Accelerating Development of Effective Fish & Wildlife Management Professionals

Accelerating Development of Effective Fish & Wildlife Management Professionals

Have you ever wondered what makes some fish and wildlife professionals so effective at what they do? Have you ever wished there was some way to help others be that effective? As retirements take their toll on agencies’ institutional memory and the socio-ecological challenges agencies face become more complex, finding answers to these questions has become critical. With support of a multi-state conservation grant from the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), the Wildlife Management Institute, Cornell University, Michigan State University and the fish and wildlife agencies from Florida, Michigan, and New York are working together to address this need. The project is identifying and analyzing the habits and practices of consistently high-performing fish and wildlife professionals to inform production of professional development materials. Products will include tools individuals can use to assess how closely their habits and practices mirror those of highly-effective professionals and resources that can be used to improve reasoning and judgment.

MI DNR staff

The project began with a two-round, expert-panel study designed to examine the “habits of the mind” (habits) and practices of high-performing fish and wildlife managers. Panelists were identified by project team members and referrals made by others with broad fish and wildlife management experience from across the U.S. The resulting sample of experts included staff of state and federal agencies and conservation organizations from 35 states representing all AFWA regions.

During spring 2019, more than 75 experts provided input, resulting in identification of 26 habits and practices that fall within five broad categories: being critically inquisitive and continuously learning; applying multi-level, integrative systems thinking; being self-disciplined; taking a balanced approach; and interactions with others. While all 26 habits and practices were judged to be important, thinking and acting skeptically, open-mindedly, holistically, ethically, collaboratively, and transparently as well as being an active and attentive listener were identified as particularly crucial.

Next steps in the project will include additional vetting of the interpretation of the habits and practices with a sample of consistently high-performing professionals to validate conclusions from the expert panel study and to explore the type of training and experiences that contributed most to the development of reasoning and judgment of those professionals. With that background, project collaborators will prepare assessment tools and compile a list of resources/opportunities for a practitioners’ guide focused on the habits and practices identified in the panel study. Draft materials will be evaluated through a series of workshops held with three or four state fish and wildlife agencies this winter. The tools will be revised as necessary and the practitioners’ guide will be made available electronically to all state fish and wildlife agencies by June 30, 2020.

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Photo Credit
Michigan Department of Natural Resources
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June 15, 2019