Teams, Timing and Making the Best Use of Both

ARTICLE | Dec 14, 2018
by Meredith Roark, City Clerk at City of Decatur,GA

Part of the nextERA Voice series

For the past ten years, I have chaired the City of Decatur’s Performance Management Team. And for the past ten years, our monthly meetings have occurred on the second Thursday of the month at either 9:30 a.m. or 10 a.m. But it wasn’t until listening to Daniel Pink’s keynote address on the science of timing at the 104th annual conference of the International City/County Management Association that I realized why.

In his latest book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, Mr. Pink posits that depending on your chronotype you are either a lark (morning person) or an owl (night person) and that means you have an affinity for the times of day to perform your best at certain tasks. For instance, if you are a lark like me, then you will perform analytic tasks such as review of performance metrics best in the hours leading up to lunch. The rest of the cycle follows that after lunch, larks do best performing administrative tasks until around quitting time, followed by a period of insightful task completion through bed time. Owls’ task completion cycle begins and ends later in the day.

Even though I’m a lark, it doesn’t mean that the majority of my team is. The City of Decatur’s Performance Management Team is comprised of 18 staff that include front-line workers, mid-level managers and a few division heads. Some of us have served on the team since the beginning; others are still new. No matter our tenure, we are all committed to bettering the city by promoting the use of performance management throughout the Decatur organization. Which isn’t an easy task considering more than a few members (and the departments they come from) aren’t “numbers” people. And since we are one of the longest standing committees in the organization, there have been years when it was hard to keep up interest in the work.

So how to combat committee fatigue? We regularly engage in dialogue about the make-up of the team as well as when to meet and for the past two years, we have started each meeting with a moment of fun. One of our favorite ways to begin is by thinking about something that happened during the week and describing it in a sentence. The sentence is then shared with a seat mate who draws out the scene described in the sentence. Much like a game of “Telephone,” the paper with sentences and sketches is passed from person to person until it returns to its original owner. We then take turns sharing the drawings and having a good laugh before getting down to business.

By now you are probably wondering how this ties into the topic of timing, larks, owls and the team. I was excited by Dan’s keynote address and purchased the book immediately following the presentation at the conference. Upon reading the first few chapters, I couldn’t wait to share the information with the Performance Management Team. So at our next meeting following the ICMA conference, I took the time to introduce the concept of chronotyping. When I surveyed the team following that discussion, I learned that about half the team are larks and the other half are owls. And when asked if they would prefer a different day or time to meet in the upcoming year, the majority expressed a desire to continue meeting on what has become our regular date and time. If you want to come join us in 2019, look for us in the City Commission conference room on the second Thursday in the morning because we will be there ready to have a good time working with numbers.

Connect with Meredith below:

LinkedIN - /meredith-roark-7b67a59/

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