Professional Development | Toolbox Stories From State Legislatures Magazine

3/20/2020

ncsl legislative staff training

For many years, the "Toolbox" department in State Legislatures magazine has been a go-to resource for legislators and staffers looking to learn some new skills or brush up on some old ones. We’ve collected some of the most-requested articles here, grouping them in general categories. At one time, the department was called "Tools of the Trade," and you'll see we've gathered some of those oldies-but-goodies for you, too.

If you’re looking for a particular story and don’t see it here, be sure to visit the magazine homepage or send a note to the magazine editors.

Use the navigation on the left of the screen to connect with any of the nine professional staff associations or staff networks associated with NCSL.

Communications

  • Giving a Good Speech, December 2004: Giving a speech can be a trying experience, even for seasoned pros. Here’s some advice on how to make your speeches effective and memorable.
  • Giving a More Powerful Presentation, July/August 2007: Giving a great speech doesn’t have to be difficult.
  • Hosting a Winning Webinar, February 2014: Planning and practice are keys to a standout web conference.
  • Improving Your Writing, July/August 2006: There’s a knack to putting words together in a way that will draw readers in and keep them interested and reading to the last period.
  • Producing a Punchy Podcast, September 2006: Podcasting can be a creative, convenient way to get your message out.
  • Writing It Right, September 2005: There’s nothing like a letter to make constituents feel appreciated. Let them know you value their input by answering their correspondence promptly.

Crisis Management

  • Being a Peacemaker, May/June 2019: No one goes to work antic­ipating a violent or negative interaction, whether it be with a member of the public or a co-worker. These tips come from a security expert.
  • Preparing for the Unthinkable, October/November 2004: A crisis can hit at any moment. And every legislature needs a plan.

Ethics

  • Avoiding Ethical Pitfalls, December 2007: A panel of veteran legislators offers advice on how lawmakers can avoid some of the obvious and not-so-obvious ethical pitfalls.
  • Being an Ethical Lobbyist, May 2013: Today’s lobbyists bear scant resemblance to characters in the movie “Lincoln.”
  • Dealing With Conflicts of Interest, July/August 2004: There’s no getting away from all conflicts of interest. Here are eight ideas to help lawmakers juggle their personal and public interests.
  • Navigating Ethical Dilemmas, December 2006: Knowing the law is only the first step to successfully handling ethical dilemmas.
  • Sorting Right From Wrong, February 2011: Being ethical goes beyond just following the law.

Leadership/Management

  • Being a Better Boss, July/August 2013: Legislative staff managers are vital for staff success. Here are some things great managers have mastered.
  • Being a Good Manager, December 2017: The bad boss—we’ve all had one. Good ones, too, one hopes. There’s no question that a state legislative agency’s culture (any organization’s culture, for that matter) is defined by the behavior of its managers.
  • Guiding Legislative Interns, April 2006: Legislators and staff bear a responsibility for the education and experience of a legislative intern.
  • Learning From a Leader, March 2008: During her six years as governor of New Hampshire, Jeanne Shaheen learned a lot about what good leadership means.
  • Unleashing the Problem-Solving Genius of Your Staff, October/November 2015: To spark valuable new ideas, staff leaders are working to encourage creativity within their own walls—not as a rare miracle of inspiration, but as an everyday skill that anyone can develop.

Legislative Services

  • Creating a Great Bill Draft, January 2006: Follow these suggestions and get the bill you want.
  • Going From the Campaign to the Capitol, December 2012: A host of considerations come to light for those making the transition from campaign worker to legislative staffer.
  • Managing Legislative Time, December 2005: The efficient use of time is essential for any legislature.
  • Redrawing Maps the Right Way, July/August 2019: States have an opportunity to make a fresh start and achieve greater cooperation when redistricting.
  • Testing the Credibility of Sources, April 2013: To evaluate research and sources of information, consider the answers to these 10 questions.
  • Testing the Evidence, November/December 2019:  5 questions to help you evaluate evidence-based policy.
  • Using Poll Information, March 2007: Generally, when polls are wrong it’s because collection errors were made. The science behind polling keeps improving and, in fact, polls have proved to be a fairly accurate barometer of public opinion.
  • Writing so People Understand You, May 2015: Replacing jargon and acronyms with simple, direct language makes it more likely that citizens will understand what government is doing for them, and what it expects of them.

Media

  • Appearing on TV, June 2005: Appearing as a guest on a television or radio show can be a breeze—if you prepare.
  • Being a Media Darling, March 2005: There’s no getting away from it. Reporters and legislators need each other. Here’s a primer on your rights and responsibilities when giving an interview.
  • Hugging the Media ‘Cactus,’ February 2015: Here’s how to make your next media interview a less prickly experience.
  • Working With the Media, February 2004: Like it or not, the media is part of the legislative process. Here are six ideas to help lawmakers cultivate relationships with reporters and editors.
  • Writing News Releases That Work, April 2005: Here are seven steps to writing and distributing effective press releases.

Politics

  • Getting Beyond Polarization, July/August 2005: Polarization can degrade the democratic process. Here’s how you can help thwart its negative effects.

Workplace Culture