Category Archives: Governance

Cents and Sensibility

I recently facilitated a city council retreat to set goals and priorities leading into their budget process. One council member strongly advocated for “the lowest tax rate in the region.” The Mayor responded with an incredibly thoughtful and wise explanation regarding the need to link tax rate decisions to both current and future needs (such as aging infrastructure) and that a tax rate should not be an end in and of itself, but a means to accomplish the policy goals of the council and the quality of life goals of the community.

This wise Mayor understood that the tax rate is an important part of the equation to be deliberated, but just one part. A one dimensional focus on the tax rate empowers bad decision making. It is like awarding the cheapest bid for new police cars, but ignoring that the cars included in the lowest bid did not include engines.

The budget is not a financial document so much as a policy document which has financial implications. And the tax rate provides the means to implement the policy decisions of the elected officials… but it should not be an end in and of itself.

A one dimensional obsession with the tax rate, unaccompanied by an understanding that it has a direct impact on the type and quality of services delivered reminds me of the little boy visiting his grandfather who was an avid baseball fan. They were watching the game together when the doorbell rang. The grandfather got up and asked the boy to watch the game and tell him what happened when he got back. When the grandfather returned, he asked what the score was. “Five to four” the boy replied. “In whose favor?” he asked. The boy thought a moment and replied “The fives.”

When the only question is “do we have the lowest tax rate?” the answer is like the little boy who knew the score but not what the numbers really meant. An effective budget process helps the governing body ask the right series of questions to understand underlying implications and in so doing advance their policy goals:

  1. “What services do we want to deliver?” allows a governing body to answer the philosophical questions of what business lines their organization should be in.
  2. “How are we delivering these services?” allows a governing body to address efficiency and effectiveness as well as the level of quality they are committed to.
  3. “Who should we be delivering the services to?” allows a governing body to wrestle with different service configurations for different populations such as central versus neighborhood libraries and non-resident utilization of city services.
  4. “What are we willing to pay to provide these services?” allows the governing body to determine if they are really ready to pay for what they say they want. If the governing body is unwilling to set the tax rate at a level required to deliver the array of services at the desired quality of service level, then the governing body should rethink whether they want to quit providing a service, whether they want to provide it at a lower quality level, or whether they do not want to provide it as broadly.
  5. “What are the long term implications of our intended funding level for these services?” provides a fiscal stewardship reality check. What looks like a fiscally conservative decision in the context of a two year time horizon often looks like fiscal irresponsibility when considered over a 20 year time horizon (think under-funding infrastructure needs). Evaluating and understanding the long term implications of current funding decisions is an essential and routine part of any responsible budgeting process.

Asking the right questions in the right order equips governing bodies to engage in more sensible budget deliberations to set tax rates that ensure both fiscal responsibility and a vibrant and healthy future.

Written by:
Ron Holifield
CEO, Strategic Government Resources


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Generations with a Twist – Part Three

Catch up on part one and two of the Generations with a Twist blog series before reading the final part here

Along with major events, the developments in technology have impacted us enormously. The influences technological advancements giphyhave had on our lives have been huge. Each generation has had a vastly different experience because of the developments in technology that have occurred at certain ages. Technology, perhaps foremost, has impacted the way we communicate so significantly. The way people of each generation communicate has one of the greatest impacts in the workplace. We constantly hear grumblings from Silents, Boomers, and even X-ers towards Millennials and the Homeland Generation because of their ability to “communicate appropriately”. Where older generations will prefer to physically speak to another person, Millennials and the Homeland Generation will send a text, or send an email, or some sort of electronic messaging. It is faster, more efficient and less invasive than demanding someone’s attention at that very moment. The way Millennials and the Homeland Generation communicate has developed from what we were taught in school when we were growing up. We were taught to use technology, and it is what is socially acceptable among our peers. Using technology to communicate is something we have learned, just as much as the way the Silent and G.I. Generations learned to communicate by writing hand written letters and having meetings. What we have to remember, particularly in the workplace, is that each generation has its own way of communicating. Neither is necessarily better than the other. There is a time and a place for verbal, in person communication, and there is a time and a place for electronic communication. We need to teach each other the skill of communication. One thing is for sure about Boomers, X-ers, and Millennials – we are all learners. We all love to learn. But, we are also great teachers.

One thing that we sometimes lack is the patience to understand one another, and to slow down and take the time to remember why it is we communicate a little differently. Understanding this, will help reduce frustration and increase our ability to understand one another.

The importance of strong communication and empathy in the workplace really cannot be understated. We are now living in a time where we have up to four generations in the workplace. Understanding and appreciating how each person functions and communicates can greatly reduce frustration and lead to a much more understanding and successful environment. Understanding this about communication is more important for those in leadership positions, perhaps more than ever before. Having empathy, as a leader, is so vital in today’s work environment. Ask yourself, when you were twenty-something, were you an expert communicator, or an expert in your field? I am one of these twenty-somethings in the workplace that we are speaking of, and I confess, I still have a LOT to learn… and I’ll thank you for being patient and remembering this fact. For all the Millennials out there, when your parents and grandparents ask you how to use a computer, I always keep in mind that these are the people taught you how to use a spoon…

We all have differences and we all have similarities, but one thing that we know for sure – we were all twenty-somethings at one point, and the older generation felt we were all frustrating, immature and lacking basic life skills… this is not something that is new, or particular to a specific generation. A wise woman once said about the generation that succeeded hers –

“Annoying? Yes. Dangerous? No. They were simply our youthful doppelgangers who need our compassion more than anything.” – Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City.


Written by:
Marlie Eyre
Member Collaboration Manager

Generations with a Twist – Part Two

In case you missed part one of Generations with a Twist, you can read it here.

Having said all this about generations not being as different and defined in characteristics as people think, it is important to remember that…

generations are heavily influenced by their environment and the events that they have lived through. What goes on around us vastly impacts our perceptions, decisions, understanding, and our culture.

We all have that parent or grandparent who has lived through war and as a result has a heightened sensitivity to not wasting food or who never takes having enough food for granted. For those of us who have lived through economic downturn or times of great economic prosperity – this will influence our behavior and outlook. The Boomer Generation grew up through a time of great economic prosperity, which contributed significantly to the beginning of the “credit obsessed” trend in the U.S. The Boomers became well-known for being highly focused on pursuing material possessions because of the economic prosperity they experienced for much of their lives, at least until 2008.

If we think about other major events in American history – the various wars (WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, 1facd3da1eae35d3680ba087d716cc49the Gulf, the Middle East, etc.), man landing on the moon, Pearl Harbor, the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Death of JFK, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Fall of the Berlin Wall, 9/11, etc. – the events that we have lived through have and will continue to impact us all differently, depending on the age that we were when the event occurred. There are people reading this blog post who were young teens when 9/11 occurred, and there are people reading this who were in their 40s. We will have been affected by this event differently because of our age and capacity to comprehend events. The age we are when an event occurs, along with our ability to comprehend such events, shapes our opinions of the world, it shapes our culture, our views on religion, the way we view and understand international affairs and global organizations, our ability to understand alliances, our views on gender equality, etc. Regardless of when we were born, we are all products of our environments and the effects major events have on our lives and on our societies.

In an attempt to consolidate my point above, I am going to tell you the story of where I was when 9/11 occurred. I was september-11th-photoactually eleven years old, about three months shy of my twelfth birthday. Being an Australian, I was living in a small seaside town about one and a half hours outside of Melbourne. I remember waking up in the morning (because of the time difference between our two countries, the planes hitting the World Trade Center actually occurred over night for us Down Under) and walking into my Mom’s room to say goodbye before I headed off to school. She was sitting at her computer (something she never did this this early in the morning). She called me over to show me footage of the planes hitting the towers. I didn’t think much of it at the time, I thought it looked like a scene from another action movie about hit the cinemas. I think my response to my Mom went something like this “OK. Thanks for showing me. I’m off to school.” Ten years down the road, I was now at university. Being a student of international relations and politics, all of my university text books were defined in eras. This is pretty normal as international relations and politics are closely tied to history. All of my books referred to the “pre-9/11 era” and the “post-9/11 era”. As a young adult, I was finally able to understand the gravity of what happened that day back in 2001. This event changed the world. It changed the trajectory of international affairs and foreign policy. It changed the lives of everyone, all over the world. But on the day it happened, I was eleven years old and had no idea. But at the same time, how do we expect an eleven year old to understand an event like this when the biggest thing on our minds is “am I going to pass my math test tomorrow?”

To understand one another, it is vitally important to remember age. Our age, more often than not, defines our ability to understand and comprehend things. If we defined generations by the characteristics they display as children, we would all be one giant generation of sociopaths that completely lack the ability to rationalize. Now, I’m not saying we need to go out and start treating the twenty-somethings of the workplace like children, but the next time you find yourself unable to understand someone from another generation, whether older or younger, remind yourself of their age and their experience and how best to communicate.

Check the 16% on Saturday for the final part of this three-part series!


Written by:
Marlie Eyre
Member Collaboration Manager

Generations with a Twist – Part One

The topic of generational differences has been a hot one for quite some time. However, in this three-part series, we will take a slightly different approach to the topic. Understanding generations is now more important than ever as we currently have as many as four generations being represented in the workplace. As we look at this new perspective on the generational divide, we are going to explore the concept that generational differences are not actually as heavily based on the generation you were born in, as has originally been suggested. We are going to generational-difference-cartoonargue that each generation actually felt the same way about the generation that followed it, no matter which decade they were born in (or what fashion trends they embraced at the time). Each generation felt that the one that succeeded it was a generation of narcissistic, self-centered, unfocused rebels, irrespective of whether you were born in the early 1900s or if you were born in the 80s or 90s. The fact of the matter is, it’s all about the stage of life we are in. To be successful in the workplace we need to understand particular things about the different generations and learn how to communicate across the generational divide.

Before we begin, I want to add in a little disclaimer. When we talk about generations, we are talking in extreme generalizations. We are going to focus on the overall so-called “trends” of generations. So, please do not freak out or look for the exits if one of the trends that we discuss for your generation does not reflect you.

We have all had moments where we felt that younger generations are borderline sociopath. Common, admit it. The older and thus more mature generations in the workforce will always see the younger employees as immature and inexperienced. But, what do you expect? Of course those twenty-somethings are not going to have 10 years of experience, or any significant exposure to the workplace. We cannot expect the twenty somethings of the workforce to be expert communicators, or to have a strong sense of emotional intelligence, because these are skills that are learned over time.

giphyWe always feel that the youngest generation will fail to grow up. They will become the generation that failed to mature, that failed to understand what is important, and who simply do not have the ability to get their priorities straight. We are constantly gasping at the next generation’s sheer audacity and what they can get away with. But guess what? This was your generation once, and it was the generation before yours, as well. No one ever says that the youngest generation of the time will grow up to be put-together, well-rounded, worldly leaders with great communication skills. Think about it. This is what the generation before yours said about you, and I’ll put any money down to say that you have thought the same about the generation following yours.

Let’s take a look at some of the things that have been said about generations:

  1. “The Now Generation has become the Me Generation,”
  2. “The Video Generation. There they are, those preening narcissists who have to document every banal moment with their cutting-edge communications technology.”
  3. “…was a bunch of screw-ups: “They have trouble making decisions. They would rather hike in the Himalayas than climb a corporate ladder…  They crave entertainment, but their attention span is as short as one zap of a TV dial… They postpone marriage because they dread divorce.”
  4. “…self-centered, fickle and impractical.”
  5. “Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders, and love chatter in places of exercise. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”

Now, I know what you are all thinking. Surely these must pertain to the Millennial and the Homeland Generation! Believe it or not, none of these quotes were written about the Millennials. In fact, quote number four was what Generation X said about the Boomers. Quote number five is actually from Socrates back in Ancient Greece. Let that sink in for a moment… does it really sound all that different from what we are currently saying about the most recent generations? We are all the same. What it ultimately comes down to is the stage of life we are all in and the priorities that are common to each age group. We often forget that we were there once. It’s easy to look at the younger generation and think, “what were you thinking?” “Why are you wearing that?” But remember, you were this person once!

Check the 16% on Tuesday for part two of this three-part series!


Written by:
Marlie Eyre
Member Collaboration Manager

Giving Back

Last month, the city management profession lost a great leader with the unexpected passing of David Watkins, city manager of Hot Springs, Arkansas.

When we began our graduate studies at the University of Kansas, we were provided the opportunity to meet great local government leaders, one of which was David Watkins. At the time, he was the city manager of Lenexa, Kansas, and each year he hired an intern from the graduate class to work in his office. During our year on-campus, he hired Maria Ojeda.

In the fall of our first year, our entire class attended the ICMA Conference. From afar, David walked with such confidence through the conference halls, greeting everyone along his path. To aspiring city managers, he seemed entirely unapproachable. We later learned that David was the complete antithesis; he was approachable, accessible and never took himself too seriously. He naturally drew people to him with his laugh and great sense of humor. David took time to meet students and in the classic ICMA tradition, made time to socialize and share stories of the profession.

From that point on, I believe everyone in our class felt comfortable with David. He demonstrated to us that he was “just a regular guy,” not a “city manager giant,” and built a foundation to begin his mentorship with us.

“David was a great supporter of the University of Kansas Internship Program. As an intern in Lenexa, David always made an effort to welcome my participation at different levels of the organization. Most importantly, he never micromanaged and allowed me the opportunity to learn. As an impressionable newbie to local government, I appreciated his ability to talk government, family and sports; he valued connecting with people and that made him a great leader,” Maria Ojeda.

Throughout his career, David shared his dedication to the local government profession and his commitment to developing future generations of leaders. He spent his time with us to not only serve as a mentor for decades of local government students; but, he also spent his time to get to know others. He was a true role model to so many.

Mentoring can be time consuming and complex such as a long-term formal mentoring partnership or an internship program at your city. It can also be simple like meeting with new entries into the profession over lunch or inviting local students to your community for a tour of city services. Consider honoring David’s career by taking the time to focus on mentorship and improve the future of our profession.

Winston Churchill has been credited with saying, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” David gave a great amount of himself to the future of city management.


_MG_6628 Maria LaraWritten by:
Executive Search Manager, Katie Corder
& Assistant to the City Manager of Pleasanton, CA, Maria Ojeda

Leadership Lessons from an Unassuming Role

Have you ever caught yourself watching a sporting match where you end up yelling at the TV screen thinking the referee might hear you? You become so invested in the game that you feel that berating them through the screen will have some effect on the way the ref’s subsequent decisions will be made. I can hear some of you groan at another sports analogy about to be applied here, but stay with me on this one because it may change the way you think about trust and leadership in public service, AND, the way you view the referee at your child’s next little league game. But, to begin with, what actually gives me license to talk about both officiating sports and public service? Two topics that, quite frankly, have probably never even come close to entering your mind at the same time! I started refereeing basketball at the ripe young age of thirteen and had no idea the impact it would make on my life. I went on to referee state championships in Australia and College Basketball in Canada. My educational background and professional life also happen to be in governance. As a person who has always aspired to a career in public service, I could not help but see the extraordinary links between these two seemingly juxtaposed topics.

As referees, we are responsible for making split second decisions, often under extreme pressure. These decisions that we make affect the way people feel, think and react to any given situation. Does this experience sound familiar to you? Referees actually display some of the most extraordinary qualities of leadership. Now, I am a person who completely understands the begrudging feelings many have towards referees. giphy2 I apologize if you are still cradling the scars from THAT decision that came from THAT referee back in junior high that lost you the championship match! BUT, and as obscure as it may seem, public service and refereeing actually share some very similar experiences, and recognizing this can actually teach us some very important lessons about leadership. So, hear me out.

Referees, like those in public service, are facilitators, they are the enablers, the diplomats, the judiciary, the rule enforcers, the teachers and the carers. They do this all for the love of the game and for a sense of community. It’s a calling. It’s a dedication to a certain level of responsibility. These aspects of a referee’s job ring remarkably similar to the roles and responsibilities involved in public service. In the stadium, we are the police, we are the firefighters, we are the courts and councilmen, and sometimes, we have to be animal control as well. Yes, you heard me right… animal control.

One of the complaints often heard by local referees is when a player or coach did not like a decision, and as a result says “I can’t believe I am paying YOU for this!” As with game fees that pay a referee’s wage, many people in society are also sensitive to where their tax money goes and what they see these taxes outwardly being spent on. In all honesty, the greatest thing that both positions have to develop is trust. I did not even come close to realizing this early on in my refereeing career, but this is what makes us successful at our jobs. The weight that trust carries is actually astounding. Creating trust and building relationships and rapport with those around us through clear communication and demonstrating objective and transparent decision-making, makes all the difference in the world. This goes for referees and it most definitely goes for those in public service. Surely, I get an “Amen” on that one. The bottom line is, the greater people’s trust is for the public servant and the referee alike, the criticisms and public outcry will not come nearly as swift and harsh if that level of trust and faith in a well demonstrated ability to lead, is there. On the court, if I have built and established a level of trust with players and coaches (and sometimes parents), a bad call on my part is far more easily forgiven, and they perhaps will not call for my head on the way out the door or in the parking lot.

As a basketball player (albeit not a very good one), I know I have caught myself walking into an arena looking at which referee would be on my game. I would find myself either mentally high-fiving myself knowing that this person was capable and I trusted them to be the arbiter, or, I would audibly groan knowing that I was up for a tough match, as I was just as likely to be going to battle with the referee as much as the opposition.giphy Those who have played competitive sports know this feeling. Honestly, the same thing goes when I walk into a stadium and see who I will be refereeing with on the next match. Like walking into the workplace and trusting who you have to work with, knowing who I would be walking onto the court with, made all the difference. What it came down to was, did I trust that person’s judgement? Knowing them, their background, how long they have been doing this for, their level of integrity, the calls they have made (good and bad), do I trust them not to mess up and make us all look like fools? One of the greatest compliments that I received refereeing came one day when the president of my association came to me after a tough match and said, “I would follow you into battle”. What this meant was that, on the court, he trusted my judgement, he trusted my skills, and my ability to communicate and relate to people and build those vital relationships. This absolutely also rings true in the workplace.

On the court as in public service, consistency is key. Consistency in your calls takes away the element of surprise. Consistency builds credibility. In the arena, whether it is the basketball arena or the public service arena, when there is mistrust for those in charge, chaos can ensue. Think of what mistrust does in your own mind, then expand that thought to an entire organization. It can be destructive. Successful leadership takes an extraordinary amount of emotional intelligence. Authority without trust DOES. NOT. WORK. For me, success came when I learned to be deliberate and thoughtful about each decision I made. What that does in terms of creating a level of respect from those around you is quite amazing. Referees, as many working in public service, are on the front lines. We can go through a game and can be called every name under the sun with abuse being hurled from every direction for doing things and making decisions we were trained to do and make. Overwhelmingly my experience on the court drastically changed when I began to realize how important elements like consistency, clear communication, transparency in decision making and a demonstrated willingness to communicate calmly, changed how people perceived me and approached me. All of a sudden reactions to my calls from coaches and players went from “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU MADE THAT CALL, REF! ARE YOU BLIND???” to “Ref, can you please explain that one for me?” at which point a short explanation was all coaches and players needed to be satisfied that the right decision had been made.

Let’s face it, sports has a funny way of bringing out extreme emotion in people and can make us act in ways we would not even dream of otherwise. The fact that in that moment, I had stopped and listened to their question and gave them that one moment to express their concerns, rather than just fobbing them off as just another unjustifiably frustrated player, changed the way they reacted to me entirely. Suddenly there was a level of trust and respect present on the court that made the whole experience that much more profound. Amazing how these same principles can be applied to so many aspects of public service, whether it is in customer service, the folks on the front lines or those in leadership positions. There is a saying in the referee world “You are only as good as your last call”. Just as Warren Buffett said “It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you will do things differently.” I’ll let you think about that one for a moment…


Being a referee and working in the arena of public service are both positions that are highly public, they are highly open for criticism and many consider them a necessary evil to keep their world turning. But, we know we are so much more than that. But perhaps another lesson learned… be nice to the referee! They are doing their best in a very tough situation!!

Written by:
Marlie Eyre
Member Collaboration Manager

It’s OK To Be A Small Giant

Last week, I traveled from Colorado to Missouri along I-70. While passing a number of well-run city manager’s cities along my route, and in between watching the weather radar through the majority of Kansas, I noticed an interesting billboard.

The sign advertised a store named Yarns, and the message read, “2nd Friendliest Yarn Store in the Universe.”

yarn pic.katie corder blogMaybe the advertising is genius; after all, I am still pondering it a week later. But, I was struck by two words. First of all, comparing your business to the entire universe is lofty. But, second and most importantly, I was surprised with satisfaction and boastfulness of being second – and not just second best, the second friendliest.

Perhaps it was the proximity to my graduate alma mater, but the billboard made me think of the book, Small Giants, where Bo Burlingham explores notable companies that have chosen to remain small. Mr. Burlingham states, “It’s an axiom of business that great companies grow their revenues and profits year after year. Yet quietly, under the radar, a small number of companies have rejected the pressure of endless growth to focus on more satisfying business goals. Goals like being great at what they do…creating a great place to work…providing great customer service…making great contributions to their communities…and finding great ways to lead their lives.”

In the book, Mr. Burlingham analyzes the leadership characteristics, rationale, and turning points behind each of the fourteen “small giant” companies that he studied. Generally speaking, the leaders of each company had a choice – time and time again – and chose to stay small and create a really good product and organization that focused on the values of the company.

Your community may not be an All-American City, the largest in the metro, the highest property value, or whatever value you may place on being the biggest; however, you have a choice – time and time again – as the leader of the community to focus on the quality of your organization and your community. You have the ability to build something really great, no matter of size or prestige of your community. You can do good each day and impact the lives of your employees and your citizens.

Being a small giant allows you to define success and work to obtain it – perhaps, even by being the second friendliest yarn store in the universe.


Written by:
Katie Corder
Executive Search Manager

Hospitality in Your Community

Immediately before guests come to visit, our household is thrown into a hurricane of cleaning, picking up toys, and folding the clean laundry that has usually been in the hallway for over a week (or at least hiding it). I completely stress about making the house look presentable. My hospitality skills focus on what others think of me and barely include ensuring that there are clean sheets on the guest bed and clean towels in the bathroom that guests are forced to share with my children.

This past weekend, my husband’s family had a reunion and we were overnight guests at his cousin’s home. Everything about the entire weekend was about making the guests feel comfortable, which completely changed my view on hospitality.

When we arrived, we were each given a bag with a towel for the pool, water bottle, flashlight, lip balm, and snacks for the kids – everything that we needed for the weekend and, of course, did not bring. Our guest room was extremely relaxing with an amazing view of the mountains. The room had the Wi-Fi password posted on the wall, water, a coffee maker, milk, “busy” toys for the kids, iPhone chargers, soaps, shampoo, etc. I felt completely relaxed and that I did not need to ask the hosts for every little thing that I needed to complete our stay. The hosts spent time thinking about my family and the event and what we may need to make our stay positive and comforting.

City halls are generally a place for all of the citizens of a community. City halls should be a place of openness and pride for a community – not only a place to house bureaucrats.  But, how open is city hall? Do we focus on what others think of city hall? Does it reflect the community? Do your citizens feel welcomed there?

What can you do to be good hosts to your community? Ask yourself what your guests need for a positive and comforting experience at city hall.

Perhaps it is extending hours to facilities for citizens working outside of your community. Perhaps it is nighttime or weekend recreation activities for dual-income families.  Perhaps it is enhanced social media for your younger generations. Perhaps it is expanding your technology to reach the opinions and thoughts of citizens who are unable to attend an evening town hall meeting. Perhaps it is offering translation services that reflect the languages spoken in your community. Perhaps it is easy access to your billing and payment system. Perhaps it is extra time with code officers or planners before a small issue wastes money for a homeowner. Perhaps it is a warm bench and a glass of hot coffee in the winter.

Redefine city hall’s hospitality role in your community. How can we all be better hosts?


Written by:
Katie Corder
Executive Search Manager

Identify Your Village

My youngest child has fairly significant food allergies.  Of course, we discovered it by feeding him peanut butter when he was fourteen months old and ended up in the emergency room. This reaction started our journey into allergy testing and food planning. It also began my transition to the “helicopter mom” who circled over him to ensure that he did not put “forbidden” food into his mouth. I felt completely and solely responsible for controlling his body’s reaction to allergens.

As part of our learning process, I began following a number of blogs and various organizations, including the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. In a recent food allergy awareness campaign, I was struck by a marketing piece – “It takes a village to keep kids with food allergies safe and healthy.”photo (1)

When I read this statement, I realized that I can and do depend on “my village” to keep my son safe and healthy. His teachers, our family, and our friends can be taught what words to look for on food labels, which restaurants and brands are “trusted,” and how to identify and appropriately respond to a potential reaction. His siblings are very outspoken in asking if treats at parties have various food ingredients and they remind him what he can/cannot eat. And, slowly, I have to turn the control over to my son. He needs to learn to take care of himself and identify his own village.

Leaders often feel completely and solely responsible for controlling their organization. Bearing this level of responsibility can be exhausting and lonely. Great leaders search out ways to alleviate that responsibility – one way is to identify your village, both inside and outside your organization.

Identify current and future leaders from within your organization to share the responsibility of leadership and not just the administrative and operational management and oversight. Rather, find leaders who can think strategically, understand where your organization is going, and help you identify ways to stay on course—leaders who will tell you when the organization is veering off course.

Outside of your organization, identify your village of leaders for camaraderie. Find trusted advisors and friends who can easily share the successes and difficulties they have experienced to apply to your organization. Find leaders who intellectually understand your business and also have compassion and understanding for the politics that are often involved. Find leaders who can challenge you.

Identify your village and share the responsibility of leadership.


Written by:
Katie Corder
Executive Search Manager

Farewell to an Old Friend

Over the past few weeks, we have packed and moved our family from the only house we have ever owned. Last year, my husband accepted an amazing city management opportunity for a community that we now call home. Our family has been welcomed with remarkable kindness and graciousness, which has helped ease the difficulties associated with relocating. And yet…it is hard not to feel like we have lost an old friend.

Our home was purchased during our first year of marriage and held many social gatherings of family and friends—from Easter egg dying, birthday parties, basketball watch parties, and late nights on the patio. This home has witnessed many life events as we transitioned from the proverbial dual-income-no-kids couple to the mini-van couple struggling to balance family and career. The walls and roof of this home were supported by a metaphorical foundation of memories that run the gamut of human emotions.  Nothing can replace the joy of bringing our children home for the first time or watching them learn, grow, and eventually take their first steps on our hardwood floors. It provided a safe place to handle the frustrations of pregnancy bed rest and late nights with sick children. It helped us cope as we searched for understanding during national tragedies and the mourning of a dear friend who was taken by cancer way too young. Like an old friend, our house was always there for us to lean on and turn to for strength. As the house was packed and quietly stood empty again, I was reminded that the memories are special—not the house.

The desire to be a leader has impacts on your personal life—early mornings, late nights, added stress, and pressure. Leadership offers incredible opportunities, but it also requires your family to build a life around your alternative schedule, understand the demands, and, often, relocate or undertake other transitions.

While I take the time this week to say farewell to an old friend, consider the demands that your leadership position places on your family. What opportunities have they been provided?  What sacrifices have they made?


Written by:
Katie Corder
Executive Search Manager

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