Project type: Other
In the summer of 2015, ReForest London applied for funding from TD Friends of the Environment Foundation to improve one of our staff member’s leadership skills. This is Skylar’s story on her experience.
I started at ReForest London in November of 2014. One of the things I loved most was the emphasis for staff to seek out professional development opportunities. Whenever there was a relevant conference or Pillar workshop, I was encouraged to attend and develop my skills in areas such as engagement organizing, volunteer management, communications, storytelling and fund development.
When the opportunity arose for ReForest London to apply for the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation’s Leadership Grant, I jumped at the chance to design my own leadership education. I was able to spend up to $5,000 on whatever I thought would improve my leadership abilities.
In my roles at ReForest London, I’ve focused a lot of my time on volunteer management, event planning, outreach and public speaking. I decided to hone in on improving these areas. I chose to learn more about conflict resolution (because conflict terrifies me), improving my communication skills and learning more about my leadership style and how to build on my weak areas.
I decided on a mix of in class learning through Western Continuing Studies and one-on-one coaching with Chris Moss. This allowed me to learn best practices and theory in class while being able to focus on my personal leadership goals with a coach.
My studies at Western were very interesting and I loved working in groups and learning from other people’s perspectives. I have an entire book of resources from my classes that I turn to when thinking about how to actively listen or resolve conflict. I also enjoyed meeting other professionals from different sectors – since I spend so much of my time with other non-profit workers, I rarely hear about struggles and success stories from public administration or business industries.
The coaching with Chris Moss helped me identify my leadership styles. I learned I was an ENFJ, preferring to address conflict with an Expressive or Amiable style. In addition, I found out my Strengths were Communication, Input, Learner, Woo and Activator. Chris’ mentorship helped me identify where I excelled or what styles I felt comfortable with. I have a better understanding of my strengths and how to use them, and what areas I can improve on.
Chris also assisted in developing my skills at conflict resolution and making space for other people. As much as I love to communicate, I dislike upsetting people and therefore avoid confrontations. Chris taught me different strategies to handle disputes, and now I feel like conflict (although scary) is worth addressing and usually manageable.
I’ve been able to apply a lot of what I’ve learned directly in my day to day work at ReForest London. A lot of the concepts relate well to volunteer management, and I’m getting better at actively listening and managing people in a way that they enjoy. I’m more aware of how to develop individual staff and volunteers. Lastly, I’m now more comfortable addressing conflict and giving constructive feedback.
I’m extremely grateful to TD Friends of the Environment Foundation for giving me the opportunity to improve my leadership skills. I believe it is important for environmental agencies to have strong leaders given the incredibly important role they play. What we do today will impact generations of Canadians, and by becoming more effective leaders, we can create a more sustainable future.