“It’s been really fun to watch those organizations tap into resources and create networks that they typically wouldn’t.”
– Michelle Hill
To conclude My City Magazine’s three-part series on entrepreneurial opportunities in the Flint area, we think it’s important to address what an effective leader should be like. Luckily, there is a place that will help anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit develop effective leadership habits.
In 2015, the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce Leadership Alliance and United Way of Genesee County’s BEST Nonprofit Leadership Institute (BLNI) merged their two programs into a newer one: Leadership NOW. Both shared the common goal of building the capacity of local leaders to strengthen the Genesee County region. They thought that because they’re teaching collaboration, they wanted to practice it and combine the two programs.
“It has been very beneficial, because now we have the private sector and the non-profit sector working in the same room,” says Michelle Hill, Shared Services Director at the Chamber. “It’s been really fun to watch those organizations tap into resources and create networks that they typically wouldn’t.”
Leadership NOW helps community leaders develop a common language around leadership and collaboration. There are 12 participants in the current cohort, which began in March 2016.
According to Michelle, it was easy to combine the two programs, covering the non-profit, municipal and business sectors; they were able to learn from each other. By joining forces, the program brings together participants who represent a variety of industries. The multiple viewpoints provide a strong diversity of thought and are reflective of the region. The intensive, year-long program involves multiple assessments, including the Leadership Effectiveness Analysis (LEA) – a tool that allows participants to hear direct reports about behaviors in a leadership capacity from their peers and supervisors.
“It offers very rich feedback for the participants on how their leadership style is being observed,” says Michelle. There are 22 behaviors they examine: the questions that are asked in the assessment help participants identify their strengths and weaknesses.
Each participant is paired with an executive coach who they can meet with one-on-one throughout the course of the program. During this time, they address and discuss growth opportunities relating to the leadership skills and behaviors they would like to improve. One aspect of Leadership NOW’s training is to implement a collaborative project that impacts the community positively. Recent program graduates had a project with the goal of rebuilding hope and restoring pride through the use of art. For their collaboration, they worked with Tour de Crim and local artists, and displayed art throughout the bike route. As a precursor to that event, there was a bike-decorating event days before at Tenacity Brewing.
While the eTEAM focuses on people trying to launch their businesses, Leadership NOW takes a deeper dive into the people aspect of running a business and focuses on the “soft side” of managing: leadership competencies and styles, building and managing a diverse team, group dynamics, creating a culture of inquiry, accountability, ethics, change management, and conflict resolution.
“A lot of the time, leaders put task before people,” Michelle says. “In the leadership program, we reverse that process and look first at the people, which ultimately makes them more effective in reaching their strategic goals.” In addition, the program is helping community members collaborate more effectively.
“Sometimes as businesspeople, we get in our own little box and we don’t think to go outside of that box,” Michelle explains. “The program offers the opportunity for people to experience collaboration and then maybe appreciate it a little more.”
For the classes and seminars, Leadership NOW brings facilitators from all over whose expertise lies in executive coaching and leadership development, but they incorporate different styles for those who learn differently, through theory, conversation, videos, experiential learning. In these classes, facilitators and participants discuss creating a vision, developing followers, implementing their vision, following through, and achieving results.
“There’s a lot of opportunity for shared learning,” Michelle adds. “We have a very diverse group of participants, which makes the program very rich. It offers different perspectives and dynamic interactions. Young, old, starting out, retired, they want to be involved in community – there’s not a typical set. It’s really cool.”
Michelle’s advice to those who are considering applying to first come into an information session for a clear understanding of the time commitment and challenge, and to be ready for reflection and feedback.
“It’s for any leader emerging or existing who wants to do some self-discovery,” she says. “It’s also for people who are interested in learning more about how to collaborate more effectively and address some of the challenges the area has. We tell participants, ‘This is the year of you.’”
The program is ideal for current and emerging leaders who work and/or live in Genesee County and have experience in the private, public, or non-profit sectors. Information sessions for the next cohort, which will launch in January, will begin in late October. For more info, you can visit FlintandGenesee.org/LeadershipNow.
Leadership NOW’s second cohort includes:
- Stacy Betts (Burton), Director of PTAC, Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce
- Connie Brauer (Goodrich), Administrative Assistant, Local Initiative Support Corporation in Flint
- Bethany Collins (Flint), Site Coordinator, Metro Community Development in Flint
- Loren Crandell (Grand Blanc), Partner, Giffels Webster in Birmingham
- Lisa Fockler (Grand Blanc), Owner, Remedy Exchange in Grand Blanc
- Lucille James (Flint), Demolition Program Manager & Database Administrator, Genesee County Land Bank Authority
- Claudnyse D. Jenkins (Southfield), Executive Director, Weiss Child Advocacy Center in Flint
- Carmelita Lewis (Flint), Community Program Director, Neighborhood Engagement Hub in Flint
- Jaclyn Metcalfe (Flint), Visitor Services Manager, Flint Children’s Museum
- Adil Mohammed, of Swartz Creek, is Co-founder of Med+IT Systems, Flint
- Justin Sprague (Fenton), Director of Business Development, Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce
- Alaina Wiens (Linden), Director of Marketing, Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce
Photography by Eric Dutro