Recapping the 2021 Eno/MAX Program Kickoff

For the past five years, Eno has partnered with nine major transit agencies on a peer-to-peer collaborative leadership and professional development initiative. Since its inception, the Eno/MAX (Multi-Agency Exchange) program has brought together hundreds of agency professionals to learn from each other and develop novel, implementable ideas that have literally saved participating agencies millions of dollars.

To kick off 2021’s program, Eno produced a weeklong series of events, leadership modules, policy discussions, masterclasses, and alumni/VIP networking sessions. The goal was to build the foundation for the year by immersing participants in projects to catalyze the latest innovations in transit, new research, and a broader understanding of how all modes of transportation intersect.

On the first day, I was fortunate enough to address the conference on the State of the Transportation Union which, this year, focused on why transportation matters today and the post-pandemic recovery. Later in the week, Jeff Davis gave the group all the details of the unprecedented federal response. To round out the federal discussion, Acting Federal Transit Administrator Nuria Fernandez provided inspiring remarks and personal stories on critical leadership insights and strategies.

But beyond the federal frame, Eno/MAX is impactful because of its unique ability to explore on-the-ground issues in order to help agency staff do their jobs better, hone their leadership skills, and improve their agency.

During the pandemic, transit is challenged with issues related to low ridership, safety and security, workforce readiness, and pipelining/succession, among other disruptors. Former Maryland Transit Administration chief Paul Comfort led a session where participants discussed strategies for how to untangle this ‘new-normal’ landscape amid considerable uncertainty, and how to manage the tumultuous changes occurring real-time in the transit world. Eno board member Jannet Walker-Ford from WSP shared her insights and perspectives on critical leadership strategies, especially for women leaders in transit. She emphasized how both women and allies can create and embrace the space for women in at the helm.

Throughout the week, staff and facilitators highlighted diversity and inclusion as critical to maintaining a healthy and equitable workplace. Conference participants engaged in multiple, interactive learning tracks covering topics such as influence and persuasion skills for emerging leaders; developing an innovation mindset for solving problems from an entrepreneurial approach; and a highly engaging module on coaching transit leaders for success post-pandemic. Instructors provided tools to help participants identify core competencies and develop strategies to promote change and leadership within agencies. Another robust panel featured a frank and candid discussion on racial inequity and injustice. It focused on how agencies can intentionally incorporate a myriad of equity considerations into the way business is done—from hiring and retention, planning and operations, to policy making and community engagement.

The beating heart of Eno/MAX is the interaction and knowledge between participants. Their transit agency peers had so much advice, guidance, and perspectives to share. The contacts that participants made and lessons learned will prove to valuable, not just during the program year, but beyond.

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