Leaders of park and recreation organizations confront formidable challenges on multiple fronts. The current economic contraction will pressure many agencies to cut service levels and programs. Some agencies will be forced to make painful staff reductions. Funding sources are likely to become less reliable as districts and municipalities struggle to cover bare necessities. Park and recreation leaders will have a full plate of challenges to manage and numerous fires to fight.
Transformational leaders successfully mobilize personal and organizational resources to manage short term crises and, simultaneously, find time, energy and other resources to focus on solving problems that threaten the long term success of the organization.
Challenges that must be met in order to ensure success in the long term include positioning parks and recreation as an essential community service, securing predictable sources of funding, tracking evolving community priorities and shifting the program mix to meet those changing needs. Further challenges include forging collaborative partnerships to leverage resources, meeting conservation and sustainability goals and making sure that staff have the skills and competencies necessary to be successful in the face of extensive retirements.
These challenges will require leaders to be politically astute, influential, superior communicators, consensus builders, risk takers and effective conflict resolvers. Not surprisingly, most of these skills are not learned in a classroom. They are forged by the crucible of experience, stress and conflict.
The Peopleassets Transformational Leadership Profile Report will help park and recreation professionals learn more about the skills and competencies required for success. The Profile is constructed by comparing an individual’s responses to benchmarks established by leaders in over twenty five countries as well as ‘high performing’ park and recreation professionals. These norms are labeled in the graph, where the first bar, "private" represents the international leadership benchmark and the second bar, labeled "parks", represents successful leaders in the park and recreation profession. Narrative conclusions are drawn from patterns of an individual’s responses and by the degree of difference from these benchmarks.
The text of the Profile report identifies strengths of your particular leadership style and seeks to direct your attention to potential opportunities to improve your effectiveness. We quickly recognize and fully appreciate that many complex dynamics are at work in the expression of leadership behaviors. However, comparing your style to a profile established by high performing park and recreation professionals can help direct your attention toward critical improvement opportunities.
We urge you to approach this exercise as a special learning opportunity. Exploring your personal leadership style can contribute directly to your success and can be a lot of fun as well. Read this report with your curiosity at attention. Leave your defenses in the drawer. Some observations may surprise you. Fine! Let unexpected results serve as the starting point for inquiry. Where you disagree with conclusions drawn in the report, strive to clarify the issue by getting feedback from colleagues.
The Profile report is designed to be used in conjunction with other resources available to you. These include:
Transformational leaders know that the strategic landscape is shifting in a way that leaders in particular private sector industries would recognize immediately. Makers of film-based cameras and record company executives understand that the ‘rules of the game’ can change quickly. The advent of digital photography and the explosion of on-line music purchases changed the basis for success in each of those business sectors. A shift of similar magnitude has arrived for park and recreation leaders. To quote a senior manager in one of the largest metro agencies, “Things are changing so rapidly it's amazing.”
Many people in the park and recreation profession enter the field motivated by their love of nature or their commitment to an active life style. Ambition and drive are pre-requisites for investment bankers, not for park and recreation professionals. As many in the field advance in their career, they are asked to assume supervisory, management and leadership roles. For those who do ascend near the top of their organization, their responsibilities evolve into areas that include politics, public relations, market analysis and joint ventures in a way that most never envisioned. Ascending the learning curve effectively and quickly will be essential to the success of future leaders.
Your attitude toward new challenges will influence the future path of your career and the future success of your organization. Do you find new challenges stimulating? Do they stir a sense of excitement and adventure or do they tend to make you anxious?
# 50. I love to tackle problems that stretch my ability to the limit, ...sometimes even beyond my limits.
#66. I don't get a real sense of fulfillment from a job unless there is a “steady diet” of new challenges to tackle.
You clearly thrive on new challenges. Many park and recreation professionals savor the excitement of learning new skills in order to manage novel situations successfully. People who share this characteristic are typically quick learners and love the stimulation of acquiring new knowledge. Enthusiasm for tackling unfamiliar challenges will energize your leadership style.
You appear to be a ready and willing risk-taker. Be sure to determine what kind of analysis and consideration are warranted prior to taking on new challenges.
You tend to make decisions quickly. The more you have at stake, the greater the need for measured consideration of the potential consequences in case things proceed in unexpected ways.
# 35. In defining goals, I make sure there is a specific measurable outcome to use as a criterion for assessing my / our progress.
# 87. I like to consult with others before committing myself to doing something.
You demonstrate consistent attention to the identification of goals. You are fairly systematic about defining tangible goals, recognizing that well-focused efforts yields better results. When colleagues are clear about what needs to be accomplished, the prospect of achieving goals improves significantly. Hopefully, this kind of attention is directed at long term, as well as short term goals.
People differ with regard to how much detail they require to map out a problem solving plan. Hopefully, you have a clear picture of who needs how much help with regard to constructing the plan for goal achievement. Collecting feedback from staff regarding their perceptions of progress and their experience with obstacles will help you know who needs support. First make sure that the goals are clearly articulated and that priorities are well understood.
You recognize the value in identifying specific, behavioral outcomes that signify goal achievement. Different people often hold widely varying interpretations of the form that goal achievement can actually take. When you specify the observable form of achievement you expect from the outset, everyone works from the same page.
You have strong confidence in your ability to express yourself. Presumably this confidence extends to the articulation of clear and specific goals to your colleagues. Validate this observation by confirming that people understand what you think they understand with regard to workgroup and individual goals.
You have strong confidence in your ability to express yourself in writing. This important skill should hopefully extend to the articulation and communication of goals, both short and long term.
Consider the following qualities when clarifying goals:
# 15. I systematically collect feedback from peers and my superiors to gauge how I'm doing.
# 71. I pride myself on my attention to "follow-through."
You seem to be reasonably systematic about measuring results. By doing so, you create a structure in which colleagues know when they make progress and where they need to focus in order to improve. Your attention to results hopefully pays benefits in the effort to ‘make a compelling case for parks’ to various community constituents. When you help people outside your organization realize the benefits derived from park and open space assets, you are building an advocacy community where mutual support can pay off for everyone.
Your focus on results is fortified by your persistent attention to follow through. This tactic will pay dividends for you. Does this apply to long term goal targets as well?
Your commitment to the evaluation of outcomes could be strengthened by a more systematic approach to the collection of feedback from colleagues to help you understand the impact of your own performance.
Park and recreation leaders make decisions every day that have a significant impact on the future of the organization. In some instances, those decisions are made with the benefit of careful analysis and considered reflection. At other times, decisions are made on the spot. Managers have very different styles with regard to how they make decisions. Some people hate to make decisions without a detailed analysis of the situation. Other people are much more intuitive. They typically make decisions on the basis of what feels right. What’s your decision making style and how does it impact your organization?
Communication is among the most frequently mentioned “essential” leadership competencies. Leaders communicate everything from strategic priorities to everyday developments and do it with widely varying styles. Written and oral communication competencies are both extremely important. Effective listening, however, may be the most important communication skill of all. Be sure that you are aware of your communication strengths and potential shortcomings.
Additionally, leaders demonstrate considerable differences with regard to how much they are inclined to consult with others vs. depend on their own personal resources and judgment. Different situations obviously call for different tactics. The trick is to know when to rely on in which tactic. Understanding your tendencies in these important areas of leadership skill will help you be more effective in your current role as well as in future positions.
You demonstrate a strong bias for action. You appreciate that someone has to make the decision, assume responsibility and get things moving. Make sure however, that when you do have adequate time to decide, that you complete the necessary groundwork and consult the appropriate people.
The care with which you analyze problems seems to vary. Hopefully you have explicit criteria for determining when a decision requires serious reflection and when it doesn’t. While some people handle this challenge intuitively, it makes sense to develop some explicit guidelines to flag situations that require in-depth analysis.
You have reservations about the strength of your communication skills. In some regard, everyone on the planet can improve some aspect of their communications. You seem prepared to acknowledge that fact. Let’s see where you need to focus your attention.
Your verbal expression skills are apparently highly developed.
Your written expression skills seem to be strong..
Your ability to listen could be significantly improved. This should rate high as a priority. Consult colleagues to confirm this conclusion and identify the specific areas to improve.
You demonstrate a clear preference for relying on your own resources in the process of planning and problem solving. The advantage of this approach is that you do not require group support or step by step directions in order to make decisions involving critical issues. The potential problem associated with your style is a predisposition to bypass the opportunity to consult with others which may, in turn, yield better decisions.
Apparently, you are, at times, inclined to forego consultation with colleagues. You may be motivated to do so by time constraints or conceivably, by lack of confidence in what your associates can offer. There are risks related to this approach. When things don’t go according to plan and you need support, you might end up feeling very lonely.
You demonstrate a real passion for shaping the direction of organizational plans and activity. You have a strong sense of personal drive and seek to make your presence known. For many, this is a critically important leadership attribute.
Your personal drive is fueled by a strong competitive spirit that focuses vigorous energy on the achievement of goals.
Occasionally, people who are highly motivated to shape outcomes have difficulty listening to input or feedback. This may be an issue for you. Recognize that the best park and recreation professionals tailor their tactics to the specific needs of different situations. There is no way to understand those specific needs unless you are skilled at listening to how your colleagues think about different situations.
You have a solid level of confidence in your influencing skills. Park and recreation professionals with the proven ability to influence others are frequently successful because they are able get colleagues to go beyond their current skill set and accomplish goals that may initially seem intimidating. You demonstrate a solid ability in this important aspect of leadership.
Wielding well developed influence skills and knowing where and how to apply them do not always go together. Your ability to ‘tune into’ the needs of your colleagues is suspect. To ensure that your influence tactics are precisely tailored you should collect direct feedback from colleagues to determine how successfully you apply your influence.
You clearly understand the importance of creating a positive model for taking action in order to advance critical project plans. Making sure others are “in synch” with your priorities can be essential to your success. How confident are you that others are ready and able to support your efforts?
Are you confident that you can count on help from colleagues? You seem to harbor some doubts about the value of mobilizing support from others who can contribute to the effort. Investing time to make sure others are ‘on board’ can be a wise move.
You seem to be seriously skeptical about the value of team efforts. You may be wary of the time and energy required to get teams ‘up to speed’ on a specific plan. You likely prefer to rely on your own resources to solve problems. In some cases, an individual can get more accomplished on his or her own. However, in the challenging environment that park and recreation professionals find themselves, achieving organizational goals often requires acting collaboratively with others both inside and outside your organization. You should collect feedback from colleagues to determine if they expect you to do more with regard to team building.
You demonstrate a willingness to take initiative. Do you employ that attribute in the service of teambuilding? You may believe that more progress can be made with individual action than taking the time to launch a team effort. Appreciate however that in the complex world so often characterized by resource limitations, building coalitions both within and outside the organization is likely critical to your success.
Your skepticism about team initiatives leads you to doubt, at least at times, the value of involving colleagues early in the planning process. Time and trouble invested up front may well save you from big headaches down the road.
You clearly prefer to stay close to the action in order to ensure that workgroup outcomes meet your expectations. People who maintain a strong sense of personal identification with the group output are often valued because they maintain high standards of quality. Individuals with this predilection are likely to have some difficulty handing off responsibility. You seem to fit this description. This tradeoff works in some organizational settings and can create problems in others. Determining how your style fits with your organizational needs is something that should be reviewed with colleagues.
You seem able and willing to let others experience, and even suffer the consequences of their own decisions. This can be an excellent learning process, as long as those consequences are not too severe. Be sure that the folks to whom you delegate have the necessary resources available to succeed. Then be sure to discuss the experience with them to ensure that they learned the lessons necessary for you to trust them with further responsibility.
You have a very direct style of dealing with conflicts. The advantage of this approach is clear. Unresolved conflicts will not linger or remain ‘under the radar’, only to create problems of various kinds down the road. Individuals with this style occasionally come across as confrontational or intimidating especially to others who have difficulty speaking directly about conflicts.
Apparently you invest little time or energy in worrying about how people feel about issues. Managers and supervisors can, in fact, waste time playing the role of counselor to every employee whose feelings get hurt. However, respecting emotional realities in the process of resolving differences is a worthy goal. To respect those emotional realities, you may have to spend more time listening to different perspectives. Consult the points below to increase the chance that your conflict resolution tactics will be successful.
Consider the following in creating a positive structure for resolving conflict.
1. Do not suggest that serious conflicts be "hashed out" without a structured process to resolve differences. Unstructured sessions designed to let it "all hang out" can turn into a free for all, especially where feelings run high. Find a skilled facilitator to help.
2. Make sure that all parties really want to achieve a solution. If one party lacks the motivation to resolve the conflict, chances are good that progress will be slow, painstaking or non-existent.
3. Emphasize COMMON INTERESTS. In most cases, both parties have a stake in producing positive outcomes, some of which they likely share.
4. Discourage blaming behavior and scapegoating. Encourage parties to consider what behavior of theirs has contributed to the conflict.
5. Encourage parties to be candid and diplomatic. Brutal verbal assaults do not help the process of resolving conflicts.
6. Encourage parties to move beyond global negative characterizations and describe specific behaviors that are problematic.
7. Encourage parties to articulate how they interpret the other person’s behavior. Frequently, someone’s interpretation does not match up with the other party’s intentions.
8. Encourage the parties to stay in the present. Dredging up ancient history rarely helps in making progress.
9. Explore several different options as part of a resolution. Avoid having to choose one party’s solution OR the other. Try to incorporate suggestions from both sides in recommending a path forward. Give everyone something they want.
10. Get each party to make an explicit verbal statement that they will positively support the proposed solution.
11. Provide for follow up. Commit to re-visiting the issue to check on progress. In the mean time, catch both parties trying to work toward a constructive solution and compliment their effort.
Return to Reports Menu