You Are Here. Now What?

Posted on October 4, 2023

A close-up of the character Ferris Bueller, a young man peering out from over dark sunglasses.

Today’s Morning Buzz is brought to you by Matt Horn, Director of Local Government Services for MRB Group, and proud grandparent to the shortest-lived goldfish on record in the continental United States (that guy lasted just under an hour after getting him home from the fair). To follow stories of some of his more successful endeavors, check him out on LinkedIn.

  • What I’m Watching: Much to Mrs. Horn’s chagrin, Saturday and Sunday television has been restored to its appropriate state – fully programmed with college and professional football (not futbol).
  • What I’m Listening to: Lots of long car rides these days, so I am picking back up on some classic audiobooks – currently up: Steven Covey’s 7 Habits (heavily influencing this installment of MB).
  • What I’m Reading: Poverty by America, by Matthew Desmond. A tough read about his take on how and why poverty is persisting in one of the wealthiest countries on the planet.

As aspiring or experienced local government leaders, we are natural planners. We spend our days developing and executing project plans, community plans, strategic plans…we are always planning. But how often do you turn that planning lens back your own way? As a prolific 20th Century philosopher once so eloquently put it – “Life moves pretty fast…if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it…” Self-care and professional planning are critical to ensure that your career isn’t determined by someone else…but fueled by your own passion and vision for career success.

Different than the headline might suggest, this is about your own succession planning, vs, that of your organization. Where are you headed, and who is behind you to step into your HUGE shoes when you move up or out? The same central rule applies here, as exists in community planning – plan or be planned over.

Much like a well-written community plan, your own succession plan must be grounded by a clear vision for your future, and a set of core values that serve as guardrails on the road of life. You can’t chart a course forward if you don’t know where you are going.

I have a good friend who takes an annual, multi-day personal retreat. She checks into a hotel, sans her family or colleagues, and reaffirms her vision for herself and her firm, calibrates her value set, and creates an annual plan as to how she will continue moving in the right direction. Whether your schedule will support that or not, you have to dedicate some time to this effort. For getting there, Covey suggests walking yourself through the following visualization exercise:

Imagine that you are going to a funeral for a loved one. You see yourself entering the funeral home, passing by the other grieving friends and family – all familiar to you. You share their grief as you move toward the casket. You look in and see yourself there. You are at your own funeral.  Three people will speak at this event – a close family member, a colleague, and someone from the service community. What will they say if you’ve lived your best life? Script it out.  

This should yield a strong vision of you as a family member, professional, and as a community contributor. Draft a personal vision statement for yourself. Cull out some value statements that talk about how you will live your life…

Now, back to succession planning. You have the picture of where you want to be at the height of your career. What are the first, most impactful things you can do to get there. What are the steps on the professional ladder that you can climb to move you toward your vision? I ask my team to think about this in a few ways:

  • What elevated position are you ready to assume right now? Would you like to be ready to assume in 2 years? 5 years?
  • What skills do you need to develop to be ready for your next desired assignment? The one after that? After that?
  • What development activities can you engage yourself in right now to be ready for your next desired assignment? This year? Next year?
  • Who is ready to assume your current assignment right now? Who will be ready next year?
  • What development activities should we engage these prospects in to ensure that they are ready to take your job?
  • Who will hold you accountable to these goals? When will you meet with them first? On what frequency will you continue to meet?

Find an accountability partner and share your insights with them. Shape and refine your plan according to their feedback and agree to meet regularly. Once you feel your plan is in a good place, share it with your immediate supervisor (hopefully as part of your regular performance feedback discussion).

Work. The. Plan.

Be proactive, be positive. In a world of Jeannie Buellers, be a Ferris.

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