I Started a New Job

Posted on February 25, 2020

Dan Weinheimer headshot

Today’s Buzz is brought to you by Dan Weinheimer.

What I’m listening to – So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo (cannot recommend enough!)

What I’m reading – The Book of Beautiful Questions by Warren Berger

I started a new job today… well yesterday by the time you’re reading this. This job, as City Manager of Newberg, Oregon takes me about 1,000 miles from my family for a short period of time and from a safe and comfortable social network for the foreseeable future. This job, my first City Manager position, also fulfills a career ambition of mine – to occupy “that seat”. This job also has surfaced a lot of questions about my skills and preparation.

During the recruitment phase, I discussed the possibility of this position with my family. My two elementary-aged sons were full of questions about the job duties and responsibilities. I felt it was also important to talk with them about what it can mean to take on the City Manager job – that with ultimate authority comes ultimate consequences, also known as Dad might get fired.

I have been around city and county management for about 15 years and have become accustomed to the process and the job lifecycle. I am well aware that many times managers are hired to be fired. Firing a City Manager does not always come with reason or rationale but it happens, ICMA tells us that managers average 3 year tenures.

So what have I done to prepare and what did I do in the recruitment process to prepare myself for the inevitable “am I ready” questions? I have spent my career in a (now) six local government positions. In each position I have worked at least some of my time in the City or County Manager’s Office. I have also spent a great deal of time on personal and professional development, sometimes funding it myself and in other cases I was super lucky and was sent to some amazing training by generous organizations. I have worked in small and large-medium (150K population max) organizations, in both cities and a county. I have made effort to seek out stretch and leadership assignments both in and outside of work.

I still do not feel ready. I am sure that I can make good decisions, I can listen to others, I can work with almost anyone, and I know myself. I still question what it will take to be successful. So I asked myself a number of questions – something that may be useful to you in considering your next position or your next step in life.

Borrowing from the Book of Beautiful Questions (hat tip to my ELGL Birthday Books purveyor for the book!!!):

  • What would I try if I knew I could not fail?
  • What is the worst that could happen?
  • If I did fail, what would be the likely causes?
  • … and how would I recover from that failure?
  •  What if I succeed – what would that look like?
  •  How can I take one small step into the breach?

When I asked myself these questions I found that my self-doubt was fueled by the public nature of the position and the risk of a failure at such a stage. I also realized that I would not be alone in my work… that an entire community would have my back. That my success (or failure) would be shared throughout the community and not mine alone. The preparation and that awareness find me feeling ready for the risks and the adventure. I am excited instead of fearful.

I’ve got to go take my oath of office now!

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