Taking Leadership to the Next Level with Perspectives

By Sara Porcaro | Sep 8, 2021
Rhode Island, Disabilities, Inclusive, Workforce, Employee Wellness, Benefits, Human Resources, Employment

When we think of leadership, it's easy to think of a certain type of person or a certain type of job--the CEO, the manager, the person with all the answers. It's easy to imagine the figure of a Leader, making decisions, watching over their teams, and carrying that team's worth of responsibility all on their shoulders. And because of that, it's easy to imagine leadership as something reserved for others, off limits, or "not for us." But the fact is that there's no one face of leadership, no one set of skills or one job for leaders, and most importantly, no time where a leader has to lead alone--and at Perspectives, the Learn to LEAD training program has taken the this idea to a new level as it encourages professionals to build their leadership skills!
In August, the Learn to LEAD program completed its first eight-month cycle, with twenty-seven professionals across departments and divisions walking away with the knowledge on how they can encourage, uplift, and influence their peers in their unique roles within the agency. The Leadership Training Program builds on the themes LEAD stands for: "Leadership Emotional Intelligence, Employee Engagement, Accountability, and Developing and Growing Employees." Its purpose is to help professionals understand how they can take their skills and lead together, with a team of equally passionate and engaged peers working towards a common goal.
"With this training program, we want to make it clear that you don't have to be in a management position to be a leader," says Lynne Chaput, Director of Training. "No matter what your role is on the team, you have the ability to impact others and step up to the plate, because everyone has unique strengths and talents that their team needs."
"Since working with Dr. Amy Hewitt to learn more about employee retention, we've come to understand that we need to put much more of a focus on our employees--on engaging them, growing their talents, and inspiring them to keep learning," says P.J., "and that's what Learn to LEAD is all about."
In fact, as the program went through several leadership topics, such as navigating difficult conversations and emotional agility, one piece especially stayed in the forefront of participants' minds: the CliftonStrengths assessment, which showed everyone their top five strengths out of thirty-four that they can use to their advantage. Cindy Scibetta-Butts with Grow With Strengths took participants through the process of learning about these strengths, what they mean, and why they're so important. Traditional programs often focus on improvement of areas we're not so strong in, but by focusing on where one excels instead, as the CliftonStrengths assessment encourages us to do, it allows professionals to build the confidence they need to tackle problems they know their strengths are suited for. It also helps to build the trust and security to ask for help from team members with completely different strengths, building stronger team bonds.
"[Program Manager] Ashley Mendez and I work together very well, but we don't have any matching strengths," writes Assistant Program Manager Sarah Sharp, demonstrating how her and Ashley's strengths complement each other. "It was kind of interesting just to see stuff that you know about yourself already, and how they can be seen as beneficial in the workforce."
"I was so impressed with participants' openness to learn, and the self reflection and awareness that they showed," says P.J. Harder, Director of Training. "They were curious, engaged, and they learned how to work better with their team members by playing off each other's strengths--by owning what they're best at and letting others contribute what they're best at."
Over the eight month course, with monthly meetings to discuss topics and supplemental online learning courses to reinforce the skills learned from them--as well as a Leadership Circle where participants shared their experiences with practicing these new skills and concepts--they then completed a final project to demonstrate how these lessons have and will continue to impact their sense and style of leadership. With this final self-reflection as the program exit, these graduates are dedicated to not only the completion of the program, but truly following through and integrating what they've learned into how they interact with their teammates every day. However, for Lynne and P.J., the work doesn't end there; they're not only looking forward to the next cycle, but also looking at ways to continue supporting graduates in retaining what they've learned and continuing to grow and practice their leadership skills every day.
"Employers often struggle here," Lynne notes. "They focus on the training, but not on what comes after, which is how to really infuse those lessons into the workplace culture. We want to make sure that we're following up, providing support, and really changing the culture over several years as these leaders use what they've learned and continue to grow afterwards."
"I really enjoyed the [discussion] about building leaders within our agency and how we're always looking to do that," notes Director of Employment Adrienne Tipple as she reflects on the program. "Everyone really has that opportunity to grow and change with [Perspectives], and we really nurture that."
And the program is soon continuing with its second cycle, where it'll invite more professionals to the table to take leadership to a new level. The opportunity for growth certainly presents itself in Learn to LEAD, and Lynne and P.J. are excited to welcome the next group of learners into the fold--just as their first graduates are excited to share what they've learned with their teams, showcasing the wealth of knowledge the program provides as they put these new skills, ideas, and communication styles into effect. This autumn, Perspectives employees should absolutely stay on the lookout for an opportunity to join this program--and we're wishing everyone another successful program cycle!


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