February is the month we watch for the groundhog to see his shadow.
Make a March pledge to not chase after rabbits, especially down holes.
What do I mean? Most of us have been in meetings and suddenly wondered “how did we get here” when one person seems to chase a topic and suddenly, the conversation follows “down the rabbit hole” and a half hour later everyone is worked up (or tuned out). Add elected officials who want to be responsive and want to make a difference …quickly, add citizens in the context of a public meeting, throw in one of those high-strung community issues, and staying on track becomes a serious challenge.
Local elected officials and staff have a hard enough time staying strategic, staying focused with so many different questions, issues, people coming at them. After all, it is your job to be accountable, available and responsive. Right? But does that mean for any topic for any person any time? Do you spend a lot of time in your meetings wondering “how did we get here?”
So take a pledge to work together to stay on track, respect your group’s time together as a valuable resource (the same with the staff time, and the publics’ too). If you need training in managing meetings, managing priorities, being efficient and strategic there are many resources available, at NWCCOG, we would be happy to point you in the right direction.
Some questions to ask yourself or your group:
Do we have permission to keep each other on topic (and call out rabbit holes before we all leap)?
Is object of the discussion and the framework for decision made clear for every agenda item, either by a memo in packet, written on the agenda, or verbalized by the chair?
Do we have a strategy like a “parking lot” for gathering questions or input for later focus, or is every new topic an impromptu top-priority agenda item?
Have I prioritized what I want to accomplish, and communicated that to my peers? Do I know and understand what my peers would like to accomplish or what they value?
Have we as a board or council done strategic planning lately and are we clear about balancing group priorities with individual priorities?