In this interview we speak with City of Victor Harbor Communications Officer, Michelle James - who was a participant in the 2015 Rural Management Challenge. Michelle tells us about the challenge, the benefits to the council, her own personal experience and also shares a few tips....
Hi Michelle - thanks for speaking with us.
In 2015, City of Victor Harbor participated in the Rural Management Challenge. Will your council enter a team for future Challenges?
Yes, definitely. Last year was the first time the City of Victor Harbor had entered a team in the Rural Management Challenge for a number of years. Our senior management team were really supportive and encouraging and have made a commitment to enter teams in future challenges.
Would you recommend the Rural Management Challenge to other rural councils thinking of participating for the first time?
Absolutely! It is a great team building experience and pushes individuals to think outside the square, look at different ways to solve problems, think about how we communicate with different people and make decisions quickly.
It is also a great way to learn more about the people you work with and their roles.
Do you think rural councils thinking of participating for the first time would benefit from having another council mentor them?
It definitely helps being able to draw on the experiences of someone who has completed in a challenge before. We were really lucky last year to have a mentor who had been a member of a past rural challenge team. We also tapped into our neighbouring council of Alexandrina for advice which was a real advantage for us.
I think most councils are always willing to provide support to their neighbours, so I wouldn’t be afraid to ask.
Who were the members of your team and what roles do they have in council?
We had six team members. They included Ben from the Library, Stephanie our Senior Finance Officer, Kyla our Para Planner, Jeremy our STARCLUB Field Officer, Kerry from our Family Support Service and myself, Council’s Communications Officer.
It was a diverse team which was great because we all had different strengths that really complemented each other.
What have been the key benefits to both team members and your council?
Entering a team into the Rural Management Challenge is a win-win for individuals and council. Staff are given a hands-on, practical professional development opportunity and the organisation is helping build a positive team culture and ends up with staff who are inspired, motivated and have a great understanding of the environment in which they work.
What positives did you personally take away from the experience?
I really enjoyed getting to know the members of my team. While we are a relatively small council we do get bogged down in our own work and it was nice to take the time to understand the roles of others.
Professional development wise, I learnt a lot about working in a high pressure environment and making decisions quickly. The pressure on the day of the challenge is unbelievable – I don’t think anything can prepare you for it. You have a problem and a relatively short time to get to a solution. It is about trusting your instincts and backing yourself (and your team).
Can you provide some tips on how to get the most out of the Rural Management Challenge?
Use the preparation time in the lead up to the challenge wisely to build a strong team. You need to be ready to hit the ground running from the moment you arrive at the challenge.
Read everything carefully!