For any person that is or was sitting on a governing body of a government, a business, or a non-profit entity, let me ask you a simple question – does your board, council, commission, or other type act like its managing the needs of your entity and addressing the issues that you are facing now or in the future or is it acting like high school students in various cliques (name calling, who doesn’t like who, focused on superficial issues, etc.)?
I’ve been on our Council for about four years and sometimes I sit back amazed at some of the issues that are brought before us to act on or on matters that our own members bring up looking for action. It seems to be a 1-to-1 ratio that I’ve experienced – with legitimate matters on health, safety, and welfare of our community coming up at the same rate as issues that should never reach such a public spectacle. Let me give you some examples which some of you may have witnessed in your own bodies:
- Name-Calling: One member accuses another member of the governing body of trying to destroy him/her and that the person needs to be stopped (no evidence, just verbal accusations at a public meeting);
- I’m Not Working with Them: A member tells the rest of the Board that he/she won’t work with another member because they are equals on the governing body and doesn’t have to take directions/advice from another or they feel another person doesn’t have same education/experience to make a contribution to a discussion;
- Becoming Gun-Shy: Matters of community (or shareholder) interest are continually tabled because no one wants to be blamed if a decision goes wrong so instead everyone approves easy items and feels that the governing body is effective;
- We Know Better Than Everyone Else: The times when a member either doesn’t want to wait to follow protocols or doesn’t like a decision made by subordinate leadership so they believe that the governing body should take its own action in matter based on what they say (usually there is a personal or professional relationship involved)
So what do you do? I’m been fortunate to being serving a body where a majority want to follow established policies/laws or aren’t afraid from making decisions for the benefit of our community regardless of it may play out in the next election. But there are still some members who are insist on playing these games and even if you with a strong governing body, it still takes time away from what you should be doing (and to be honest it gets really tiring and exhausting having to continually address these members).
I wish I could say I got the perfect solution or here is the good way to prevent it because even after repeated talks and interventions (and even discussion on removal) with these people that they need to follow proper protocol or they we all need to work together to move our community forward, it seems to goes in one ear and out the other. For now, we just move forward and try to handle these situations in a calm and reasonable manner and try not to let it interfere in governing and managing. Just remember, though, that nothing makes your entity look worse to people/investors then a governing body that can’t handle their own issues and is mired in juvenile behaviors.
I know that this type of situation probably isn’t unique or uncommon so hopefully there someone out there has experience and addressed this in an effective manner.
As I sit here thinking about what I want to write about for my blog now, I realized I was stuck. Issues of politics and governing impact me on a day-to-day basis because of my position and I wanted a break from that also. As I’m kicking and wondering what to write about I decided that I was going to explore an issue resulting out of a project I am working on with implications that can be understand in today’s world.
I received good news earlier this week that our loan to build a new movie theater in Fallon was approved so after nearly a year of working to make this project a reality I can now see it happening. There will be many decisions that will be made over the next 10 months but one of the most important will be the visual design of the new 9-screen complex. For me this is critical to the success of the project and to the future of my Tribe.
When I say design I am looking at it from a very different perspective that many people in a similar position would. Yes I want I nice, modern design that will attract and wow the people going to the theater both in terms of its appearance and its technology. But I also want a facility that represents my Tribe, its people, its culture and our history. For me the progress we are making should never come at the cost of forgetting who and where we came from.
So this is where I’ve arrived at for this blog. As both a leader on the political and economic sides, I realize that there is a fine line that I must walk between two worlds. On one hand we need to progress and move forward and adapt our operations and management to the modern culture, while on the other hand we must also strive to prevent the assimilation and loss of our culture and heritage. A history of forced assimilation attempts have caused many of our generations to have lost touch with who and where we came from so as a leader I must try to make every effort to balance our need to grow and develop in a modern world without losing what makes as a people, a community, and a tribal nation.
Some of the decision that are made by a tribal government or its business enterprises may not fit into all of the models for business or political management, but there is usually a reason for that. Sometimes what is important to in these circles such as profits, revenues, cost-savings, and design/construction may not coincide with some what we need to do to preserve our history. It may make the process a little more difficult but, for me any many others, it’s a small price to pay if we can preserve and promote who we are through either direct or indirect methods. We must move forward to preserve who we are but it doesn’t mean we have to abandon where we came from to do that.
It may be a balancing act and there will be people on both sides of the spectrum that won’t be happy either way because compromise feels like a dirty word to them. Even outside of the Tribe, though, I see similar battles occurring every day. Balancing issues between issues and sides is never easy but if we don’t how are any of us, regardless of its business or political, going to move forward?
I wrote about crisis management once before but I want to look at it again as a new situation arose and I saw how some of my colleagues reacted. Basically can you claim to be a leader if overreaction and instant resolution is what drives you and is more important than remembering that there are two sides to every issue?
This new crisis arose when complaints from some employees about their supervisor were filed and, of course, it had a Hollywood doomsday scenario – that if we didn’t take some type of immediate action, people may be seriously hurt or killed (some on Council wanted to fire people right there based on one side’s story). As we discussed the matter it basically broke down that a few colleagues proposed the following actions (I added my views to the actions to show my responses to matter):
- We need to intervene immediately and take whatever action we must. Let’s think about this more a minute. First are we even sure that what is being said is even correct (even partially). Sometimes it’s best for everyone to back up, take a deep breath, and look into the incident(s) before running, cleaning house, and then dealing with the legal ramifications afterwards.
- Let’s solve the issue by getting rid of the problem maker. Okay but are we sure who really is the problem or are just getting one side of story and ignoring the other side. Is the situation even correct or is there a personal or professional reason to get someone out of the way? And if we do act before we know all the answers are we going to put ourselves in liability because of it, also have we even thought about how we will run the program afterwards.
- The people that are complaining are troublemakers so let’s just ignore it. Okay the exact opposite of the other’s response – so we can from one extreme to the other. Well now we want to turn a blind eye to the matter and hope it goes away. But what happens if it’s true either in full or even if parts of it are (though there may be some embellishment). Again we could face a liability if we ignore the matter just as if we go head-in first without thinking.
I’m not perfect, mind you, and in fact I’ve been part of taking some the actions that I listed above and in return I’ve been burned a couple of times. It’s relatively easy to happen when you are new and unsure what the best course of action to take. But after nearly four years, the lessons I’ve learned is there are always to sides to the story and that jumping the gun only makes the situation worse.
These lessons that I follow may not popular and have created tension between the “shoot first and ask questions later” or “bury your head in the sand” crowds. But carefully reviewing an issue and even advocating taking a slower approach doesn’t make you indecisive, but rather shows that in a time of crisis you can be counted on to make rational and sound decisions and protect yourself and organization from negative ramifications. Jumping headfirst into matters without knowing what is really going in hurts you and your organization in the short and long-term through legal liabilities and loss of people’s respect.
How do you want to be thought of as a leader…as a person whose reacts haphazardly to every accusation, innuendo, or gossip that arises OR as a person who can fairly listen to all sides and make an informed decision (even though it may mean taking some time). I’ve made the choice of how I want to govern these situations and for better or worse, it is something I can hold my head up and be proud of. What about you?
After my last blog a couple of days ago about negative campaigning and my thoughts on dealing with people who attack people based on their own personal hatred, I spent part of the time evaluating my future. I will be finish up my MBA degree at UNR in August and then my term will end as Treasurer for my Tribe in October (if I don’t run for reelection or if I lose). It appears that I may be at a crossroads in terms of my employment future.
A few months ago I heard a song (and its become one of my favorites) called “Put It Into Drive” by Doc Walker and the first line of song goes “put it into drive, take it for a ride, here you are at the crossroads of your life, there’s a highway waiting on you”. I didn’t think a song would lead to a blog entry but when I was listening to it over the weekend I realized that many of lyrics were speaking to what I’ve been thinking and feeling recently.
As upcoming fall season starts I see a crossroad coming up pretty fast and that has me already thinking about my future. I believe that my years of experience in contracts & grants management and the knowledge learned in the past four years as a political official coupled with my MBA degree will open up new opportunities for me.
Going back to my blog inspiration another verse goes “stand up tall, on the hood of that car, scream out loud and find out who you are and where you are going to”. While I haven’t hopped up on my truck hood, I think this upcoming crossroad will have me accessing my comfort levels. Of course I’m nervous about the prospect of possibly not having a job in a few months and that I may be embarking in a new direction for my life but the bigger challenge that I foresee is how far am I willing to go on a new road. Do I leave my family and friends here in northern Nevada since I’m a Native Nevada who was born and lived in this area all my life for a possible bigger opportunity somewhere else or do I settle for something less then I want to remain close to where I feel comfortable with a support system of family/friends (as well as having a paid-off house).
I think I am having some of the same feelings I had when I graduated from high school as my upcoming graduation from UNR’s MBA Program approaches – excitement and nervousness as a possible new chapter begins to unfold. I don’t know exactly which road I may end up on in the next few months or where it will lead me to, but I do believe that it’s going to be an interesting journey. For now, though, I need to focus on completing my short-term task both in my class and my elected position, but as these next 3-4 months come and go also look at the opportunities that may arise and present themselves to help my when I reach that crossroad and see approaching. With that I go back to the song which got me thinking and which started this blog – this blog started with the opening line of that song and the last verse is the same thing except its ends with a question: “Put it into drive, take it for a ride, here you are at the crossroads of your life, what you going to do?”
I’m going a little bit off-topic for my first blog of this week. My blog has been focused on my current life’s journey as the elected Treasurer of my Tribe and its governing body, and dealing with many of the issues that face mine and other Native communities. This time though I’m writing on how politics can become ugly real quick which we have all seen with some of the recent Senate primaries.
Elections and Negative Campaigns – Things Get Ugly Fast
My Tribe’s election process has just started and my position is up for election. Our nomination process doesn’t end for about two months and I should make my decision on whether I’m running again in about 6 weeks.
Already though the politics have started up and a few individuals are attempting to insert themselves into the process through the use of assorted lies and other false claims. Having going through this in my first election my reaction has been not to bring myself down to that level and avoiding a confrontation which I believe is what one particular person wants. During any type of an election, people can always expect some negative campaigning with lies and other false verbal accusations spread around. You got to expect this and develop a hard skin or you won’t make it too long.
Confronting a Bully or Ignoring Them
Over the past 3 years, I’ve tried to ignore some of these individuals and the lies that they try to spread by either ignoring the matter or calmly explain facts in the matter (that seems to try them into more of a frenzy though). But a recent situation has got me wondering whether I should choose to confront these people using the appropriate channels.
In a nutshell, one individual submitted a ballot question on an official form, signed it, and submitted it to the proper officials. In this proposed question, though, he made a number of written false statements about me and few other officials. My initial thought was that this was just another typical tactic of this person and I don’t intend to give him the pleasure of going tit-for-tat with him on something I know is false. But one of the other officials in the matter and some community members have come to me and want me to file a formal complaint because in the past this person’s accusations were verbal and slander is hard to provide in a court. But because it’s in writing with the individual’s signature it was noted that there is better legal argument for libel. These individuals feel something needs to be done because they have heard other people asking of its true and not.
The Question of the Day
In my mind I feel that there are two paths that I can follow:
- Confront this individual using the proper legal tools that are available under our laws and at least get some measure of accountability held on him and in turn provide a way to correct people of the false statements he made; or
- Avoid the legal arena and inform people of the truth and that this individual is make false statements but in turn not pursuing a method that would hold him accountable for these types of false statements he throws around.
Either way I go, though, it will not stop this person or discourage him from making up other lies and false accusations. So either path will not stop him and reasoning with this person will not work as his personal hatred is so strong towards me and a few others that it would be like talking to a wall. So for me it comes down to what should I to protect myself professionally, personally, and politically.
The question that I am putting on this blog post is to get some other thoughts on this matter. Basically how would you handle this type of situation or do you see another path that could be taken that might be better?
It seems that as a member of our Tribal Council, or I suppose with any type of elected/governing body, a lot of time is spent on crisis management and having to react to situations that arisen in the programs that provide services to our members/constituents. I know that being proactive is a better strategy than having to reactive but that is a type of luxury that doesn’t seem to fall to those in executive and management levels.
Being proactive sounds great and looks good on paper but, to me, is seems that when you start managing at higher levels (as in my case being part of the Executive/Legislative branch) that it doesn’t really work on that way. At lower levels it seems that when a crisis erupts or a major problem surfaces one can just refer to a policy for direction or refer the matter up the chain of command. But when you are in a position where you are the top of the chain, the policies, procedures, and guidelines that are in place may not be as effective when dealing with issues that threaten the health and safety of people. I’ve found out over the years that what looks good on paper may not be as easily implemented nor provide for the direction to address issues in a rapid response.
So how should one proceed when this arises? For me I guess that means having to look at the urgent/emergency situation that has arisen and then in discussion with my other elected officials on the Council develop a plan to address the situation but being mindful that we need to try to work with the scope of our adopted policies/procedures while also trying to make sure that situation doesn’t spiral out of control while this occurs. I’ll be the first one to admit that it’s a delicate balancing act because on one hand you want to follow established processes so as not to place the Tribe or ourselves in any type of liability and then on the other hand these established processes may require going through a number of steps that could take a long time to be completed and in turn placing the welfare of people and employees in limbo.
I won’t claim to be an expert in the best way to handle these situations nor do I believe that there is really any sort of standard process that can be easily implemented that addresses everything that can occur (especially when you are dealing with items as a governing body of a government). The only thing that I can really provide is how I approach these matters and then see if anyone else has a better solution/approach to a situation – this is the manner that I approach it:
- Try to identify the source of the problem and also determine what level of seriousness is the issue and the risks that our people/constituents/employees face if we don’t act in a timely manner;
- Is there an adopted policy and procedure that can assist us in determining the course of action to follow and then if so we need to evaluate if that process will be beneficial in resolving the matter or if it will hinder our ability to address the matter before people are hurt;
- If policy/procedure exists and provides for a mechanism to address the issue while ensuring people are protected then it’s a simple matter to follow that process until resolution occurs;
- If policy/procedures exists but cannot ensure a timely resolution of problem and the probability that irreparable harm will occur, then working together as a Council what steps should be implement to address the problem mindful that we need to protect all parties involved and that by going outside the process a liability may be created; or
- If no policy/procedure exists for the type of issue then the Council would need to develop an emergency law/policy/resolution that would address the situation and then after the matter has been resolved have staff develop a policy/procedure to address the matter in the future.
This might not be the best approach to issues but sometimes protecting the health and safety of one’s people and employees must always be the highest priority and this sometimes means that establish policies and procedures may not be adequate for all situations. Before I was elected as a member of the governing body I always felt that policies and procedures should be the only thing considered in addressing situations, but that has changed and, for me, I realize that even the best developed policies/procedures may not address everything nor provide for immediate solutions when matters of public welfare are concerned. I know that issues may differ from the business sector or non-profit world, but if anyone else has solutions/ideas I am always up to hearing them because no one person knows it all and sometimes there is someone out there who may have a different approach that produces better results.
Another hectic week is almost half-way gone. Sitting down here writing one of blogs for this week got me thinking about all of the work and education related activities that I am handling and whether when you are giving 200% whether something is going to or already has suffered from being spread out too thin. As my Tribe’s Treasurer I have an ongoing daily function to monitor the activities that are occurring in the three departments that I oversee – Finance, Taxation, and Contracts & Grants (the micro level for me) – coupled with my duties as being an elected official and working to address many of the social, economic, and community needs, issues, and problems that also occur on a daily basis (my macro level). This doesn’t include time and obligations that are needed as a student in the UNR EMBA Program, as well as the President of the Board of Directors for the Tribe’s Development Corporation.
In the micro level of my position I got to handle employee supervision, procurement requests, monitoring bank levels and investment strategies all the while my handling the macro level activities of addressing public concerns and issues, Council meetings (open, closed, and executive sessions), meetings with various government agencies, and working with the Council to make sure the entire governmental operations are providing the best services to our membership.
At times I wish I had an assistant to help organize and coordinate everything going on like the other two-full-time Council Officers have in their offices. But other times I realize that as chaotic as it the situation may be, it does make me rise to the occasion and realize that I have to be willing to accept the situation and move forward the best I can. During any given week there may be an item that may not get handled right away, but I know that in the end it will be handled both correctly and in a manner that doesn’t impact any of my operations and services. I guess that’s what it’s all about – rising up in the face of adversity (in my case that being all of the obligations I have undertaken) and meeting the challenge head on. Nobody said life was going to a 9 to 5 job and then go home. In my position and actually in case of most people I believe we there are many of us in the same position – we got so much going on sometimes keeping up with everything seems impossible. I guess that I’m one of those people that thrive on the constant level of activity and would be lost without. But I guess what I’m saying is the drive and passion to move forward and make ourselves better – especially the group of us in the EMBA Program – also the trait that will allow us to succeed no matter where we are going or end up at. Okay I think that finishes my thoughts for today with some inner reflections (or ramblings) and a final thought that brings it all together (at least I hope).