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Cultural Road Map


Customer Service

Ef f i ci ency


Why a Cultural Road Map?

The Town of Little Elm is an organization that exists to provide an exceptional quality of life and provide services that help residents and stakeholders lead happy, safe, and comfortable lives. Local government is a special level of government that arguably has the most significant impact on dayto-day living, and as a result, should be responsive to the needs of the people it serves.   Local government is also often very diverse-not only in the services provided, but in the people that work in the organization. Team members come from a diverse cross-section of interests, personalities, and backgrounds. Despite the variety of functions performed by the organization or the range of diversity of the individuals that make up the organization, to be successful, the Town of Little Elm and its team members should be dedicated to a common vision.



Culture is defined as the social norms, interactions, expectations, and behaviors of a group. It is the personality of an organization and is what makes a business unique. It is also the sum of its values, beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes. Where many organizations don’t make defining culture a priority, a culture still develops. It may just not be the desired culture. For some organizations, that may be completely okay, but not defining culture is very often a mistake. Why? Well, think of going on a road trip without a map; how would anyone know how to get to their destination? Without a defined culture, team members may not feel engaged in the organization, embrace and exemplify its values, or feel as if their work makes a difference. A lack of cohesive culture can also negatively affect team member performance, satisfaction, productivity, and partnerships, too.  Being deliberate in defining the behaviors, expectations, and beliefs has its advantages; defining the right culture creates a positive work environment, attracts talent, and can positively affect performance. To achieve its vision and goals, an organization must create a culture that encourages team member engagement, investment, and participation.  In addition to bringing team members together and encouraging engagement, establishing a strong organizational culture allows an organization the opportunity to define what matters, including its mission and Core Values. Creation of culture allows for the definition of goals, too, and the development of strategies to achieve those goals.  To perform these functions and meet our goals to serve our residents and stakeholders, developing a clearly defined culture is critical to our success.



Our culture is built on the philosophy of Servant Leadership, the premise of putting the needs of others before the needs of one’s self. Servant Leadership is about identifying and meeting the needs of customers, enhancing our services, and developing Little Elm into a desirable lakeside destination for all people to live and play while enjoying a safe, vibrant, and welcoming community. To fully function as Servant Leaders, both as individuals and as an organization, the culture we define must keep our Core Values at the forefront of every action we take and decision we make. These values are Integrity, Customer Service, Efficiency, and Innovation.



Our organizational culture centers on Servant Leadership, and we believe that service to others is more important than our individual needs. We are a values-driven organization that incorporates the values of integrity, customer service, efficiency, and innovation in everything that we do. We promote a fun, optimistic, and fulfilling work environment that contains an energy where team members are excited to come to work and serve the community.  We also believe the high service levels we provide are a reflection of the team members who work for the organization. We empower our team members and are committed to an environment where team members at all levels can use their judgment to fulfill the service needs of the community.    We are honest, loyal, trustworthy, transparent, fair, and open-minded, and have a culture of accountability. We keep our word and admit our mistakes. We stand up for what is right, even in the face of a challenge and do what is right, even if no one notices. We expect a team-oriented atmosphere where departmental lines and job descriptions are merely a guide. Our team members engage in an environment of cooperation and focus on getting the job done. We believe that success is shared and that praise is important. Our team members should be motivated and competent individuals who are held to high standards and put tremendous effort in achieving success. We place a great amount of importance on the interaction with our customers. We are respectful, positive, accessible and approachable, responsive, and empathetic. We openly communicate and give our full attention. We focus on being able to assist internal and external customers, not simply accommodate them. Whether the answer involves going the extra mile or sometimes even delivering bad news, we are friendly, courteous, patient, humble, and professional.



We recognize that we are entrusted with resources ultimately owned by the community, and as stewards of those, are committed to using the minimum resources required to realize the maximum result. We will find the shortest path on a route or in a process and operate without waste, improper use of taxpayer dollars, and without compromising quality. We believe in a streamlined process that eliminates red tape wherever possible. We promote reasonable risk-taking in the name of innovation. We have a willingness to grow, to explore new ideas, to challenge the status quo, to constantly seek opportunities to improve and streamline efforts. We are open to change, though we do not seek change unnecessarily. We allow the freedom to try new things and recognize that through creativity, teamwork, discipline, and hard work, we will build a stronger, healthier Town together. We are a learning organization, always developing our team members and committing ourselves to excellence. Finally, we will be an organization that sets an example to others for how a municipal service organization should operate. We have a standard of excellence, and we focus on the character of our team members. We realize that it is an honor and a privilege to serve the public and we are proud to represent the Town of Little Elm.



Core Values are the guiding tenets of an organization. They are intrinsically important to culture and are timeless. Core Values support our vision, reflect our identity, and help shape our organizational culture. Integrity We are honest, loyal, trustworthy, transparent, and fair and open-minded, and have a culture of accountability. We keep our word and admit our mistakes. We stand up for what is right even in the face of a challenge and do what is right, even if no one notices. Why Is Integrity Important? Integrity is the foundation of trust and good character. It is critical to our success as an organization. As public servants, it is essential to let our residents and stakeholders know that we will provide services, make decisions, and use public resources in a way that is fair, equitable, and honest. We must earn the public’s trust and confidence so that we can effectively serve their needs.  Doing the right thing - even when no one notices - helps us make decisions, allows us to gain the trust of our stakeholders, and makes us role models. What Does Integrity Look Like? Never expecting special treatment or favors due to a position with the Town of Little Elm.  Never using public resources for personal gain.  Making sure to follow policies and procedures fairly and consistently to avoid the appearance of favoritism. Providing services and interactions that treat everyone fairly and equally. Holding ourselves to extremely high ethical standards. Conducting ourselves in a way that never gives the appearance of impropriety or conflict of interest. Admitting when we make a mistake and make it right. Refusing to compromise our values even if it means consequences.  Communicating openly and honestly for the sake of transparency.


OUR CORE VALUES Customer Service We are respectful, positive, attentive, approachable, responsive, and empathetic. We focus on being able to assist internal and external customers, not simply accommodate them. Whether the answer involves going the extra mile or sometimes even delivering bad news, we are courteous, patient, humble and professional. Why Is Customer Service Important? As public employees, we must remember that we exist to serve the public. While we don’t work in a business where we always get to tell everyone yes, we have to treat everyone with kindness, patience, and respect. As Servant Leaders, we must put the needs of the customer first and go out of our way to exceed their expectations. Providing excellent customer service helps show our value to our stakeholders, helps to create customer retention, encourages customers to share positive feedback and endorsement for our organization, and also helps to reduce team member turnover. What Does Customer Service Look Like? Smiling and saying “Hello” or “Can I help you with anything?” to anyone we encounter. Saying “My pleasure,” or “You’re welcome”, rather than “No problem” when someone thanks you.  When speaking with someone, we first say “Good morning” or “Good afternoon” to start the conversation off in a positive way, no matter what the topic is. When using the phone, we smile to brighten our voices so that the person on the other end of the phone can hear it in our tone. Whether answering the phone or being stopped by a customer, we take the time to answer questions and provide assistance, even when it is not our job or service area.  Maintaining our composure and being friendly and empathetic when working with a customer who is being disrespectful or rude. Following up and keeping customers or stakeholders informed when they are working with the Town on a process or problem. Not ignoring people that pass by and helping people that appear to be lost or in need of help. Giving people our full attention when talking to them. Instead of telling people what we can’t do, tell them what we can do to help resolve their issues while still respecting Town policies and procedures.


OUR CORE VALUES Efficiency We recognize that we are entrusted with resources ultimately owned by the community, and as stewards of those, are committed to using the minimum resources required to realize the maximum result. We will find the shortest path on a route or in a process, and operate without waste, with proper use of taxpayer dollars, and without compromising quality. Why Is Efficiency Important? Working efficiently means working with a focused approach. By focusing on what we are doing and how we are doing it, we can ensure that our work is high-quality and delivered on time, every time. Working efficiently also shows our stakeholders our value and sends the message that we care about what we are doing and how we are doing it. What Does Efficiency Look Like? Examining ways to streamline a process or task before seeking additional resources. Finding opportunities to partner with other department or entities to maximize resources. “Counting napkins” realizing that an individual decision may be small, but the cumulative impact may be huge. Not compromising on quality, but using the least amount of resources to achieve the highest value. Constantly evaluating processes and procedures to identify steps that can be removed.


OUR CORE VALUES Innovation We have a willingness to grow, to explore new ideas, and to challenge the status quo. We are open to change, though we do not seek change unnecessarily. We allow the freedom to try new things and recognize that through creativity and reasonable risk, we will build a stronger, healthier Town together. We are an organization dedicated to learning and continuous improvement. Why Is Innovation Important? Innovation is a critical piece of what we do. For one, it says we are not afraid to try new things if something is no longer working for our organization or our constituents. It also means we are willing to adapt and change with the times and adjust to meet the needs of those we serve. If we don’t change to meet these needs, we will become stagnate as individuals and as an organization. What Does Innovation Look Like? Challenging the status quo and never accepting the phrase “We’ve always done it this way.” Seeking out new learning and growth opportunities that pull us out of our comfort zone. Promoting calculated risks with the understanding that to achieve exciting and new things, there will be failures along the way. Looking to innovative and out-of-the-box sources for ideas that could be brought into the organization. Not fearing change, but be willing to reexamine our processes to find the best way to do something.


HOW TEAM MEMBERS CONTRIBUTE TO CULTURE Team members play a critical role in establishing an organization’s culture and its success. At the Town of Little Elm, we expect team members to have a servant’s heart and represent our Core Values. Team members should also have a passion for their job and an understanding of the role they play in making the lives of our residents and stakeholders better. Team members of the Town of Little Elm should be willing to work across departmental lines when necessary to contribute to the task at hand and should treat each other with respect and dignity.  As part of our cultural vision, we expect all team members to display the following core competencies:  Listening - As Servant Leaders, our calling to serve is dependent upon our ability to listen and perceive the needs of others outside our own. When we tune into one another and share communication – back and forth – we begin our lives as Servant Leaders. Empathy - Understanding other people’s intentions and perspectives. Putting aside your viewpoint, valuing others’ perspectives, and approaching situations with an open mind. Awareness - Ability to look at one’s self, think deeply about how emotions and behavior affect other people and align with our values.  Conceptualization - Looking beyond day-to-day realities to the bigger picture, seeking a delicate balance between the two. Foresight - Predicting what is likely to happen in the future by learning from past experiences, identifying what is happening now, and understanding the consequences of decisions. Stewardship - Taking responsibility for the actions and performance of the team, and being accountable for the role team members play in our organization. Building of Community - Believes the organization needs to function as a community and work hard to build community within. Encourages people to take responsibility for their work and remind them that they do contribute to the success and overall objectives of the organization. Calling - Desire to make a difference for others within the organization and will pursue opportunities to make a difference and to impact the lives of team members, the organization and the community – never for their own gain. Nurturing the Spirit - Joy - Nurtures the individual’s spirit through honest praises and supportive recognition.


UNDERSTANDING LEADERSHIP'S ROLE IN CULTURE Leaders play an essential role in both developing – and protecting – an organization’s culture. In addition to possessing the attributes of a great team member, leaders also have the responsibility of setting the tone and ensuring that the culture of Servant Leadership is being furthered in their areas of responsibility. Leaders should be accessible to their team and must provide an exceptional level of communication. They should never let their ego get in the way and that they must earn the respect of their peers and their team by their actions, not their title. Leaders must not see themselves as superior members of their team, but as facilitators for engagement, examples of the Core Values in action, and be willing to take on any role necessary to ensure success. Additional core competencies that leaders must possess are as follows: Strategic Thinking - The ability to come up with effective plans in line with the Town’s objectives within a particular situation. Strategic thinking helps leaders review policy issues, perform long term planning, set goals and determine priorities, and identify potential risks and opportunities. Developing Others - Must be able to develop and coach others and constructively review the work of others in order to improve and advance the skills, knowledge and performance levels of those who report to them. Managing Performance - Performance management is a process by which leaders and team members work together to plan, monitor, and review a team member’s work objectives and overall contribution to the organization. More than just an annual performance review, performance management is the continuous process of setting objectives, assessing progress, and providing on-going coaching and feedback to ensure that team members are meeting their objectives and career goals. Change Management - Change management is a structured approach for ensuring that changes are thoroughly and smoothly implemented and that the lasting benefits of change are achieved. The focus is on the broader impacts of change, particularly on people and how they, as individuals and teams, move from the current situation to the new one. The shift in question could range from a simple process change to significant changes in policy or strategy needed if the organization is to achieve its potential.


UNDERSTANDING LEADERSHIP'S ROLE IN CULTURE Persuasion - Process aimed at changing a person's (or a group's) attitude or behavior toward some event, idea, object, or other person(s), by using written or spoken words to convey information, feelings, or reasoning, or a combination of them. Commitment to the Growth of People - Servant Leaders believe that people have an intrinsic value beyond their tangible contributions as workers. As such, the Servant Leader is deeply committed to the growth of each and every individual within his or her organization. The Servant Leader recognizes the tremendous responsibility to do everything in his or her power to nurture the personal and professional growth of team members and colleagues. Healing - The word healing really means to help make whole. The search for wholeness is something shared by the Servant Leader and the followers. The Servant Leader is aware that in order for a person to grow professionally and personally, that person must first be whole and not broken. Alignment with Town Vision and Values - Linking of organizational goals with the team members' personal goals. Requires common understanding of the purposes and goals of the organization, and consistency between every objective and plan.



When hiring for any position, the Town of Little Elm is looking for great matches, but not just those matches that meet the technical ability and competencies of the position. We are looking for individuals that both reflect and complement the components of our culture, too. To find candidates that match our core and cultural values, we not only define the skills required to be successful for the job, we also place a great emphasis on whether a candidate’s motivation, characteristics, and personality are appropriate for the role.  To determine if a candidate meets the standards of our culture, we use behavioral interviewing to identify those individuals with the traits we want to see. Behavioral interviewing is an interview method that looks at past experiences of candidates to determine their behaviors, skills, knowledge, and abilities. A behavioral interview question asks a candidate to tailor their response by encouraging them to respond with a story about past behavior. A typical question used in a behavioral interview will use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Results) model. For example, a question may look like this: “Tell me about a time when you made a mistake at work. How did you deal with this situation and what was the outcome?” The behavioral interview method is preferred because it creates an opportunity for candidates to demonstrate that they are well suited for the job. In a traditional interviewing method, the candidate tells the prospective employer that they are capable of doing the job by talking about themselves, while the behavioral interview method the candidate will describe in detail how they handled situations. This can help determine how the candidate fits in with our culture and Core Values, as in many instances, past behavior dictates future behavior. This method makes their resume come to life and proves they have done what they stated they did. The behavioral interview is broken down into three parts: Core Value questions, general questions, and closing questions. Core Value questions are critical to our organization as our Core Values are paramount to the way the Town operates and measures its success. Every candidate, regardless of position, will be asked Core Value questions. The general questions from the master list are selected by predetermining what abilities and characteristics are most needed for success in this position. The master list offers a wide variety of topics with several behavioral questions listed underneath each one. Up to eight questions can be selected from the master list. Finally, there is a set of closing questions which will let the candidate sum things up and ask any questions of their own. This process creates a complete interview with an even template for all interviewees and making candidate comparisons easier.


ONBOARDING | WHERE CULTURE BEGINS Onboarding is the process by which new team members gain the knowledge, skills, and behaviors to become productive and engaged members of our organization. The goals of the onboarding process are to establish a foundation of expectations, familiarize new hires with our culture, equip new hires with the tools to be productive, and improve team member retention. Why Is Onboarding Important? A quality onboarding program has been shown to improve organizational outcomes and have a positive effect on culture. Here are some of the benefits of an effective onboarding program:  Increased team member retention - Studies have shown that effective and organized onboarding increases team member retention by as much as 60 percent. Increased team member retention has significant benefits for organizations, including culture, morale, and productivity. Reduced team member ramp-up - Providing an effective onboarding experience helps to lessen the amount of time it takes for team members to adjust to a new work environment, which means they become productive faster, perform better, and work better with their peers. Improved engagement - Providing new team members with quality and effective onboarding increases engagement and enhances the team member's perception of the workplace and the work they do. It allows them to feel like they are part of the team from their very first day. To be effective, our onboarding must be organized, centralized, comprehensive, strategic, consistent, and well-managed. In order to onboard new team members effectively, the onboarding process must be coordinated between Human Resources and the Department the team member will be working in. Part of this process is establishing open and clear communication with new team members about timeframes to complete onboarding tasks. Each position has a respective checklist of tasks that must be completed before the team member can begin working for the Town, which includes completion of necessary paperwork, a facilities tour, completion of assigned paperwork, a review of expectations from supervisors, a review of the Town’s Core Values, explanation of Town culture, a meeting with the Town Manager, and assignment of a mentor. By establishing clear expectations of the team member and giving them an overview of the onboarding process, we can instill our cultural and Core Values early on, setting new hires up for success.



One of the strategic goals of the Council is to ensure excellence in public services while keeping up with the growth in the community. One way this is accomplished is by offering training opportunities to team members to allow for continuous learning and development. The Town provides access to monthly in-house training for all team members that address a variety of topics that tie back to and reinforce our Core Values. This enables our team members to have a growth mindset where they believe they can develop their skills by participating in development opportunities. When this occurs, team members put forth more effort, learn from feedback, and keep trying until they succeed. Training is necessary because it allows us to be continuous learners. We expect that leaders are not only supportive of team members attending learning opportunities, but to also attend themselves to show the importance that is placed on growing and developing in our organization. Leaders should address training, growth, and development opportunities with their team members during ongoing coaching sessions and annual individual development plans.



The Town of Little Elm expects a culture of constant coaching to ensure positive team member development. Leaders are expected to provide ongoing feedback to team members regarding their representation of the principles of Servant Leadership and core competencies related to the Town’s values of integrity, customer service, efficiency, and innovation. The power of effective coaching lies in authentic relationships, and we believe it is the relationships that leaders have with their team members, not the power of their positions, that help move team member development and performance forward. It is expected that open communication will be constant and that feedback will be meaningful, detailed, and constructive. Coaching should occur up, down, and sideways in the organization. All team members should be willing to coach constructively and also accepting feedback to grow and improve.  Although coaching should occur regularly, there will be more formal coaching sessions between team members and their leadership that will be geared toward more in-depth discussions of performance. During these discussions, individual development plans will be determined to chart a path for the team members to meet their highest potential.     On the date of a team member’s anniversary, their direct supervisor will hold a formal coaching session to identify the strengths and areas of improvement regarding the core competencies related to the Town’s values. During this session, the supervisor and team member will work to develop an individual development plan to address the identified strengths and weaknesses as well as accommodating the professional goals of the team member.   Leaders will continue to check in and give feedback to team members frequently and hold a formal follow-up six months after the formal coaching session to ensure that the team member has been making progress on their development plan.   Team members are expected to be knowledgeable about their essential job functions and areas of core competency regarding the Town’s philosophy of Servant Leadership and our four Core Values. The team member is also expected to seek out learning and development opportunities related to the individual development plan that comes out of their annual coaching session. A team member’s immediate supervisor will perform coaching. The supervisor will review a team member's performance with his or her department head and discuss the development plan with them.



The Town of Little Elm believes in recognizing and celebrating our team members. Recognition is a critical element in sustaining our culture because when show our team members that they are valued and appreciated, they, in turn, provide exceptional customer service for our residents, business owners, and visitors. One way we drive culture through recognition is our bracelet program. As a visible reminder of our four Core Values, each one is represented by a different colored bracelet. When leaders spot their team members embodying one of these values, they are awarded a bracelet. This type of recognition creates a memorable experience and has a positive impact on people and performance.    Leaders are encouraged to recognize team members often and visibly. It not only reinforces our culture, but also creates a sense of belonging. This feeling of belonging is then the driving force in a team member’s workplace commitment, motivation, and engagement. Engaged team members have more pride in our organization and find more fulfillment in what they do, leading to higher retention and a fun work environment.    Our team members are our greatest asset. When we make authentic and meaningful recognition a regular part of our culture, we show our team members that their work is significant and that it contributes to the success of our town. It is simply not enough to define a workplace culture; culture must continually be measured, managed, and protected in order to benefit the organization and its team members. Culture is what keeps team members engaged, productive, invested, and performing at their highest ability. As a result, organizations should look for ways to continuously improve and check their progress against the culture they’ve defined and be willing to adjust to achieve their goals.

Profile for Town of Little Elm

Town of Little Elm Cultural Road Map  

Town of Little Elm Cultural Road Map