Leading Across Generations

compiled by Ardis Bazyn

The Leadership Institute training session held on July 2, 2017 started with a welcome from chair Cindy Van Winkle. A group activity called “Crossing the Bridge,” led by Rebecca Bridges, asked participants to share a time when they attempted to get involved in an organization or activity as a new or younger member. If they had a positive experience, what factors led to the outcome? If the experience was not as positive, what challenges were encountered? She asked groups to report.
Once a person gets a new office or responsibility, they must be given information to get tasks done. Don’t expect too much all at once. Joining churches and getting jobs are the easiest way to have positive impact. Members need to let their needs be known. A new person may or may not learn from a negative so-called expert. Members need to teach others to learn and not just take the benefits. Try some method of inclusion. Attempt to create an inclusive environment to help people get engaged.
Ray Campbell, ACB secretary, led a panel discussion called “The Journey.” The panelists were Katie Frederick, executive director, ACB of Ohio, and Steve Fiksdal, president of the Washington Council of the Blind. Katie read “The ACB Braille Forum” and applied for ACB scholarships. She first got involved with ACB during her college experience. She met affiliate members at the convention. Before being asked to serve on the board, she helped out and volunteered for various projects. When she got on the board, she asked, “What can I do?” She said it took patience and persistence to get more involved.
Steve first needed stronger glasses. Diabetes caused his vision to grow worse and he tried different medications. He contacted Washington Services for the Blind. He joined WCB because he felt he needed something. He attended the first-timers group at the state convention, and joined the first-timers’ committee. He then applied for a school scholarship. He felt camaraderie with those attending. He got on the WCB board as secretary after others could not do it and later became president. He said passionate change is good, but it is better to keep improving.
Ardis Bazyn led the group activity “Bridging the Gap.” She said, “Based on some of the challenges and successes shared by panelists as well as personal experiences, answer the following questions. What can your organization do to make new or younger members feel welcome? What is one thing you will try to do after you leave to either facilitate your increased involvement in an ACB affiliate or an ACB committee or to help an aspiring leader do so?”
Doug Powell facilitated the report-out. The following suggestions came from participants. Current or past leaders should help to meet the needs of a new person. Inviting a newer person to come to an advocacy effort will get a member more involved. One member got in touch with a celebrity to come to an event. Beep baseball might interest a younger person. Give a new person something to do. Encourage a new person to find a mentor. Everyone should embrace change and listen to the thoughts from new people. Look for ideas from new or different people.
Instead of saying “we did that before,” say, “it may work now.” Take ownership of your organization. Follow through and model good behavior.
Learn to say no or ask for help if you can’t complete a task. Setting boundaries is OK. Let the leader know ahead of time if you can’t finish an assignment, so he/she has time to ask someone else to do the task.
Jeff Thom, ACB’s first vice president, led the wrap-up. We learned that members have to be adaptable. Leadership means leaving your comfort zone, not worrying about failing. Embrace change to do something better. Be passionate to get things done. Getting buy-in from other people is important, as is finding out what people’s needs are. Then, leaders need to find how to help meet their needs. Think about the core goals of the organization and how to get people working with their colleagues and subordinates for lasting results.
If you have ideas for leadership training topics, pass them along to chair Cindy Van Winkle at cindy.vw@gmail.com. Watch for “Lead and Learn” conference calls led by Sara Conrad each quarter. The dates will be December 12, March 13, and June 12.