By Lorrie DeFrank
By collaborating with Davis College of Business (DCOB) at Jacksonville University, the Jacksonville Women’s Business Center (JWBC) significantly enhanced the services it provides to women leaders in Northeast Florida.
Jointly presented, Leadership Matters highlights accountability, mentoring and personal development skills for women business owners and other women aspiring to become more effective leaders. Participants attend seven workshops facilitated by DCOB faculty. Each are assigned a mentor to assist with specific developmental needs.
Participants of the recent inaugural class concur that the experience greatly boosted their self-confidence and helped them gain the knowledge, skills and ability necessary for success in their individual endeavors. The second program will begin Feb. 11 and conclude in May.
Though not a degree program, the course provides the tools and learning experience on par with JU’s commitment to excellence, said Pat Blanchard, JWBC director and a participant of the first class.
“Leadership Matters is not designed for just anybody who wants to move up the corporate ladder,” said Blanchard, explaining the competitive selection process that targets women who demonstrate existing management responsibilities and desire personal advancement or company growth.
Lead curriculum developer Matrecia S.L. James, Ph.D., JU associate dean and associate professor of management, called the collaboration powerful because both the JWBC and DCOB recognized a local void in leadership training and business development for women. “This is an opportunity for women leaders in our community to network with each other and, most importantly, to learn and refine skills that will set them apart from competitors.”
Traditional training focuses on functional skills like marketing and finance that help people succeed in their specific areas or departments. Leadership Matters also spotlights interpersonal skills that connect and convey goals, such as ethical leadership, political savvy and team building. According to James, those soft skills get leaders noticed across a whole corporation. “It’s those intangible things that make a difference, sometimes for career advancement and other times to identify personal areas women can enhance to make them overall better leaders.”
She stressed that although it’s called a women’s leadership program, the skills are useful for anyone. Workshops are in a closed group because they provide a supportive environment for women.
Experienced mentors—who include community leaders and past mentors of such JWBC programs as Financial Matters and Marketing Matters—also work with participants outside the workshops to help them prepare personal development plans. In turn, graduates will mentor MBA students at Davis College of Business.
“I’ve taken a lot of leadership classes. This one was more hands on and more business oriented to practical solutions,” said Kathy Fleming, executive director, St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum. “It’s terrific. Women who need to build relationships and communication skills, and influence others, can benefit from this.”
Fleming’s mentor commended DCOB and JWBC for coming together to provide this valuable service, which she said benefits mentors as much as participants. “I could understand what Kathy was going through in all her situations—make budget, provide services, stay on mission and deal with employees,” said Laine Silverfield, retired chairman of Dreams Come True. “I was able to make suggestions that perhaps she never even thought of. Any time you are around other people in business and can network, or be mentors or speakers, the more you learn and the better you do your job and make your organization.”
“I thought it was amazing,” agreed participant Kristen Jackson, vice president/commercial relationship manager at Hancock Bank, a sponsor of Leadership Matters. “It’s very difficult to take the time to do something for your own development, especially for women. This makes you escape from your day and focus on things to help you and your career.”
Her biggest takeaway was the importance of having a mentor and a plan, said Jackson, who has recommended the program to other women.
Sandi White was flattered when one of the owners of DGG Taser, Inc., where she works as law enforcement sales manager, invited her to apply for Leadership Matters. “Most of us were top level management in our businesses. It was a great way to help guide us all and point us in the right direction,” she said. “The networking has been phenomenal.”
White said the program is a great opportunity for women to grow their businesses or themselves, adding that JWBC and DCOB “worked hand in hand as a great team, with both right there to answer questions.”
John Williams, White’s mentor, said women entrepreneurs couldn’t find a better forum because of the excellent collaboration.
“I see a trend of those entrepreneurs who build a business rather than just hold a job. That’s what these women are looking to do. They have that vision,” said Williams, founder of Coffee Shop Consulting who formerly had an accounting firm and tends to look at things from a financial standpoint.
Of Leadership Matters, Williams said that “JWBC has realized that it takes a separate group to grow the next generation of entrepreneurs.”
The next Leadership Matters session starts Feb. 11 and will conclude in May. Click here to download the application, or for more information, contact Pat Blanchard, director, Jacksonville Women’s Business Center, (904) 366-6640, or Pat.Blanchard@myjaxchamber.com.