023: Affordability, leadership, and the impact of showing up with Greg Wukasch

Greg Wukasch, our mentor, previous speaker at Catalyst 2018, guest on episode 3, and current manager of the External Affairs Department with the San Antonio Water System. Beginning in 1998, as an Education Coordinator and now as the External Affairs Manager. Greg really considers himself more of a “story teller” putting together water stories for citizens across the city he loves. When not talking H2O, this self-professed water nerd also enjoys talking strategic planning and corporate culture.  

Greg and his team have developed impactful programs that have continued to create community between SAWS and the community it serves. These programs include the high school education program Impact.

Top Takeaways:

  1. So many times we look to each other and compare, especially in the communication and education sphere of the water industry, to get ideas and standards. But affordability is different. Every city is different in terms of demographics, struggles, infrastructure issues, and services therefore affordable water issues will be unique.
  2. Go where your people are already gathering. Go beyond the social media and take a more personalized approach with our customers, with your neighbors.
  3. Greg’s two big leadership takeaways: have the courage to lead and it’s ok to make mistakes, just handle them well.
  4. You can’t be afraid to try something out and if it doesn’t work in the moment don’t be afraid to change it at the last second to meet the needs of your people.


4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, Jim Huling

Servant Leadership on Action by Ken Blanchard and Renee Broadwell

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek


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Show notes:

[4:55] Kick off with the affordability-Greg attended The most relevant and timely conference had ever been too.  

[5:38] Affordability and affordable water issues are beginning to make their way to the top and to many different cities.

[6:20] Manny Teodoro kicked off the conference explaining the uniqueness of affordability.

[7:35] Greg will talk about SAWS affordability program, being gut punched by the opening speaker, and the outreach goals  they’ve reached.

[10:24] Greg was listening to intently to Manny Teodoro’s presentation he forgot to take notes at times. See his presentation notes here and follow twitter @MPTeodoro.  Words on Water episode

[13:10] Greg breaks down SAWS humanized outreach strategy of “meeting them [customers] where they are”.

[17:53] Greg takes the program further-gives an example of trying something new adjusting as you go.

[20:35] We’re at a moment in the industry where the analytical side is meeting a social science side.

[24:56] Be an authentic leader, willing and wanting to be with our neighbors.

[26:13] A theme within the podcast about being authentic and being connected with your customers.

[27:24] Find your ambassadors to amplify your message.

[28:00] Closing down the conference with an impactful panel that includes industry professionals and advocates for the poor.

[31:51] Greg attended the global leadership summit-hear his takeaways and how he turns his learning into action.

[34:04] It takes Courage to lead. It takes courage to believe in a cause bigger than yourself. -Simon Sinek

[34:13] You must get comfortable taking risks. Fear has no place in your success equation. It takes courage to be a leader. -Carla Harris with Morgan Stanley

[34:50] “Things were going fine with our affordability group, why did you have to come in and try to do something bigger.”

[35:28] Not being afraid to make mistakes. The road to success is paved in mistakes well handled. -Danny Meyer restaurateur

[38:39] Greg gives examples of taking action from the theory he learns at conferences and books.

[41:30] Arianne gets fired up: are you taking what you learn from conferences and summits back to staff and implementing the takeaways and action items?

[44:50] Knowledge hoarders

[45:02] Great leaders constantly learn and share the knowledge.

[46:15] Seth Godin’s blog inspired Stephanie.

“If you’re not working to changes minds, why are you here again?”

[48:37] Greg’s quick encouragement to the H2duO.

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