Because of the nature of my job, I get to interact with multiple people who represent different fields. These professionals range the gamut from city managers, landfill operators, county judges, as well as representatives from state and federal agencies. Our partner list is not limited to government agencies. We also work with nonprofit entities and private industry. My point is that our office works with different people who have similar goals, but different methods of accomplishing them. It is my job to make sure that these groups of people all have the tools and capabilities to achieve a common goal.
As a solid waste coordinator for a council of governments, I have the opportunity to work with seventeen counties and the communities within them. One day I will work with solid waste managers to coordinate a certification course. Another day I might participate on a conference call for a working group whose aim is to produce a policy paper. Working with such a diverse group of companies and agencies means becoming creative in the ways that I tie in everything together.
Forming relationships makes the work go smoother
Coming into my current position, I was fairly new to the field of solid waste and environmental services. That meant introducing myself to new people and starting the process of forming relationships. Many times I began these relationships with in-person meetings. Sure, it may not have been as time efficient as maybe emailing, but many of the people with whom I work with now are old-school, pick-up-the-phone-and talk kind of people. Connecting a face with a name has helped me in creating lasting relationships with people who might need my help someday or vice versa.
Use of technology to overcome the gap
The area that our agency covers is HUGE — seventeen counties spread over 23,000 square miles. While meeting in person is great, it is not always feasible. Traveling to the farthest county in our area takes around two and a half hours one way. We take full advantage of conference calls, webinars, and Google groups. Not only does this allow us to serve more people in the same amount of time, it also cuts down on travel costs which allow us to spend more money on program services.
Communicating next steps
So what do we do next? Assumptions can not only make you look sloppy, it will also slow down progress. Not communicating with partner organizations is like trying to drive in the dark blindfolded. How can we achieve a common goal if we don’t know how to get there? Having a clear plan with deadlines and defined roles for individuals will serve as a better roadmap than just simply guessing or assuming things will get done.
Understanding the needs of partner organizations
Every field has its own language and preferred method of approaching issues. Using environmental rationale may not resonate with police officers. When framed within the context of criminal laws and preventing crimes, however, convincing police departments to pursue environmentally friendly programs becomes easier.
Local leaders may have a difficult time accepting environmental programs that highlight problematic areas in their community. Rather than presenting the program as “gotcha” sort of game, it became an easier sell when framed within the context of community redevelopment. Again, understanding the needs of your audience will prove more effective as opposed to trying to force feed information they may not be ready to accept.
Connecting players with other players
I know a guy who knows a guy. Sound familiar? Often times we come across someone who needs help with something that another person/agency/company is already doing. If a city has a problem with obtaining too much of a certain material at their landfill, I know who to refer the city staff to so that they can get the help they need. In this case, the recycler who takes the materials is able to help the city more than I ever could. I have learned that sometimes the best thing you can do is point someone in the right direction and step out of the way.
Roman Alvarez is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.