Hello everyone and welcome back! Today I am talking to Pat O'toole, who is a Principal with GreenPlay. I had the pleasure of speaking with him while we were traveling in Arizona for a recent project. He's got a wealth of experience so I encourage you to go to GreenPlay LLC to check out his resume.
One of the phrases that Pat often says is, "Trust Me Now, Judge Me Later." So that is the first question I ask him here. I find it fascinating is that he was a parks and recreation director by age twenty one for a small municipality. That experience allowed him to step up to the plate and come up with some really innovative and creative solutions.
I encourage you guys to listen closely to this one. Pat is a great storyteller and he gives some really specific advice through his stories that I think you're really going to enjoy.
In this episode, you'll learn:
- How to step up to the plate when you are a young director and have a lot of responsibility – but limited experience.
- How to get things done despite limitations, especially around rules and policies. I'm always curious how can use policies to your advantage. What are some of those limited constraints that actually can propel you forward? I think a lot of time to use those policies as an excuse. In these examples, you'll see how Pat uses creativity to get things done.
- I ask him: “what would you say to agencies who say that the lack of funding is currently holding them back?”
- This phrase: “Trust me now, judge me later.” I ask him where this comes from in the very first question of this podcast, but I think is that this phrase shows but he's willing to let his actions speak more than his words. If you say that you will get it done, then you put in the work to get it done. That's what should matter. A lot of times this can give you the leverage that you need to take chances in your organization.
Favorite Moments from the Interview
Q: What’s the story behind “Trust me now, Judge me Later?
A: “Well, there's many stories. My way of thinking was just because we were parks and recreation, we didn't have to be second rate to anybody else. When I went into an interview, I was confident enough that I just said, you know what, you're hired me to do a job and I'll come here if you let me do the job. I have no interest in being another government worker. When my supervisors thought I was getting into risky situations, I used this phrase: “trust me now, judge me later.” If I can’t pull off, just fire me. There's nothing that motivates me more than somebody saying, “No, I don't think you can do it,” so that just told me that I needed to pull it off.
Q: In your early twenties you became a director at age twenty-one. So how did you come into that role at age twenty, and what was your approach?
A: First of all, this was for a small town – that was part of the reason. I went to the state park and rec conference when I was unemployed. I had worked summers in parks and recreation and agencies before, but there was a job listing at the conference who were doing interviews. So I signed up to do an interview for this small town. They wanted someone with five-years’ experience, which I didn’t have.
I signed up anyways, and found out later that the reason why they interviewed me was they could not figure out realize why I applied even though I wasn’t qualified. I answered the questions realistically. They wanted to know how long I was planning on working there – and everyone had said that that wanted to retire there,” but I was honest and said 3-5 years. I told them it was just going to be a stepping stone. They said, you know what every three to five years we will want to hire a new director anyway.
Q: What do you think raises the bar in the field of parks and recreation?
A: One thing I learned at an young age, that number one, people will pay for value. To raise that bar, don't lower your standards because your government you doesn't need to. Do what you can to be the best you can be. Raising the bar is being a calculated risk taker so that you can be you can set the standards. Have high energy, keep your best staff, and I think those of the agencies that we see rising to the top and getting the gold medal awards. It's sometimes not about being a yes person. Being a risk taker is challenging the system. If something shouldn't take two weeks, why do you allow it to take two weeks?
About Pat O'Toole
Pat brings over 25 years of management planning for parks and recreation agencies and has been leading projects for GreenPlay since 2003. Prior to joining GreenPlay, Pat was President of OATS LLC, a private consulting firm. Before that he worked for many years as a Principal for another parks planning firm, and he was previously a director and assistant director for several agencies in four different states.
Pat has extensive expertise in budgeting, operational pro-formas, cost recovery and activity-based costing, efficiencies, public process, and all other facets of leading agencies. He is skilled at leading forward focused projects and teams, specifically related to creating vision and implementation.
Related Posts You Might Enjoy:
Ep. 11: Starting a Parks and Recreation Department from Scratch
Professional Development for Parks & Rec Leaders with Anthony Iracki
Inspiring Pride in Parks & Recreation