We’re in the 20th week of our Cookingham Connection series today as we hear from Michelle Crandall. She is the Assistant City Manager for the City of Dublin, Ohio, a position she has held since July 2013. Prior to that, she was the city’s Director of Administrative Services. She holds an MPA from Ohio State University.
Keep your personal contacts with other city managers. The greatest compliment you can pay them is to ask how they handle a certain problem.
This particular Cookingham guidepost has been of great relevance to me throughout my career. Over the past twenty-two years, there have been numerous occasions I’ve benefited from reaching out to a fellow manager for advice when faced with a difficult situation. Oftentimes, the advice I received changed my approach or perspective and ultimately improved the outcome. A few times, the advice has saved me from making a poor decision that could have negatively impacted my career.
Our contacts and relationships with fellow local government professionals are so critical to both our professional success and our personal well-being. Considering this professional and personal aspect, and expanding upon L.P. Cookingham’s guidepost, I would offer that we should strive to build relationships with other managers that include the following three types of “contacts”: mentors, colleagues, and friends.
- All of us, regardless of where we are in our careers, need a good mentor or group of mentors. Early on in our careers we should find someone we can meet with on a fairly routine basis that will offer us candid, constructive feedback. Mid and late career managers should also have someone to turn to as a sounding board, even if they also serve as a mentor to others. A great mentor isn’t afraid to tell us when we are headed off-course and is eager to join us in celebrating our successes.
- A great mentor also has a few battle scars to share and sage advice about what he or she has learned from personal past experiences. On the flip-side, a great mentee is open to receiving feedback and is ready to change behaviors based on that feedback.
- Colleagues encompass the broader brushstroke of our local government networks. These are the managers in the adjoining communities and those that we have met at state and national association gatherings that we rely on regularly to “share shop” with and exchange ideas and information.
- From a professional standpoint, these connections are critical to building great communities. Our on-going contacts with colleagues allow us to understand best practices, lessons learned, and new perspectives. We should never be hesitant to reach out to another manager. As Cookingham notes in this guidepost, it is a call that will be well-received. In turn, we should always do our best to return the favor when asked for advice or information, giving such requests our full and timely attention.
- From a personal standpoint, these connections are important for career progression and professional opportunities. Your next career opportunity is likely to result because of strong relationships you have built with other local government managers.
- Building these relationship requires that we set-aside time in our schedules to attend area manager gatherings, as well as our state association and ICMA conferences. Beyond these structured settings, we should also make time to meet one-on-one with colleagues. Some of my greatest ideas and insights have resulted from conversations over a cup of coffee with other local government managers. Don’t let your hectic schedule get in the way of cultivating these critical relationships.
- The local government profession is one that presents challenges and stresses that oftentimes only those also in the field truly understand. When our family and friends can’t relate to the issues we face, this is when it is vital to have a small group of fellow managers we consider close friends. These are the relationships that allow us to reach out and share more personally with those we trust and that understand because “they have been there, too”. These are the relationships that provide us with a safe haven to vent when we are stressed, without the fear that we will be judged, and to share our excitement when we have successes, without the fear that we will be viewed as boastful. Of all of our relationships with other managers, these are the ones we should cherish and invest in the most.
Fifty-eight years after the publishing of L.P. Cookingham’s 1956 PM Magazine article, Guidepost #20 still rings true. We are here to support each other in this incredible profession we have chosen. So pick up the phone, get out the calendar, or send a note. Start building and keep building strong professional relationships. It is an investment that pays high dividends to all of us and our communities.
The Cookingham Connection blog series is published in partnership with Emerging Local Government Leaders (ELGL). ELGL members are local government leaders with a passion for connecting, communicating, and educating.