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Empowered to Succeed

The Mason and Deerfield Chamber’s Leaders are MADE program grows the skills of women business leaders.

Before the Leaders are MADE program began in 2018, the Mason and Deerfield Chamber’s Women Business Leaders advisory council saw a need to support women further.

“They wanted a way to address the need for resources and strong female support for women leaders,” says Stephanie Chelf, the programs and members services manager at the Mason and Deerfield Chamber. “The council wanted to create a space where women leaders in the region felt empowered, connected and equipped in work and life.”

Out of this need, the Leaders are MADE program grew: it’s now a year-long program that includes 18 participants from at least 10 companies and organizations. Combining personal assessments with a cohort-building community project, it also offers interaction with subject-matter experts on their four core competencies.

“After working through feedback and data as a team, the four themes of self-management, effective communication, leadership capacity and business acumen rose to the top,” says Stephanie.

We spoke with four of this year’s participants about how the core competencies were addressed in the monthly meetings as well as how they’ve applied the takeaways to their jobs. 

1. Self-Management

Self-management skills, which help us be our most effective, organized selves, are easier to practice in communities where they are valued. Krissy Hufnagel, a learning experience supervisor at Mason City Schools, has felt supported in activities like taking time to self-reflect, living by her values and being curious while participating in the Leaders are MADE Program.

“We have had opportunities for self-reflection and discussion that allowed us to apply the learning during the session to our own leadership roles,” says Krissy. “I gained clarity on making formalized strategies part of my repertoire, including self-management tips like showing vulnerability and building upon the strength of your team.”

Krissy mentions that self-management is personal and unique, but examining strategies from a new perspective has helped her see the impact of her own time and project management.

“As a leader in the field of education, there are many stakeholders that need to be considered in every decision—students, families, teachers, other leaders and the community at large,” says Krissy. “In order to do this, I need to stick to my self-management strategies and listen a lot. When we listen with an open mind, we can lead with purpose.”

2. Effective Communication 

Kimberly Krupp is manager of inventory and supply network planning for the Festo Corporation Regional Service Center’s North America Market. She saw the program leaders practicing effective communication from the very beginning by modeling what the group sought to learn and practice.

“They showed us their communication style by providing us with a detailed binder showing each month’s Leaders are MADE program activities, presenters, and topics,” says Kimberly.

Kimberly notes that two speakers from the program shared insights about building a personal brand and avoiding unnecessary details in communicating. The program also creates conversations about communication as part of problem-solving in the workplace.

“We discussed different solutions and tools we could implement when faced with challenges,” says Kimberly. “We learned about the 4 E’s — Envision, Enable, Energize, and Edge — that ask us to answer questions like where do we want to go, what tools are needed, how does this impact others and what is our determination.”

The Leaders are MADE program has reinforced Kimberly’s interest in communicating clearly to her audience with exactly the information they need to know, which is a very useful strategy in every workplace.

3. Leadership Capacity 

WCESC Director of Cognitive & Behavioral Health Programs, Dr. Kathie MacNeil, was able to build on her background in management through the Leaders are MADE program. 

“This experience came at a great time in my professional career. I have been serving in a leadership role for several years, but moved into a more senior leadership role, and this program provided me the opportunity to really reflect on my leadership style,” says Kathie. “It also helped strengthen my ability to grow the leadership capacity of individuals within my departments.”

Kathie uses lessons from the program kick-off as well as the monthly modules featuring prominent speakers to spark activities and discussions at work.

“I, along with three director colleagues, have been leading a book study with our supervisor leaders on Brené Brown's 'Dare to Lead',” says Kathie. “I was able to share some of the book resources, discussions and activities that we did through the program with my colleagues and integrate that into our book study sessions.”  

4. Business Acumen

Chamina Curtis, who teaches leadership coursework at Miami University, appreciated the new perspectives and real-world implications.

“It’s with women, for women, and by women and that gives it a specific lens for us,” explains Chamina. “It allows us to go a little deeper.” 

She’s also been impressed with the quality of the subject matter experts who have spoken to the group. 

 “When CEOs, entrepreneurs, and other leaders come in, they offer resources and case studies. The scenarios are realistic and fascinating; the speakers have been so transparent and authentic,” she shares.

Chamina was able to apply and adapt the resources and mindsets from Leaders are MADE to her classroom.

“I can take what we’ve done and share with my students,” says Chamina. “I can say, ‘I’ve got a great resource for you guys. For example, here’s a model for handling emotions in the workplace.’ I get to pay it forward with my teaching, and the program also reinforces things I’ve taught in the past.”

Enrollment for the next session is open until July 1 with the program beginning in August. For more information visit:  MADEChamber.org/leaders-are-made

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