Madison College provides leadership training for county department heads

June 26, 2013

From “Supervisors get insight into leadership training for department heads” — Fourteen Columbia County supervisors Tuesday got what Mike Baldwin called a “crash course” in the management and leadership training that county department heads have undergone since the beginning of this year.

Baldwin, business and industry services account manager for Madison Area Technical College, said role-playing, case studies and conversations among the department heads have been just some of the tools used to help department heads discern the distinctions between leadership and management.

Management, in a nutshell, entails putting out fires, Baldwin said, whereas leadership entails considering ways to keep fires from igniting in the future.

County Board Chairman Andy Ross had invited all supervisors, but particularly those who lead the County Board’s 13 governing committees, to get a glimpse of the training that department heads are receiving through MATC.

There was $20,000 set aside in the county’s 2013 budget, according to Ross, to offer management-leadership training for department heads, including those who hold elected posts.

For next year’s budget, Ross said he will propose setting aside an additional $20,000 to extend the training to employees in supervisory positions who report directly to a county department head.

And, County Board members — especially those who might be elected to their first term in April 2014 — likely will undergo some form of leadership training, Ross said. For the last two County Board election cycles, newly elected supervisors had an orientation session that lasted a few hours; Ross said he’s looking for something a little more in-depth than that.

Baldwin said one of the things he heard frequently from county department heads during their training sessions was that County Board members, too, should have leadership training.

Supervisor Susan Martin, chairwoman of the County Board’s human resources committee, said she would like to find a way to quantify the extent to which department heads use the abilities gained in the training, and incorporate them into the annual evaluation that each department head undergoes with his or her governing committee.

Supervisor Fred Teitgen, chairman of the planning and zoning committee, said there are times when department heads need the skills of a manager to accomplish day-to-day tasks, and times when they need the skills of a leader to create a long-term vision for their departments.

“You need to know when to utilize those two roles,” Teitgen said.

Baldwin said all department heads were interviewed individually, and underwent an online evaluation of their leadership skills, before the department heads began monthly group training.

Ross said he does not have the data from either the interviews or the online evaluations, because he does not want department heads to fear that any of them are being targeted.

Trust, Baldwin said, has emerged as a value that department heads hold as vital. They’re not saying that there is a lack of trust between the department heads and elected officials who oversee their work, he said — only that maintaining trust is important.



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