Leadership development as facilitation
A leader is one who coordinates without telling people what to do.
Good facilitators are gracious, kind and helpful in some of the smallest problems; but frustrating if you’re looking for hard and fast answers to complex questions. We had trouble finding Vaughn Grisham’s office in Oxford, Mississippi, on a warm spring day in March. He cheerfully went out in the street, found us, and led us back to his space between stacks of books, exams and papers. When we began tackling our larger task of understanding facilitation and organizing, another aspect of his graciousness emerged.
Like every successful facilitator, Vaughn contends there are no hard and fast plans on how to do community development. Vaughn directs the McLean Institute from this office at the University of Mississippi. He travels the country facilitating community and leadership development. Originally the mission of the McLean Institute was written to address the needs of a 15 county area in northern Mississippi.
The Institute’s primary focus in leadership development. It’s primary method is a leadership worshop held every year. Every year they accept up to thirty students from about 600 applicants from the 15 counties.
Training: Set up Leadership development program. Most counties have never been organized (or have lost their leadership). So the institute helps with this – and make it as flexible and keep to less-significant structure, such as an ad hoc steering committee. Training leaders to be mentors and train others. It is important that people see themselves as part of a process building community, but also of a chain reaction that will spread to other communities nearby or that people are in communication with.
Leadership development workshop. Whole class works on a project that has been not been identified before the class begins. The broad outline is defined. However, phase 1 of the regional project had been lack of adequate transportation (more 4-lane roads), and phase 2 was improving education. Both phases have been extremely successful. None of the schools were at highest level of achievement on state tests, and now 12 are. All of Vaughn’s efforts began with learning from a great mentor: George McLean.
George McLean began working on facilitating community development for economic development since 1949 and was a reader of Alinsky. McLean studied sociology at the University of Chicago and Ph.D at Stanford. He had poor social skills (a little too arrogant), but a great understanding of economics. He looked around the Tupelo region and decided that the biggest bang for the buck would be helping farmers be more efficient and effective and profitable. He convinced local businessmen to support the project because they would benefit from increased sales if farmers had more money. The specific project he began was introducing total quality management to dairy farms in region. Recruited best experts from outside region. Farmers began increasing quality and quantity of milk and getting more money. Model farms were developed all over the region. Towns and cities built on the rural-urban partnerships. Partner with everyone finding their self-interest to be involved. One of next projects taught 150,000 people to read in a decade. p>Because of these successes, TVA made Tupelo their first TVA city, because they knew investments in Tupelo would be successful and would be the lowest-risk city to work with initially, and thus a good bet for a model city for other towns and to promote the program.
Community development is the basis of economic development. Can not have economic development without it. It can work in communities everywhere. Really more effective when 50,000 people, but most are 10,000 – and the community may be a whole county. Community development precedes economic development and requires the participation of all sectors; school, transportation, business, etc.
A key lesson from McLean: Community building needs a local person. I am a technical assistant. What does it get to have attitudes to change? Strengthen existing companies. I have lots of contacts with lots of agencies. On “cutting-edge,” don’t get hopes up for technical. What is it? Leadership development program. Very important that there’s lots of people doing what I do. And that they are trustworthy. And discover the questions to ask. We have a good partner in the Kettering Foundation who has supported the work of the institute.
The good facilitators are very intelligent, relate to people well (can get a group of people to take two days off to meet). Extremely trustworthy.
“Make them better”. Need communication skills, specific organizing skills (put groups together and get funding for them.). Always looking to widen your circle, bring more people in and allow people to work in subgroups. Very important that people put their own word and stuff in. County has really improved income and need the person: tons of energy, motivated and dedicated and creative. D on’t need creativity in everyone, but that everyone has skills that can be utilized for the benefit of everyone. Perhaps they can communicate to a group of people that doesn’t trust anyone else. Perhaps they are great motivators. Perhaps they are great at record-keeping and organization and running events. “Everyone has their own intelligence.”
All you’ve got is a human resource. Take energy and put it into programs.
But somehow you have to get people moving. It’s almost a matter of physics: people at rest will remain at rest.
Took a fellow around with me, Reverend Joe Henson, a black police officer who was from MS, but had spent a number of years in Chicago. He returned to MS. Grisham noted that Henson did “great at getting people involved in the ‘impossible.”
He’s a good example of what you can’t train: What do we want? A nicer church. You have a leader that takes initiative and goes out and works with an architect. He gets an estimate for what it will cost in materials and labor, then presents this to the church. He says to them that if we do all the labor, it will cost 75K. The church finds that they have just that and then he goes to the bank and says he will personally cover the amount needed above 75K. This church went on to build their new structure and ended up building a community center and other social structures.
You’ve got to have fire in your belly. Then comes the question: How to unify groups?
Alinski is a fine beginning and we used him during the civil rights work. It was a powerful tool to raise awareness, which is what we needed to do at that time. However, now it is not so effective and needs to be adapted/redefined so that there is no fighting. As a matter of fact, it’s about making friends. That old approach got change started, but it is showing its limitations. Looking at self-help partnerships and technical assistance. I need even “low-IQ” people. I need their skills. The people with the worst people skills are psychologists and sociologists. What is social intelligence – need people kills or natural-born salesman. “I’m not sure it’s not “natural born”. Team-building – knowing who needs to be on board. Going through successes of others (to inspire?). I learn from them and we share it with others. Give them their money – their self-interest.
Senge with economic development groups is systems-thinking, get-away from cause and effect. Leading to trouble identifying it as different from linear-thinking. Pull out what they’re doing already. Much of it is already there – unless makes sense to them, then they can’t work with it and move it forward. It won’t go anywhere.
Servant Leadership and Leadership Jazz.
You’re not the boss anymore. What is different between boss and leader?
Leader is one who coordinates without telling people what to do. They keep a group moving in the right direction and guide them toward the vision. The need people to follow them, they are the guy that goes first. Followers follow for its in their own self-interest. Thrust into leadership direction versus creating a following. Unless the movement is tied together, then it dies with the leader. Involves vision at different stages.
You oughta be doing this, but I don’t have the skills – “play within yourself” – a baseball phrase. Would like to know more and increase and improve skills, but when working within a group, you can pull in those skills and abilities.
The groups that Grisham works with need to make a commitment of three years and during those years he will meet with them several times a year as they have need and money. Usually called in when community is really in crisis, such as when major industry has closed or left and jobs are lost. Such as Conway County and Morilton, AR.
Working with Aroosta County in Maine – they are doing well, and Grisham has been borrowing from Minnesota. It goes slow – people get frustrated.
The Delta mentality is illustrated by a story told by one of his friends from the Delta: Dad wanted to be the only Cadillac at the stoplight. So he wanted the money and access to the Cadillac, while denying and keeping others from achieving the funds and the access to a Cadillac. Self-interest dictates that everyone should have a Cadillac at the stoplight.
Diversity is a concept with a long, complicated history in the Delta. Developing any sense of trust in Delta is the first step. Mississippi State had a project to develop leadership in the Delta. They chose 151 bright, white persons, and Mike Espy (who later became Secretary of Agriculture in the Clinton Administration). These folks all attend each others events. This upper crust leadership is strong in the Delta Council. Lots of clout with feds employees and fed and state legislators. Well-educated, although not necessarily rich. They are well-connected and very intelligent, but keep to themselves and rarely socialize outside of this circle. They have no connection to the community.
Black communities are very similarly structured. Pockets of political clout. Don’t really know people in other communities – a much smaller circle.
In both circles: suspicion of outsiders – particularly those outside the Bible belt/Mid-south Delta. Strong and long history of paternalism. Lots of good ideas, but don’t know anyone else and never get anyone outside their group together to have a discussion. Similar to a ghetto mentality. Couldn’t get groups together across socio-economic lines. Need to train people outside of the Delta and help them get back to the Delta. But this means you really have to know the Delta. And you have to have a strong enough economic basis to attract people back and to hold them there (the ones that returning from being “abroad”). Quality of Life is the key.
Grisham plans to write down his approach in a leadership manual. He has proposed a national project that does community assessment before a leadership program is established, and in this way start to identify the changes and be able to understand how things happen in a community, how change happens.