What I’m watching: Game of Thrones (rewatching all 7 seasons, winter is coming!)
What I’m reading: Books that are teaching me about accounting (hooray)
What I’m listening to: ASTROWORLD – Travis Scott (still in heavy rotation)
Whenever people ask me how work is going, I never really have anything bad to say. The fact that I no longer dread going to work is quite interesting to me, considering I felt this on a regular basis when I worked in a corporate setting. Don’t get me wrong, there are some weeks where I’m exhausted and could use an extra day during the weekend. But I no longer feel that gross, anxious feeling I would get, knowing I had to return to the office and work a position I was overqualified for, with little to no opportunity for growth within the organization. I felt stagnant, I was bored, and I was just flat out miserable.
Over the past year, I have been pondering on what it is about my current position as a management intern that makes work so enjoyable. I am sure it helps that I really enjoy working in local government. It is my calling, and it is something I’m very passionate about. I also really feel like the staff at the City of Mission Hills, KS is one of a kind. Everyone is supportive and personable, and we all work together to ensure our service is top-notch. Granted, this isn’t my first time working in a public sector organization. Those other experiences were great too. But, there was something else I was experiencing that separated this opportunity from all of the previous work environments I had experienced in the past.
There has been one thing that I have experienced while working for the City Administrator, that I hadn’t experienced elsewhere: My boss valued my opinion. I remember the very first time I noticed—it completely caught me off guard. It was early spring of last year, and it was time for us to grade the roads so the City Administrator could determine the City’s capital improvement priorities (fun times I know). On day one of the ride-along, I was given a crash course of what to look for throughout the grading process and how to properly input the data on the CIP spreadsheet. I sat in the front seat and listened to the City Administrator’s comments as she drove along, making my own mental notes, and entering the data provided to me.
The second day, she began the car ride with her usual observations and road ratings, but about half way through the ride she started commenting less and less. Instead, at the end of an observation she would ask, “What do you think”? Initially, I remember feeling stunned. I mean, deep down inside I knew that my analytical skills were going to be put to work, but I just never thought she would ask for my input on decisions she had to make. I remember wondering:
“Does what I think really matter?”
“Does she really take me seriously?”
“This is not my area of expertise, I just learned what to look for yesterday.”
My opinion did matter to her. Because after a few months of working in her office, she saw exactly what I was capable of, even when I didn’t see it in myself. She saw that I was intelligent, a quick learner, and more importantly she knew that I needed decision making experience. It sounds weird right? I mean who needs practice making important decisions. But the truth is, as a young professional, learning how to make important decisions is vital to my growth within this field, especially if I want to pursue leadership roles in the future. More importantly this was one of the greatest lessons she taught me as a leader. She showed me that you can create a culture that thrives on efficiency and hard work, when you value the opinion of your staff. To her, the staff is a team and everyone is capable of contributing in ways that are impactful, regardless of title.
She has continued to value my opinion over time, and every once in a while I’m still amazed. Even though I might not always be the one making the final decision, being given the opportunity to contribute has boosted my confidence and helped my professional growth tremendously. For years I was micromanaged, and it really held me back from reaching my full potential. Having the opportunity to make impactful decisions has sharpened my analytical skills, and intensified my passion for local government.
To all managers and supervisors within local government: Show your staff that their opinions matter! If you truly believe that you hired some of the brightest minds in the business, then let them shine. Build a culture that is inclusive and collaborative on all levels. Allow staff members to step outside of their comfort zones for once, so they can continue to develop in their respective roles. Show your team that their input always matters.