Members' Top Picks Professional Development

Here ICMA Members and ICMA Credentialed Managers share their most valuable professional development experiences, whether those are conferences, seminars, executive programs, online training, professional reading, or other activities. If you'd like to add an entry, please e-mail it to credentialing@icma.org and share a sentence or two about what you learned and why the activity was valuable. 

Ongoing Professional Development Opportunities that Cover Various ICMA Practice Areas

Opportunities by ICMA Practice Area

1. Personal and Professional Integrity

  • ICMA Ethics Workshops are onsite sessions that you can bring to your staff, leadership, elected officials, and boards and commissions.
  • Playing With Fire is a fictional account of a city manager who is struggling to do the best thing for his city and keep his job and family.

2. Community Engagement

  • Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community explains why Americans want to live in a more civil, caring, and trustworthy community.
  • For the Love of Cities provides examples of what communities are doing to ensure they are growing and thriving. The residents themselves play one of the biggest roles for retaining talent and supporting growth. This book describes specific examples of things residents have done to improve the atmosphere of their city to the point that they develop a heartfelt emotion for their town/city. In fact, some believe their city is the best place to live. This feeling is based on culture, safety, services, arts, and more intangible things, like neighborly atmosphere. 
  • Who's Your City by Richard Florida defines the characteristics of cities and what attracts people to cities. It provides an explanation as to what residents expect from the city, community, and region to maintain its attractiveness.
  • Democracy at the Doorstep: True Stories from the Green Berets of Public Administrators. Former city manager Mike Conduff shared anecdotal stories from his decades-long career in local government management and tied each story to a practical skill as well as tied the stories as a whole to ICMA’s code of ethics. 

    3. Equity & Inclusion

    • Blueprint for Building CommunityLeadership Insights for Good Government provides lessons from an experienced manager in bringing together the efforts of citizens, employees, and elected leaders.  The book highlights the experiences in two communities known for their diversity initiatives---Park Forest and Woodridge, Illinois.
    • Generations at Work: Managing the Clash of Veterans, Boomers, Xers, and Nexters in Your Workplace is intended to help you bridge the gaps between people of different ages who work at your company.
    • People Styles at Work and Beyond provides a self style assessment. The authors take the position that there are four primary people styles in the workplace: Analyticals, Drivers, Amiables, and Expressives. The most useful part of the book is that it discusses way to identify the other types and gives suggestions about how to best work with people who fall into other categories. 

    4. Staff Effectiveness

    • Blueprint for Building CommunityLeadership Insights for Good Government provides lessons from an experienced manager in bringing together the efforts of citizens, employees, and elected leaders.
    • The Dance of Leadership: The Art of Leading in Business, Government and Society  
    • Effective Local Government Manager does an excellent job of targeting the specific skills and competencies critical for success as an effective manager. I wish I had read it early in my career!
    • Effective Supervisory Practices: Better Results through Teamwork is a bestseller that arms today’s managers with a powerful tool for improving productivity, implementing quality management, and reengineering work processes.
    • First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently is designed to take you inside the minds of managers who have toppled conventional wisdom and reveals the new truths they have forged in its place.
    • Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't
    • Good to Great and the Social Sectors: Why Business Thinking Is Not the Answer
    • ICMA Gettysburg Leadership Institute is the opportunity of a lifetime and so pertinent to this profession.
    • ICMA SEI Leadership Institute is a life-altering event. I believe that the mix of the class was outstanding (one-week class with a multi-generational learning community of senior executives and Leadership ICMA participants, held each May or June at the Weldon Cooper Center, University of Virginia). We learned from each other. I was able to get in touch with my feelings and passion again. 
    • two-week SEI (Senior Executive Institute) is also available from the Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia in July.
    • Managertools.com biweekly podcasts
    • The Mid-America Regional Council Leadership Academy addresses the core themes of building leadership capacity, responding to contemporary trends in local government, exploring governing body and staff relations, and community building.
    • NeuroLeadership Institute
    • Now, Discover Your Strengths, a follow-up to First, Break All the Rules, promotes building on strengths as opposed to correcting weaknesses.
    • A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Informational Age to the Conceptual Age
    • Working with Emotional Intelligence
    • Tribal Leadership - Rather than the typical organization chart, the book speaks to the ‘tribes’ – groups of people with shared values.  Through voluminous research, the authors come to the five stages of development in each tribe.
    • The Starfish and Spider - Uses the metaphor to speak to the value of a decentralized organization.  This was particularly useful when our organization – both by financial realities and design  has become more decentralized. 

    5. Personal Resiliency and Development

    • Berkeley Executive Seminar is an interactive, one-week training program designed for local government administrators and high-level state officials who would like to develop innovative skills in management and share their insight with similarly experienced peers.
    • ICMA Gettysburg Leadership Institute is the opportunity of a lifetime and so pertinent to this profession.
    • ICMA SEI Leadership Institute is a life-altering event. I believe that the mix of the class was outstanding (one-week class with a multi-generational learning community of senior executives and Leadership ICMA participants, held each May or June at the Weldon Cooper Center, University of Virginia). We learned from each other. I was able to get in touch with my feelings and passion again. 
    • two-week SEI (Senior Executive Institute) is also available from the Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia in July.
    • Jack: Straight from the Gut is the story of Jack Welch’s career and how he helped to make General Electric one of the most successful companies of the 20th century.
    • Habits: How They Form and How to Break Them helps us understand how we develop habits in our everyday personal and business lives. It forced me (and others in our management team whom I challenged) to challenge the reasons why I have performed some repetitive tasks and daily business habits--to challenge my assumptions about the benefits I derive from these habits. 
    • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a comprehensive program based on developing an awareness of how perceptions and assumptions hinder success--in business as well as personal relationships.
    • Switch - Illustrates change in the context of the rational mind and the emotional mind, and successful patterns for driving change.
    • 175 Ways to Get More Done in Less Time is a quick read. Full of great suggestions for saving time by modifying your behavior.
    • Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement is a phenomenal look into an officer’s daily routine and how that routine affects his or her personal life.

    6. Strategic Leadership

    • Blueprint for Building CommunityLeadership Insights for Good Government provides lessons from an experienced manager in bringing together the efforts of citizens, employees, and elected leaders.
    • Harvard Kennedy School of Government's executive program is designed to force participants to see themselves from the inside out and in doing so discover that it is our own personal biases and preconceived notions that can cripple our abilities to both manage and lead.
    • The Mid-America Regional Council Leadership Academy addresses the core themes of building leadership capacity, responding to contemporary trends in local government, exploring governing body and staff relations, and community building.
    • Playing With Fire is a fictional account of a city manager who is struggling to do the best thing for his city and keep his job and family.
    • Reinventing Your Board
    • The University of Colorado at Denver Rocky Mountain Program allows participants to reflect on their role in the public sector, examine the changing and demanding environment in which they operate, and develop skills that help facilitate effective public action.
    • The California Local Governance Summer Institute @ Stanford strengthens individual capacities from public finance to negotiating and strategic planning skills while exposing participants to innovative solutions and technological advances supporting the emergence of smarter, more resilient, and sustainable communities in California and around the world.
    • Governing by Network: The New Shape of the Public Sector

    7. Strategic Planning

    • Blueprint for Building CommunityLeadership Insights for Good Government provides lessons from an experienced manager in bringing together the efforts of citizens, employees, and elected leaders.
    • Strategic Planning for Local Government (2nd edition)
    • Who's Your City by Richard Florida defines the characteristics of cities and what attracts people to cities. It provides an explanation as to what residents expect from the city, community, and region to maintain its attractiveness.
    • Placemaking on a Budget provides valuable insight on what physical elements are essential for developing a sense of place in small or new communities.

    8. Policy Facilitation and Implementation

    9. Community and Resident Service

    • Blueprint for Building CommunityLeadership Insights for Good Government provides lessons from an experienced manager in bringing together the efforts of citizens, employees, and elected leaders.
    • The City in History explores the origins of the city from early man through to the modern period. An engrossing story that helps us remember the reason for our work.
    • Playing With Fire is a fictional account of a city manager who is struggling to do the best thing for his city and keep his job and family.
    • Sustaining Knock Your Socks Off Service

    10. Service Delivery

    • Getting Started: A Performance Measurement Handbook introduces the topic of performance measurement for local governments that have not yet started measuring their performance, or that have taken the first steps, but found that reaping meaningful results can be a challenge.
    • Managing the Unexpected: Assuring High Performance in an Age of Complexity explains that leaders need to create a collective state of mindfulness that produces a better ability to detect and correct errors before they escalate into a crisis. One of the simple solutions is creating an organization that respects the input and observations of all employees and stakeholders and to create cross-functional teams to enable it to happen.
    • Managing Local Government Services is an indispensable resource and continues to be popular.

    11. Technological Literacy

    • The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, by Thomas L. Friedman

    12. Financial Management and Budgeting

    13. Human Resources Management and Workforce Engagement 

    • Get Rid of the Performance Review by Samuel A. Culbert, Business Plus Books, NY, 2010. This book provides a detailed criticism of the traditional performance review process and shows how really destructive it is of organizational productivity and morale. It proposes an alternate system of "performance previews" which are much less threatening and more supportive.

    14. Communication and Information Sharing

    • How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships is a good primer on techniques for talking one on one to people you don't know in order to begin the process of relationship building. 
    • The Mid-America Regional Council Leadership Academy addresses the core themes of building leadership capacity, responding to contemporary trends in local government, exploring governing body and staff relations, and community building.
    • The University of Colorado at Denver Rocky Mountain Program allows participants to reflect on their role in the public sector, excamine the changing and demanding environment in which they operate, and develop skills that help facilitate effective public action. 

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