SPRINGFIELD – For decades, the Springfield Regional Chamber has brought together local leaders to help them develop their skills in management, problem-solving and other tools to advance their careers. This year, the coronavirus pandemic prevented participants from meeting in person, but a recent group completed the course nonetheless.
“The 16 professionals who embarked on our Leadership Institute program in late February had no idea the world was going to change drastically any time soon as a result of COVID-19,” said Nancy Creed, president of the Springfield Regional Chamber. “Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, this year’s class has proven their leadership skills in real time by showing their adaptability and flexibility as the program, their goals and their interaction with their classmates have shifted to a new one. virtual platform. “
The original plan was to hold a series of six workshops, led by faculty from Western New England University, on Thursdays at the TD Bank Conference Center in Springfield. The Institution of Leadership is headed by Interim Dean of the College of Business Sharianne Walker and Associate Professor Melissa J. Knott.
Scott Greene, account manager for Reminder Publishing, said the class was able to accommodate the virtual classroom.
“Actually, it wasn’t what we all signed up for, but as we’ve all done over the past few months, we leaned in a bit and went with a virtual model for the class. Our full sessions that started downtown at the Springfield Chamber have moved to Zoom, as have our smaller peer group meetings, ”he said. “In the end, we couldn’t make our trip to the State House in Boston or host a graduation dinner as planned, but we successfully completed the Institute with the necessary modifications to protect us all. “
Participant Tiera Wright, national sales account manager for The Republican, said the course had helped her develop her leadership skills, but also made her think.
“Honestly, I learned a lot about myself and the way I communicate and interact with people,” she said. “It was very enlightening. One of my favorite lessons from the class was “listen with the intention to understand, not with the intention to respond”. I don’t think that’s a problem for me, but it’s something a lot of people need to hear. “
What makes the course unique is that there are participants from various professional backgrounds who come from private companies and businesses to non-profit organizations. Some participants come with years of experience and others have been newly promoted.
“I have held leadership positions for most of the past 20+ years. This institute has given me new strategies that I can use to work better with my colleagues and clients, ”he said. “Most importantly for me, I have forged close new relationships with other attendees and we plan to stay in touch to share ideas and take on challenges with each other.
Sessions focused on managerial leadership, emotional intelligence and self-awareness, powerful communication, successful team building and conflict exploitation. Participants also had the opportunity to apply and extend their learning through a practice-based team project.
“Emotional intelligence was a major theme of teaching during the Leadership Institute. My peer group, 3 other business leaders from Western Mass. and I, presented to the class and all of our corporate sponsors how emotional intelligence and self-awareness have played a role in our work over the past several months during the COVID-19 pandemic, ”says Greene.
Wright said a session focused on conversational skills and communication touched her.
“I found the ’10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation’ to be the most helpful – and honestly, something I would like to share with my team at work, as I think it would help all of us communicate better and to understand each other better. ” she said. “Since I haven’t been in a leadership role yet, I think I got to see what we learned from a different perspective. Many of the lessons were aimed at making us better leaders, but they are also helpful to implement within a group of peers.
Now that they have graduated, program participants can enroll in a free graduate course offered by the College of Business at Western New England University.