Lauren Palmer, ICMA-CM
There are many great mentors in the profession, so it is hard to pick just one piece of advice. ICMA Life Member Orville Powell taught me to adopt the attitude of managing for respect rather than popularity.
Managing for respect means staying professional at all times, even when taking positions that are bound to cause some disappointment. I may not have everyone’s support, but I strive to earn respect and maintain healthy working relationships, in spite of disagreements.
Along that same vein, I have been advised more than once to understand and adhere to the ICMA Code of Ethics. That wisdom has protected me from many potential pitfalls.
Earlier in my career, I was appointed city administrator with managerial authority. Despite my diligence to research the city’s political history prior to accepting the position, I found myself positioned as a fulcrum in a conflicted council where bad blood flowed back more than a generation.
Actions by the mayor repeatedly violated the city code; the city attorney failed to act; and after a city council election when the balance of power switched from a minority to a majority, I found myself (and my wife) embattled and alone.
I contacted a fellow city administrator and asked his advice, who wisely told me, “At all costs, stay above the fray, both personally and professionally. Do not succumb to the temptation to respond in kind. Remember the ICMA Code of Ethics.”
I suffered emotionally, professionally, physically, and financially due to the untrained actions of that council. My management colleague’s advice, though difficult at times to adhere to, ultimately preserved my dignity and reputation and also served as experience to aid others in similar situations.
Laura Hannah, ICMA-CM
Manager in Transition
I’ve had several mentors over the years, and I walked away with one piece of advice from each:
- Be empathetic. When you are faced with firing someone, it’s not just an employee you’re firing—you are also firing the individual’s family.
- Don’t expect someone to do something you aren’t willing to do yourself.
- Build your team with people who possess strengths you lack.
- Don’t make any changes for the first six months. Analyze, reflect, prepare, and then execute a plan for change.
I reflect on these thoughts with warm memories and can still envision each of my mentors making these statements!