The second of Groundwork’s ongoing blog series on leadership in the South Coast brings us to the City government. Checking in with Christina Connelly, Chief Operating Officer for the City of New Bedford, was nothing short of inspiring. As the very first person to ever take on this role, she didn’t have footsteps to follow. This wasn’t a problem for Christina as she set the bar high for herself and her team, and has a definite drive to get things done.
What do you look forward to the most in your new role with the City of New Bedford?
I most look forward to doing my part in the ongoing regeneration of the city. I am a New Bedford native and nearly lifelong resident with 13 years of experience in city government. I’ve seen a lot of change and progress, both in the things that we all see and the experience (various physical improvements, new parks and recreational amenities, dozens of new downtown businesses, thousands of new jobs, improved schools, etc.) and in the inner workings of City government.
We are a far more professional and modern organization than we were when I had my first City job from 1998-2000, and even since I re-joined the workforce in 2007. Many of our critical processes have been transformed by smart investments in technology, reorganization, and human capital, and we are much more data-driven. We really began to turn the corner when we hired a Chief Financial Officer and instituted a performance management system during Mayor Mitchell’s first year in office (2012) and we haven’t stopped looking for ways to improve.
In fact, continuous improvement is one of the six core values City employees established as part of our statement of values, which we call The New Bedford Way. The others are accountability, integrity, innovation, teamwork, and respect. My job is to make sure that I and the departments under my purview embed those values into everything we do. It’s a tremendous challenge, and the expectations and the stakes are often high, but that’s what makes public service uniquely rewarding. Your successes redound to the benefit of an entire city, not just to a single organization or corporation. You can really make an impact in this line of work.
Can you give one piece of leadership advice, that has helped you stay on track and reach your goals?
Be a collaborative leader and an active listener. The department heads with whom I am privileged to work have more expertise and experience in their fields than I will ever have. I’m admittedly a generalist, but I think that can be an advantage in managing and leading, especially if your team is comprised of specialists, as mine is. It’s rather cliche, but I think my job as a leader and manager is to see the big picture and to figure out how the individual pieces of the organization fit together so that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. You can’t do that if you don’t genuinely listen to and value the input of your team members.
Collaborate and Listen
This is sound advice for anyone, in any career. Christina spoke so humbly and honestly, it’s hard not to walk away excited to see what’s next for New Bedford.
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