So, here we go!
It's only fair that if I call on others to inform this exploration, that I put some skin in it. I have spent a LOT of time thinking about what makes me feel gratified in my work. This is just me, and not speaking for anyone else. I'd like these ideas to be tested through my discussions with other planners - will these themes hold up and be reinforced? Will they fade into the background? These are the first little seeds of Pinch Yourself, You're a Planner.
Stepping back from my two little pots of thoughts, I realised one is inward-looking, i.e. perspectives and habits that have required some self-discipline and self-pep talking. The second is much more about the external elements that form our work environments - but I think we can still take a very active role in shaping these! Interested to know what you think. Please use the contact form to share any feedback.
Invest in myself and my places
- Commit to where I plan
This is such a biggie. Planning can only happen in a context. As a planner in NYC, I took part in a fellowship that placed me with a Community Board on the west side of Manhattan. A couple of years later, I was planner to the Manhattan Borough President for the west side of Manhattan. At the Department of City Planning, I was also planner for this same geography. Across eight years and several roles, it's fairly felicitous and rare to be a planner for the same area. My familiarity with the neighbourhoods could not begin to compete with the investment in and knowledge of locals, but I knew the scoop, the history, ambitions, players, constraints, politics that were essential to performing my technical role better. More importantly, I had a sense of what was at stake because I could appreciate the fullness of the context.
- Remember who I'm planning for
This one seems self-explanatory, but so easily lost in the pressures of day-to-day work, when I have a lot of people to answer to immediately- and, the majority of the time, they're not the residents and businesses and stakeholders who will be affected by what I do.
- Make the bold statement!
I stole this one from Hugh Ellis of the TCPA. I love perfect information - and I'm reluctant to take any action until I'm assured that I understand all the facts. This is impossible in most professions, not least of all planning. In things big and small, I have to take the risk! It doesn't have to be the kind of risk that gets me vilified, but I do push myself to ask the necessary 'obvious' question that may create a little discomfort. As above (planning in a context), we need reliable information, but we also need to take courageous steps.
Plan in an environment of respect
- Expect (and ask for) consideration from everyone
Ugh!!! Tempted to use all caps here. Folks! My kids' school teaches the fundamentals of kindness from reception with endless reinforcement. What happens??? Not being kind, not being considerate, not being polite, not being respectful is never ok. (That's a double negative.) Expect nothing less than kindness, consideration, politeness and respect in every aspect of your work from everyone you encounter. If you feel you're falling short, call it out and make sure you clearly ask for it.
- Make and be a team
I have been placed in roles where I was not part of an immediate team of people who reported to the same manager, worked on the same projects and generally did the same thing. It's an uncomfortable place because we like company, especially in the insecurity of work. Or, I have been in teams but in name only. Nothing team-like about them. A group of disparate individuals, and that stole from our individual and collective work. Whether a part of an uncertain team or really strong team, I've found it helps considerably to find allies in what I believe in. It may not be a manager or the person I sit next to, but seeking out people who are like-minded and can act as a support makes all the difference. Chances are, that someone else may be looking for an ally, as well. And when I have been on teams, good ones, I try to let them know I appreciate them and I can be that support when needed.
- Be generous
I can't overstate this one. This comes from all of the spectacular managers I have had who have simply let me know, in one way or another, I can do it. That takes no small measure of generosity. A manager who is willing to offer time, credit, knowledge, latitude, benefit of the doubt, an ear (etc. etc.) is a hero. I am absolutely convinced that being managed by generous people has not only benefited my personal and professional confidence, but has taught me the value of these habits and encourages me to pay them forward.