By Patricia L. Fitzgerald 2015-06-09 08:39:41
I HAVE COVERED the K-12 school nutrition profession for more than 20 years, and while I share the sentiments of several of those interviewed in “Staying Power” (page 40) about the continual change and variety that makes this foodservice segment so engaging, there is (at least) one issue that I’ve seen arise over and over again. Every few years, an alarm is sounded: District directors are retiring! Where are the future directors going to come from?! The first time I heard this warning in the late 1990s, it was accompanied by a palpable sense of panic. But here we are, roughly two decades later, and the sky has not fallen. Kids continue to be fed. SNA remains solid and vital. Every year, I meet new directors or hear about successful intern programs bringing new professionals into the fold (see “Intern Today, Director Tomorrow,” page 64). Future directors and future leaders of SNA continue to take root and flourish. Now, don’t mistake my observances for a casual dismissal of a legitimate concern. This is not a profession that can lean back and rely on a continual “supply” of qualified individuals to simply show up. There are definitely challenges involved in filling manager, supervisor and director positions—and these challenges may get even tougher with the advent of new federal education and experience criteria for hiring directors at the district and state level. SNA and its state affiliates are experiencing difficulties in recruiting qualified volunteers willing to serve (see “For the People, By the People,” page 30). Future leaders in school nutrition require nurturing. But if we are going to survive—and I fully expect that we will—it’s because so many of you make an effort to cultivate worthy successors to stand in your footprints. As official and informal mentors, you identify those with that certain spark and offer them encouragement and guidance. You help to create a career path in your district operations and you point bright and shiny neophytes to SNA so they can connect with the resources and support of the wider school nutrition community Characteristics OF A LEADER Do you—or someone you know—have what it takes to be a leader in school nutrition? Consider these 10 common attributes of an effective leader: 1. THEY HAVE A GUIDING VISION. Effective leaders know what they want to do and have the strength of character to pursue their objectives in the face of opposition and in spite of failures. The effective leader establishes achievable goals. 2. THEY HAVE PASSION. Effective leaders believe passionately in their goals. They have a positive outlook regarding who they are, and they love what they do. Their passion for life is a guiding star for others to follow, because they radiate promise and hope! 3. THEY HAVE INTEGRITY. Because they know who they are, effective leaders are also aware of their weaknesses. They only make promises upon which they can follow through. 4. THEY HAVE HONESTY. Leaders convey an aura of honesty in both their professional and their personal lives. 5. THEY INSPIRE TRUST. Effective leaders earn the trust of their team members and make a point to act on their behalf. 6. THEY HAVE CURIOSITY. Leaders are learners. They wonder about every aspect of their charge. They find out what they need to know in order to pursue their goals. 7. THEY ARE NOT AFRAID OF RISK. Effective leaders take calculated risks when necessary to achieve their objectives. If a mistake is made, the effective leader will learn from the mistake and see it as an opportunity to explore other avenues. 8. THEY HAVE DEDICATION. The effective leader is dedicated to her/his charge and will work assiduously on behalf of those following. The leader gives him/herself entirely to the task when it is necessary 9. THEY HAVE CHARISMA. This attribute might be the most difficult to cultivate. It conveys maturity, respect for your team, compassion, a fine sense of humor and a love of humanity. The result is that leaders have the capability to motivate people to excel. 10. THEY LISTEN. Leaders listen! This is the most important attribute: Listen to your followers. START WITH GOOD SOIL One of those resources is SNA’s Future Leaders Program. Held annually in conjunction with the National Leadership Conference (NLC) this event provides hands-on training to emerging stars in the school nutrition firmament, providing them with opportunities to hone their leadership and communications skills, learn from seasoned SNA leaders and network with one another in a fun and interactive education environment. Each state may nominate two individuals to participate in the program, which has 40-50 registrants each year. To be eligible for the program, an individual must be a current SNA national and state association member and hold a SNA Certificate in School Nutrition or the School Nutrition Specialist (SNS) credential. The Future Leaders Program immerses participants in a crash course of skill development that is designed to help them grow on the job, as well as in the Association’s volunteer corps. Activities focus on defining leadership attributes, identifying leadership styles and improving communications and customer service skills. Each year, 25-30 states participate. More than 310 potential leaders have “graduated” from the program since 2007. Most of them leave energized and ready to step up to the next level in their district, their chapter, their state or the national organization. Consider just a few testimonials from participants of the 2014 and 2015 Future Leaders Program. • “This program enlightened, engaged and definitely sent me off energized! It was the best program I have attended in a long time, and I feel that the presenters were individualizing it to each one of us. … I was on Cloud Nine the whole time.” • “Overall, it was an amazing program, and it has given me many ideas for improving my processes locally and for serving in my state.” • “The presenters did an excellent job relating topics to real-world situations. … The group valued their candidness and the depth of their experiences.” • “I left feeling inspired and excited to pursue my leadership path!” • “This was a fantastic experience. There was plenty of information to absorb from the instructors, as well as from each other.” • “It was an excellent way to refocus on personal goals and become a bigger part of such an amazing organization!” • “[The presenters] gave me the confidence I needed to commit to moving up in our state.” • “I learned a lot about who I am as a leader. It will guide me to be a better leader in the future. I’m thinking about being on the SNA Board some day. I do love to learn and give ideas that may help our cause. Thanks so much for the great experience of my future.” Talk isn’t cheap when it comes to SNA’s future leaders. Graduates are following through. Up through 2014: 134 are on the state president track; 82 are now or have been committee chairs for their state association; 21 have served as national SNA committee members; and 4 have been national board members! BE A THOUGHTFUL GARDENER Anyone who manages a team has an opportunity to lead. Since no one in school nutrition operations works alone, leadership skills-building is an essential step to future career growth! Employees who have the interest and potential ability to climb the ladder in this business can benefit from the Future Leaders Program or similar training initiatives. Of course, not every would-be leader can attend SNA’s annual program. But because the information is so good, School Nutrition has excerpted a mere fraction of it here. This article can’t begin to approach the scope of the multi-day education event, but the intent is to plant a few seeds. Maybe you’re a veteran director who is contemplating retirement in a few years, and you’d like to cultivate your own successor to ensure you’re leaving the operation in good hands and that everything you’ve built won’t be wiped away in the stroke of a pen on a management company contract. How do you identify the best potential candidates who seem to have the right skills and sensibilities? Making sure that you fully understand the basic characteristics of leadership is a good start. Or perhaps you’re a relatively new manager working in school nutrition, with your eye on leading the district’s foodservice department one day. You’re confident that you have what it takes, but a little self-evaluation and reflection about your respective strengths and weaknesses is essential to improvement. You may be content with your career aspirations—you’re in the top position in your district and don’t have ambitions to leave for a larger one—but still find yourself feeling somewhat restless. Have you considered the rewards of serving your professional association as a leader? These are outlined on this page, along with a sample “leadership ladder” plan. THRIVE! Your core tasks as a new leader are to communicate your vision, create momentum, build a coalition and manage yourself. But it’s important to recognize that all new leaders will face new and sometimes uncomfortable challenges. Be aware of these for yourself and for those you mentor. Find your voice. You will need to communicate in new ways with new people. Be confident, but not overbearing. You will need to speak up, but not at the expense of listening. But you can’t afford to sit back and say nothing, either. This is a challenge for introverts. Know what you know—and what you don’t know. Get the lay of the land, whether it’s in a new job position or a new volunteer role. Take ownership of your expertise, but be honest about areas that will require some education and information-gathering on your part. Get the right counsel. You will need some guidance, for sure. But sometimes, advice from the wrong person is downright counterproductive. Be mindful of whom you trust, who has appropriate expertise and who has their own agendas. Don’t take on too much (or too little). When you’re in a new position to lead and manage, it can be easy to let your vision run away with you! Prioritize your goals. Take on what is appropriate for your available time. But don’t take the leadership mantle with the idea that you will sit back and delegate everything. You are still a member of the team. Don’t go it alone. William Shakespeare’s Henry IV opined: “Uneasy is the head that wears the crown.” Essentially, “It’s lonely at the top.” It doesn’t have to be. Yes, new leaders will make tough and sometimes unpopular decisions. You will be taking on new roles and responsibilities and these can become overwhelming. But don’t lose sight of the fact that to be a leader of a team, there is that team! Effective leaders work with their teams—and with others who can guide and support them. The future of school nutrition depends on you. It’s a joyful responsibility—but a responsibility, nonetheless. Step up when asked to serve. Identify those who can follow. Bloom where you are planted. Mary, Mary, how does your school nutrition garden grow? With the thoughtful care and support of future gardeners. Future leaders in school nutrition require nurturing.... We are going to survive because so many of you make an effort to cultivate worthy successors to stand in your footprints. Go Grow IN SNA! Why become an SNA leader? There are many benefits to you personally and professionally. You can: • develop and strengthen your leadership skills • improve your public speaking • improve your critical thinking • improve your project management • improve your understanding of budgeting and financial management practices • mentor future leaders In addition, as a volunteer leader, you will connect with many more of your peers from around the state and nation, gathering best practices that you can bring back to your own operation. Plus, your accomplishments in the Association can bring national attention to your achievements in your school district. Go Grow IN SNA! The SNA Leadership Ladder planner (above) will help you take methodical steps toward your volunteer service goals. Start by asking: Do you have the time to serve? Is it the right time in your career and your personal life? STEP #1: Join SNA STEP #2: Be an active member: Attend meetings and webinars, network with others, help out in fundraising and public awareness efforts, offer to make presentations or write newsletter articles STEP #3: Serve on a state committee or as a chapter president STEP #4A: Serve on a state board of directors STEP #4B: Serve as a national committee member STEP #5: Serve on the national board of directors STEP #6: Serve as National President! TIME COMMITMENT: STEPS 3 & 4A: 3-5 years STEP 4B: 2 years STEP 5: 2-3 years STEP 6: 2 years, plus Past President service Managers & Leaders Not all managers are comfortable or effective leaders, but they can work toward developing leadership skill sets, in order to truly succeed in the position and with their teams. To be a leader, you must assume that there are times to lead and times to manage—and you must know the difference. MANAGERS • Focus on things • Do things right • Plan • Organize • Direct • Control • Follow the rules LEADERS • Focus on people • Do the right things • Inspire • Innovate • Motivate • Build • Shape entities Patricia Fitzgerald is editor of School Nutrition. Laura Maynard, SNA director of Membership and Marketing, and Sara Sanders, SNA State Affiliate Relations manager, contributed to this article. Photography by istockphoto.com and jiunlimited.com.
Published by School Nutrition Association. View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://mydigimag.rrd.com/article/Bloom+Where+You+are+Planted/2028846/261660/article.html.