November 20, 2017 | Spotlight

Bright Futures training helps DeKalb officials build leadership skills

Executives and managers with the DeKalb County government are enhancing their leadership skills through the Bright Futures training program created and delivered by the Institute of Government.

Writer: Roger Nielsen

Left to right: Zach Williams, Brian Jennings, and Marci CampbellIt took Brian Jennings only three weeks to become a convert.

Jennings, a deputy chief with DeKalb County’s Property Appraisal and Assessment Department, wasn’t sure at first how valuable he’d find the Institute of Government’s Bright Futures leadership development program. He quickly changed his mind.

“The instructor started getting everybody more involved. By the third class, I was more involved and I enjoyed going to the classes. It enhanced my communication skills and I liked interacting with my classmates,” Jennings said.

Jennings and 43 other government managers recently completed the rigorous professional development program, which the Institute created at the request of the DeKalb County Human Resources Department. The 10-month program helps selected managers enhance their leadership skills through training in critical topics like change management, team development and effective communication. Participants in two Bright Futures cohorts—one for emerging executives and another for aspiring managers—also collaborate to solve a real workplace issue by applying the skills they learn in class.

Managers selected for the 2017 Bright Futures courses were recognized at a graduation ceremony Nov. 2 with DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond and Executive Assistant and COO Zach Williams. The next group of managers will start the Bright Futures program in February, according to lead instructor Marci Campbell.

Procurement Officer Cathryn Horner, who graduated with Jennings, says Bright Futures is helping the county government develop a team of respected managers who work well with front-line employees. “I will miss the incredible learning experience that the Bright Futures program afforded me,” Horner said. “Each month, the class focused on a different topic targeted to enhance our leadership abilities.”

Another graduate, Deandra Stanley with the DeKalb Human Resources Department, was inspired to explore issues from different perspectives. “It was a great opportunity to come together with different individuals, talk about issues that are of concern to the county and explore what we can do as individual to help address those issues,” she said.

And according to Stanley, Campbell kept participants involved and on task. “She did a great job of steering the conversation away from just the surface to explore important issues in a forward-thinking way,” Stanley said.

Keeping DeKalb managers on task and engaged turned Jennings into a Bright Futures convert. “Marci helped to bring me out of my shell. I learned to go into it with an open mind. There’s a lot to learn and gain from it.”