Be Present, One Heart at a Time

Three decades in the private sector gave Teresa Roche the insight and innovative spirit needed to help bring the City of Fort Collins, Colorado, into a new era for talent

Each week, Teresa Roche (center) holds a "File Cabinet 15" meeting with several members of her team to discuss organizational updates. Photo: John Robson, City of Fort Collins

Teresa Roche didn’t start out in the public sector, but she’s had no trouble transitioning into it. As the chief human resources officer of the City of Fort Collins, Colorado, she has plenty of insight on what makes it such a fascinating place to be, not least of all the fact that it recently won the Baldridge Award, “the nation’s highest presidential honor for performance excellence through innovation, improvement and visionary leadership,” in 2017.

She’s helped cement that reputation for innovation and improvement through thirty years spent in the private sector. After serving critical roles at Hewlett Packard and Agilent Technologies (where she won an innovators award from the Annual Human Resources Symposium), Roche says she loves the inspiration the City of Fort Collins has to prove that local government can be great.

Teresa Roche City of Fort Collins
Teresa Roche has a walk and talk meeting with City colleague and mentee Katie Ricketts.Photo: John Robson, City of Fort Collins

Roche speaks about the idea of “radical candor” and being able to speak truth with love. “I have a way of saying what needs to be said,” she notes, but she adds that she does so in a way that brings compassion.

Roche has done extensive leadership development, frequently given keynotes on the subject, and is a Fellow with Harvard University’s Learning Innovations Laboratory. She and her husband went back to graduate school at the same time in the mid-1990s, her for a doctorate in educational technology.

“I can connect anything from quantum physics to the enneagram to art to profit margin,” Roche says. “I just love learning.”

With each career experience Roche has, she reflects on the lessons learned. She has no problem relaying that she was not the first choice for the CHRO position at Fort Collins.

“I was just elated so many people had applied,” Roche says, adding that after the city widened its search to candidates who hadn’t previously had governmental experience, she found herself at an advantage.

Moving to public service, Roche says, was the result of a career largely spent trying to initiate cultural transformation and leadership from a global perspective.

“Communities formed locally are what is so necessary in today’s reality,” Roche says. “If we all did what we could to provide an environmentally healthy, inclusive, and economically viable community at the local level, that would all add up to a pretty remarkable world.”

The workload from Fort Collins has been substantial. Roche is focused on developing leadership ecosystems, and that starts with those at the top. “I look at it systemically that the quality of leadership in our top city leaders makes a huge difference for the conditions that are created for others to bring out their best selves,” she says.

Roche was asked to present her views on the “future of talent” at the city council’s Futures Committee and spoke about how leadership matters at every level and explained the talent moves that will be required going forward. She’s also looking at total compensation in the city and how it compares to both the public and private markets.

“We’re fortunate to have performance-based longevity along with new people entering the workforce,” Roche says. “I want to make sure I am working with others to provide meaningful benefits and competitive compensation so that we can develop and maintain a highly talented and diverse workforce.”

From a wider perspective, Roche says, her calling is to help others discover their DNA and purpose. “My leadership DNA, which I was able to articulate after a long journey, is ‘love and integrity in action: taking care of the in-between to deliver results,’” Roche says. “Now I find myself able to state my purpose, which is: ‘Be present, one heart at a time.’”

On behalf HUB International and UnitedHealthcare, we congratulate Teresa on this well-deserved recognition. Teresa is inspirational and collaborative. She leads with vision, intelligence, kindness, and most of all gratitude. We are grateful to support her, and all of the employees at the City of Fort Collins.

Congratulations, Teresa!