We get it. Main Street Program directors are passionate, hardworking and incredibly driven to improve your communities; and you're also tired. You'd like to shop for groceries without stopping for a detailed presentation on a new project idea from someone in the cereal aisle. You'd like to spend more evenings and weekends at home with your families. You’d like a meaningful work-life balance.
We hear you, and we want to help.
Desiree Brothe, the Community Development Coordinator for the Wyoming Business Council’s Wyoming Main Street Program, knows the challenges you face firsthand. Before starting at the Business Council six months ago, she was the Director of the Cheyenne Downtown Development Association/Main Street program for 3 years.
“I loved the work, but it was exhausting, and I really struggled to find that balance,” she said.
Now, as part of the statewide Main Street leadership, she has developed a self-care program targeted directly to people in her former position: Main Street directors, economic developers, community leaders, etc.
We sat down with Desiree to talk about the program and how she hopes it will help reduce stress and burnout among those who care the most and work the hardest for their communities.
We at the Wyoming Main Street office have created a program specifically to address the work stress and (life?) balance concerns of our Main Street directors/managers.
Because of my connection to what the directors do day-to-day, having been one myself, I was able to create a broad curriculum tailored to their individual needs. I've put together worksheets with basic questions to spur participants to think about what they do in a day, how they manage tasks and how they take time for themselves. This is a guided, but self-directed program, so the onus is on them to think critically about the material and how things affect them, and they have to be willing to make changes.
I am also working with a mental health professional from Indiana to help create an effective program.
Main Street directors must be able to respond very quickly to a variety of audiences and be able to speak about their program and projects at all times. At any time, they can run into volunteers, board members, staff members, business owners, community members, property owners, city council members, county commissioners, mayors, legislators, economic development partners, tourism partners, other local non-profits -- this is a huge group to have to cater to.
So, they’re always “on,” even when they’re off the clock. Directors can't go to the grocery store, see a movie or go shopping for underwear without running into community members. And, of course, the topic of conversation is never just about family or kids; it's always about the job and the latest issue. They never get to leave work!
Plus, there are many weekend activities and events that need representation from the organization, and that often falls to the directors.
Finally, our directors spend so much time planning, thinking, coordinating and handling issues daily, that they don't often get to step back and think of themselves. In essence, they don't get to 'strategically plan' for themselves as people. I think this is important; and as a working culture, I don't think we talk about it enough.
Who can take advantage of this program?
Our Main Street directors/managers are the target audience, but some of our communities have board members and others who lead their programs who can benefit as well. Additionally, the Business Council’s regional directors face similar challenges and asked to take part. As we run this program and look at how it works, I hope to be able to broaden the context to a larger audience.
How did the idea come about?
Multiple ways. Stress and self-care were topics of conversation at several of our meetings last year, where the directors explicitly asked for more training and materials in this area. Linda Klinck, the Wyoming Main Street Program manager, had been wanting to concentrate on this for some time. And I had just come out of the field myself, badly in need of this subject matter. It was a good time to focus on and create this much-needed program.
What do you hope will be the result?
I think one of the most important questions I've asked so far relates to what time management means and looks like for the directors. My hope is that by asking general questions, they can individualize, and they will start thinking about what they do, how they do it, what prevents them from being able to step away or take time with family, and how they can find simple solutions to make their work-life a bit better.
In the long run, I just hope that they think more critically about themselves and their own health, both mentally and physically.
Our next call-in for this will be at 9 a.m., on Thursday, March 14. All call-ins are a webinar format, where they can watch the slideshow and we can have a discussion. There will be a few in-person meetings on this topic as well, as they dovetail with other meetings.
Anyone who can make the March call-in will be considered part of the program for this year. If anyone wants to participate but can't make the call-in that day, they just need to let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307.631.6137.