The LSMI Program, developed by USC and CCS in collaboration with NCSL, focuses on practical application of concepts and tools that legislative staff can use to meet the increasingly complex policy and management demands that confront American state legislatures throughout the country. The curriculum has five major components:
USC and CCS programs are interactive seminars, designed for skill building and development of management and leadership processes that can be taken from the class room into the legislative environment.
The facilitators include members of the design team, as well as other nationally and internationally experienced trainers with extensive professional experience. An overall facilitator will introduce each program, provide an overview of the goals, and link each presentation to the program as a whole.
Each morning begins with participant reflections on their experiences and learning surprises from the previous day. This facilitated discussion provides participants with the leadership exercise of creating shared meaning and starts each day with group interaction.
The seminars include opportunities for the participants to practice specific management processes. Experienced faculty will place these management practices in the context of the legislative institution. The faculty are experienced professionals who can draw on years of work in state legislatures throughout the country.
A distinguishing feature of successful leaders is the use of varied processes to develop consensus, involve employees and constituencies, and create a shared vision. To this end, effective training provides applied knowledge of processes and content at different levels including individual skills, group process, organizational aspects and legislative context.
The conference emphasizes action-based learning to assure involvement of participants, to encourage interaction outside of formal classroom sessions, and to reinforce and extend understanding of key concepts and issues.
Executive coaching was first offered as part of LSMI in 2017. While optional, participants have the opportunity to work one-on-one with a certified executive coach to strengthen their leadership impacts. The LeadershipEnergizes360! is often used as a springboard for conversation. Participants sign-up for two, 45-minute sessions during the residency; the confidential sessions are done over the phone or web-conference.
Self-awareness is a critical factor in effective leadership, and we all get stuck sometimes. The coaches' role is to help participants refine their present and future selves in the context of their professional goals.
Workplace challenges and conflicts tend to occur at two different levels: organization and individual. At the organizational level, structural frameworks are typically the nexus. This includes the organizational structure, policies and procedures, and resource allocation. At the individual level, human factors come into play—including those around political, symbolic, and human resource frameworks, aptitude and attitude.
Our executive coaches take a holistic approach. Core techniques identify whether the challenge is due to resources, aptitude, or attitude. For those that revolve around resources, the outcome is shaped by organizational decisions or parameters. Aptitude, while at the control of the individual, often takes the form of training opportunities.
The greatest impacts in an executive coaching setting revolve around attitude. Through a series of conversations, inquiries, and exercises, the coach assists the client in their self-discovery process as it pertains to their professional development.
From our experiences in legislative environments, goals can include relationship building, conflict management, influence/negotiation, organizational culture, career/personal changes, strategy, and team dynamics. The goals can also be value-based, particularly in hierarchical settings where an elected member's request goes against the participant's values, such as drafting legislation that compromises a protected class.
While the spot-coaching experience is limited to two sessions, much work can be completed in the short timeframe. These sessions expose participants to a professional development approach for future consideration.
The program draws on professionals with considerable legislative experience. These professionals have teaching and presentation expertise and extend discussions to legislative issues from throughout the United States. Several presenters are former elected leaders who worked on strengthening staff professionalism within their legislatures.
The management process pieces are presented each day. The faculty draws on public and private sector experience to promote best practices and identify research findings. The emphasis is on the discussion, practice and application of skills important to effective management and leadership. The sessions are highly interactive and include the following:
- Leadership Energizes! 360-degree leadership assessment tool. You will ask your staff, peers, and supervisors to fill this assessment out before the Institute begins.
- Classroom simulation exercises on group processes, organizational learning, trust building and communication.
- Case studies that allow you to apply lessons learned in a controlled environment, followed by informative debriefs and group discussion.
Throughout the 8-day residency, participants' perspectives are challenged in both content and delivery. While the "home base" is the USC State Capital Center, a variety of educational and networking experiences take participants outside of the classroom setting.
In recent years, at least three locations have been core to instructional design: Crocker Art Museum, Whitewater Excitement Campground, and Escape Sacramento. While some activities may be more physical or mentally challenging than others, great attention is placed on making risk appropriate for the participant's comfort level. At each of these locations, participants have the opportunity to "opt-out" of the educational simulation without impacting their learning experience.
For networking opportunities, there are at least three events that allow time to connect with colleagues while doing something fun. In the past, these have included an evening in San Francisco, a Triple-A baseball game or VIP access to the State Fair and Food Festival, and a private tour of the State Capitol.
The LSMI curriculum is designed for both senior legislative staff members plus those on their way to such positions. The curriculum is demanding and the admissions committee (the USC, Sacramento State Directors and NCSL director) seeks senior and up-and-coming staffers who can benefit most from a challenging practical and academic experience. Acceptance into the program is competitive.
Appropriate candidates include partisan and non-partisan staff who currently hold critical management positions or are likely to in the future. Essential qualities for any participant are a commitment to public service in a legislature and an aptitude for the challenges which LSMI offers.
2021 Course applications can be received starting April 5, 2021. The deadline for applications is May 28, 2021. All application materials must be submitted online, using this link:
A candidate's admission will be determined by the nature of his or her current responsibilities, accomplishments, challenges faced, and potential for future public policy contributions. Candidates will be notified of their acceptance approximately two weeks after the application deadline.
Since the sharing of experience is critical to the LSMI's objectives, participants will be chosen to include a diversity of backgrounds, geographical regions, and varieties of legislatures. If several well-qualified applicants have very similar backgrounds, one or more of them may be deferred to a future class.
The University of Southern California Sol Price School of Public Policy; California State University, Sacramento's Center for California Studies, and the National Conference of State Legislatures are committed to the policy that all persons shall have equal access to programs, facilities, and employment without regard to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, disability, public assistance status, veteran status, or sexual orientation.
Please note that the dates and on-site format of this year's Legislative Staff Management Institute are subject to change, based on evolving university restrictions on in-person gatherings and uncertainty regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.