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Career Compass

Career Compassis a monthly column from ICMA focused on career issues for local government professional staff.  It is written by Dr. Frank Benest, ICMA's senior advisor for Next Generation Initiatives. If you have a career question you would like addressed in a future Career Compass, e-mail or contact Frank directly at

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Jun 27

Career Compass No. 32: The Power of Vulnerability

Posted on June 27, 2013 at 3:17 PM by Amber Ahlo

In this issue of Career Compass, Dr. Benest shows us how opening up can move us forward.

I’ve served as a division manager for two years in a county organization. I have worked hard to establish my presence as the division manager even though I’m a former peer. I’m trying to be a good leader, working to get our division team to the next level. They say they agree with our “stretch” goals but apparently they do not embrace them. I have been discussing with the division team the need to reprioritize our projects, cut our costs, engage outside partners, and rethink how we do our work. I want discussion but they do not engage when I lay out a proposed plan of action.

The last few years have been a tough time for our department and the county. Our county organization operates in an uncertain environment—changes in the political direction of the governing board, budget cuts and layoffs, uncertain state funding, new federal and state regulations, more scrutiny from the media and the public than ever before, and increased demands from everyone.

People are not responding as well as I would like to me in my role, and I want to see where I can improve to help our team become engaged again.