WEF Leaders Pay Forward Lessons Learned in New Podcast Series

June 25, 2020

Words On Water

On June 1, the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) published the first episode of Take It From The Top, a new series from the Words on Water podcast that features perspectives from past-and-present WEF leaders. Take It From The Top provides listeners the opportunity to benefit directly from the experiences of accomplished professionals at the forefront of the water sector.

The Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Virginia) introduces a new series of the popular Words on Water podcast, titled Take It From The Top.

“In this time of unprecedented challenge, there was an idea to tap into the wealth of leaders that WEF has among its Past Presidents and other officers,” said WEF Communications Director Travis Loop, who hosts Words on Water. “We want to try to get some lessons from their water careers and their time with WEF that can be applied during this pandemic and beyond.”

Since 2017, the Words on Water podcast has offered its listeners unique insights into the water profession, featuring interviews with an array of sector changemakers. Interest in Words on Water continues to grow, attracting more than 130,000 downloads from listeners in more than 140 countries.

Insights for a Changing World

Thomas Kunetz, 2018-2019 WEF Past President, hosts Take It From The Top. As a WEF Past President himself, conversations between Kunetz and his guests detail a range of leadership and communication styles. Guests will include officers from several eras of WEF leadership, representing a diverse group of backgrounds. Each guest discusses major events in their leadership career and lessons learned from those events.

“I want listeners to take away a nugget of knowledge that they can apply to their own lives and careers,” Kunetz said.

While discussing crisis management strategies during the coronavirus pandemic was the initial inspiration for Take It From The Top, Kunetz said, the series’ focus is already evolving. In light of recent social-justice protests in the U.S., for example, guests have discussed the importance of diversity.

As the landscape of the world and the water sector change, Kunetz says he hopes Take It From The Top will serve as “a compass in these confusing times, offering listeners a point of direction, plus a dose of sense-making from folks who have already been down this path.”

Two Episodes Available Now

The first episode of Take It From The Top features 2012-2013 WEF Past President Cordell Samuels, who spent more than three decades in management roles at some of the largest water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs) in Canada. When Samuels managed a staff of about 25 water professionals in Toronto, he describes in the episode, the municipal government undertook a massive reorganization project that cut his team in half.

2018-2019 WEF Past President Thomas Kunetz hosts the new podcast series, which aims to provide listeners the chance to benefit directly from the experiences of accomplished professionals at the forefront of the water sector.

The uncertainty among his staff following the reorganization was similar to the uncertainty many face today during the coronavirus pandemic, Samuels said, and many of the same change management strategies he learned during that period still apply today. During the half-hour discussion, Samuels advises managers to communicate as clearly as possible to minimize confusion and to make efforts to understand and address the concerns of each individual staff member.

Jeanette Brown, 2010-2011 WEF Past President, featured in the second episode of Take It From The Top, reiterated that effective leadership during difficult times requires effective communication. Brown, who served as a water organization executive before becoming a scientist at the University of Connecticut (Storrs), named listening as the most important skill she has learned during her career. Whether you agree or disagree with what the other person is saying, Brown describes, active listening demonstrates respect and open-mindedness. Most employees will reciprocate that respect, she said.

During the coronavirus pandemic, when most communication occurs online, Brown urges all professionals to stay in the moment. By actively listening to the other party and resisting the temptation to multitask that comes with online communication, the difference between current working conditions and business-as-usual can shrink, Brown said. She also spoke about the importance of getting involved with WEF and other professional organizations as a way to stay professionally engaged, even at a distance.

WEF will release two new episodes of Take It From The Top online each month.

Justin Jacques, WEF Highlights

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