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LMV Graduation: Final Lessons

June 21, 2016

My official Leadership Mohawk Valley (LMV) experience has come to an end, but the skills learned, and connections made, are just beginning. I am grateful to have had this opportunity, and would highly recommend it to others.

On our LMV Graduation Day, we presented our projects. For me, this was what LMV was really about: creating a tangible idea—with a solid plan—that truly helped a community organization. I felt like my team and I did something good and productive, helping to fulfill a community need.

I was very pleased with our outcome. Our presentation was vibrant, colorful, a good mix of different people speaking, photos, and video. It was informative, engaging, and best of all, we were able to hand off what we’d done directly to the Children’s Museum. They can now use our presentation to ask for funding to put the plan in motion. That is an amazing feeling.

Preparing for our presentation was nerve-racking, but still a good overall experience. Even with all of our up-front preparation and our dry run-through to establish flow and smooth out transitions, we still had some technical kinks we were working out right down to the wire. I have given presentations before, but I didn’t have to coordinate with a larger team, and it was on material that I was very familiar with. I’ve only used Word and PowerPoint for presentations, but for this project, we included video and custom artwork. In general, it was a much bigger undertaking than any I have participated in before.

As I reflect on graduation, I recall that I had a clear objective when I started LMV. I wanted to find a cause or purpose in the community that I could identify with and become invested in. I wanted to be able to follow through with that cause or purpose, staying connected with it after LMV was complete. I am proud that these were not empty words, and that I have followed this commitment through.

The Utica Children’s Museum is pleased with the presentation and plans, and is currently using our proposal to apply for grants. I have already volunteered once to set up their new Nano exhibit, and intend to continue. My family is planning to help as well. The Utica Children’s Museum would like our team to present to their Board of Directors and Community Donors. So my team will still see each other, and my connection to the Children’s museum continues. Success all around!

Choosing to participate in LMV is like choosing to write a senior thesis in college. It’s a choice to knowingly take on an extra commitment and extra work, but it yields deeper knowledge, and a feeling of accomplishment and pride upon completion. I have benefited both personally and professionally from the experience, and it has helped better prepare me for the various challenges ahead!

Warm regards,
Brenda Rogowski

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LMV Day 9: Overcoming Obstacles

April 29, 2016

This is a bittersweet entry for me…reflecting on our last LMV program day. All that’s left is our project presentation and graduation. What a journey this has been! It was undeniably one of my favorite days, very interactive and engaging.

Our day started at the ARC, Oneida-Lewis Chapter, a fitting location for the theme of our day: Human Services. Inspired Life Coach Rebeccah Silence led our class on a personal, introspective journey focused on leadership. In a smaller group setting with our project team members, we each opened up about our thoughts, fears, and inner feelings about leadership. Being with our project team members, with whom we have had more opportunity to become close and comfortable, enabled us to feel more comfortable opening up. I was nervous that people would not be comfortable sharing personal feelings and being vulnerable in this setting, but Rebeccah asked appropriately probing questions, and kept it within the scope of leadership and business. It worked well.

I’m inherently a very introspective and honest person, so this was a great exercise for me. I was happy to see it work well for others, too. It’s interesting, because I’m not usually the one to speak up first. I typically listen to others, and process what’s been said. Then only if there is really something new to add, do I interject. For this exercise, I was one of the first to engage in our group.

One great takeaway for me was a new way to think about obstacles. When you meet an obstacle along the way to your goal, don’t interpret it as a sign that it wasn’t meant to be. The obstacle is a test of our commitment. If we are not truly committed, we will give up on the goal. Maybe it was the wrong goal for us. When we are fully committed to the goal set and our whole heart is in it, we will push past any obstacles that present themselves. If you back away from the obstacle, then perhaps that goal was not the right goal for you. That is okay. Start looking for the right one.

The day also brought a fun surprise as we headed to Art & Vine for a painting exercise. We all received the very same instructions to paint the very same painting, yet each of us produced a version that was “uniquely our own.” It was a great visual for seeing that everyone tackles projects differently, yielding different results as we each approach it with our own skills and perspectives. It was also a great lesson in collaboration, seeing how people learn from one another and share ideas, and seeing how a possible mistake could be redirected and adjusted to be made beautiful. Then it got interesting…

Once we were done, we were asked to move and work on a new painting—one that was not our own. You’ve put all this work into your painting, making choices and doing it your way. And now you have to turn this over to someone else. Will they enhance your painting or will they wreck it? You have to trust that they will do the best they can and add value. And now, you too have to touch someone else’s work. Do you see the direction they were going in and take the same path? Or do you add your own flare? Really a great metaphor for multi-layer projects with a team of participants in the real world.

Finally, we visited the Root Farm. What an impressive facility this is. I was amazed at the progress, and so proud that something like this exists right in my home town of Sauquoit. It was really cool to see how much they’ve done to allow for both the able-bodied, and those with disabilities, to enjoy their experience at the farm. The animal therapy and connectedness to nature made me feel right at home there. I gained some inspiration to take back to our Children’s Museum project.

Often on a program day, a group gathers after the day is done. I don’t always attend, but as it was our last program day, I really felt the desire to keep the day going. I found myself not wanting it to end. There was a different energy, as we felt this chapter coming to a close. I realized that while this was an extension of work for me and included additional responsibilities and projects, it was also nice to be a student again, to learn and to be inspired. I will miss it, and I will want to make sure I continue to find my own avenues to be inspired. I hope our connections continue, and I look forward to seeing our project through to completion. After funding is secured, I’d like to volunteer to make our vision of the space come to life.

Regarding our project: it’s just about complete. We have our final plan in place, with final schematics to present. Now we just have to ensure we appropriately communicate our ideas on Graduation Day. That is the morning we deliver our presentation. We’re ready, and just adding the final touches.

The LMV program has proven to be a wonderful self-discovery opportunity for me, pulling resting concepts from the back of my mind to the forefront, where they can now be active. LMV has made me realize that now is the time to make positive changes, to make real lifestyle adjustments I’ll be able to carry through moving forward.

LMV was the perfect companion for me as I ended up on an unplanned tandem journey—through LMV and through my work at First Source. At the beginning of LMV, my work role was focused on day-to-day work and procedural needs. At LMV I was learning what it takes to be innovative and develop a vision of the future. Simultaneously, my role at First Source was changing to a more innovative role. It’s rewarding, and what I learned at LMV has helped me with that transition. It’s still daunting, but it’s a welcome challenge.

I’ve always been analytic, focusing on how I can do things differently, and better. So this is not necessarily new. However, I now have new tools, tangible examples to draw from. My world view is bigger. Through our project, I have a true sense of ownership. If it weren’t for LMV, I wouldn’t have known I could help the Children’s Museum’s outdoor space, or discovered the treasure that is the Root Farm. These are places where I can see my family getting involved and volunteering together. I look forward to sharing this with them.

Thank you for taking this journey with me.

– Brenda Rogowski, Loan and Deposit Operations Manager, LMV Participant

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LMV Day 8: Opening My Eyes to the Mohawk Valley

March 23, 2016

LMV Meeting

I cannot believe how quickly the time at LMV has flown by! This was our second-to-last program day! The topic was Economic Development. The highlight of the day for me was our tour of the Griffiss Business & Technology Park. I had not been to “The Base” since I was a little girl. There is so much great stuff happening!

We toured the Eastern Air Defense Sector (EADS), and one of our very own LMV classmates gave us a briefing before our tour. EADS is instrumental in protecting our air space. They monitor all flights for the eastern half of the country. We learned how their mission changed dramatically after the September 11th attacks, and they shared actual recordings of EADS personnel from that very day. It was extremely moving. It’s a very serious operation under high security, and was eye-opening for me. These immensely important jobs for national security are handled right in our backyard. I found this part of the tour very inspiring. I have always been drawn to elements of strong self-discipline and purpose. I like the idea of dedicating oneself to a noble purpose. Maybe I was a monk in a past life! I learned other things throughout the day, but this part was what stuck with me the most. Our tour continued to the Griffiss International Airport. I had no idea it was still active, and that private airlines routinely use the airstrip.

My second-favorite part of the day was a panel titled, “Economic Development. Another Perspective.” It was really cool to see how economic development can happen through unconventional methods, like hiring people struggling to find employment to create artistic trash receptacles for the community, which creates jobs and beautifies neighborhoods at the same time. Also, creating channels for promoting young entrepreneurial talent in our area; giving them a place to vet their ideas in a real-world setting with mentors to coach them along the way, growing young minds, and aiding in their confidence to be heard.

We also learned about Upstate Venture Connect, a company focused on creating a local environment ripe for innovation, by connecting local innovators with other thinkers and players in their markets, to bring their solutions to life.

Our Leadership Theme was, “Encourage the Heart,” but since we are nearly at the end of our program year, the group leadership exercise focused on all the leadership qualities we’ve studied over the course of the year in our readings. It was a fun and engaging competition to identify well-known people who really embody each set of important leadership qualities.

I am very close to the end of my LMV journey, and I can actually see and feel positive changes in myself through this process. I have always been a person of focus, preferring to do a few things really well rather than dabble in many. I prefer to connect with fewer people on a deeper level, and am generally more comfortable with a smaller circle. But through LMV, I feel much more engaged and connected with my local community. My eyes have been opened to the great changes happening in our area. This has sparked a more pronounced love of my community. It’s an interesting dichotomy; I feel that my community is smaller because so much seems closer and more accessible than ever before. However, I also feel like it’s much bigger because there is so much going on that I was simply unaware of.

A quick update on our Children’s Museum project: We met with Elizabeth and shared our ideas. Chris Henry, a Landscape Architect, has become an honorary member of our team. We are grateful for the help he has provided in getting our ideas down on paper. We created several schematics of what the outdoor space could look like with the ideas presented. Concepts include a sound garden, a green space sensory garden, and a creative free-play space. Our next step is polishing the vision, getting a cost estimate for the project, and preparing for our presentation on graduation day.

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LMV Day 7: Stay True to Yourself

March 1, 2016

Brenda Rogowski at the February LMV Meeting
Our February LMV program was centered around “Media & Promotion Day”. Once again, we were fortunate to engage with many different community leaders.

Kevin Crosley, Executive Director of the Herkimer ARC, started us off. He delivered an empowering message of how important it is to collaborate and think outside the box. He runs a non-profit organization but has found ways to partner with other non-profits, as well as for-profit businesses, to further the goals of his organization. He has been able to create networking, job, and fundraising opportunities through this approach.

In concert, our Leadership Lesson was all about fostering collaboration and strengthening others to act, through building a climate of trust.

We also heard from UC Men’s Hockey Coach Gary Heenan. We learned how important it is to believe in yourself and your idea, especially when you are building it from the ground up. Gary showed that you have to build the “brand of you”. Once people buy into that, see and feel your authenticity, they are more apt to be willing to listen to and support your ideas and goals. Once you have established yourself, you no longer have to start with selling you. You can jump into your concept more quickly. Never underestimate the power of connections. The smallest gesture can have a rippling effect, with a far larger reach than you initially thought.

Ryan Miller of the ThINCubator taught us about leveraging social media to gain support, and how quickly you can connect to pretty much anyone, anywhere in the world. The old “gatekeeper” structure is being broken down by social media. You can find yourself only 2-3 connections away from a CEO you may never have been able to access in the past.

The day was very inspiring for me. I was moved by the idea of putting yourself out there, and making yourself accessible for collaboration. You have to be willing to trust and extend your hand first, and then they will in turn begin to trust you when you exhibit integrity and consistency. Trust others and earn their trust in return. Know yourself. Stay true to yourself. Trust others. Invite others to share in a vision, and it will lead to success and support. All employees are the voice of their company. You are your biggest cheerleader. Get your story heard.

A smaller takeaway, but also important, was a brainstorming exercise on ways to motivate, thank, reward, and recognize people in ways other than just monetarily. We completed an exercise that challenged us to find ways to do this for under $25.

Children’s Museum Update:

We traveled to the Ithaca Community Garden for inspiration, and came back with some amazing ideas for the space we will be creating at the Children’s Museum. They designed interactive areas to feed the senses and promote imaginative free play. We’re now meeting with the Children’s Museum to present our creative thoughts on the space, and we’ll also be engaging with a local landscape architect regarding plan implementation and cost.

– Brenda Rogowski, Loan and Deposit Operations Manager, LMV Participant

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LMV Day 6: Stay Healthy

January 14, 2016

After a nice holiday break, we jumped into Healthcare/Health & Wellness Day. I enjoyed this day quite a bit. It held my attention, and had a nice mix of presentation and interaction.

From a healthcare standpoint, we learned about the changing landscape, where primary and specialty care has been, and where our healthcare leaders see them progressing: really looking at a full continuity of care versus single silos, all to help alleviate repeat visits and streamline care. It was interesting to see all the moving parts of hospitals, providers, and of course, insurance, and how all of these will have to work and grow together while still providing service. A good way to describe it is the old adage, “trying to fix the plane while flying it.”

This was an interesting parallel, and offered some insight to me personally with initiatives I’m involved in at work. I like it when the day’s content is personally relevant. We’re in the midst of implementing some new technology and processes, but we can’t stop serving our Members today as we make changes for tomorrow.

Our Leadership module was, “Challenging the Process”. The focus was on how to be a critical thinker. How do you create change while being sensitive to all involved? How do you stay open-minded and willing to try that new path? There’s always a better way. The decision that worked best the last time may not be the best decision to carry you forward. Circumstances are always changing, and you have to be willing to try new ideas and stay agile. This hit home for me, as I am being challenged more with planning and designing the future, questioning what we offer, and discussing better ways to deliver our services. I have the opportunity to put these ideas and skills to use, while not losing my pragmatism, and striving to maintain balance as changes are made.

In the Wellness section, we learned about small things we could do in the workplace to help with well-being; even our posture, or the time we spend standing versus sitting. We ended up having a wonderful dialog with one presenter, completely moving away from the presentation, but with everyone participating in the discussion, which I really enjoyed.

We also had a great lesson regarding generational psychology. It was very interesting to see what past generations have experienced, why they parented the way they did, and how that in turn affects each subsequent generation. It shed some light on why some people are more independent, some are more collaborative, how people like or don’t like to solve problems, etc. It’s good knowledge to have when working with others.

As for our project, my team’s next step is a visit to the Ithaca Children’s Garden. I’m looking forward to seeing how they utilize their space, and what we can learn from them for our project.

– Brenda Rogowski, Loan and Deposit Operations Manager, LMV Participant

Posted in: Blog, Posts





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