We’ve turned our attention to Colorado this month, and have already shared ways senior volunteers are giving back to their community and how organizations in the state are making a difference. Below is advice from Dan Condon, associate director professional development at Eagle Rock School on how to grow as a leader.
Yesterday, we shared the stories of Public Allies Fellows who worked at the Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center in Estes Park, Colorado, a high school where students learn, AmeriCorps Public Allies Fellows gain experience, and current teachers expand as professionals.
“We listen to aspirations of the school, from leadership, teachers, students, and develop a plan for them to reach those aspirations,” said Dan Condon, associate director of professional development. “Schools hold the answers to their own challenges and we serve as a conduit to help them figure them out.”
Given the organization’s focus on professional development and leadership, we thought we could pick up a few tips on how to grow as nonprofit professionals. Here are some great insights from our conversation with Dan.
Be willing to make mistakes
Eagle Rock works with struggling schools and districts, but the team doesn’t come into schools with a set program or agenda, Dan said. They listen to the challenges, goals and aspirations of each district, and work to develop a plan based on that.
This flexibility also means they are ready and willing to make mistakes.
“We tell our participants is it’s rare to be placed in a situation where they won’t make mistakes,” Dan said. “We’re creating a culture of continuous learning so they can test leadership skills before they leave Eagle Rock.” Fellows and students help each other reflect on what they have learned throughout the year.
Focus on assets rather than deficiencies
Just as each school (or individual) has their own struggles and challenges, everyone has their own strengths. Eagle Rock has a “framework of focusing on assets rather than focusing on what’s wrong or broken with a student or neighborhood or individual,” Dan said. “Regardless of how challenged a school is, there are things that are working.”
In professional development, focus on areas that are strengths for you and build them up to be the best they can. Once you are confident in areas where you excel, then you will have the confidence to tackle public speaking or whatever other issue you struggle with.
Work with your neighbors
One way to grow as a professional is to step outside of your comfort zone and meet people in networking and professional groups. Eagle Rock encourages its fellows and alumni to connect after their programs are complete, and hosts events for not only Eagle Rock Public Allies alums, but also alumni from other Public Allies sites.
“I encourage folks to start with their Chamber of Commerce or local professional groups,” Dan said. “People often look to outside experts, but there are leaders in communities right next door.”
Overall, continuously learn! Eagle Rock works with its Public Allies Fellows for weekly learning seminars on site, and stays connected to the schools it works with to help them grow on their own.