In this multi-part blog series, Julie Underwood interviews the women who were the first female managers in cities across the country:
Keep advisors close, ask questions, set boundaries
So you have the job, now what? Here’s advice for after you’ve taken the next step and are in your new role.
Karen’s advice is, “Talk to your colleagues and lean on your mentors. You have to make things up as you go sometimes (we all do!), so make sure you have someone you can use as a sounding board.” Many of the women talked about the importance of being involved in their state’s professional associations as a way to maintain a network of supportive peers.
Kris said, “You can’t be afraid to ask questions. Admit you need to learn. You’re not expected to know everything. My biggest lesson that I learned is that I can figure it out, and I don’t have to figure it out by myself.” Eden agrees, and suggests the following:
“Never hesitate to ask questions, and don’t worry if you think your questions are trivial or that you’re asking too many. Take the time to listen and to get to know your staff and your community. Never underestimate the power of a handwritten note – in my first year I sent each staff member a congratulatory note on their service anniversary. It received such positive comments. And be sure to make eye contact when you’re talking to someone. A big part of what we do as chief executives is serving our communities and that means being able to communicate.”
Jeri says, “Don’t be afraid of the unknown, to make mistakes. Own your mistakes and move on. We can be our own worst critics. Also, I learned to accept help and to stop feeling guilty that I wasn’t super mom (I finally hired a housekeeper!). I also advise you to not take yourself so seriously. Be smart enough to ask others for advice.”
Julie R. advises us to have a peer that you can consult with who is in your corner. And definitely make sure this person is outside of the organization. Julie also advises us to, “Set boundaries. The City Manager sets the tone of what’s important. If you’re always working then that’s what your employees see. So make sure your employees see that you take time for yourself and your family.”
Denise’s sage advice is, “Listen, watch, and learn. Keep your thoughts private. Don’t complain; don’t compare this to the old job/agency. Don’t gossip. Love your people and show you care. Don’t get an ego. Smile, laugh, and have fun. Lastly, be open to input and to change. You decide on what you want to do with it!”