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A life-altering day

Lydia Vandenbergh
Lydia Vandenbergh Photo provided

“This was a life-altering day,” said one of my fellow 2017 Leadership Centre County classmates, after we spent a cold January day focusing on leadership skills.

After experiencing a stable job for many years, he was now ready to pivot in a new direction and the day’s sessions had expanded his toolkit for that task. Consultant Paul Hilt worked with us to identify and understand our five core strengths and how we can apply those to work and personal situations.

For my classmate, he would now incorporate those strengths into his new adventure. For me, I could envision applying the lessons of the day to several of my work group projects, comparing my strengths to others on the project and determining the gaps. This exercise not only serves to focus the group’s attention on positive attributes of the team, but also recognizes each person’s contribution.

One of the more poignant quotes of the day emphasized the value of inclusion and teamwork: “Our most important accomplishments require interdisciplinary skills well beyond our present abilities.”

The other “ah ha” moment came when many of us realized how much more enjoyable it is to work on a project when you are tapping into your strong suits.

Going with the leadership theme, Scott Woods, president and founder of West Arete, took time to share his lessons on leadership that came to him, for the most part, in his pursuit of bald rock climbing.

Planning ahead, having the right resources, clear communications and team work take on a whole different meaning when faulty moves can be catastrophic. When climbing, the person in front depends on the leadership from those right behind, a good lesson for those leading a group. Ultimately Woods said there is no failure on the mountain (except maybe death) and at a certain point on the climb there are no more decisions to be made except to keep on climbing up.

This theme of teamwork and collaboration rippled through the luncheon that day, when more than 100 graduates of the program gathered to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the organization’s founding. Leadership Centre County has been nurturing “thinkers and doers” to build a community whose foundational values are built on cooperation, collaboration and compassion. It seems to me that now, with our polarized politics, we need these core values to develop resilient, thriving communities. Centre County now has more than 800 graduates of the program with knowledge about our area’s culture, governance, infrastructure and services and tools to serve those entity’s growth and evolution.

But how do we create resilience ourselves? That was the question we discussed for the second half of our day, a counter to the common refrain, “I don’t have time…” Our coach, Dr. Peter Montminy, counseled us to “show up for your life” and have a conscious relationship with your life and your time. Another key lesson came when Montminy suggested tracking where we spend our time and determining which activities rejuvenate our energy, and consciously appreciating those pursuits. Focusing on self-health can allow us to clear mental space to focus and give our fullest to our relationships, our community and our work.

Lydia Vandenbergh is a member of the Leadership Centre County Class of 2017.