In 2016, we made a commitment to our Authorized Partners who have been certified on programs within Jill Hickman Companies Signature Service Curriculum® to provide opportunities for learning and growing through co-facilitation opportunities with other partners within our Authorized Partner Network. Rather than hosting public workshops for individuals from a variety of organizations throughout the Houston area, we took another approach. We decided that providing a leadership development curriculum to a Houston area non-profit, charitable organization would be a great way to afford our partners the opportunity to work and learn together while at the same time, give back to our community.
How we chose the charity
There are so many wonderful charities throughout Houston that provide valuable and needed services. We soon discovered that choosing one was not going to be an easy task for us – we love them all. Again, we took a different step. Instead of selecting the charity ourselves, we opened up the idea to others. As sponsors, exhibitors, and speakers at the 2016 Gulf Coast Symposium on HR Issues, we held a drawing at our EXPO booth where attendees entered the name of their favorite Houston, non-profit, charitable organization to be awarded the Jill Hickman Companies Signature Service curriculum with complimentary facilitation and materials for up to 25 of their organizational leaders. The response was overwhelmingly positive from the attendees as we received hundreds of entries. The winner was Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston. This organization holds special significance for my family. My mother was a recipient of Meals on Wheels for many years. The love and attention from Edie, the volunteer who delivered her lunch each day, was as much a gift for my mother as it was for me.
What we provided
I contacted the CEO of Interfaith Ministries, Martin Cominsky, to offer our curriculum gift to their leaders and review the logistics for doing so. Together with our Authorized Partners, Amy Hart, Bonnie Moore, Dawn Keske, and Mike Lejeune, Cara Woolet and I provided their leaders with their first leadership development training. All departments participated including Interfaith Ministries Relations, Administration, Human Resources, Finance, Meals on Wheels and Refugee Services. Never before had the leaders of Interfaith Ministries been given the opportunity to learn leadership skills. The curriculum focused on the service areas of leading self, leading others, and leading the future. Specific programs within the curriculum were customized to reflect the daily working environment of these leaders including customer service, time mastery, communication skills, conflict management, and creative problem solving. Throughout the curriculum, leaders were tasked with applying the skills learned from each training session back to the workplace. At the last session, the leaders presented the specific skills applied, the results of those efforts, including their trials and successes in doing so.
Of primary importance to each attendee was the acknowledgment of their daily efforts on the job by others with whom they work. Participating in a cross-functional learning environment offered them an awareness of what they didn’t know about other departments within their own organization. More than just knowing the names of the other departments, attendees came to realize the full scope of their organizational services and the value of interconnectedness in becoming advocates of other services when providing their own. A common desire for increased collaboration and partnering across organizational functions arose from the leadership development training provided. Cross-functional group meetings of departmental line managers are now held monthly with the CEO.
Leadership attendees learned that managing self is a critical first step for leading others effectively. They highlighted the emphasis placed within the time mastery program on the importance of self care which offered specific actions for enhancing personal energy resources. This was of particular importance for these leaders and their employees who often burn the candle at both ends with limited resources, as they are committed to making a positive difference in the lives of those they serve.
Another insight that these attendees shared was (re)discovering the importance of developing their employees for future leadership opportunities. Attendees described practicing their delegation skills with results of increased employee engagement and more time for these hands-on leaders to work strategically.
Individually, leaders continued to share the variety of new skills applied within their daily work environments, describing the challenges and successes experienced over the four-month period. At the concluding program and graduation ceremony, all attendees expressed grateful appreciation for their participation in the program and the skills learned and applied throughout the curriculum. Each leader committed themselves to sustaining the learning from the training, collaborating to identify follow-up actions to do so.
Serendipity or beshert?
Upon my virtual introduction to Martin Cominsky, CEO of Interfaith Ministries, and recognizing this name as someone I had gone to school with years ago, I asked if perhaps he had attended my same high school. His answer: “YES!” Martin and I not only attended the same high school together, we attended the same intermediate school. Once we caught up on our lives since then, including the Meals on Wheels connection with my own mother for which I am forever grateful, I remarked on the coincidental convergence of events leading to our meeting once again. Martin called it “beshert.” In explaining this Yiddish term for destiny or fate to me, Martin said, “It was meant to be.”