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If your community makes audio and/or video recordings, it is vital that you occasionally listen and watch to see how your colleagues and you appear as a team and individually. You might even wonder “Is that really what we sound/look like?” As an individual, you may learn that using the term “dude” to refer to someone is a tad too informal, or that wearing a pin-stripe blouse or shirt results in wavy patterns when viewed on a television screen. The odds are you’ll become aware of something in your own manner worth changing or improving on.
Similarly, it can be eye-opening to occasionally watch your commission “live” from the audience, so to speak. There may be two opportunities for this. First, you have arrived unavoidably late, and it would be less disruptive to sit through the item already under way in the back of the room. Second, in situations where you must recuse yourself, it might be alright to sit in the back of the room (but check with your planning staff or city attorney first).
Like fingerprints, no two planning commissions run meetings or hearings the exact same way. You may be surprised at both the similarities and the differences you discover, and you may observe patterns of behavior that promote (or inhibit) better group dynamics and decision-making.
It might also be ideal to invite someone to evaluate the commission’s meeting dynamics. This could be someone from another planning commission or someone with expertise in a field such as public relations, corporate management, or even customer service.
One more way of gaining insights: try putting yourself in the shoes of someone attending your meeting, someone with a different background or characteristics than your own. How would you view your commission if you were attending as a local businessperson, a senior citizen, a twenty-something … ? Would you be able to understand what was happening at the meeting? Would you be put off by jargon being used or by unexplained procedural steps?
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