Brenda Gunn, ICMA-CM
La Vista, Nebraska
I am fortunate to work in a community with a great group of elected officials who place considerable trust in me and the La Vista staff. Our elected officials are not at city hall full time, so it is essential that our communication be effective and efficient.
I meet with the mayor weekly and have regular phone conversations with him. We also do our best to ensure that all councilmembers receive the same information at the same time.
I advocate face-to-face meetings, and at least two formal meetings are scheduled annually with each councilmember. I always make myself available to the elected officials whenever necessary and provide them with written monthly briefings.
I also encourage them to interact regularly with key staff members, so someone is always available to help them.
Here are two strategies I have found to be universally effective when it comes to interacting with elected officials.
First, it has been most helpful when I tailor my interfaces in a manner that best fits with each individual's unique style. To that end, I spend more time listening to their opinions than I do sharing mine, and I work to implement distinct communication strategies in a customized manner based on specific preferences.
In that manner, rather than have a standardized interaction pattern that best fits my needs, I work to implement separate communication systems that best align with individual partialities.
The other universal strategy I have found to be effective is really quite simple and that is to always keep your word. Do what you say you are going to do and follow through all the time.
Jeaneen Clauss Witt
Ponce Inlet, Florida
Ponce Inlet's town council is made up of leaders from a variety of professional backgrounds. A manager's attributes of communicator, researcher, and historian are those most appreciated. A manager's elimination of options may be considered "annoying."
A helpful relationship begins at the candidate stage. Candidate inclusiveness is a priority to me. Frequent communication and a personal tour of town departments and facilities provide a good start. This is a prime opportunity to create a community ambassador, regardless of election results.
I encourage officials to discuss matters with department heads. This enhances overall credibility and increases understanding.
Lastly, providing identical information to each elected official regularly keeps them in the best position to conduct their duties, which is after all the primary goal.
Even though communication in the age of social media and electronic advancements is easier, the goal of providing all members of the council with the same information at the same time is as important today as ever.
Also, we have to stay ahead of the social media outlets. The foundation of my communication strategy consists of a three-pronged approachâ€”annual performance review, quarterly one-on-one meetings, and a weekly newsletter.
Apart from the above, I attempt to tailor my communication with councilmembers based on their preferences of delivery. The preferences range from individual meetings, phone calls, e-mails, and texts.
I personally think the age of electronics has been a godsend in the communication endeavors of managers as it has expanded our means and methods.