Public Works Expo 2018

TU09 - You Can’t Lead from Behind a Desk

Aug 28, 2018 9:45am ‐ Aug 28, 2018 11:00am


“Get out of the office and circulate among the troops.” We’ve all seen the version of this where the boss joins the crew for a day, poses for a picture in a hard hat, and then is never seen again. Don’t miss this presentation by a public works leader who has adopted a regular, repeating program of inserting himself into workgroups. Every two or three weeks, he spends an entire workday as a member of a crew. He tells the crew to treat him like an extra, if unskilled, pair of hands. Invariably the barriers come down after a couple of hours and after the conversations about sports and families subside, questions are freely asked. Honest answers are a must, but this approach has strengthened relationships, countered bad perceptions, enhanced communication and built trust.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of this session, you will be better able to: 

  • Describe the benefits of “Management by Walking Around (MBWA).”
  • Build a plan to implement MBWA into your public works setting.
  • List ways to establish a personal presence into field teams.


  • Jonathan Gano, PE, Director of Public Works, City of Des Moines, IA

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