Colleen Conrad

Story Vault

By Colleen Conrad

I’m sitting in Kansas City, Mo., during the second week of December. It’s early afternoon and the temperature, with the wind chill factor, is below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Snow is frozen on the ground. I have five more days here, and less than a tenth of my Christmas shopping is done. It’s a stressful time to be away from home.

Am I complaining? Not at all. I’m away from my home. I’m away from my family. I’m away from my friends. I’m away from my job. It’s all for a good reason.

What am I doing, you ask?

I’m attending the Communication Center Manager Course (CCM) sponsored by the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch (IAED) and the consulting group Fitch & Associates. CCM, which is in its 12th year, was developed for supervisory personnel in the emergency communications field. It is designed to make us better leaders and, as has been said before about CCM, to step back for a look at the bigger picture, both professionally and personally.

The course begins in September and runs through mid-December. A major part of the course is done online, but it also requires a one-week stay in Kansas City during the month of October and another week during December. We have the opportunity to come together again at NAVIGATOR for formal graduation ceremonies.

CCM isn’t a lecture course. On-site instructors provide valuable information; but mostly, CCM is about learning from each other using tools speakers present. Homework is assigned from the start, and it’s weekly until the course ends. There is also a group project that involves interviewing communication managers about specific components of the communications world, such as budgets, project management, and technology.

The best part is what you take away.

CCM has shown me ways to work more effectively with staff by using elements found in effective leadership—coaching and motivating personnel and decision making.

I’ve learned a lot about myself from my CCM team—strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes it hurts to hear the not-so-good stuff, although it’s meant to make you a better leader. Maybe it’s intended to hurt. After all, it ultimately depends upon what you do with the information.

The people are the most amazing part of CCM. These are people I will never forget. Forty-one students attended from the U.S. and Canada. One person—Louise Ganley—came from the U.K. Groups, with six or seven individuals in each group, were created to include a diversity of personalities. We “met” between the on-site visits through conference calls, emails, and phone conversations.

Constant communication and the back-and-forth of suggestions and opinions connected us during the course and, as many of us plan, for the long run.

Relationships are built and furthered by listening to others and realizing we are not alone. No matter the size of the center or the call volume, we suffer and celebrate for many of the same reasons. We have the same issues. We each have some of the same strengths and weaknesses. We want the best for our centers. We want the best for our employees. We want to be the best at what we do for the good of our communities.

Some people are drawn closer for reasons not always easy to explain. I met a soul sister who will be my friend forever. I am so excited to see what the future holds for this amazing woman, and I’m looking forward to the day we can again sit down and catch up over margaritas. A second friend for life is an organizational genius.

We all brought something unique to CCM, and all of us will go home better leaders because of what we learned about the profession and about ourselves. It’s quite a commitment for agencies to send personnel and quite the commitment for personnel in terms of time away from the office and homework. However, it is a good investment.

You learn a lot, you meet amazing people, and you search your soul to discover whether you are an effective leader. Whatever happens over the course of our lives and careers—one thing is for certain—I will hold this experience and these people in my heart forever. CCM Class of 2103, I salute you!