Greensilkmuse's Blog


From Unemployment to Self-Employment

Posted in Business by greensilkmuse on July 4, 2010

Tired of the corporate rat race?  Tired of looking for that increasingly elusive job?  Want to be your own boss?  There are numerous free and low-cost resources available in New York to help you if you are thinking of starting your own business.   New business development is critical for economic recovery and growth, so there is great interest in helping new businesses establish themselves in New York, particularly small businesses.  Small businesses account for the majority of new job growth across the country.  According to the U.S. Small Business Administration:

Firms with fewer than 500 employees accounted for 64 percent (or 14.5 million) of the 22.5 million net new jobs (gains minus losses) between 1993 and the third quarter of 2008.
Continuing firms accounted for 68 percent of net new jobs, and the other 32 percent reflect net new jobs from firm births minus those lost in firm closures (1993 to 2007).

Source: U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Business Employment Dynamics. Note that the methodology used for the figures above counts job gains or losses in the actual class size where they occurred.

 For more information on small business trends, including survival rate, financing, etc., visit the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy website.  Here is a link to their FAQ’s:  http://www.sba.gov/advo/stats/sbfaq.pdf.

Today’s New York Times illustrated just what is going on for many of the over 50 crowd who’ve lost jobs during the recession.http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/03/your-money/03shortcuts.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=What%20Recovery?&st=Search

Whether underemployed or unemployed, with employers still hesitant to add jobs, it just may be up to you to make your own.

If you are on unemployment assistance in New York and are considering launching a new venture look into the Self Employment Assistance Program: http://www.labor.ny.gov/ui/claimantinfo/specialprovisions.shtm#SP1.   If you have done nothing to start a business yet and have at least 13 weeks of unemployment assistance remaining, this program will allow you to focus all your energies on launching a business rather than looking for employment.  It provides tremendous support towards viable self-employment.

In addition to the State program, New York City has several programs and initiatives to support small business creation and development: http://www.nyc.gov/html/sbs/html/business/business.shtml

The NYPL is also a valuable resource.  The Science, Industry, and Business Library (SIBL) located in the building once known as B. Altman’s, offers information for market research, business plan development, and much more.  SCORE volunteers are available to provide guidance and counsel.  See SIBL’s small business resource center at:  http://legacy.www.nypl.org/research/sibl/smallbiz/sbrc/Pages/

With a simple on-line search, you can find the basic information you’ll need to get started.  One great resource, dedicated to women entrepreneurs, is Ladies That Launch.  You don’t need to be female to benefit from this site. Access to basic tools and templates for launching a business is available to anyone for free: http://www.ladieswholaunch.com/magazine/tools-docs-templates

Know of other great resources?  Please comment to share your recommendations with others.

The Recessionary Entrepreneur

Posted in Business,General Musing by greensilkmuse on June 18, 2010

Small Business Owner, AFLCIO - May 2009

You see them in internet cafes, at networking events, conducting workshops, and writing blogs – they are the new generation of entrepreneurs.  Formerly employed by large corporations, and small firms alike, more seasoned professionals — ages 55+ have joined the ranks of the self-employed. 

While experienced executives who lost jobs as a result of the economic downturn have entered the ranks of the unemployed as “executives in transition”, the protracted job search has caused many of them to take temporary consulting assignments in order to stay professionally active and earn some income. 

For some, contract employment is merely a stepping stone to what they hope will be the next full-time corporate post.  These professionals prefer to be affiliated with a company. They want to take challenging roles where they can have impact.  They prefer to develop and build relationships inside organizations and see the results of their contributions over time. 

For others, job loss has provided the opportunity to be entrepreneurial, though this might not have been something they ever considered while gainfully employed.  They enjoy the autonomy and the flexibility of being on their own.  

What do the stats tell us?

Does it just seem like boomers are hanging out shingles, or is there objective data behind this view?  It may not be all that obvious from the labor statistics. There has been a year-over-year decline in self-employed workers during the recession.   According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 654,000 fewer self-employed workers in non-agricultural industries (these industries have the majority of the self-employed)  in May 2010 than in May 2007. The self employed population (agricultural and non-agricultural combined) aged 45 and over declined by 109,000 over this period.   However, self-employment for 55 -64 year olds rose since 2007 by 97,000.

And, let’s face it, more boomers are out of work.  According to a BLS report (Issues in Labor Statistics, Summary 10-04/March 2010) the unemployment rate for people aged 55 and over increased sharply since the beginning of the recession and this population is not leaving the labor market.

The self-employment alternative

The unemployed over 55 spend more time searcing for work than others — 35.5 weeks on average.  It’s easy to get discouraged about the propsects of finding a reasonable job,  Across all age groups not in the labor force (i.e, those either not working or not actively looking for work), the number of people not currently looking for work due to discouragement over job prospects increased from 2008 to 2009 by 68%.  So what have all those discouraged job seekers been doing? 

 The authors of a report published in 2003 by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor predicted that when unemployment is high, the necessity  total entrepreneurship activity (NTEA) – those pushed into entrepreneurship because they have no better alternatives, will be high.  This is moderated where unemployment assistance is high and/or by how difficult of easy it is to start a new business. Given the limitations of unemployment insurance and the relative ease of setting up shop (particulalry for those who consult), it ssems the conditions are ripe for entrepreneurial boomers.

Growing Leaders: What Should Be Covered in a Leadership Development Program?

Posted in Leadership by greensilkmuse on June 4, 2010

Art pulled me in to help design and execute a leadership development program for a select group of folks who have the potential to succeed to the top jobs in their organizations.   We’re working with an advisory group to define the program and had talked about including both “hard” and “soft” skills training in the program.  At the end of the meeting, Art pulled me aside. He wanted to get my perspective and asked:

  “I hear about the hard stuff and the soft stuff.  We need both in a program that is supposed to prepare prospective leaders to become executive directors.  I’m in the kind of role we are training these folks to take on.  I understand what they need when it comes to the hard stuff – financial planning, budgeting, expense management, revenue generation.  I’m not sure, though, what sorts of ‘soft’ skills must effective leaders have?”

Top of the list for me is communications skills.   They are at the core of effective interpersonal relationships and leaders, to be effective, need to understand and work a variety of relationships.  Their communications skills are critical for articulating strategy and priorities, engaging and motivating people, and building relationships with key stakeholders.  An organization’s leader is its voice. 

A critical role of a leader is to engender trust.  This means ensuring consistency in words and deeds – displaying integrity.   Sometimes the best way to illustrate this point is to show what it looks like when it’s not done well.  A story in today’s New York Times on BP’s leader is a great example of what NOT to do —  The gaffe-prone CEO.

As Sydney Finkelstein, professor of strategy and leadership at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business points out:

“People want to know someone is in charge, that the right person is there, but someone who says the stuff that (this CEO) has said doesn’t engender confidence.”

In times of crisis or significant change, a big, bright, spotlight shines on the leader – dissecting every aspect of his or her message (what is said, unsaid, and how it’s delivered).   When messages are not consistent with reality, credibility is lost and, with it, respect for the leader.

Building Communities

Posted in Business,Networks by greensilkmuse on May 13, 2010

I do a LOT of networking.  Have to.  I know several people who bemoan the fact that they just don’t do enough of it.  They have too  much “real” work to do and just can’t devote the time.   Since it takes time to build relationships, they are sure to find themselves in a “professional credit crunch.”   You know, spending current social capital and not investing in the future. 

I used to be in that boat too, so I absolutely understand where they are coming from.  Since I’ve been much more engaged in making connections, I’ve come to understand the value and I wish I’d have come to this realization earlier.  It is often exhilarating, at times exhausting, sometimes disappointing, but most often energizing.   There are many avenues for networking like this:

Or, like this:

Once you get past the initial awkwardness and superficial pleasantries, it is great when you connect with someone and can go on to deepen the relationship.  I feel really good when I can help someone out by making them aware of an opportunity or connecting them with someone else.

I’ve been intrigued by social networks for some time, now.   The network analysis that can be done, showing how people connect to accomplish things, is really interesting to me.  So much so that I learned how to identify and analyze these networks so that I could help people understand their own connections and consider how to build and leverage their networks. 

Here’s an example of a simple network diagram.

Jenny, Jack, and John bridge  their networks.  They might be gatekeepers or brokers of information — with the power to decide just what goes in and out of their worlds.  However, they are uniquely positioned to create further connections between the people in  each others network; thereby building a broader community.

I am actively looking to make introductions to people who may not otherwise meet each other and who might benefit from the connection.   I find that I learn so much from talking with people who are not in my day-to-day life.  It’s how I hear of emerging trends, find resources, get referrals, and get exposed to new ideas.   I’d like to create those opportunities for others.  And people always seem to appreciate connecting with interesting people.  This is what makes all this networking so stimulating for me.  It’s like fuel.

On-line social networks have created entirely new avenues for making connections and nurturing relationships. Technology has made it much easier to find people, categorize the nature of your relationship with them, and judge whether you are operating in a close-knit circle or have a diversified relationship portfolio. 

This diagram shows the various connections of a community.  And the idea for many social network sites is to build community.  In fact, there are even off-line communities that seek to leverage on-line tools such as blogs and discussion boards to engage and strengthen their community.

 That sense of community creates a foundation, a sense of belonging.   People within a community share something in common that makes it easier for them to be at ease, to develop trust, and to want to help one another. 

Great networkers, however, don’t just build community, they connect communities.  It’s about bringing together people with disparate backgrounds – filling needs that existing communities cannot and setting the foundation for new communities to develop.  So, as I take stock of my ever growing network, I think about how I can add value to relationships by connecting communities and I wonder how can I help others to do the same.   I’ve started to pull together concepts, tools, and exercises for a workshop on optimizing social capital.  It will be about how to assess your network, enhance it, build trust, and gain influence.  As it starts to take shape, I’ll share key concepts in this space.   Contributions, comments, and suggestions are welcome.  What have been your networking experiences?

5 Tips for Developing Business

Posted in Business by greensilkmuse on May 5, 2010

Are you great at developing business?  Are you looking for ways to do it better?  Since I have my own business, I need to develop business in order to survive.  It is something I’ve had to learn so, in addition to getting advice from and observing those who do it well, I tap into the vast array of articles, books, blogs and webinars devoted to business development.  These include advice and insights on selling, marketing, and networking.  Much of the current advice is targeted towards getting the best use out of on-line social networks.

It’s amazing how many “experts” are out there.  Even more amazing is how they all say exactly the same thing!  Is there any research behind this?  Any proof?  Or are they just recycling each other’s advice?   Several of them say that they have used the techniques themselves and have grown their business this way.  Others point to the success of certain businesses and have suggested that the use of social media is what gave these successful businesses a competitive edge.  What they suggest always seems to make a great deal of sense.  Or perhaps they are just good at telling stories.

Whether developing business in-person or virtually, while the media may be different, the approach is pretty much the same.  If anything, we should all be getting better at face-to-face business development as a result of our on-line experience.  Technology tends to magnify and heighten our experiences.   If something has a lot of steps, doesn’t move logically from one place to the next, is hard to find – technology will but a big spotlight on the warts.  It stands to reason that by showing up in the right forums, adding value to conversations, engaging on a personal level, and capturing word-of-mouth referrals and recommendations, we can use social media to put a positive light on ourselves.  If we want to be engaging, easy to do business with and easy to access, then we need to “show up” this way in all our interactions.  That is, our on-line presence and our off-line presence should be consistent.

The trick is finding the right places.  Where to go to have conversations with potential clients?   Many of the on-line forums are cluttered with the comments from countless others and it is mind-boggling how much of it says absolutely nothing of value.  Does it make sense to add your voice to this already over-crowded space?  If you do, who will hear it? 

I tend to be picky about where I contribute.  I choose the places where I think there is a greater likelihood of turning an on-line connection into an off-line relationship. 

The gurus of digital marketing tout practices for improving the chances of showing up on the first page of a Google Search.   I suppose it is good to be found, but for an independent consultant like me, someone actually needs to know your name or the name of your company if they are going to find you in a Google search.  What does come up in a search for management consultants?  Sponsored links – CSC, Accenture, Deloitte.  McKinsey shows up on the first page, even though theirs is not a sponsored link.  If you search different specialty areas, the large consulting firms doing work in those areas come up.  They have the resources to constantly blog, publish, speak, tweet, etc. so good for them for their search engine optimization!

Of course, the people who have expertise in a particular niche, the ones who cover the newest developments in that space and write constantly develop large followings.  Mashable  is a great example of this.

While you may not achieve first-page status, I think one cannot develop business today without an on-line presence.  It is another forum for expressing your unique voice and for making connections, some of which can develop into more significant business relationships.  Whether on-line or off-line – here is a summary of tips from various sources (webinars, articles, books, etc.) for developing business:

  1.  Be present.  You need to show up in order to make connections and be found.
  2. Listen.  Monitor the conversations.  See what’s on people’s minds so your contributions are relevant.
  3. Contribute.  Ask not what they can do for you, but what you can do for them (to paraphrase a famous presidential quote).
  4. Engage.  Be conversational, authentic, and consistent.  Build personal relationships.
  5. Build community.  Share the wealth.  Connect your connections with each other.  Your contributions will go viral.

Above all – demonstrate what you have to offer.  Let folks taste the wine before they decide to order the bottle.  

Right Place, Right Time

Posted in Discovery by greensilkmuse on April 25, 2010

One of my most memorable trips was to New Mexico.  I visited Santa Fe and took the high road to Taos.   It is some of the most beautiful country there is.  One particularly memorable moment was not so beautiful, however.  It was the time we ran out of gas.

My ex and I were headed from Santa Fe down to Albuquerque in a rental car.  The car was very low on gas and we hadn’t realized how far we’d need to travel before coming to a gas station.  We were riding on “E”.  “It isn’t really empty when the gas gauge hits ‘E’”, he said.  That may be.  Problem is there is no way of telling just how much gas is left.

Finally, we came upon a gas station. It was located on the other side of the road from us.  As we headed down the highway towards it, the car’s power suddenly died.  The engine shut down.   I managed to steer the car towards the gas station and we were able to glide up to the pump.  Amazing, really.   That gas station was in the right place at the right time for us.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to be in the right place at the right time, myself.  That’s the crux of business development.   In real estate, the key to success is “location, location, location.”  Timing is the variable function …entirely up to the customer.  For those of us without storefronts, location is about visibility.  Can someone see you enough to remember you when the time is right?  Are you in the right places to be seen? These days that includes web presence as well as physical presence.  

Say you have found good location — you are getting visibility and you’re available when others need you.  Just because you are there, doesn’t mean someone will reach out to you for help.  I’ve been reading books, articles, and research on how networks form social capital.  A key point made is that successful people position themselves well in networks – they see the gaps and perform the service of filling them. In so doing, they create value – and others in the network see the value. 

For someone new to the organization, trying to establish him- or herself, a sponsor can help to accelerate the development of the network.  The sponsor tells others that the newcomer is credible and “safe”.  For those of us looking for business, the “sponsor” is the referral.  It heightens not only the chance of being in the right place in the right time, but also the likelihood of being chosen.

With this in mind, I’ve started to design a workshop on leveraging social capital.  The workshop will explore everything from the structure of networks to their role in power and influence in organizations.  I used to think that “it’s who you know” is an elitist and political power play.  I thought it was wrong that people should get ahead on the basis of who they know rather than what they know.   I’ve since come to understand that these two things – who you know and what you know – are not mutually exclusive.  If people are going to want to work with you, you need to have some substance – some real capability.  They also need to know you exist.  So that, like the one gas station situated on that long stretch of road, you are in the right place at the right time.  

Transformation – Stage II

Posted in 1 by greensilkmuse on April 19, 2010

“OK, so now we are clear on what this function needs to become”, she said.  “I don’t know where to begin.   There are so many factors… and we need to build our credibility with the executive team.”

” I know I’ve got some junior people who are great and can take on more.  Some of them want to take on much bigger jobs and expect to make a lot more money.  I think they can get there eventually, but not as quickly as they expect.”

” I have less confidence in some of the managers reporting to me.  They have what was needed in the past, but I’m not sure they can deliver on what we need now.   How are we going to be able to turn this place around without undermining our delivery?  The CEO is expecting to see us operating differently.  He doesn’t have a lot a patience.  We need to become what we’ve said we’d become.”

Underlying all these questions is her concern for her own job and her reputation.  She had competition from others both inside and outside the organization.  If she didn’t move fast and delight her internal clients, they would find someone else who could.

Over the course of the next few months, we put the pieces in place.  We defined new jobs, reorganized teams, hired new talent to fill in the gaps, defined priorities and communicated them, set up new coordinating forums, defined operational procedures and  clarified who was going to do what and when.  Through it all, we listened – to the staff, to counterparts across the corporation, and to clients.  It was the listening that helped to smooth the way.

This had been a function that, in the past, dictated what each business needed to commucate.  It served up what it thought was most important and, with the support of the CEO at the time, demanded compliance.  This approach wasn’t going to work going forward.  Of course, there were a few key messages that needed to be consistently delivered and, in some cases, the function would need to be directive.  But for most things, the success of  this worldwide communicatims team going forward was much more dependent on listening and responding to its constituents.

So, we set up various avenues for listening – through forums, one-on-one meetings, and polls.  And as they listened, and showed they’d heard, they gained the trust of others and the credibility and perceived value of the function grew. 

The functions staff members grew more engaged and motivated.  They felt they were part of a world-class organization.  They felt they were learning, and growing, and had impact. What had been a negative cycle of blame and second-guessing, had transformed into a virtuous cycle of appreciation and excellence.  With clear direction, honest feedback, and the unquestioned  intention and accountability for change, real transformation is possible.

On Building Resilience

Posted in Change,Resilience by greensilkmuse on April 8, 2010

I’ve been thinking about resilience a lot lately.  Significant changes and set backs are a part of life so, like most people, there are times when you feel like this:

 

I’ve been involved in a lot of organizational change and I can remember, 10 years ago, my clients, who were completely changing their business model – again — , saying: “We need to help our people be more resilient.”   It was, after all, a technology organization.  If there is any place where rapid and continuous change is ongoing it is in that arena.  They were looking for something like this:

 

The answer back then was to educate people on the change process.  We used concepts like “the change curve” and “Bridges transitions model” to describe what people typically experience.  We had folks take the Change Style Indicator self-assessment to learn more about their personal reactions to change. 

We helped people understand that each person’s reactions are not necessarily the same for all changes – that different kinds of changes impact people differently – and that even those circumstances can vary over time.  For example, when I was in my twenties I would be thrilled to travel or to move to another city or country.  Ten years later I had a family and decisions to travel or move were much more complicated – impacting more than me alone.  My reaction to that kind of change at that time would have been vastly different.

We tried to help leaders understand that how they launch and manage change is critical to how well their teams adjust.  You can’t just focus on making your folks more resilient; but rather, you need to take responsibility for the way you communicate and implement the changes affecting them.  So often, business and organization changes have been discussed by management teams for quite some time and when they are ready to implement the “new” way, they want to move fast.  They forget that they’ve had time to develop and adapt to the changes ahead; their people have not.  Their people need some time to come to grips with what the changes mean for them as individuals.

That’s not to say that you can’t or shouldn’t build resilience.  After all, not all changes are made as a result of careful planning.  The latest recession has brought about numerous changes that no one planned.  One of the top concerns for HR execs this past year has been how to keep people focused and engaged in tough times…how to help people be productive despite huge set-backs.

 I’ve come across a few people who have been doing work in the field for years.  They have conducted research to understand the factors that help to build resilience and enhance performance during tough times.  They’ve created assessment tools that help you understand your own resilience profile and have developed workshops to teach people various techniques they can use to be more resilient.  It seems to come down to understanding which attributes to tap depending on the change. Sometimes the ones that are our strengths, that are more natural for us, are most effective.  In those cases, we manage the change with little disruption to our mental, physical, and emotional well-being.  Where we may get stuck is when an attribute that is less developed in us is called upon.  In those cases, we can learn techniques to better deliver on those attributes.  So, to be resilient takes balance – an ability to flexibly call on any and all resiliency attributes, as needed.

When I think of resilience, I think of this:

 

Bamboo trees – firmly rooted to the earth and flexible enough to sway in any direction the wind takes them.

If you’d like to learn more about resources for resiliency assessments and techniques, send me an e-mail at dseidman@greensilkassociates.com and I’d be happy to tell you more.

Empathic Connections

Posted in Discovery by greensilkmuse on March 26, 2010

People hire people.  They want to work with people they like and trust.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have forged really good working relationships with colleagues and clients.  They’ve been formed over time, as we’ve gotten to know each other on a personal level. 

So much of my work is conceptual and analytical that it is easy to focus on the business problem to solve, the results to achieve, the approach to take and miss out on connecting at a deeper level.  Whether running a meeting, delivering a workshop or facilitating a discussion, I want to be sure that commitments are kept… we accomplish what we set out to do and we keep within the allotted time constraints.   As important and valuable to those involved as this is, it is equally important to be mindful of and responsive to what people in each situation bring into the room with them.  The success of each interaction often depends on being attuned to the needs of others — beyond the matter at hand. 

The sooner someone feels they know you and are comfortable with you – the sooner you build trust and reduce the perceived risk of involving you in their lives – professional and personal.   It takes practice balancing the professional/business-focus with the personal/emotional awareness.  Improv and other theater techniques are one way of exercising these muscles.  Exploring the various roles we play and how we connect with others, depending on our mental models of those roles, helps bring awareness to how we show up.  We can practice really listening and being present.

I’ve been exploring a variety of ways to build connection – with individuals as well as with groups.  My latest foray into this side of my development involved a weekend conference in group psychotherapy. 

This experiential learning is not for everyone.  It was very intense and exhausting.  However, it produced some deep learning.   It takes a fair amount of courage to be the only non-therapist in a program of this nature.  If you can get past the unfamiliar terminology and the fact that your work, unlike that of other participants, is not to heal the emotionally wounded, you may come away with some impressive learning.  For me, it brought an appreciation for my own emotional attunement to others, the degree to which people operate more from the heart or through the head, and how to communicate in a way to put people at ease so that they let you in.

One experience, in particular, could only have happened in such a setting.   During a small group discussion, two women were talking to each other about what they needed and wanted from each other while the rest of us looked on.  As our eyes moved back and forth between the two of them (like watching a tennis match), I made eye contact a couple of times with a woman sitting directly across from me.  Each time our eyes met, I felt something in my gut – a tightening of sorts.  There was nothing in her demeanor to indicate that anything was going on for her other than that she was listening attentively to the discussion.  When they finished, she told one of the women that she had become angered by what she’d heard.  Apparently, she was really furious.  There was nothing about her body language or facial expression that even hinted at this.  I realized, at that moment, that it was coming through each time we made eye contact.   Now THAT is empathy.

In this sort of rarified setting – quiet, unstructured, without distraction – you can be really present and connect empathically with others.  How do you transition from the lab to life?  Each day brings with it lots to think about and to do.  We jump from one thing to the next, ticking off items on our “to do” list and adding more on.  Really connecting takes being present.  Bringing that presence to our daily interactions with others means slowing down just a bit, taking a moment to set aside the agenda, listening, feeling, and responding authentically to what is happening now.

Leadership Lessons I

Posted in Leadership by greensilkmuse on March 19, 2010

I had just come through the merger of JPMorgan and Chase.  I took the opportunity to change roles so that I could focus on organization development.  I knew that, in the longer term, I wanted to go back into consulting, and I was working on gaining experience and skills in this discipline. I didn’t take a leadership role at work.  Instead, I gained that experience in the community.

I was on the executive boad of the parents association at my daughter’s school at the time.  We learned that the school was to go through a merger, as well– with a sister school located in another building.  I figured that I could leverage my recent corporate merger experience to merge the parents’ associations of the two schools, and took on the job of co-president of the newly formed parents’ association.

We came together to create  the new entity – using the best of what each association had been doing for its’ parent body.  We got the ball rolling on setting up a new 501c3 and put together a calendar of community-building events and fundraisers.   Things seemed to going smoothly, until the 3rd day of school – September 11, 2001.

I was already at work when the planes slammed into the World Trade Towers.  Our nanny took the kids to school, which is located 7 blocks north of Ground Zero.   As everyone gathered in the yard preparing to enter the school building, they noticed an airplane overhead that seemed to be flying low.  The children were entering the school building when the first plane struck the towers.  When my sitter realized something terrible had happened, she quickly grabbed my kids, headed north, and commandeered a taxi to get them home to safety.

Those who remained at school were evacuated later that morning.  They were lined up on the street and heading north to congregate at another school building when the first Tower crashed.  We were very fortunate.  Everyone made it to safety.  None of our families suffered losses in the attack.   However, each and every person was touched in some way by the enormity of what had transpired — emotions ran the gammut and some were traumatized from the experience.

A few days after the attack, parents, children, and teacher came together in a school building in another part of town.  We learned that the school would operate temporarily from this new site – in available classrooms scattered about several floors.  We also learned that plans were being made for our return to the original school buildin, as soon as possible.

At that moment, my understanding of my leadership role shifted.  A parent approached me to say that the parents’ association leadship needed to be the voice of the parents and advocate for them – so that we could be active participants in the decisions being taken about the school and or children.  Many parents had concerns about the future plans, and we needed to provide a forum for them to air their views and discuss the issues.  This was nothing like the kind of interactions we’d had as parents before.  But then this was an entirely unprecedented situation.

I hadn’t thought that I had a lot to learn about leadership.  I had experience leading projects and teams.  This required a completely different kind of leadership.  It started with listening.

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