Leading Courageously in Challenging Times

A recap of the ICMA Midwest Regional Conference gives future attendees an idea of what's in store.

ARTICLE | Mar 29, 2018

The 2018 ICMA Midwest Regional Conference, held in Columbus, Ohio, in conjunction with the Ohio City/County Management Association Winter Conference, brought local government leaders together for two days of networking and professional development essentials. Here are some highlights:

Leading Courageously in Challenging Times

ICMA Executive Director Marc Ott shared some of his experiences, including one with Uber and Lyft––two on-demand ride-sharing companies––during his tenure as city manager in Austin, Texas. He talked about resistance to change, and the need to meet innovation with an open mind. Ott discussed that, with advanced technology and analysis, the ride-sharing companies proceeded as though compliance with local government was obsolete. When brought to a vote by the city, Uber and Lyft lost, and left the next day. Because the value of innovation did not meet the values of the city, there was a missed opportunity for them to work together. Session attendees discussed similar stories in their communities and how to lead at the local level to achieve goals that may not be happening at the national level.

Communicating Meaningfully and Memorably

We’ve all been there. You step on to a stage, ready to communicate an important message to a critical audience. You know exactly what you want to convey to captivate and convince. Whether it’s an important initiative that will take a multipronged approach, or corralling the right team to manage the task force pivotal to the change you want to see in your organization, it’s important that everyone in the room is paying attention and can take home the message that will take your local government team to the next level.

You guide your staff through your carefully crafted PowerPoint presentation with intricate graphs and fancy typeface, but at the end you’re left wondering if your message really resonated. It might help to know that only 7 percent of communication is verbal. The rest depends on a lot more than what sort of typeface you use.

Leading an energized and heartfelt session on Making What You Have to Say Meaningful and Memorable, ICMA Executive Coach and Director of Leadership Development, Felicia Logan, covered the lethality of falling into the “4 Deadly Disconnects”:

  • Filler language such as um, uh, er, ah, like, okay, or the ever-famous ‘you know?’
  • Reading excessively from your notes, presentation, or teleprompter.
  • Speaking in a monotone or unengaged cadence.
  • Avoiding eye contact with your audience.

Breaking the habits of disconnecting with the audience takes extensive practice, but is absolutely pivotal to be an effective leader. Whether it’s on the public stage, or from behind your desk, meaningful and memorable communication is essential to building employee trust and confidence. If you’d like to make sure your messages are well received by your staff and public, this is a must-attend session when joining your regional conference.

Preparing for the Next Generation of Local Government

ICMA President David Johnstone shared high-impact thoughts on creating a world for our future generations. What are we doing as local government leaders to diminish our carbon footprint? Are we responsible, or are we complicit? What are we doing to prepare our children for the decisions that we make, or ignore? Johnstone, quoting Darwin, shared an important message to the Ohio managers and professionals in the room.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

City and county managers are unique in that they can immediately affect change. Their finger is on the pulse of each community that they manage. So, as the quote lingered in the air, addressing a profession built to be resilient, it's importance seemed daunting and obvious.  

Johnstone reminded his audience that 2 percent of the world’s land mass is cities and that we are agents of change as we have the capabilities to hire other agents of changes in innovative ways. He added that we must live up to the privilege of being a city manager and be the superstars, while organizations beneath us may be atrophying. The innovation that we are all charged with is to find new innovators and protect them from the entrenchment fallacy that would limit their progress.

What You Can Look Forward To

Creating dialogue on issues like these must become commonplace for effective local government leadership. We must learn to navigate our ever-present responsibility to leadership without bumping into the Code of Ethics, which is the foundation of ICMA’s values.

This regional conference, and those to follow, present opportunities to continue the conversation that began in San Antonio last October. The goal is to help present and future leaders explore the boundaries of leadership in these challenging times.

Register for your #ICMARegional Conference today!

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