“And that’s the type of management style I try to portray. I don’t like sitting at my desk for hours and hours on end. I like getting out in the public to find out what things are important, what things we are doing really well and what things we could do better. Getting in front of a lot of stakeholders, lots of everyday citizens. People who really support mass transit, and people who don’t. I like to hear from them as well.”
Parker says his philosophy is one of accountability where everybody understands what their roles are and what they are responsible for doing, but having the freedom to get it done without interference.
He is also big on collaboration among his staff, and is a believer that no matter what part of the agency you are a part of if you’re part of his management team, you have the knowledge and experience others can learn from.
“I like and enjoy seeing the staff debate over issues that may not be in their specific realm of expertise, but because they are senior management, I tend to think they’re smart people. And so I want them to have some good, sometimes even intense, debate,” Parker says.
“One of the worst things people can do or organizations can do is become too polite. No one wants to step on anybody else’s toes because that’s his responsibility, or that’s the finance guy’s or that’s the HR woman’s.
“I don’t get into that. I want people to get into it because they bring lots of good experiences and good suggestions and we can do best practices within the organization and also look for best practice opportunities from without.”
Another thing Parker likes is for his staff to be involved with the trade associations, especially the exchanging of information from people in similar positions at other agencies.
“I’ve spent a lot of time with my budget director recently saying, in fact even suggesting, why not convene a group of the top CFOs you know and get some feedback from them about what are some of the things they are doing during these budget crisis periods and we can possibly pick up a nugget or two of good information from those folks and then you can share some of the things you’re doing.
“I really like the whole get together, pool your knowledge and then try to solve problems in ways like that because there may be some really good opportunities that we’re missing out on and some things that we’re doing that people may learn from as well.”
Many directors I meet with come into a system and the first thing they do is go about putting their “team” together. For some directors switching agencies, it’s about bringing that team with them, for others it’s seeing what talent they have on hand and building from there. Parker sees putting together the right group of people as essential to leading an agency.
Parker says that having that team on hand is key when situations emerge where he can grab if not the whole team, three or four members and sit down for an impromptu meeting to talk things through.
“We are referred to as a leadership team and that is intentional,” Parker says.
“We have retreated together and done some bonding types of things and we will continue to do more and more of that.”
In the effort to assemble his team, Parker says they’ve had two major hires since he’s been there, one internal and one external, which he thinks is good.
“As we move forward I want the internal group to know that if they work really hard and they are competitive they will have a shot at getting some of the top jobs in the agency. And at the same time I want to go after the best and brightest in the industry so if that’s the case we will go get those folks,” Parker says.
Parker says one change the agency is implementing is eliminating the requirement to offer a position internally first before competing externally for it.
“It was pretty antiquated,” Parker says.
“We had to offer internal people the shot of the jobs first rather than just go out and compete on a national basis. Part of what I am doing now is making any of these senior level-type positions nationally competitive. And then that way we know we’ve got the best.”