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Posted: May 09, 2013

Leadership, turbo-charged

Get out of it what you put into it

Teri Karjala

Over the past year, I have had the pleasure of joining the Leadership Aurora program through the Aurora Chamber of Commerce. Each of the major chambers of commerce in Colorado offer a similar program. I chose the Aurora program because I have been a member of this chamber for more than six years and because they have been very good to me and to my business.

When I shared my experience in the program recently, I was met with a fair amount of skepticism. Here’s my take on anything in life: You get out of it what you put into it. If you work at something and make the most of it, you will reap the benefits.

Now, having said that, is there a time commitment? Is there work outside of “class”? Will there be times when you will have to “lead” and times when you will feel a little overwhelmed? Yes, yes, yes and yes!

However, another set of questions might be even more pertinent. Will I have fun? Will I create lasting friendships and unforgettable memories? Will I develop trusted business partnerships? Will I grow as a leader? Will I become more involved in my community and make a difference in the world? Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes!

Mahatma Gandhi said it best, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

There are a slew of benefits I have reaped from this experience, despite sometimes working harder that I’d originally thought would be necessary, despite moments (transitory!) of feeling a tad overwhelmed:

  1. Connections: I have met and created many personal and professional connections, not only amongst my classmates, but in the community as well.
  2. Adventures: I have been a part of amazing opportunities that I would otherwise never have experienced, such as being granted access to a high security military base, extinguishing a fire and even being attacked by police dogs, thankfully in dog attack gear.
  3. Knowledge: I have been exposed to many community organizations that I never knew existed and now have the knowledge on how to provide support on a pay-it-forward basis.
  4. Exposure: The many, many adventures that I had through the Leadership Aurora program also served as a great way to promote what our business was up to in the community on our own social media outlets.
  5. Leadership: I was placed in leadership roles that contributed to my knowledge and leadership experience.
  6. Philanthropy: We had a huge effect in the community with our big and small class projects. Our class was so dynamic that we even had some nay-sayers think that we “couldn’t” pull of our vision. We showed them.
  7. Education: Our community day classes where filled with unbelievable information about the community. We were exposed to aspects that most never see.
  8. Impact: Our Pay -It-Forward project will continue to have its impact on the community by encouraging future leaders to take part in improving their community along with many other projects. We were able to impact our community - extremely satisfying.

Despite the myriad of benefits listed above, you might still be wondering if the program really helped my business.

Through connections I made in the program, I hired my new administrative support staff, hired one of our therapists, presented at two large companies, created a professional video on our website, got free tools to grow my business, boosted our social media following and found a media intern – among other things. Not bad for a small business owner and a $1,000 investment.

Tips to follow to make the most out of your leadership experience:

  1. Set your intentions on how you “show up.” Read my previous article, Six great tips for showing up well
  2. When you meet people, follow up! Read my previous article, Five powerful networking tips.
  3. Volunteer and get involved! The more active and involved you are, the more it will pay off for you.  You will have plenty of opportunities to do so.
  4. Be positive. No one enjoys being around a negative Nancy.
  5. Play on your strengths.  When it comes to leadership, know what you are good at and help the group in those ways.
  6. Get out of your comfort zone. Take on new risks. Read my article, Risky business.
  7. Have fun! Enjoy the time that you have. The year goes by fast!

Examine the ways a program like this could benefit you and your business. Get out there and stretch yourself, improve your skills, make connections and “be the change.” I will cheer you on and, as always, would love to hear from you.

Teri Karjala is owner of the Creative Counseling Center, LLC, as well as Talking With Teri, LLC. Teri’s passion for the business aspects of owning and maintaining a business has made her a sought out coach by others in the helping fields. She is a regular columnist for ColoradoBiz Magazine and speaks to therapists across the nation in building their thriving practice. Recently she has released her “How to Live Deliciously” Creative Journal Series to help inspire and empower adults, teens, and children. These are available in print at www.talkingwithteri.com.

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