The University Record, December 7, 1998

Pilot program inspires confidence, speaking, networking skills

By Mary Jo Frank
Office of Communication

Greater confidence, improved public speaking and networking skills, and tools for creating personal development plans are a few of the benefits cited by women staff who participated in “Awakening the Leader Within,” a pilot program for aspiring leaders.

Launched last summer by the Commission for Women (CFW) and Human Resource Development (HRD), a unit of Human Resources/Affirmative Action, the six-month program was led by Ann Arbor psychologist Robert Pasick and JoAnn Allen, professor emeritus of social work. Nine of the pilot’s 12 participants shared their experiences at a CFW brown-bag forum Dec. 1.

Shekinah Errington, senior graphic artist in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, said that through discussions, group exercises and reading assignments she gained confidence in her own leadership skills and is now more comfortable in peer and supervisory relationships.

“The exercises made me stop and take inventory, to think about what my priorities are,” said Errington, who added that she is better equipped to “sing, shine and help others.” Although she has read many self-help books, Errington said group brainstorming helped her think more creatively.

S. Yvette Jenkins said “Awakening the Leader Within” helped her tackle shyness and taught her the importance of speaking up. Jenkins, associate director of the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, suggested that future participants be encouraged to shadow staff in other departments to gain a broader overview of the University.

Several of the forum participants thanked their supervisors for mentoring and for encouraging them to participate in the pilot program.

Lynne E. Dumas, events coordinator at Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, said she learned it’s OK to say “no” and not feel guilty, and that by turning down some projects, she provides opportunities for others to grow. Dumas said she also learned that leadership manifests itself in many ways.

Patricia M. Dragon, assistant librarian at the University Library, said one of the most useful exercises was learning to draft a four-page personal development plan. “You have to think about what you want and how to get there. This is an ongoing process,” Dragon said.

Allen explained that when drafting a personal development plan, participants assess leadership opportunities in their current position and dream about what they could be doing five years from now. They also are asked to look at the resources available to help them achieve their goals and overcome any obstacles. A key element in the personal development plan is identifying witnesses or audiences who will observe and support changes the individual is making, Allen said.

Pasick, who usually leads men’s groups, described working with the women staff members as an eye-opening experience. Men usually name John F. Kennedy, Mohandas Gandhi or another famous person when asked to identify a hero, Pasick said. The women in the program identified family members and community leaders, not individuals featured in magazines, he noted. Another major difference Pasick cited: the women expressed a desire to be leaders in their families and communities in addition to moving up in the U-M hierarchy.

Pasick encouraged the pilot program graduates to continue to coach and listen to one another to overcome the isolation often associated with a competitive work environment.

Jackie R. McClain, executive director of Human Resources/Affirmative Action, noted that women in leadership roles bring something special to the organization. She encouraged the women to continue to take advantage of characteristics often associated with women leaders, including giving and receiving support from others and drawing strength from those connections.

HRD Director Robert B. Holmes said he was glad HRD could support the pilot and applauded the participants for their aspirations and potential.

According to Karen Dickinson, CFW co-chair and a customer relationship manager in the Information Technology Division, the idea for the pilot program emerged from a series of CFW-sponsored programs on the topic of leadership in 1997–98. An expanded version of the program named “Peer Leader Program” is being planned for a new group of participants, and recent forum graduates may serve as mentors for the upcoming participants, Dickinson said.


Graduates of the pilot program are:

K. Norah Daugherty, administrative assistant, Center for Great Lakes and Aquatic Sciences; Patricia M. Dragon, assistant librarian, University Library; Lynne E. Dumas, events coordinator, Graduate School; Shakinah Errington, senior graphic artist, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics;

S. Yvette Jenkins, associate director, Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program; Josefa R. Keller, technical library assistant, University Library; Linda R. Kennedy, administrative assistant, Graduate School; Bitsy Lamb, service foreman, Transportation Services; Kristin A. Miller, administrative assistant, Grounds and Waste Management Services;

Barbara A. Schulke, project manager, Information Technology Division; Kimberly A. Stoll Kiernan, senior financial analyst, University Library; and Kathie E. Wilder, office assistant, Treasurer’s Office.


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