Last, but not least, there is storytelling. In times of crisis, or in times of unplanned or unpredicted change, Aujla explains the number one tool in managing the fears and anxieties of staff.

Research shows that when things are in crisis, staff will not believe leadership’s message if they are not being directly informed around what is happening. With that in mind, Aujla said the best tool for motiving employees is showing them something the municipality is doing to move everyone in the right direction.

“There are still things within our control and that is what working with unplanned change is all about,” she said. “It is proactive preparation and the willingness to pivot. If you are going to do that, you are going to make the best of your situation. Waiting and watching may not be the most productive approach.” MW

Sandeep Aujla was part of the Ontario Municipal Administrators’ Association 2019 Fall Workshop, where she sat down with Municipal World CEO Susan Gardner to discuss change management strategies in troubled times.  

✯ Municipal World Insider and Executive Members: You might also be interested in Dawn McCoy’s articles: Canadian municipalities switch gears in crisis. Note that you can now access the complete collection of past articles (and more) from your membership dashboard.

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