Ogemaw Community Leadership program has a very successful debut

Michigan State University Extension's leadership program in the Ogemaw community was a success!

Photo by Yvonne Zoia, Michigan State University Extension
Photo by Yvonne Zoia, Michigan State University Extension

It would appear there is an interest in Ogemaw County for leadership education. Registration for this four-session series was completely filled within one week of announcing its debut and there was even a waiting list!

Michigan State University Extension has a history of facilitating leadership development programs and processes in communities throughout Michigan. Leadership development is an integral part of many aspects of Extension programming related to various issue areas and audiences: farmers who work to make changes in their communities, youth who discover strategies for accomplishing specific goals and groups who are in conflict. In addition, there have been many programs at both the local and state level to help people learn about public policy issues and processes and to study specific leadership skills.

In Ogemaw County, MSU Extension partnered with the Rose City-Lupton Chamber of Commerce, Mercantile Bank, Farm Bureau, the West Branch Area Chamber of Commerce and the Ogemaw EDC to provide this program. The goal of the Ogemaw program was to strengthen the professional and personal skills of participants by utilizing hands-on activities, tools and meaningful dialogue. This series consisted of four three-hour sessions:

  1. Understanding Ourselves and Others – This Real Colors personality assessment and workshop was a favorite of many of the participants. It provided them with skills to understand human behavior, uncover their own personal strengths and improve communication with others. It also helped the leadership participants get to know each other a little better.
  2. Meaningful Meetings – Sonya Novotny, the Regional Michigan Farm Bureau representative and experienced leadership trainer shared practical tips to improve and make meetings more meaningful. This included how to create consent agendas, how to start and close a meeting, meeting components and much more. In addition, the award winning Whittemore-Prescott High School FFA Parliamentary Procedure students provided a 10-minute demonstration on how to run a proper meeting.
  3. Social Networking, Fake News and Cultures of Power – Misti Stanton and Dave Miller from Mercantile Bank provided insight about working through contemporary issues such as fake news, the broadness of diversity and structural power. Participants examined how algorithms affect what they see on social media and joined in a small group civil discourse experience.
  4. Communicating through Conflict – Studies show that workplace conflict cause a real financial loss for organizations that include medical costs, work absences, lack of productivity, loss of employees and ultimately retraining expenses. The most surprising deduction from these studies is that the majority of employees have never received any kind of conflict training. This session offered participants easy-to-learn tools, techniques and a model to help anyone stay in dialogue and work through disagreements before they escalate.

Evaluation comments about the program included:

  • “There was something to take away from all four – no wasted sessions.”
  • “I wish I had this class 20 years ago.”
  • “If felt great to participate and network with other business professionals.”
  • “Not only did these classes allow me to find my strengths in a situation but also to identify the strengths of others.”
  • “I loved the classes. I definitely took a lot from it and will continue to grow from the knowledge I received.”

The organizers are planning to offer the same leadership series again in the fall. For more information, please contact Bonnie Wichtner-Zoia at zoiay@msu.edu.

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