Previously Director of Finance, City of West Hollywood, California
Currently Finance and Technology Director, City of Downey, California
During the past 30 years, the City of West Hollywood has demonstrated
that it is like no other city in the world.
A strong spirit of community activism and civic pride thrives in the city, and people from all over the globe visit to experience its iconic destinations, such as the Sunset Strip and historic Route 66. But West Hollywood is a very new city and many of our executives had held their positions for most of its history.
As we were crafting a strategic plan, we began to realize that most of us – the executives – were about the same age and might be retiring at the same time. We weren’t sure we had developed
the next generation of leadership.
We asked Mike Herrlein to create a mechanism that would identify and develop those individuals.
Succession planning can be difficult in the public sector; we can’t always move people around in the way it’s often done in the corporate world. Mike suggested that we take a broader approach.
Mike began by identifying the
aspects of City Hall that made us unique and were requirements for success.
He showed us that it was less about technical skills and more about understanding and succeeding
within our unique culture.
Mike then asked each executive to invest time with a protégé who would shadow us for a period of time. On the executive level, so much of what we do is using judgment; so much of it is dealing with people. You can’t learn this in a class, but you can share your insights. I would have never had these kinds of conversations with younger staff if Mike had not provided the framework. He also worked with the protégés in understanding different management styles and defining their own career development.
At the end of each protégé’s tenure, they were required to make a presentation to the entire executive team, in essence a report on who they were and what they brought to the table. I realized this could be an intimidating assignment, but I was impressed by how well each protégé handled it. But what was more significant was how affirming it was for them to do this. They began to realize what potential they had and they gained the confidence to develop that potential. And we executives got a great understanding of who these people really were.
I had five protégés over the course of the initiative. Each was unique; each experience was different. My first protégé proved the success of the program to me. I eventually did make the decision to leave the City of West Hollywood. And when that time came, he was chosen to step into my position. He’s doing a great job there now as
the City’s Director of Finance and Technology.