Use This Checklist to Evaluate Your Program! (agency)
Trust is the currency of public agencies. You need trust to work effectively with elected leaders, to successfully argue for your agency’s funding, and to build relationships with citizens who pass judgment on your performance. While it is essential to have technically proficient staff and technically sound recommendations, it is equally or even more important to have staff who listen with empathy, speak succinctly and clearly, and make the boss/citizen/politician feel that they “get” them. These are the skills that staff use to create trust. These are the skills that need your professional development investment now.
The current environment foreshadows a future for public agencies with tighter revenue, constrained travel, and stressed staff. When belt-tightening the budget, professional development is often the first line item cut. That’s a really bad idea. Here are ways to effectively make the case to keep those funds in your budget.
- Stressed staff don’t create satisfied customers. When uncertainty abounds and resources are constrained, staff can feel stressed while trying to provide essential services to citizens. Stressed staff will not be exceptional public servants. Now more than ever your staff needs to know that you care about them and believe in their professional development.
- Listening is calming. Uncertainty activates the threat response in the brain. That’s why you see over-reactive bosses, citizens and elected officials. Listening and empathy sooth the brain’s threat reaction. Powerful interpersonal skills like listening and empathy can be a game-changer when dealing with an agitated community leader. That community leader wants to feel heard and know that staff can put themselves in their shoes.
- Technical data needs clear, concise communicators. During this unprecedented time, you want your leaders making decisions using available data. To do that, you need staff who can articulate technically-sound recommendations without sounding condescending or spouting mind-numbing data laced with jargon.
- Read between the lines and adapt. There is always a message under the spoken message. To be effective, staff need to see beyond the data and adapt to the unspoken messages. The most technically-sound argument can go down in flames if the staff person doesn’t pick up on subtle clues and adjust immediately.
These points can help you make the case for your professional development funding provided that it grows self-aware, high-functioning communicators.
If you already have a professional development program, use this checklist to assess how it’s working for you.
✓ Is your professional development program designed specifically to meet your goals with engaging and interactive material?
✓ Does it use science-based content to transform touch-feely interpersonal issues into practical, logical technique?
✓ Does it convert number-crunching engineers into high-functioning communicators who write and speak like pros?
✓ Is the program designed to use neuroscientific learning principles like engagement, experiential learning and reminders to enhance retention?
✓ Is the program designed and conducted by a professional who led an engineering organization rather than someone who just talks about the theory?
✓ Is the training leader technically proficient AND a certified speaking professional™ (CSP) with the skills to maintain participants’ interest through real-life examples rather than a series of lectures with word-filled slides?
✓ Do you see tangible results that lead to practical, real-world applications?
If you are not getting the results you expect, now’s the time to make changes. There’s too much at stake. A sub-optimal professional development program leads to sub-optimal results. Is that what your citizens expect?
If you don’t currently have a professional development program, look for one with the attributes above because this is what your staff and clients deserve and what today’s environment requires.
Above all, keep the funding in the budget! Invest more now and you’ll be the agency who comes out of this on top.
At Shelley Row Associates we meet all the requirements above and more. Shelley is a professional engineer, former USDOT executive and a Certified Speaking Professional. Here’s what clients have to say about the impact of her custom-designed programs for public agency staff.
“Excellent presenter. Got me to think about a different way to approach how we present materials to the decision makers.”
– Jon Fitzkee, Lebanon County Planning Department
“Excellent! Perhaps the best and most valuable presentation I’ve heard in four years of elected office.”
– Mary Ann Gill, Woodford County Fiscal Court