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International City/County Management Association Recognizes Davenport Strengths Institute

International City/County Management Association Recognizes Davenport Strengths Institute
Posted on 10/15/2021
ICMA oct 2021 magazine

October 13, 2021 – The Davenport Strengths Institute (DSI) was awarded the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) Strategic Leadership and Governance Award at this year’s ICMA National Conference. The award recognizes the innovative and successful local government programs that have significantly affected a local government organization's culture or strategic direction.

The ICMA Local Government Excellence Awards highlight creative contributions to professional local government management while demonstrating the difference that this type of management makes to the quality of life in our communities. ICMA’s Program Excellence Awards are presented to local governments and their chief administrators in recognition of their innovative and successful programs. Nominations are evaluated by an independent, 17-person panel of ICMA members.

Davenport launched the Davenport Strengths Institute (DSI) in July of 2017 to provide City staff with leadership development training while at the same time fostering working relationships across the organization. Employees must apply to participate, and a new cohort starts every six months. The ninth cohort began in January 2021, and to date 122 employees have completed the program.

The DSI curriculum is heavily based on Gallup’s materials for managers and teams, plus training on workplace appreciation, the growth mindset, unconscious bias, and leading positive change in the workplace. The curriculum evolves with changing organizational needs. Cohorts meet monthly for four hours, and as “capstones,” small groups collaborate on a project revolving around Patrick Lencioni’s Leadership Fables. The City made an initial investment of $5,000 to certify a staff member as a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach.

Cohorts have approximately 15 employees from across the organization with diverse backgrounds in tenure and position. This purposeful selection of participants enables employees to build working relationships outside of their departments and has broken down “silos” that once existed. 

The Davenport Strengths Institute has been a critical tool in achieving the City Administrator’s goal of organizational and talent development. Since its inception, 16 of the 122 participants have been promoted. Employee retention has also been extremely high for DSI participants; 97 percent have remained with the City. In 2020, Davenport experienced unprecedented disasters—COVID 19, civil unrest, and a destructive derecho. Having strong employee leadership and the ability to work seamlessly across departments was vital to the City’s ability to respond effectively and efficiently.

The DSI has also proved that City employees have a strong appetite for professional development and will seek out opportunities when they are available. In fact, the City has a waiting list for employees who want to participate. DSI has spurred many participants to consider a career in city management and participate in further training through ICMA. For example, one graduate is a member of the Leadership ICMA class of 2022. Two additional graduates have participated in other ICMA training opportunities, and one has enrolled in an MPA program with aspirations of becoming a City Administrator. By tapping the potential of the City’s employees, the Davenport Strengths Institute is creating the next generation of municipal leaders who will be well rounded and prepared to respond to the challenges cities will face in the future.