CSMFO Presidential Insights as We Embrace 2020 and Appreciate the Gifts Within 2019

By Joan Michaels Aguilar, CSMFO 2019 President

Each month, the CSMFO Communications Committee targets a theme for that month. For December, the focus was on improving your whole professional and personal self. They kicked off a special three-part series on how to increase your success at career advancements and provided essential tips for the upcoming CSMFO Conference and finding life and work balance.

My December President’s article focused on the appreciation I had for the Alaska GFOA’s warm welcome to both our CSMFO Executive Director Melissa Manchester and myself.

Right now, you may be scratching your head with the title of the article. For me, the undercurrent of all these is two simple words, “Thank You.”

For most of my career, I’ve never felt I need anyone to tell me “Thank You” and instead continued to push through every new work challenge I was handed. I know I do my job well after all and I thought that’s all that mattered.

But I got a little sad when I thought about this in my own career. I can’t recall the last time I heard a thank you for getting the budget adopted or getting a new bond issued, or continuing to backfill for vacancy’s in other division. And this got me to pay attention and notice that around local government, these two words seem to have been replaced by other two word combinations (budget shortfall, climate change, unfunded pensions, high turnover, new paradigm, or new economy).

So, my appeal to everyone in CSMFO is to help bring these two simple but so powerful words back for 2020. I ask you no matter what your position, no matter where you sit in your family or friend structure, and even more so, when you are around someone from CSFMO, to look for every opportunity to say “Thank You.”

At this time of year, you might have noticed how much more your accounting staff worked to finalize the audit and year-end financial reports/CAFR. Make sure you take the time now to say thank you individually to your staff and look for the opportunity to send acknowledgement of their hard work to your senior leadership team or governing body.

Or, when your agency gets the coveted CSMFO or GFOA award for your last budget or financial report, take that opportunity to spread thanks to all those involved and then spread that throughout your organization.

Even more importantly, steal a moment to say thank you to your staff who finished an always pressured but routine process like a billing cycle, a daily register close, a bank or account reconciliation, an AP check run, and definitely a payroll cycle. You’ll be amazed at how that acknowledgement can go a long way to keep your fiscal ship on course.

Are you an employee that your boss has decided to mentor or cross-train? Maybe take a moment to say a thank you for the development opportunity. Perhaps it will help when that promotion becomes available in your department. Afterall, succession planning is one of those “it takes two” to succeed process.

Even for myself at any leadership or team meeting, I will make sure to complement and say thank you to other senior staff for meeting important budget deadlines – “Hey, thanks Fire Chief for being the first one to get your mid-year request turned in!” Or “Thanks Mr. Public Works Director – your staff was outstanding in helping us with the single audit last week.” Maybe that will encourage others to be timely with requests from Finance and to get the job done when positive behavior is reinforced.

Creating a culture of giving thanks can make a difference when a job opens up in your department, because when you create a culture that is positive, “the grapevine” will know it and you’ll find it easier to attract staff.

From any prior books in this topical space, from my observations from being in the workforce for 40 years, and from even a quick internet search, the key motivator for having productive and happy employees is when they get recognition for a job well done. Too often, the thought has been that money is the best motivator for employees. Sure, it helps, but we all know that no matter what level you are in your organization or how long you have been working, it’s getting thanks that makes the difference.

So now, I ask each of you to take a moment and think about your past week and your interactions in your agency. Has someone done something that made your day? Maybe it was someone getting work done early so others can plan some holiday time-off to with their family – maybe it was that department that finally turned in their staff report on time, or maybe your employee prepared a presentation for a Council/Board meeting. If so, be sure to create a moment, go back to them, and say Thank You! Let’s all Make it Happen and bring “Thank You” back into style in 2020.

Joan Michaels Aguilar is the 2019 President of CSMFO. Joan has over 20 years of experience in municipal finance, including having served as the Deputy City Manager or Finance Director in City of Dixon, King City, and serving as the Budget Manager in Burbank, Colton, Azusa and Covina.

Joan has been actively involved in CSMFO for most of her career, serving in multiple CSMFO Chair roles including the Communications Committee, Budget Committee, and Administration Committee. Joan has also served as a CSMFO Board of Director, Vice Chair of the Conference Site Selection Committee, and member of the Program Committee, 5 Host Committees, League Policy Committee Appointee, and Nominating Committee.

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