The Importance of Failing Fast + Other Key Takeaways from Our Women in Government Leadership Event
OpenGov recently hosted its second Women in Government Leadership event in Arlington, TX.
At the event, more than 80 public sector employees and a handful of OpenGov staff came together to learn from our speakers and make professional connections.
The event featured four speakers:
- Ronica Watkins, PhD, Budget Officer for Dallas County, TX
- Cynthia Patton, Senior Director of Operations for the City and County of Denver, CO
- Abby Owens, Public Works Assistant Director for Plano, TX
- Claudia Arriaga, VP of Customer Success Management at OpenGov
The session was organized as a panel. OpenGov’s Claudia Arriaga served as the moderator, asking the speakers to share insights from their experiences working in leadership roles in local government.
Keep reading to learn some of the key tips shared during the event.
Top Four Takeaways from the Discussion
The panel took place over an hour, with a wide-ranging discussion that touched on government operations, growth, and leadership.
We’ve gone through the conversation and extracted some of the key insights shared by the panelists, who collectively have several decades of experience working in local government.
Here are the top four takeaways the panelists shared.
1. Fail Fast
Failure is important to everyone’s resume. In fact, achieving perfection in your work at the cost of avoiding failure can often be a negative, because it means you’re avoiding opportunities for growth out of fear of falling short.
While taking a chance can mean risking failure, it can also mean unlocking the potential for much greater success. And failure can represent new learning opportunities. How you deal with failure can help you learn how to overcome challenges, and be a better leader in the long run.
But it’s important to fail fast. Failing fast means recovering quickly, being open about what you learned with your team, and bringing those lessons with you moving forward.
2. The Difference Between Being Assertive and Aggressive
Assertive communication is direct and respectful.
Being assertive gives you the best chance of successfully delivering your message. Being aggressive, on the other hand, may lead you to losing the respect of those you manage in the long run, especially if they feel like you’re not listening to their needs.
Sometimes it can feel like you’re walking a tightrope between these two. But if you keep the distinction in mind, making sure to maintain an assertive stance while also leaving room for other opinions and perspectives, you’ll help push your organization’s initiatives forward without losing anyone along the way.
Pro tip: Data is the meaningful currency to support the message you’d like to get across. An assertive argument made with data will always be more compelling than one made without it.
3. Listening Is More Valuable Than Talking
Leaders don’t know everything. That’s why active listening is often more valuable than talking.
In the panel, all three of the leaders commented that they ask more questions now than they did early in their careers.
By developing the skill of active listening, leaders can more deeply understand the nuanced issues their staff faces, drawing from expertise on their teams to improve their understanding of problems and potential solutions.
Listening can help break down silos between different roles and different departments, helping each party learn about the challenges the other faces so they can function better as an integrated team. It can also bring new ideas to the table, identifying creative approaches to solving problems that you couldn’t have come up with on your own.
And listening shows empathy. If your staff feels like you’re working to understand them and where they’re coming from, it will be much easier to rally them behind new initiatives, and to surface challenges or problems before they grow into something bigger.
4. Bring Other Diverse Leaders to the Table
To create a work environment that supports and empowers your team members, it’s important to include accessible processes and available tech. It’s also important to advocate for equal opportunities and fair treatment, and to work to address any biases or barriers that may exist.
You don’t necessarily need special training or in-depth planning to start doing this. You can begin right away by encouraging open communication, collaboration, and diversity of thought. Try doing this at your next meeting by inviting dialogue around topics and before key decisions, rather than simply pushing to finish and move on to the next item in the agenda.
Dialogue may lead to conflict in the short term, with different team members expressing different viewpoints. But that conflict is part of the process of inclusion, and a healthy sign that people are actually expressing their opinions.
By encouraging discussion among diverse perspectives as part of your decision-making process, your team will make better, more informed decisions, and the entire organization will benefit.
Next Stop: Chicago
Thanks to these wonderful takeaways and positive feedback from our attendees, we look forward to hosting more events like this for our customers. Stay tuned for information on our next Women in Government Leadership event which will be held in Chicago this October.