GovNews: Waukesha City Administrator Awarded WCMA Meritorious Service Award

ARTICLE | Jul 23, 2019
City of Waukesha, WI

Congratulations Waukesha, WI City Administrator, Kevin Lahner, for being awarded WCMA Meritorious Service Award! Learn more about Waukesha's award-winning employee development program below. 


The City of Waukesha is a City of over 500 employees. As with any organization, our employees are our greatest investment. As a City, we want to invest in our employees in the hopes that they will invest themselves in their jobs, in their Departments and in our community. To help develop all employees in the organization, in the spring of 2017 at the direction of the City Administrator, the City’s “Leading Waukesha” program was created. The program is designed to develop skills needed for successful leadership at all levels and in all departments of our organization.

The goals for this program include:

  • Developing the next wave of leaders for the City –Not unlike other organizations, Waukesha has a number of employees who are retiring and we are looking to train the next wave of leaders that will continue to move our City forward.
  • Creating a culture that supports leadership and training- As a City, we our employees to advance in their careers. Not every Department has the budget to support extensive outside training opportunities. This program is open to any City employee who has a desire to learn and grow and allows us to provide training in-house.
  • Allowing us to speak the same language across the organization- Once employees have gone through the program, concepts and ideas presented in the class can be used in meetings and dialogue throughout the organization.
  • Helping us to break down Department barriers- The program brings together employees from every Department of our organization. Employees spend significant time getting to know one another and getting to know about other City Departments.
  • Training employees that they can lead from wherever they sit in the organization- As a City we believe that leadership needs to take place at levels and in all areas of our organization. This program is open to any employee to help instill in them leadership principals.

To accomplish the above goals, the Leading Waukesha program is led by the City Administrator and includes eleven sessions stretched over the course of four months. To participate, interested employees must submit an application detailing why they are interested in the program. The classes are kept to around 12 employees to allow for the classes to be interactive and for the employees to be able to engage with one another.

The course covers the following: Learning About Your Leadership Style

  • Week 1: Introduction to Leadership- The class discusses what leadership is, why it’s important and what the goals are for the program.
  • Week 2: Understanding You- Participants take a DISC assessment prior to the class. An outside instructor leads the participants through understanding their own communication style and that of their co-workers.
  • Week 3: Emotional Intelligence- The class discusses the intangibles that make for a great leader and co-worker.

Leadership Skills

  • Week 4: Human Motivation Concepts- The class is divided into groups with one group presenting on the book Drive, by Daniel Pink
  • Week 5: Employee Engagement- The class is divided into groups with one group presenting on the book Turn the Ship Around, by David Marquet
  • Week 6: Telling Your Story- The class is divided into groups with one group presenting on the book, A Whole New Mind, by Daniel Pink
  • Week 7: Making the Leap from Good to Great- The City Administrator presents concepts from the book Good to Great by Jim Collins.

Application- See It in Practice

  • Week 8: Discussion on Business/Non-Profit Interviews- In groups, class participants are asked to interview a local business or non-profit. The class time is spent discussing their visits and what we can learn from others around us.
  • Week 9: New Programs/Initiatives in Waukesha- The City Administrator discusses what the City is focusing on in terms of new projects externally or internally. A majority of the class time is open for questions and dialogue with the City Administrator about what is happening in Waukesha.
  • Week 10: Service Project- Class participants complete a community service project together. Projects have ranged from working with Habitat for Humanity, to serving lunch at a local shelter, to sorting clothes for a clothing ministry.
  • Week 11: Wrap-Up Session- Participants share what they have learned and found most valuable from the class.

In addition to the course work above, there are other key components to the program. One component is that each class participant is assigned a Department Head to interview. One or two Department Heads are then invited to the start of each class where they are introduced by the class participant and can answer any questions from the class. Participants are assigned a Department Head they do not normally interact with to encourage them to learn about how another Department operates. Another feature of the program is that each class is held in a different room location throughout the City. Many of the participants have only ever been in the building they work in and have not had the opportunity to see and explore other parts of the City. Additionally, upon conclusion of the program, graduates are presented a graduation certificate at the Common Council meeting which allows for the Aldermen to recognize the hard work and achievement of the employees.

The Leading Waukesha program has been a success since its implementation. The first program was offered in the Spring of 2017 and since then there have been four sessions of the program. There are currently 45 graduates of the program working for the City. Participants are asked to complete a post course survey where they have on average rated the program an 8.5 out of 10 for effectiveness and responded with a 9 out of 10 for how likely they are to recommend the program to other City employees.

The graduates of the program have stepped up in numerous ways throughout the organization and have taken a variety of leadership roles throughout the City. The success of the program can also be measured through the active alumni group. Once employees graduate from Leading Waukesha, the goal is to continue the conversations that began in the class through our Leadership Alumni Group. Out of the 45 alumni, a group of eight graduates make up the Leadership Alumni Council which plans events throughout the year. Events include speakers, group discussions, volunteer projects, and social events for the Alumni group.

With the success of the program, the goal is to continue to offer the Leading Waukesha program one time per year as we work to establish leadership at all levels and in all Departments of the City.

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