LEAD Academy Reflection: February 2015
I have to apologize for a rather lengthy reflection, some persons (and I would not be pointing any fingers) thought it prudent to cram a whole morning of Legislative Session Briefing, an afternoon of deep-spirit-provoking Leadership Guidance with Father Ray, a post-afternoon 360 Leadership Assessment Analysis with LaNae Croxton and an actual hour of “Happy” at the Middleton Tavern, all into one very short day.
Lesson learnt: Much can be accomplished in a very short day if Jack Pumphrey and Kevin Keegan have anything to do with it.
I learnt some pivotal things about the human spirit—it carries a level of power and is a force to be reckoned with:
- People perform tasks with a certain spirit and the spirit that they bear has an impact on others.
- The spirit that an individual carries is a contagious force that has the power to infect, uplift, deflect, transmit, or alienate.
- There is diversity in spirit.
- The spirit a leader carries holds the potential to impact followers positively or negatively.
So the question I cast back is why can’t we all bring our best spirit to work and infect all those around us with our positivity and absorb some of their positive vibes too, while contaminating any negativity that dares to lurk around with the sheer force of our combined positive spirits?
Other types of spirits lurking in the workplace include:
- Spirit of Confusion—constant befuddlement—co-workers can’t rely on you
- Spirit of Stress—constant complaining—co-workers get tired of hearing you complain
- Uncommunicative Spirit—being unapproachable (please take those ear-buds off)
- Spirit of Despair—constant unhappiness- you make others around you feel gloomy—because you zap their energy from them!
We know that all around us people are going through stuff. Their personal lives sometimes spill over to the workplace and they may be bearing a spirit of sadness, anxiety, anger, resentment or I-don’t-want-to-bothered. Surely this affects the manner in which they communicate with others and how they perform their duties. Sometimes they may not have life stressors happening, they simply don’t smile unless there is an obvious reason to. I am guilty of that, and I use flip epithets like, “I don’t have a smiling face or it does not mean I am sad if I am frowning,” to excuse myself. But knowing what I now know, I will leave my frown behind in the parking lot. If you catch me smiling at you in the hallway or clapping extra hard in a gathering, it is because the spirit I have chosen to bear henceforth is a cheerful, positive one and I intend to infect as many people as I can with it.
I have long been a member of the Catholic Charities Legislative Education Group (LEG) and so it was with great excitement that I welcomed the news that the sixth gathering of the class of 2015 LEAD Fellows on Friday, February 6th, 2015 would begin with attendance at the Catholic Charities Day in Annapolis. I knew deep inside me that it would be a wonderful opportunity to witness some of what goes on during the 90 days of Legislative sessions in Maryland. I imagined that we would hear from the programs on the impact of the laws on their clients and then some clients would come forward and testify, and their stories would be more compelling than facts and figures. I knew all this but still I had no idea that actually being there and smelling the bravery, seeing the journey and touching the palpable ardency in the dreams of these wonderful people we are privileged to serve, would be an experience like no other.
The sitting arrangement, Lisa Klingenmaier, the Assistant Director for Social Concerns, explains is based on the five program divisions we have in ACC. The Senators and delegates have been pre-assigned to the tables based on what committees they sit on: for instance the senators/ delegates on the Health and Human Services Committees will be directed to sit at a Child and Family Services table. Lisa welcomes the audience made up of mostly employees and clients of ACC. She explains the way the State Government creates Maryland’s budget and our Agency’s legislative priorities for the 2015 legislative session. Her welcome is followed by Opening Remarks from Bill McCarthy who shares a past reflection written by an employee from SVV about one of the clients under her care that was eventually reunited with his biological father. There wasn’t much of a dry eye after his recounting. We are all reminded that what we do touches real lives, and it is not about being extraordinary but just doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.
Lesson Learnt: Bring some tissues with you if Bill McCarthy is going to be giving any opening remarks.
Back to Lisa, we are given an overview of the legislative process and policies. It may be deemed common sense to some, but I learn to differentiate between issues that fall under the jurisdiction of the Fed and those that are State issues. The Catholic Charities 2015 Legislative “asks” for the Maryland General Assembly are:
- Support the Maryland Healthy Families Act- this would allow all workers in MD to earn paid sick leave.
- Support Shielding Legislation: this would allow persons to petition the court to shield a specified number of misdemeanors. We have tried unsuccessfully to pass this bill for four years. We actually had to withdraw this, last year because the language was altered significantly. Some program managers spoke about the impact of this on our clients and then one of the clients from Christopher’s place stood up and shared with us how this has impacted him personally, as a recidivist who now has a HVAC license and is looking for a job.
It is important to understand that it is not numbers but real people that we serve! I cannot tell you well enough how much this client’s words impacted me. If you were there, you would have rooted for him with your heart and soul. If you were there you would have felt inspired by his courage to share his journey with us and realize that no task is insurmountable. If you were there then you would understand that no amount of advocacy is too much if the outcome is that people like him would be given that second chance which they deserve.
- Support the FY16 Budget for our safety net programs, as Gov. Hogan’s first budget cuts include 2% cuts to all departments.
We are actually taught how to talk senators—“They are normal people just like us,”—says Lisa, “we should be respectful of their time, ask them what committees they sit on, tell them how important our safety net budget is, and ask them what else they do when they are not law making in Annapolis.” We are reminded to thank our legislators for their past support and thank them for their continued support and told not to underestimate the value of their aides.
Lessons Learnt: One quarter of the people in the US have a criminal record. Not everyone with a criminal record is a criminal. You don’t give up and you don’t settle—not when people like our clients are counting on you.
Two gentlemen, Simon Powell and Richard Harris from the Department of Legislative Services, break down the Governor’s budget for us. At 11:00 a.m. the Senators and Delegates begin to arrive and get seated. Today I meet a new type of pillar of our agency today in the person of Senator Edward Riley, who sits on the Finance Committee and Joint Committee on the Management of Public Funds. He is a HUGE advocate of the work we do at Catholic Charities. He is so tall it is impossible not to notice him. He gets on the podium and trust me, he did not need the mic, his voice has a natural boom to it. He gives the audience a loud booming recap of what we do at Catholic Charities. With the aid of Scripture (Matthew 25) he summarizes what we do every day: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, A stranger and you welcomed me, Naked and you clothed me, Ill and you cared for me, In prison and you visited me.” He knows us so well it is incredible!
Lesson Learnt: Kevin Keegan is not the tallest pillar in the house.
The second part of the day takes place at the Catholic Conference Building. A lovely building—old and dignified, creaking hard wood floors, well preserved rugs and dated furniture sets the ambience of ages past. We are seated in a dining room, “George Washington ate on this table,” Jack informs us as if we were not already in enough awe.
Father Ray guides us through the Business Secrets of the Trappist monks. Everyone should take a stab at absorbing this article. See link:
He then challenges us to develop a spirit of openness, start our meetings or gatherings with a prayer, poem, meditation, recitation, foster selflessness, and passionately pursue a spirit of “more.”
Lessons Learnt: Orare est Laboris—Prayer is work. To open yourself is a selfless act.Our selflessness can feed us, remind us of the impact we are making. The more selfless we are, the less constricted our lives become. The more selfish we are, the less opportunity to achieve what we are looking for. The most powerful work that is done is going to be rooted to an organization that seeks to do more.
LaNae Croxton finally leads us through the most anticipated aspect of the day—the review of our 360 Leadership Feedback, an assessment by our supervisors and colleagues.
Lesson Learnt: We are not measured by what we are but what we seem to be.
Being a fellow of the LEAD Academy has shown me it is possible to lead from any chair and even more importantly it is the spirit that you bear that counts. With a spirit of gratitude, I thank everyone who made it possible for us fellows to have these insightful opportunities and I hope that those of you who have not given much thought to it would consider applying to be a fellow for the next class which they are currently accepting applications for. Email
if you have any questions about this.
Ifeoma Okolo is a Program Accountant with the Child and Family Services Division and a Fellow in the LEAD Academy Class of 2015. She prepares budgets and analyzes revenues and expenses for BCARS, MATCH, TFC, Respite programs, & BSFT. Supporting her in this journey, among others, are her supervisor, Vickie Hammond, and her mentor, Valerie Shaw-Jones in the Senior Communities division.