Writing this from the summer CML conference in Breckenridge has me reflecting on the tremendous learning curve facing a new board member, or a board that has added a new board member. For me as a new Trustee in 1998 in Eagle, it was like embarking on an advanced learning on the job seminar. Call it an advanced course in, “Our Town.”
Fortunately, then, town hall was full of people staff, citizens and other trustees with more experience and knowledge than me. So, I observed, asked a lot of questions and built a library of books and articles at home. I treated it like a self-directed class, and saved each board packet which quickly filled up two file drawers. But as a full-time carpenter, husband, and trustee, I didn’t have time to build relationships outside of town let alone go conferencing.
Looking back, I wonder in what realm do we assume a new team member will get up to speed on their own, or a new team will work well together and be effective right out of the box?
Before raft guiding last summer, I passed 14 days of training with other guides, and had to pass a “check out” run with customers. In Centennial, new board members are oriented with mock meetings with a facilitator. The Dillon Council recently invited me to facilitate a conversation about what their expectations were of each other and discuss how they could improve as a team. Relations were not dysfunctional or broken—they just wanted to do better. One outcome, they radically changed their seating chart to adjust some dynamics between each other and with staff.
Over time, it has become clear to me that we in the public sector could do a lot more to provide professional development, like “onboarding” elected officials more systematically. We have staff professional development plans, so how can we formalize training for elected leaders, and continue to expand a council’s toolkit for them to be more effective in their service? Our 2017 NWCCOG member survey underscored that elected officials desire more tools and training. I’m eager to find ways for NWCCOG to do just that.
And relationships—like listening, as Georgia O’Keefe said, take time. So does continually improving how a group works together. Especially if there is healing to be done. We don’t often block out time for that. Speaking of healing, the Steamboat Council has brought the tradition of dining together before a meeting. These small things matter.
So why conference? My answer is this: we are only as good as the sum of the things we have learned and bring to the table combined with the circle of people we have to draw upon. What is your circle and are you tending to it?