This Is The REAL Role of Politicians

This Is The REAL Role of Politicians

In less than two weeks, we’ll vote in the 2021 federal election. It’ll be time to choose a new mayor and council here in Calgary in about six weeks. We can learn some lessons about engaging our employees from the state of voter engagement in Calgary.

The excitement is palpable. You can see it, hear it and feel it everywhere you go in the city. It’s almost election day…what? Aren’t you excited?

Gee, I wonder why.


Many don’t seem all that excited to choose who will govern us with dedication, cunning, and ruthless efficiency for the next three years.

The candidates say they will make wise decisions on infrastructure, fix the pandemic, and save us from the presently sad and depressing lives their predecessors bequeathed to us. They’ll increase our tourist appeal, and significantly improve every service currently provided to us, all the while keeping costs low.

Perhaps no one is excited because experience shows that they will be busily engaged in not delivering on any of the things they committed to providing during the campaign in just a few short weeks. A good friend of mine, a long-suffering senior manager with the city, has explained to councillors instantly become the world’s foremost authorities on finance, transportation, infrastructure, water treatment, sewage, policing, and everything else that falls under the responsibility of city management.


Many of the candidates believe that the role of council is to aid in running the city.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The real truth is they often just get in the way of those who keep the city running smoothly.

You know who I mean—the ones who do the work.

The folks who drive our busses, maintain our parks, police our streets, fight our fires, ensure we have clean water, round up our strays, pick up our garbage and deliver the dozens of services we take for granted – principally because they are, and always have been, there.

These people and those who provide support and management services to them are the career folks who operate our city year after year, not the ones who show up for a four-year term and then frequently depart in search of higher elected office.


This same issue can manifest in workplaces. If management makes bold plans and promises, but can’t or won’t follow through, you will soon have a culture problem.

Employees are doing the day-to-day running the business. The leadership team picks a direction, and they rely on the rest of the employees to bring that choice to life. If the leadership team implements changes in direction that make the employees’ lives more complicated or inefficient, their attitude is likely to become poor. The employees limit the discretionary effort they’re willing to put in.

Leaders need to be sensitive to the actions that can increase this cynical attitude and limit productivity.

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Of course, we need elected officials. Of course, we need a functional council.

We also need clear parameters about council’s role and what they should leave to the real experts, the experienced city staff.

This is the same lesson leadership teams should take away. If you want an engaged, productive team, you need to keep them from developing the cynicism that comes with hearing broken promises, time and again.

Till we read again.

Photo of Rael Kalley,Habits coach in calgary canada

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