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Why I applied for the ASAE DELP Scholarship Program


On August 10, 2015 I and 11 other 2015 ASAE DELP scholars stood in front of hundreds of association professionals as we were recognized for our achievement during the ASAE 2015 Annual Meeting in Detroit. The Diversity Executive Leadership Program (DELP) for the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) is a two-year program that recognizes individuals from under-represented identity groups who demonstrate exemplary leadership skills and a commitment to advancing the association community. Our class will participate in an accelerated leadership program of education, mentoring and volunteer service in the association community and I couldn’t be more excited. What motivated me to apply?

Someone believed in me. Every now and then in one’s life you meet someone along the way who exudes deep enthusiasm, and you can’t help but be excited with a project or endeavor that he or she is sharing with you. I met that person a year and half ago. She’s my boss, Lynda Patterson and the owner of the association management company, I work for. I didn’t know about DELP until Lynda told me about it and enthusiastically offered to sponsor me. She recognized my leadership abilities, was proud of my accomplishments, and thought that applying for the scholarship will usher in more opportunities for professional growth, allowing me to go even further in my association management career.

The goals align with growth needs. I am impressed by ASAE’s commitment to support diversity and to provide opportunities to under-represented groups so that we may access professional education and a deep network of strong leaders. Having over a decade of association management experience but not much exposure to continuing education, I would benefit greatly from DELP’s benefits.

Far reaching benefit. Association managers in Wisconsin do not have easy access to continuing professional education. DELP would provide learning not just for me personally, but also, indirectly, to other professionals in Wisconsin. I would be able to help broaden the reach by passing on the knowledge with colleagues I interact with in my place of work and also in the Wisconsin Society of Association Executives (WSAE) in which I am currently a member.

Surround myself with rock stars. I believe that if you want to get better than you think you already are, and learn new ways to live a successful professional and personal life, surrounding oneself with people you want to emulate will provide the encouragement and example that will help you reach the next level.

Be an inspiration to others. My eleven years of experience with helping associations live their missions have been very successful, and I am on track for even greater success. I want my success to serve as an inspiration to others who might otherwise think their race or gender is an insurmountable obstacle. Already, I know of some people who have been inspired by my personal story, how I moved over 3,000 miles across the globe while a single mother with four young children. I think DELP can help stories like mine be shared broadly, inspiring many to greater dreams and achievements.

The benefits go both ways. Much as I would learn from well-experienced, connected professionals through DELP, others may benefit from the global experience and attitude of purposeful action that I bring to the table. Three of my top five strengths from the Clifton Strengths-Finder — Activator, Maximizer, and Achiever — identify me as a candidate who would “maximize” the opportunity, continue to advance the goals of the program, and, when given a project, get it done.

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By example: A leadership philosophy

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I was asked recently what my leadership philosophy was and how I exemplify these qualities in my work and community. I reflected on the various jobs I had the great privilege to work on and I summed it up in four basic beliefs.

I believe in leadership by example. When your staff see you converse with your members and lead in an engaging manner and when you keep your staff accountable by measuring progress against a goal – you set the bar.

In 2010, I was hired to be the executive director for a small town business association that had been wrecked by unprofessionalism and factionalism reaching even to the board of directors. To mitigate the issue and allow for the organization to move forward, I scheduled face-to-face meetings with each member and leader in an effort to get to know them, their business, their frustrations, their hopes for the association and services they needed. I took the time to listen and understand each perspective. I found out that most everyone had two things in common: love for their community and a desire to help each other. After two months of these visits, I reported to the board what I had learned, and how we might want to make changes to the programs we were offering.

Hearing about the common goals everyone shared, the board came to appreciate the value of reaching out to perceived critics. Soon, board meetings transformed from sessions of member complaints to issue-driven collaboration, then member meetings transformed into interactive and positive places to be. We designed programs that met the needs of the broad membership, including a business expo which allowed all local business owners of the town to promote themselves. It became a win-win-win situation.

I believe in leadership by positive reinforcement. Every successful parent knows how to get children to repeat good behavior: Praise! I believe we never out-grow the desire to feel recognized and valued. Do you see your staff producing an extremely well-written communication piece? Write a quick note to tell him or her what you thought was done well. Praise where everyone else can hear, and pretty soon everyone else will be encouraged to do better as well. In this digital age, the hand-written note is a dying art form. I have a stack of “Kudos” cards in my drawer ready to be shared every time a team member does something effective or exceptional. It never fails to motivate my staff and vendors to do more for and with me.

I believe that success is in the details of communicating vision. The secret to insanely awesome Apple products is in working-out all the details so that the product confronting the consumer provides a complete vision. If Apple glossed details, it could not convince us that a product we never even considered before is the one thing we need.

A few years ago, I volunteered to lead an event marking the culmination of a 50-year effort to restore Lake Belle View. Long-time residents and municipal leaders had great interest in recognizing those involved and announcing that it was safe to begin enjoying the lake once more. The organizing committee initially planned an afternoon of speeches. I had never organized a community event like that before, but was sure a program of mere speeches would not translate into community engagement and excitement. I researched lake events, and found several around the country — one 30 miles from our town. I personally visited the organizer, interviewed her, and requested a copy of the poster they distributed. It listed activities like canoe rides, water education talks, and a sunset activity. Showing these possibilities to the town’s leaders opened their eyes. Then I presented a list of similar activities paralleling the items in the Lake Belle View mission statement. Belleville Lakefest was born!

We held a photography contest, brought in naturalists to explain the ecosystem, worked with DNR folks to showcase local fishes and birds, held a pre-K lake-themed story time organized by the public library, and brought in a fitness instructor to teach Tai-Chi by the lake. There were canoe rides hosted by the Boys Scouts and a mini-triathlon. Add live musicians, local businesses showcasing themselves in 10 x 10 pop-up tents, and we had a community success! I planned the grand opening in minute detail, and the people in attendance witnessed a vision of how a lake can bring a diverse community together. What was supposed to be a one-time event has been repeated annually for the last three years by other organizers.

I believe in leadership by action. Analysis of data helps provide clarity for one’s decisions. Thoughtful pre-work, including research and due diligence, clears the path toward a desired end result. Discussion among stakeholders elicits support and endorsement, giving the go signal to pursue bold decisions. Only action is real. Only action can improve performance. Only action allows one to achieve. I believe that an effective leader is a leader who goes to work with a sense of urgency. With clear purpose in mind and a deep intention in the heart—a leader works the hardest and gives the most. She leads by example – through action.

I have been fortunate to serve various companies and organization in various capacities, roles, and cultures; I left each better than I found it. From my starting job in cable television, where the channel I created became the most watched channel, to spearheading a marketing department for a shopping center, where I was the youngest department manager ever promoted, to the USAID-funded program in the Philippines (even to this day, the credit co-ops band themselves based on the work we did), to the business association whose culture changed to professionalism, to a fundraising organization, where the previously untapped leadership giving donor segment I organized is now leading the charge, to a dozen international meetings I organized, each of which achieved new heights in attendance or attendee satisfaction ratings – I am a turn-around artist. If I am to be honest about my secret to blooming wherever I am planted, I must admit it is less in a leadership philosophy than in my drive to make things happen.


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Emotional intelligence in the workplace

social intelligence

Emotional intelligence is something that all of us should spend our entire life striving to improve. Very few people will be naturals but the important thing is that we all make a concerted effort to become better at it.

Emotional intelligence is having the ability to understand and regulate your emotions. It also includes being able to read and understand what others are feeling and expressing. When you are emotionally intelligent you’re able to communicate effectively, empathize with your co-workers, and diffuse conflicts that arise, all of which are important skills to have when interacting with others socially or in the workplace.

Being emotionally intelligent encompasses four attributes: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and good relationship management skills.

Self-awareness is being able to recognize your own emotions and how they may affect your own behavior. Part of being self-aware means that you can recognize your own strengths and weaknesses, understand how to utilize your strengths.

Self-management involves how you might control your emotions, feelings, and possible impulsive behaviors. When you are self-aware you recognize your emotions and when you can self-manage you see those emotions and are able to direct them in ways that are positive and productive. Being able to self-manage also indicates that you will be able to adapt to changing circumstances in the workplace. I still struggle when it comes to these concepts. Too often, I let my emotions get in the way of rational thoughts. The key is realizing my weakness and willingly continue to work through the weakness.

The next two attributes involve some external abilities.

Social awareness involves seeing others’ emotions and concerns, being able to properly understand communication, body language, and being able to pick up on social cues. Social awareness helps people to be able to pick up on power dynamics within organizations, as well as be comfortable in social settings.

Relationship management involves using your social awareness skills to communicate, develop positive relationships, maintain those relationships and inspire and influence your co-workers or employees. When you have good relationship management, you are able to work well in a team and manage conflict in ways that move the team or organization towards its goal.

Someone with emotional intelligence can inspire and motivate others. Many organizations are now using emotional intelligence tests for their incoming candidates. It is becoming a popular idea and some believe can be even more important than IQ or technical abilities.

There are some basic techniques that will help you be more emotionally intelligent:

  • eye contact
  • attention to nonverbal cues
  • focus on the other person(s)
  • use humor
  • active listening
  • forgive
  • focus on the present rather than past issues
  • when asking questions-listen for the answer and try not to interrupt
  • give yourself time to cool off before discussing an issue
  • write your thoughts and feelings down to give yourself a chance to process them.
  • perhaps a concept to keep in mind for increased opportunity in your employment, allowing better relationships with those in your life.

No matter how old/young we are, there is always room to improve our emotional intelligence. I have to continue to remind myself not to fire off that email reply while my emotions are still “talking” to me. No matter how “bothered” you are by a comment/email, remember to give yourself time to cool off before addressing the issue. Write down positive and negative thoughts so that you can best formulate a response that will make your point in a positive manner. There is always a way to turn a negative into a positive, the hard part is becoming good at finding that way.

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