The KUPMC Blog

Resources to support the work of public sector professionals

15 Ways Leadership Training Is Like Getting to the Super Bowl

January 31st, 2014 by KU PMC

Our staff had a great time thinking these up! You’re welcome to add to them in the comment section.

1. You get better with practice and coaching.
2. You have to study the films (read and discuss leadership, watch TED talks).
3. You can study all the films in the world, but eventually you have to put feet to the ground and flex your (leadership skill) muscles.
4. Great quarterbacks are only as a good as their team.
5. Great success comes from every player doing his/her job.
6. It takes a franchise to make it to the playoffs.
7. Sometimes you have to go for it on 4th down if you want to win.
8. Make the catch before you start to run up field.
9. Filter out the crowd noise and execute the plan.
10. No-huddle offense tires out the defense…and the offense.
11. A mouth piece is essential.
12. Realize you’re only one part of the show. (Are you a commercial or the game?)
13. Always leading with your head can result in chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
14. Never expect a Gatorade/Powerade bath but savor it if it comes.
15. Play the game you’re best at playing.

Sometimes during leadership training they make you stretch to get you limber and ready for action.

Your turn! Who’s got something for the theme regarding a blitz and a Hail Mary pass? Leave us your thoughts in a reply.

Reflections from Emerging Leaders Academy Graduate: Amanda Keller

January 24th, 2014 by KU PMC

Comments Delivered By Amanda Keller, Public Affairs Coordinator, Mid-America Regional Council
On January 17, 2014

The Emerging Leaders Academy program has truly been an enriching professional experience. As a class we’ve learned about myriad topics — from concepts as pragmatic as how to create an effective meeting agenda to strategies for maintaining an ethical organizational culture.

Through the mentor shadowing experience each of us gained valuable insight into where we want our career path to lead, and we developed an actionable plan for how to get there. Using the Clifton Strengths-Finder Assessment, we identified our individual, innate areas of greatest strength and explored how to leverage those strengths in our professional roles. We learned that one of the keys to being the best kind of leader is working to multiply the talents of our colleagues by helping them focus their energy in areas where they naturally excel.

The Shawnee class is comprised of professionals from all levels of government — city, county, regional, state, federal — as well as from the nonprofit sector. Having classmates from such a wide variety of organizations made for a rich experience as we learned from one another’s stories, knowledge, and unique perspectives. We didn’t always agree on the best approach to a given scenario or topic… and that’s what made our discussions so engaging.

Perhaps one of the greatest aspects of our participation in ELA is one that may not be realized for months or even years to come — the public sector connections that we’ve made by getting to know one another through this program are sure to be of great value to us on the down the road.

On behalf of our class I’d like to thank our employers for supporting and investing in our professional development. Thank you to the instructors and practitioners who presented to us, discussed with us, laughed with us, and advised us. And of course we owe a BIG thank you to our fearless leader Noel, who expertly guided us through the ELA program over the last five months. Thank you.

Reflections from Emerging Leaders Academy Graduate: Sheri Parker

December 23rd, 2013 by KU PMC

Comments Delivered By Sheri Parker, City of Moundridge
On December 19, 2013

I have had many ah-ha moments during the past four months. One involved the simple, but complex idea of networking. This concept has taken on a whole new meaning to me. Everyone in this class has become a source of great information. I know when situations surface in the future, an email or phone call to anyone in this group will give me another way to look at solving whatever issue is in front of me. I look forward to continuing every relationship that has been started because of the great opportunity afforded me.

Another moment came one day not too long ago. I was listening to a discussion and the light came on! It hit me again, with a deeper realization, that every office really does have the same issues! The only difference is the number of people it affects. Everyone works with someone that is grumpy until they have had a pot of coffee in the morning or the perpetual trouble maker. All of us have traits within us to deal with these issues. The difference is our willingness to put forth the effort to figure out a solution and work together for the betterment of the agency. These traits were made very clear when we spent time finding out what our strengths are. I have to tell you that when my strengths were revealed, I was not sure I was very proud of what they showed. The longer we spent discussing them and looking into how each characteristic really make us who we are, I realized that being a reader, and having a “need” to always be learning, is part of the reason I looked forward to getting Noel’s emails with the next assignment and the opportunity to get together with everyone.

Before this class, if someone would have told me I am a strategic planner I would have laughed, but I can now see that I sometimes start with an idea in mind and then work backwards on a plan of action, while playing out different scenarios. I also look forward to the next change in my life. The characteristic that pointed this out also said something about a short attention span! Yeah, that made me happy! But… when spending time with that, I realized that the short attention span does help me get things done quickly and look for other projects… or… the next change!

We had some sessions that were more difficult to stay interested in and moved more slowly than others. I know that is true for each one of us. One day when I was having a hard time staying engaged, I found it interesting that others in the class were on the edges of their seats waiting for the next word to be spoken and the next idea to be given. I wrote your names down, so I will be in touch at some point in the future so you can explain those concepts to me again!

Each one of us will take something different from this class. We now have an improved set of tools to draw on when faced with the question of how to handle certain situations, whether it is personnel issues, interacting with the public, questionable business practices and many others. I, for one have always believed that being a leader doesn’t mean that you have all the answers! No one can have them all. You have to have the confidence to admit this to yourself and know where to turn for help and where to go for answers. We were all sent here by one set of leaders and now have 23 additional in our corner. Everyone has to make the most of the resources you have close at hand.

Why Enroll in the Kansas Certified Public Manager® Program?

October 22nd, 2013 by KU PMC

Terri Callahan, Director of the Kansas Certified Public Manager® Program, was recently asked the following questions: What do you feel are the main reasons that people should enroll in the CPM program? What are the main benefits to them? To their agency?

“To me, the Kansas Certified Public Manager (CPM) program is all about participants gaining leadership and managerial competencies. This includes the confidence to lead organizations in new directions, empower their employees, and engage their employees in the vision of the organization. I want CPM participants to build a culture in their organization that motivates and develops employees.

Organizations need to take on the task and focus of building highly-trained dedicated leaders and managers. It is a sad truth that more people leave their “bosses” than their jobs. Well-trained leaders, and even leadership teams, are needed for organizations to be progressive, creative, and innovative. Creativity and innovation will not happen if employees are not motivated and instead suffer under poor leadership.

In sending leaders and managers to CPM, organizations directly benefit from the CPM Capstone Project since the goal of each project is to generate process improvement, cost-savings, or innovative ideas.”

If you’re a CPM graduate or a current student, what were the reasons you chose to enroll? If you are a supervisor of a CPM graduate or student, what were the reasons that you encouraged your employee to attend? What benefit(s) did you or your agency gain?

Emerging Leaders Academy Graduation Speech: Charles Jones

July 21st, 2013 by KU PMC

Comments Delivered By Charles Jones, Director of the KU Public Management Center
On July 17, 2013

Charles Jones

Good afternoon and welcome to the graduation ceremony for the Spring 2013 Emerging Leaders Academy.

I want to congratulate each of you, and Noel, on successfully completing this program of intensive learning, reflection, and growth. None of you got here by accident. You were selected in recognition of your accomplishments, capacities, and importance to the future of your sponsoring agencies. Your organizations chose well.

While we’re doling out congratulations, let’s take a moment to acknowledge others in the room: those who supported you throughout this process.

  • We start with your sponsoring agencies, thanking them for their support through tuition funding and allowing you time away from the office. Most importantly, we thank them for their commitment to public service that works, that grows stronger even as challenges become more daunting. We thank those leaders who understand that strength of an organization lies in the capabilities and dedication of its staff.
  • We thank your family, coworkers, and friends who offered encouragement and even a helping hand along the way.
  • Finally, we thank the instructors and mentors who added their voices and insights to the ELA experience.

Graduates, I’d now invite you all to stand, turn, and give thanks, through applause, to those who join us today.

I received a call a couple of days ago informing me that one of our graduates would not be able to join us today. I’m not privy to the details. I only know that a law enforcement officer must sacrifice this celebration in deference to other administrative requirements. We will miss him this afternoon, but his absence serves to remind us of the sacrifices you all make to public service. Each day you run the gauntlet of fiscal strains, political pressures, public exasperation, and the wicked complexity of so many public policy issues. The challenges you face are mountainous and profound.

Perhaps the only thing larger and more powerful is the spirit of public workers like you. That spirit is fed by many things: your work is important and interesting, what you do matters – intensely and personally – to the people you serve. You share our workspace with like-minded people: this is especially true in organizations, like yours, that value staff enough to send you to a program like ELA. You know how to close ranks and move forward (Gettysburg reference) into unknowns and sometimes hostility.

But the most important source of public spirit is something each of you carries, something described by public administration scholars as “Public Service Motivation,” a personal nature that draws gratification from being:

  • other-regarding: contributing to the well-being of organizations and society
  • altruistic: doing good for others
  • meaningful: value intrinsic rewards of work that is important and provides a feeling of accomplishment

Speaking on behalf of the PMC and all your instructors, I can assure that it is impossible to be in the presence of public service leaders such as yours and not be encouraged and inspired. Your presence in the classroom and here today affirms that while public service challenges may be great, they are met by an incomparably well-equipped and highly motivated generation of public servants, like you.

So thank you for your service. Thank you for what you have accomplished and the many accomplishments that lie before you. It’s been an honor to walk with you these past four months. Keep in touch and know that you will always be part of the Public Management Center family.

Emerging Leaders Academy Graduation Speech: Gary O’Bannon

July 21st, 2013 by KU PMC

Comments Delivered By Gary O’Bannon, Director of Human Resources, City of Kansas City, MO
On July 17, 2013

Gary O'Bannon

You know, you write your own bio, but it always sounds foreign when someone else reads it aloud. You think to yourself, “wow, it’s funny how you look up one day and you find yourself giving commencement speeches, accepting “life-time” service awards, and pondering what you’re going to do in the next phase of your life.

Thanks to all of you for coming this afternoon to help us celebrate the July 17, 2013, Emerging Leaders Academy Graduation Ceremony. And thank you to the KU leadership here today for asking me to spend a few minutes with you.

I spent the last couple of days trying to decide what meaningful words I could share with you. I had decided on the positive aspects of dedicating your life to public service, and all the joy that brings on each day as we try to continually justify the value of what we do. Then I decided that since you are public servants, you are probably aware of two things:

  1. You know why you dedicated yourself to public service, and
  2. While there is some joy, there’s not an overabundance every day.

Regardless, the vast majority of us who chose this field say they joined public service “to make a difference.” To that end, it is important for me to begin today by collectively expressing my thanks to each of you who is associated with all the public services. Thank you for the work that you do and the services that you give, the dedication that you show, the reforms that you are spearheading, and the changes for good that you are making.

I settled on the topic that obviously flows with why you are here today and that is leadership. Holding the position of Human Resources Director allows you to form some pretty strong opinions about leadership, and turning 50 generally gives you the belief that all those opinions are perfectly right!

HR and other institutions have talked endlessly about what qualities are needed in this century, and how we develop these competencies in our emerging leaders. Not everyone agrees on what those are, depending on your perspective, but I feel a bit qualified to give you my perspective, and I hope you find it worthwhile.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work for the City of Kansas City for 28 years. I’ve seen many city councils, mayors, city managers, department directors, etc., come and go, and I’ve come to some conclusions about leadership:

  1. Leadership is about courage, creativity and faith in people.
  2. You can’t be a successful leader without mediation skills to facilitate knowledge sharing, ensure ownership and accountability, and foster innovation.
  3. You must have a vision rooted in community service and ethical behavior.
  4. You must have a sense of decisiveness in ever-changing environments with blurred boundaries.

Perhaps an oversimplification, but leaders have to effect solutions. Leaders solve problems and are successful by coalescing others for the same purpose.

We’ve been in the work world long enough and seen enough successes and failures to realize that one of the most important obstacles to success is short-sighted vision. The inability, or the lack of opportunity, to look at an overall agenda – agendas that are medium- to long-term.

We often take our cues from our national leaders, who set the tone – like kids in the household who take the same cues and tones set by their parents. It’s not breaking news that our political leaders are failing us. The election models of today, 2-4 year terms fight against problem resolution and place a premium on differences. Once elected, members spend their day trying to outmaneuver other parts of the political spectrum. And the problem is that this is okay because this model hasn’t changed in decades. We say it is not okay but is it really? It’s still in place and no one has a viable solution. In the meantime people suffer, opportunities are lost, and goals are not reached.

This malaise has crept into our workplace as well. We’re not immune. The next tier of leaders have got to coalesce and find a better way to work collectively to solve this problems. Otherwise, we’ll all lose together. You must commit to having the courage to do what’s right and to stand for the principles that are expected of each of us, particularly for the leaders who work as public servants.

We create lots of labels to separate us: I’m a supervisor, you’re a subordinate; I’m a manager, you’re my report-to…. Regardless of the labels that separate us, you must never forget that there are more similarities amongst us than differences, and the vast majority of us are working towards the same goals, and we all want the same thing—opportunities, respect, and support.

Leadership is a tough proposition. When the sun is shining and the money is good, all is right with the world. However, with leadership comes accountability, not only of yourself but of those that you lead.
It is impossible to be an effective leader without the ability to sit down and talk to people. LISTEN! If they are wrong, explain why and describe for them the correct path.

It is crucial to mediate conflict, ask probing questions, and get to the source of the issue without emotion but with the appropriate amount of passion to bring problems to a proper resolution. Unfortunately, you won’t win everyone over. You will lose some along the way. You’ll lose less by spending 99% of your time coaching up and acknowledging the 99% of those individuals and teams that reach success as opposed to spending 99% on that 1% who aren’t with the program. That 1% has to be held accountable and the 99% not only expect you to do it, but will demand it or take their talents elsewhere (maybe to south beach!). We must again never forget that most people want to do the right thing and will if given the proper tools and the proper motivation and the proper leadership.

We must control our inherent tendency to avoid potential conflict. Unfortunately, this is part of the deal. Visionary change can’t come without conflict. In fact, I proffer that it WON’T COME without managed conflict. If you’re a supervisor or manager and everyone likes you, I would suspect that you’re not doing it right. “If everyone speaks well of you… there’s something wrong with you” and leadership is not for you.

We need to give serious pause to what’s going on around us. I believe we are at a serious crossroads in our society, which only extends to the workplace, and if you believe it doesn’t – you’re just flat out wrong. The ills of society invade the most functional of homes and those on the “best places to work” list.

Again, leadership is not coming from our national leadership structures – ground roots are rising up again – that’s a sign that something is going wrong, and that we’re not trending the right way. Rights for gay people didn’t come from the Capitol; changes to the justice system don’t come from inside the justice systems. Workplace change doesn’t come from Big Business or Congress. It comes from us. It comes from a collective spirit and a group that says, change by any means necessary.

Quick examples: Just a few years ago, what employers would have granted certain rights and benefits to gay couples, domestic partners? It took a while but smoking used to be “cool.” One of my favorite actors is Humphrey Bogart. I’ve got more than one picture or symbol of that guy in my house right now, and in each one he’s lighting up! In about 20 years, smokers have gone from Joe-Cool to standing outside in the freezing cold or in boxy, enclosed death cubicles – they’re almost pariahs in 2013! Heck, before the era, who could bring their pets to work with them?! Change comes from within these structures and if you don’t adapt to them you’re left behind. Some will say that Apple and Microsoft are driving technological enhancements every six months to make money – true to some degree – but who’s driving that demand? We do! People do.

If you look back in our history, throughout the progress of human society, what’s really worked best in the interest of society is a vision which looks beyond today and into the future. Think in your mind right now who some of those people were – their success was rarely immediate; they knew that real, true success would not come until years later and perhaps not even in their lifetime. However, they had the courage to take the first step.

We need to find out who these people are and celebrate them and bring them into the decision-making fold.

Leadership is about leading with the heart and to serve rather than rule.

Reflections from Emerging Leaders Academy Graduate: Brandon Bayless

July 21st, 2013 by KU PMC

Comments Delivered by Brandon Bayless, City of Topeka
At the Emerging Leaders Academy Graduation Ceremony on July 17, 2013

I first off want to thank all of you for being here to show your support for the Emerging Leaders Academy graduates. I’m sure I can speak on behalf of everyone by saying it is greatly appreciated. Next I want to thank Noel Rasor and the KU Public Management Center staff for making this possible for all of us. Their guidance and support truly made this course great, and we could not have done it without them.

Thinking back through my experiences with the Emerging Leaders Academy, I have to say it was one of the best courses I have ever taken. The structure of our class allowed for a great amount of discussions and reflections over the many important and critical issues facing the public sector in this day and age. I’ve heard many of my fellow graduates use the word invaluable to describe this course, and they are right. This was an invaluable experience.

Being able to use our own professional experiences to guide the discussions and conversations definitely heightened the level of learning we were able to achieve. Obviously the organizations being represented here thought very highly of these graduates in sending them to this course. Now I want to challenge you to find and give opportunities for leadership to these graduates and allow them move your organizations onto bigger and better things.

Lessons Learned from Defining Moments

July 3rd, 2013 by KU PMC

By Bonnie Svrcek
Deputy City Manager, City of Lynchburg, Virginia & President, International City/County Management Association (2012-2013)

  • Be courageous
  • Ask for advice
  • Say “yes” with pleasure and “no” with compassion
  • Be patient
  • Patience pays off
  • Things are not always what they seem
  • Be mindful of ego
  • Be self-aware
  • Take time to take stock in where you are (personally and professionally) at least annually
  • Choose wisely! (from Sheryl Sandberg, “Lean In”)
  • Understand that some of our greatest lessons come from disappointments
  • Always have a Plan B!
  • Exercise courage in executing Plan B (or any plan!)
  • Take time to recover from disappointment
  • Seize the moment
  • Find moments for crucial conversations
  • Exercise personal humility and professional will at all times (from Jim Collins, Good to Great)

Bonnie was one of the keynote speakers for the KU Inspiring Women in Public Administration Conference in 2013. She was kind enough to share these thoughts with us to post on our blog.

Emerging Leaders Academy Graduation Speech

June 12th, 2013 by KU PMC

Comments Delivered By Maury Thompson, Assistant County Manager, Johnson County
On February 1, 2013

Thank you, Noel for the opportunity to share thoughts on leadership – particularly as it relates to the public sector.

As Noel indicated in her invitation to me – perhaps my personal, professional story could serve as a demonstration of the sort of possibilities the Emerging Leaders Academy participants/graduates are encouraged to consider and plan for.

So, my story…

  • Bachelor of Arts – Criminal Justice/Political Science (1984)
  • Direct Support Professional at Johnson County Developmental Supports (JCDS) (1986)
  • Increasing positions of responsibility for the next 15 years
  • Master’s degree in Public Affairs (1998)
  • Executive Director of Non-profit, community building (2001)
  • Executive Director, Johnson County Developmental Supports (2007)
  • Assistant County Manager (2013)

So, from front-line employee to Executive Director to Assistant County Manager, how I got from there to here, and what have I learned?

As each of you have demonstrated with your participation in this program, I realized the importance of education – not only as a base of knowledge – but also the need for the continuous acquisition of knowledge, or learning.

I don’t want to underestimate the importance of education and the commitment to continuous learning, because they are so fundamental to professional growth, but I want to spend the next few minutes sharing a few simple leadership lessons I’ve learned along the way.

For my Assistant County Manager interview I had to share my leadership philosophy. It forced me to spend time pondering what my philosophy is.

Like the book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” most of what I have come to know as sound leadership advice, I learned from my parents at an early age. Hopefully that’s true for you too.

Simple Leadership Lessons

  • Care for others, (those doing the work and those we’re doing it for). For most of us this is the very reason we have chosen public service as a vocation. We want to help. (Servant Leadership)
  • If the job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. (Excellence)
  • When you’re talking to someone, look them in the eye. Listen to what others have to say. Give them the attention they deserve. Don’t be too busy to extend this courtesy. But make sure your actions are sincere. People know the difference between sincere concern and hollow action. (Respect)
  • Be willing to take risk – offering yourself up as a leader, speaking out when needed. Swallow hard, stand up, speak out – even when you know you may be passed over, rejected or fail. Keep trying. My secret – the rest of the story – or what happened between those career advancements. I applied for the JCDS Executive Director and the Assistant County Manager positions – twice. Others often only know when advancement occurs, not those that didn’t occur. It’s not always about you. The organization’s current needs must best match your strengths. (Risk and Persistence)
  • Be willing to make a decision – sometimes with limited information. Know when you can wait for more information and when a decision is needed now. Know when to say “I’ve made a mistake,” when to change your mind, and when to continue to stick with a decision. (Humbleness/Flexibility/Conviction)
  • Work can be important and it can be hard, but we can enjoy it and each other. Humor is critical!
  • You have to put in the time. Here’s where those of you who did the math earlier can now suggest it’s the old guy talking – but, I believe I’ve observed, in our quest to find a more appropriate balance of work and life, that perhaps in at least some instances, the pendulum has swung too far. Sometimes you have to work a little harder and a little longer to get the job done well and to find career advancement. (Work/Life Balance)
  • Don’t expect to change the world in a week. Most change is incremental. It takes time to learn – people, the situation, the history, etc. before change is effective. Small changes motivate and build support for more change, or as Jim Collins refers to it – the flywheel. (Adaptability)
  • Believe in yourself! Have a sense of optimism. I may not know how today, but I can figure it out! (Hopefulness)
  • Tell people what you know. When staff ask, tell them what you know and what you’re thinking. It builds trust, understanding and credibility. (Transparency)

Finally – You’re only a leader if others agree to follow. Leadership is earned. A leader takes counsel and direction from others (Board members, peers, and employees). You only lead as long as you represent those who have placed that trust in you (employees and bosses).

I started by sharing that Noel had suggested because of my story, I might be an example for you. Hopefully I illustrated that by sharing my story – of working up through the ranks. I have perhaps underestimated the hope that that conveys. Over the past few weeks I have been struck by the numbers of county employees who have commented to me that they are so pleased that I am now in the County Manager’s Office. It’s not about me – but about the perspective that they hope I have from the agency and departments of County Government, but even more important may be the example for advancement in the organization that I represent for them.

I thank you for the opportunity to speak to you this afternoon. I wish you only the best in the fulfillment of your own career and leadership goals. Your graduation today represents a wonderful step on that journey.

Again, my congratulations.

Thank You for Your Public Service!

May 9th, 2013 by KU PMC

From Terri Callahan, Director of Kansas Certified Public Manager ® Program

Dear Public Servants,
This is Public Service Recognition Week, and I want to thank you for your commitment to public service.

It is in the public service arena that we strive to make a difference and provide a better life for those we serve. We serve because service itself is at the heart of who we are, and we lead with hope and optimism because we believe in our mission and purpose regardless of the adversity that comes our way. We may never know the full impact of our service on lives and the communities we serve, but we continue to serve because we believe in public service. What would happen if the public did not have ___________ (fill in your career/position)?

There is a quote from Robert F. Kennedy (June 6, 1966) called Ripples of Hope. “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Thank you for your public service!

The University of Kansas prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, age, ancestry, disability, status as a veteran, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, retaliation, gender identity, gender expression and genetic information in the University’s programs and activities. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies and is the University’s Title IX Coordinator: the Executive Director of the Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access,, 1246 W. Campus Road, Room 153A, Lawrence, KS, 66045, (785)864-6414, 711 TTY.