(Photo courtesy of the National Association of State Chief Administrators)
By Tess Mullen, MPA ‘13
The reviews are in and leaders from around the country have declared that the 2012 National Association of State Chief Administrators’ Annual Institute was a great success. For the third year in a row, Fels Research & Consulting (Fels R&C) developed the curriculum for this institute, drawing together a range of experts to provide helpful presentations and facilitate networking opportunities for state chief administrators (SCAs), the leaders who oversee states’ internal business operations.
As an Associate Consultant with Fels R&C, I was given the opportunity to attend this conference as part of the Fels team. From a personal and professional perspective, the Institute was incredibly rewarding. One of my favorite parts of the three-day event was seeing state chief administrators break into small groups to discuss Fels R&C Associate Consultant Kim Leichtner’s recent report on “What It Takes to be a Successful State Chief Administrator,” as well as a case study she wrote chronicling one SCA’s attempts to transform his department’s culture. It was exciting to meet many of the SCAs Kim and I had interviewed over the previous year and to see them and their colleagues reflect on how to apply Kim’s research-based promising practices to their own agencies.
The conference’s presentations were both interesting and instructive. Fels Senior Consultant Dr. Mario Moussa kicked off the event by discussing how to rally support for organizational change, an issue that was a top concern for many participants. Then Fels Executive Director David Thornburgh provided SCAs with concrete advice on how to navigate organizational politics, shedding light on how to utilize relational networks and how to develop simple, credible, detail-rich stories to make a case for change.
The Fels team was joined by a trio of strong presenters. Aliza Wasserman from the National Governors Association discussed NGA’s research on government redesign and highlighted best practices in energy efficiency initiatives. Fred Helio Garcia, a professor from New York University, examined the art of crisis communications, providing SCAs with a framework for deciding how, and when, to respond to a crisis. Jeffrey Thompson from Brigham Young University shared insights on how to engage, and motivate, public servants. Building upon research he had done examining why zookeepers love their jobs, despite low pay and little prestige, Thompson concluded that a job can become a calling when it taps into people’s innate passions and their desire for stewardship. Managers can motivate their staff by finding ways to help them use their innate talents to leave a positive mark on their agencies.
After attending the 2012 NASCA Institute, I had an even greater respect for SCAs and the work that they do. I am proud that by helping to design the 2012 Annual Institute, the Fels R&C team provided these tireless, hard-working public sector leaders with insights and advice that could help them serve their states even more effectively.