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Eve Sweeting

Charlotte County believes in having a strong leadership pipeline to successfully manage the future of county government.To build this pipeline, our human resources department created a new leadership development program. This program, based on best practices used by other municipalities as well as time-tested leadership principles, is showing early success among the first round of participants.

County administration believes strongly in “servant leadership.” The premise of servant leadership is putting employees and constituents first, helping people develop their skills and talents to drive high performance.

The leadership development program aims to highlight the principles of servant leadership and instill them in program participants. Employees interested in the program were required to complete an application that included short answer questions about the employee’s goals and how they live the county’s values daily.

In our management university training, we refer to the Peter Drucker mantra, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” This sentiment continues through the leadership development program in its focus on values.

A key component of the new program is a group book study. Participants are reading and discussing Brene Brown’s “Dare to Lead.” Brene is a research professor at the University of Houston. Her latest book is about brave leadership and is the culmination of seven years of research on the future of leadership.

Leaders need to be courageous in tackling new problems, working with stakeholders to find new resolutions, and willing to learn as part of the process. Our group discussions have focused on how to remove barriers that prevent us (individually and as an organization) from doing our best work. Only half-way through the book, the group is looking forward to continuing discussions on values and how we can encourage behaviors that support those values.

Musician Herbie Hancock said, “I’ve learned a lot from mentors who were instrumental in shaping me, and I want to share what I’ve learned.” Studies have shown there are many organizational benefits to having a structured mentoring program in the workplace, including creation of a learning culture, reduced training costs, stronger internal networks, increased teamwork and job satisfaction and reduced turnover.

Because of these reasons, the mentorship component might prove to be the most critical element of this leadership program. Program participants have been matched with mentors based upon their desired areas for improvement and the mentor’s areas of strengths.

Mentees and mentors are finding this opportunity very motivating. One mentee has said about his mentor, “(She) has been absolutely outstanding. … She has already opened her advice door to me a time or two. I am very appreciative of both my mentor and the LD program. Thank you.”

These training and development pieces — values analysis, book study, mentoring — along with individualized development plans and training courses all feed into the group project the program participants will be tackling over the next several months. Groups will be assigned to research specific issues impacting local government and provide thoughts and solutions on how to tackle some of the most pressing challenges.

The goal of this group work is to familiarize staff with emerging issues and spark creative thinking on ways to tackle complex issues.

As we continue to build leadership strength in county government, we do so with the goal of continuing to deliver exceptional service to the residents of Charlotte County. As the program expands, we look forward to having more employees engage in leadership development.

Having a strong pipeline of leaders who are dedicated to our community, embrace our values, and actively engage in continuous learning and problem solving will ensure we have a strong organization well into the future.

Eve Sweeting is a Charlotte County Human Resource analyst. Readers may reach her at Eve.Sweeting@CharlotteCountyFL.gov.

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