What a Super Seminar!
Ten candidates for IACCA certification and recertification gathered at the Life Enrichment Center in Fruitland Park, Florida the week of April 24. Dr. Charles Wallace opened the seminar by detailing the purpose of the week: for each participant to create a personal strategic plan in order to refocus energy and meet career and personal goals. Through this refocus, the candidates were to discern values that are important to them and generate a plan that keeps those values at the forefront. Dr. Wallace explained that those with a plan can be happier and more productive than those who allow external forces to dictate their choices and behaviors.
The Sunday pre-session introduced the framework for developing a personal strategic plan, including a strong focus on values and mission. Dr. Wallace encouraged participants to step away from the distant demands of their centers and spend time contemplating personal and professional growth. The knowing smiles on everyone’s faces highlighted the difficulty of executing this concept among conference center administrators. He patiently reassured the group that no one is so important that he or she cannot step away from work life. Dr. Wallace acknowledged the challenge of the discernment process and reassured the group that it was more productive to take the time away than to impede the planning process with external distractions.
Monday through Wednesday brought insightful morning lectures from three knowledgeable mentors, afternoon discussions with those mentors, and evening reflections on the day and the progress of the personal strategic plans. Lisa Oberreuter, a leadership trainer and owner of Effectiveness Coaching, LLC, led the first session. She engaged the group in upbeat and dialogue on the characteristics of effective leadership. She pulled in knowledge of Steven Covey’s Behaviors of Trust, Myers-Briggs style evaluations, and Lisa’s own Leadership Laws. Through interactive lecture, she kept the participants engaged. Oberreuter emphasized how to build relationships and counter toxic behaviors. Dividing the group into sub-groups, she attempted to get members to identify who they were and what values and forces influenced their early development. Oberreuter’s presentation provided a solid starting point for building a strategic plan.
Douglas Walker, the Executive Director of the Diocesan Foundation of the Episcopal Diocese of Florida and The Bishop’s Deputy for Advancement, taught the second session. He explored generosity and the art of developing a strong donor connection. He engaged in dialogue surrounding the culture inherent at each of the represented centers and what each participant can do to ignite a process for change. Walker stressed that retreat centers should try to avoid ad hoc micro-constituencies and restricted gifts and move toward legacy opportunities and well-developed relationships with those impacted by the centers. Augmenting earlier Seminar discussions of values, Walker also encouraged the group to help donor constituencies feel a sense of ownership toward the organization and its mission. By focusing on mission in a positive way, that is, focusing on what a center does well instead of focusing on needs and problems, stronger donor rapport develops.
Carl McColman directed the third session and gave his thoughts on spirituality in life. Starting with questions about why conference and retreat centers are needed, he guided the dialogue toward similarities between monastic life and the culture of retreat centers. Retreat centers are a throwback to simpler times where people can escape the demands of modern life and find growth and renewal. McColman highlighted the importance of having a strong vision and mission in each retreat center, and following through on every action in accordance with that purpose. His guidance provided ample food for thought in refining the personal strategic plans.
Thursday was designated as a day of reflection, giving the group members time to flesh out their plans collectively and individually, and Friday served as the capstone of the week. For the final gathering, the group met to present its personal strategic plans. Sitting in the session, the participants clearly defined their values and where they want to go. The plans were varied and highly personal. Some mentioned leaving retreat center work; others looked toward future positions of greater scope and responsibility; and a few reflected on future retirement. Reinvigorated with clarity of purpose, Dr. Wallace and the candidates adjourned back to their respective centers, thankful for experiencing this process under such knowledgeable and dedicated leadership.