Thursday, July 2, 2015

My First Interview, Not Being Interviewed

Blog Post By: Michelle Wong

Sweaty palms, shortness of breath, and losing one’s train of thought are signs of nervousness I usually associate with interviews. As a young student professional, I had fumbled my way through many the nervous interview, from my first time at Chipotle (when I was 17) up until recently (at 22), for my MCLP internship. However, this time was different. This time I was not the one being interviewed. Technically, I was on the interview team, sitting opposite a professional who was surprisingly just as nervous as I had ever been. My job was not to question, but to observe and write down every word from the interviewee’s mouth.

Though it’s hard for anyone to sit in front of strangers and answer questions they cannot prepare for, I was amazed with how well all our interviewees did. It must have been a surprise walking in and seeing not one, but three interviewers opposite their spot at the table. I think it’s also really hard to talk about yourself in general, especially for our candidates, as most of the people who are attracted to the program are used to thinking of others before themselves. Despite all of these challenges, our candidates were impressively resilient. Though anyone would be shy in this interview situation, those being interviewed were ale to overcome these obstacles and inform us why each of them would be good program participants.

Though being an interviewer was a great experience, it did have its own set of challenges. The biggest one being, it’s hard to know someone, really know someone, after talking for thirty minutes and deciphering their answers. If I’m not being clear about the time constraints, picture these interviews as speed dating sessions – without the romance, of course. Now picture that, immediately after one speed dating session, you have to decide if you are going to be in a relationship with that person for the rest of your life or not. In MCLP interviews, we are trying to see who will be a good contributing member of the program for the next eight months, and a proud alumni thereafter. So, who was too humble to confidently talk about themselves, but would still make a great participator? Who is a team player? Who really wants to grow as a servant leader? It’s hard to know.

However, while these challenges for both candidate and interviewer were important aspects to consider, the biggest part I got out of the interview experience was positive. It was amazing seeing who all walked through our door. It could be an old southern gentleman, or a young working professional, fresh out of college. Though each person could reveal only a small snippet of themselves to us interviewers in our sessions, it was encouraging to see the positive impacts they were already making in their families and communities. People who, from all different places, neighborhoods and walks of life, were all at our table for the same reason: to make things better. So, to all those who were interviewed, I wish the best of luck. I was thankful to have met so many different and amazing people, to have been part of a bigger team who searched for the best in everyone, and to have sat on the other side of the interview table, even if it was just this once.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A view from 90 days in…

Blog by Linda Bollivar

I’ve just celebrated 90 days as the Program Director at MCLP. The time has gone quickly, and the biggest thing I have learned is the astounding amount of volunteer hours that are invested year-round to make this program so rich and successful.

A year ago, I was on the other side, participating in the class of 2014, and relishing the opportunity to learn from wonderful presenters and my fellow participants. I was impressed with the depth of the program; including presenters, mentors, non-profit board experiences, and the community project teams. Our project team, Let’s Care, developed training for the Community Cancer Center staff, and I was pleased to see what we could produce in a few short months with a team of diverse leaders and the expertise of our project advisor and technical consultants.

As the MCLP program year drew to a close, I was pondering how to best use my newly strengthened leadership skills. I absolutely loved my job as the Director of Faith in Action (FIA), a local non-profit. When I saw MCLP advertising for a newly formed position, program director, I was intrigued, but thought I wanted to spend a few more years at FIA. My analytical side made pros and cons lists about applying, while my faith-based side prayed for guidance as the vacant position nagged at me. I felt that the work I was doing at FIA was very important (getting seniors to the doctor and grocery shopping). However, I couldn’t get the thought of MCLP out of my mind.

One day, I was listening to WGLT and I heard a heartbreaking story about a human rights issue. The realization that I could do nothing to alleviate the suffering of those affected was like a punch in the gut. I thought to myself, “I can’t do anything about it. I’m helpless. I don’t have the time, money or expertise to fix this.” Suddenly, I was struck with an image of many stones being cast onto a pond, their ripples spreading out across the pond. I realized instantly that it was a representation of MCLP: Each year, a class full of participants is launched into the community like stones onto a pond. The leadership skills and network of support allow the MCLP participants to each follow their passion and make a difference in the causes near and dear to their hearts. The answer was clear to me: I can’t personally run all over and ‘fix’ every problem. But, I can play a role in an organization that is a catalyst for forming diverse leaders who can each follow their own passions.

So, here I am, celebrating 90 days at MCLP. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve realized that scores of volunteers have given hundreds of hours, and some volunteers have given thousands of hours in the past six or more years to establish MCLP. I’ve learned that we have an incredibly generous community—from our financial sponsors to our presenters, to the universities who provide us with office space. (ISU provided space the first five years, and now IWU is providing space.) In the past 90 days, we’ve launched a new class, hired an office assistant (Pollyanna Spears), moved to a new office (1309 Park Street), and received our 501(c)3 nonprofit designation. I’ve gotten to see the work that goes into each and every session, and see the way the class of 2015 is growing.

So what do I see happening in the next 90 days? As we go through the program year, I will get to find out all of the work behind the scenes as we plan for midterm project presentations, the networking fair, graduation, and recruitment. We will be looking to strengthen our processes and improve our documentation so we can make the best use of our volunteers. We are gathering community support to provide a strong financial foundation for MCLP for the future. I look forward to seeing how this class develops and who may be recruited for the upcoming classes. And speaking of recruitment, if you know leaders who might be interested in MCLP, invite them to the midterm presentations on December 6th. We hope to see you there!

Friday, September 5, 2014

MCLP—Organizing to Meet Our Future

Blog by Sonya Mau, MCLP Executive Director

Fall of 2009 unfolded with the excitement of creating a uniquely transformative leadership program—MCLP. Now in the Fall of 2014, we begin our sixth MCLP class and move into the next phase of the MCLP journey—with you.

It’s YOU, our wonderfully generous community of supporters: speakers, facilitators, sponsors, donors and alumni, who’ve made the last five years such a joyful success. You provided both time and money to help MCLP develop leaders who are comfortable with leading in complex environments with diverse and often opposing viewpoints. With that comfort comes the courage from within each graduate to make wiser decisions, “to take action” and to deliver the innovative solutions needed for a stronger, better community.

Our 2014 annual report reflects the growing number of organizations MCLP graduates support and lead. MCLP graduates have taken greater charge of their lives, contributed more to organizations, and made a greater difference in our communities.

Even as our graduates move to the next phase in their lives, MCLP is moving to its next phase, where we take on greater responsibilities to the community and to our sustainability. In preparation MCLP has:
  1. Expanded our support staff by hiring Linda Bollivar, an experienced director in the non-profit world.  As MCLP’s new Program Director, Linda will work closely with our board to ensure that people, process and functions are aligned. Pollyanna Lopez Spears is our new part-time office assistant, with a focus on process and database accuracy. Both are key to MCLP’s sustainability.
  2. Moved to larger facilities. As we carefully add part-time staff, we needed more room. For the past 5 years, we were blessed with an office at Illinois State University, generously provided pro-bono. We are sad to move from our friends in the Vrooman Center. However, our new expanded space at Illinois Wesleyan University is critical for our organization’s future.  We thank both great institutions for their support of MCLP in this move.
  3. Obtained our 501(c)(3) nonprofit status so we’ll be able to more directly honor those who donate to MCLP. We gratefully acknowledge Tim Leighton, of the Leighton Legal Group, LLC, for providing the pro-bono service and advice that made this possible.
There will be more decisions made, more actions taken as we work toward greater success in the next phase of our journey. We move forward with the clear standard for making a difference, a standard set by Robert K. Greenleaf for measuring true servant leaders, “The best test…is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous?”

We invite you to continue the journey with us. Our expanded staff, larger office, and new non-profit tax status put MCLP on a firm foundation to sustainably continue to develop servant leaders into the future.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Transformative Leadership Opportunity Unlike Any Other

blog by Maddy Holstein

I have attended numerous recruitment and informational sessions throughout my college career, none of which compares to the Multicultural Leadership Program. There was a sense of passion, confidence, and professionalism with each speaker that left me believing one would gain not only heightened leadership skills, but also would become a better individual overall. I am genuinely proud to say I live in a community where this wonderful program exists. 

This was the first experience for me where recruiters of a program primarily consisted of alumni. Who knows the ins and outs of a program from the participant perspective better than its graduates? There was a genuine enthusiasm emitted from each person who spoke that could not have been scripted. I never once heard anyone voice, “This will be easy” or “This program is for everyone.” What filled my ears was not a planned speech set to influence the audience, but instead truthful testimonies, passionate answers, and friendly remarks. I was also delighted when I found out these graduates, among others from the program, are still working with it presently as mentors, board members, or volunteers.

Alumni representing previous classes were present during the recruitment meeting, allowing the audience to ask questions and gain insight on the program. Each individual spoke openly and honestly of the program, promoting it whole heartedly as a transformative experience in his or her life. Hearing the testimonials from these past graduates projected a sense of accomplishment over the crowd. As the informational session progressed, the audience of prospective participants eagerly asked more questions, none of which were left unanswered. It was admirable to hear how the hard work put into the program led each person to become a stronger leader, an innovative thinker, and a better person.

The Multicultural Leadership Program is creating a new group of leaders each year in our community that exhibit courageous leadership skills and an innovative, diversely thinking individual. If you are 21 years of age or older and either live or work in McLean County, I enthusiastically recommend looking into this program. The time commitment, program objectives, and session information can be found on the MCLP website. I highly encourage any individual striving to make a difference in the community and within themselves to become part of this program. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Servant Leaders in Action -- Inspirations from the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership 2013 International Conference

by Sonya Mau, MCLP Executive Director

Phani and I were honored to be asked to speak about MCLP at the 23rd Annual International Conference for the Center for Servant Leadership on June 14, 2013. Our key objective was to inspire others to consider such a program for their community.

Little did we know how much we would be inspired by those we met during the conference, all of whom shared our passion for developing proactive servant leaders for stronger communities. Following are some highlights from our experience.

We met the famous business consultant Peter Block, whose latest book is about community. At this conference, he opened a general session titled: Community: The Structure of Belonging and talked about what it takes to build a strong, vibrant community. He compared it to “what it takes to build a strong business.” There are differences. His many thought-provoking and humorous observations inspired both mind and spirit.

His co-presenter was Mike Mathers, pastor of Broadway United Methodist Church in Indianapolis. Mike transformed the community he served by focusing on the talents of the poor who came to the church food pantry, rather than their financial state. By doing so, he gave them dignity, hope and inspiration. Individuals discovered their value and shared their talents with others…resulting in a stronger and richer neighborhood. “The only difference between the poor and us is they have less money.” Mike’s leadership left the community he served better off in all ways.

We met Dave Guerra who spoke on “Servant Leadership for Business: a Turning Point.” Dave’s excitement about how servant leadership is an unmistakable competitive advantage was inspiring. He is the author of “Superperformance, the Super Performing CEO, and Super Projects.” He consults on the integration of servant leadership and systems thinking principles into a corporation’s success plan.

“Servant Leadership in Hard Times” was a session by two servant leaders who were asked to organize the shut-down of a manufacturing plant in Dayton, Ohio in 24 months. Meanwhile, they had to continue making quality parts throughout the entire 24 months. Tom Green and Mary Miller shared the amazing story of how they actually accomplished their business mission, while at the same time leaving the 1,550 people better off, better positioned to find new jobs, with new degrees, and new energy. They credit the servant leadership principles they followed and a lot of hard work for their success.

Howard Behar, author of “It’s Not about the Coffee,” served as President of Starbucks, North America and was the founding President of Starbucks International. His inspirational speech was about the servant leadership spirit, which starts from the very top and travels through to those who serve the Starbuck clients. It’s the “people-helping-people spirit” that’s kept Starbucks strong and vital. 

We also learned about the increased acceptance of the philosophy of servant leadership in education and business: MBA programs, such as the “Ken Blanchard Executive MBA”program, include it. Stephen Covey adopted servant leadership philosophies into his training modules. A Servant Leadership Institute in San Diego was founded by a CEO who adopted the servant leadership philosophy in his business with such great results that he started the Institute to share this philosophy with others.

The concept of servant-leadership described in the seminal pamphlet “Servant as Leader” by Robert Greenleaf in 1970 has grown organically for more than four decades. It was exciting to talk with like-minded people who shared our passion for this philosophy. We could tell that we are meeting the needs of the future with our simple and hard-won program. The future will be amazing for the Multicultural Leadership Program (MCLP) and our community.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Multicultural Leadership Program’s Board Networking Fair

The Multicultural Leadership Program’s Board Networking Fair that was held at Country Financial, Saturday afternoon, February 9, 2013, proved successful. With twenty-five planned not-for-profit organizations at the event, the participants of MCLP 2013 had plenty of board and committee opportunities presented. Twenty-five different tables were set up in a circle around a huge room. At each table there were one or two individuals representing the organization, eagerly hoping to recruit future board members that had passion and desire for change. Among the organizations was Faith in Action of Bloomington-Normal, the representative was a former graduate of MCLP Lori Harvey who is now the president of the organization. Faith in Action works towards making sure senior citizens are properly cared for.

The room was silent, as the organizations awaited the arrival of the MCLP participants. Before the event began I had a chance to sit down and talk with Denny Steele, representative from the Western Avenue Community Center. The community center is dedicated to giving people opportunities and hope. The programs are organized based on education, the after school club includes children from grades K-5th and the teen clubs focuses on junior high girls. Furthermore, The Center focuses on the growing Hispanic community offering interpretation services, Latino counseling services and women’s support groups. Mentoring programs which include “State Farm executives who make great role models,” work with youth. Steele hoped the fair would result in a potential board member from MCLP.

Noise immediately entered, as the participants joined the event. Instructions soon followed, as the participants were told that this was a mock speed dating event. The MCLP students were given six minutes to evaluate whether or not a particular organization was the right fit for them. At the tables organizations were ready with pamphlets full of information, business cards, and some even had pencils. However, the participants were ready as well passing out business cards and asking the organizations several questions. After six minutes the bell rang and complete chaos broke out, as individuals shook hands and moved on to the next table. Some participants wanted to talk to a particular organization, but were beat to the seat. Choosing another nearby organization drew connections that may have not been made otherwise.

MCLP would like to thank the following not-for-profit organizations for giving participants a networking opportunity:

·         American Civil Liberties Union

·         Big Brother Big Sister of Mclean County

·         Bloomington-Normal YMCA

·         Boys and Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal

·         Challenger Learning Center at Heartland Community College

·         Children’s Home and Aid

·         Collaborative Solutions Institute

·         Community Health Care Clinic

·         Easter Seals

·         Ecology Action Center

·         Faith in Action Bloomington-Normal

·         Heartland Community College Foundation

·         Heartland Head Start

·         Home Sweet Home Ministries

·         Illinois Prairie Community Foundation

·         Illinois Theatre Consortium

·         Kiwanis Club of Bloomington, IL

·         Labyrinth Outreach Services to Women

·         The League of Women Voters of Mclean County

·         Marcfirst

·         Mclean County Museum of History

·         Mid-Central Community Action, Inc.

·         PATH

·         West Bloomington Revitalization Project

·         Western Avenue Community Center

Friday, November 30, 2012

Say What?! - Tereva Parham

Another MCLP session completed and as I’ve come to expect – another vital layer of concrete has been added to my newly formed foundation of servant-leadership.  Today was focused on the words we speak. From public speaking and storytelling all the way to the highly sensitive and often avoided conversations.
Time out: I REALLY value the wealth of resources that the MCLP draws from in order to bring us a variety of presenters.
As someone who has always been “lights, camera, action , ” speaking in front of others has been a place of unique comfort. The sessions today reminded me of things I’ve heard before, while presenting new concepts relating to communication. In hindsight, my impromptu Oreo speech was fun. In addition to informing the listeners of my Oreo addiction, I also persuaded…   tempted many to enjoy an Oreo very soon.
The talkative atmosphere shifted as we were moved to consider “crucial conversations”.  Crucial conversations are topics, issues and concerns that move us to a place of fear, alarm, conflict and major discomfort. They can appear anywhere but as individuals and budding leaders we need to know how to handle them regardless of their planned or spontaneous occurrence.
As the weeks progressed I became mindful of the situations that warranted a crucial conversation. Although not always bad, they can no doubt be considered tough. I considered many things…   What are the things that I need to hear from someone unashamed to smack me with the truth? What do I need to acknowledge and accept within myself?  How have I avoided people to keep the peace? What are things that I’m keeping from others that need to be addressed?
The questions and their answers naturally came as I authentically considered the concept and reality of crucial conversations.
Say what?