The best part about conferences?  The opportunity to be inspired.

Last week, I spent six days in Nashville attending the International City/County Managers Association (ICMA) Conference.  Local gov is my first love and it’s a field where burnout and skepticism run rampant.

City and county managers and their teams handle the day-to-day execution of the policies set by elected officials.  It’s a tough role to be in because you both get a say… and you don’t. You’re not in a political role… except when you are.  It’s incredibly rewarding… and incredibly challenging. You’re the fall person, the champion, the cheerleader, the keeper of tradition, and the innovator.

One of my favorite professors John Nalbandian (shout out KU SPAA) says that your ability to be successful in this career is directly tied to your ability to tolerate uncertainty and ambiguity.  (And once my mother learned this, she immediately questioned my career choice because let’s just say that patience isn’t my strong suit.)

Long story short – it’s a tough career.  And as someone told me this week, it’s easy to get “lost in the sauce” of the details and the deadlines.

But each fall, city and county managers from across the world come together for a week to remember WHY we do this work – and seek inspiration and support from one another.

The challenging thing is to actually let that happen though.  After one incredibly thought-provoking keynote, I was asking other attendees what they thought.  I was shocked at how many immediately defaulted to “no.”

That would never work in my organization.

That just doesn’t seem like a good idea.

Ugh. Change.

I have some real questions about that research.

And on and on.

Now I’m not saying it was a good idea or that it would work or even that the research was valid… but aren’t we here to at least create space to consider it?

If you do things the same way you’ve always done them, you’re going to get the same thing you’ve always got.

Give yourself permission to dream and consider, and take advantage of opportunities to be inspired. You may be surprised where you end up.

P.S. Interested in what the keynote was? Check out a snippet on YouTube of entrepreneur and venture capitalist Leonard Brody’s talk.


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