Leadership conference looking for bright spots
By JANE W. GRAHAM
ROANOKE, Va. — Looking for “bright spots” rather than problems was a highlight of the 2012 Innovative Leadership Conference: Guiding the Force of Change on May 22.
Leaders from many segments of life in Virginia, including Virginia Cooperative Extension made up the group of 110 attending the day-long event at Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center.
“Virginia communities and organizations want the change that transitions ineffective practices into innovative initiatives,” was the idea behind the conference. “This type of change challenges the best thinking of our leaders and requires creativity to direct the path.”
While the workshop was aimed basically at professionals in government and helping agencies including non-profits, it introduced skills individuals and other organizations can use.
Colin Austin of MDC, Inc. in Durham, N.C. kicked off the discussion by explaining ways to build adaptive leadership.
Austin designs and manages projects related to career advancement for low-wage workers.
His work includes research in changing Southern economy and workforce readiness, with a particular focus on immigrant labor.
He stressed that people need to complete their education to get jobs that key industries need to encourage career pathways by connection with employees and to help those employees build assets.
He said two-thirds of the jobs of the future will require post-secondary education.
Most of the program was led by Susan Heath Hays, using material from the book SWITCH: “How to Change Things When Change Is Hard” by brothers Chip and Dan Heath.
The Texan, who is a certified SWITCH trainer, manages a Head Start home-visiting program in her home state.
She stressed looking for bright spots in situations that usually are seen as problems.
Find out what is working and clone it, she suggested.
She noted that people often appear resistant to change when they actually are clueless to what needs to change.
Explaining what change is needed is one step she said that can bring about the desired result.
Looking forward not backward is another. Finding small steps is also helpful.
Hays led the participants through a series of problem solving exercises using the skills she outlined.
These resulted in lively discussion of business and personal problems and goals to solve them.
Members of the small discussion groups then shared their discussions and outlined the bright spots they wanted to use in problem solving.
She also led discussions about creating pathways to change behaviors, thus bringing about change.
Dr.Karl Stauber, president of the Danville Regional Foundation and the Rev. Bruce Wilson, pastor of Danville’s West Main Baptist Church, shared experiences with change in their southern Virginia community.
Dr. Martha A. Walker, VCE community viability area specialist, developed the program.