Now you're a councillor

Now you're a councillor

A site for women councillors in Victorian local government

Understand that you can’t know everything…

  • Understand that you don’t know everything; you need networks for feedback and advice; networks that can communicate and act – schools, pensioners, teachers, political parties, conservationists should all be part of your network.  Work out who you can trust – who will advise and support you
  • Build alliances inside and outside the council.  Remember that you can’t effect change by yourself.  Make sure agreements are open, not closed; not nod and wink deals.  Alliances shift according to issues: you have to work on them continually

Don’t make assumptions about people: check them out and work issues through with them first

  • Beware the managerial approach.  It can cut across the need to engage the community in decisions and meet community needs
  • When controversial issues have to be dealt with, explain them clearly to the community; include interested community leaders and groups in round-table discussions; make the decision-making process clear and accessible; make complex issues easier to understand by breaking them into manageable components; listen to and use the community grapevine to keep up with the latest information and spread it; be accountable for your decisions
  • Always follow up making sure you do what you said you’d do
  • Admit mistakes and learn from them

Give yourself space to think.  You don’t have to own the silence and you don’t have to wear the pressure.  You don’t have to decide straight away

  • Learn from others’ experience.  You are not on your own.  Analyse problems and agree on how to move on and cope with criticism
  • Say thanks.  People matter.  It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice.  Remember the Christmas card, personal phone call and thank-you note
  • And finally, identify apprentices and mentors.  You won’t last forever.  Get people lined up in advance to take over from you when you’re ready to move up.  Too many people stay too long.  Plan to do a job one, two or three terms and then pass it on.  Passing on knowledge does not mean losing your power.  Sharing knowledge is for your own and everyone else’s benefit.  Finding apprentices means you can all exert more influence together.