LUMBERTON — Last year, when Ricky Harris, interim county manager, decided which county employees could benefit from leadership training to increase efficiency of county government, he didn’t have to look far to find someone with longtime experience in staff development training.
Cathy L. Graham, County Extension director of North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, has more than 28 years of experience conducting staff development and leadership training. After a successful first Robeson Leadership Academy in the fall of 2011, a second academy was conducted.
The spring Robeson Leadership Academy had 40 county employees participating.
“The Leadership Academy is a tremendous personal and professional development program,” Harris said. “County employees note the effectiveness of the training and Cathy’s excellent facilitation skills. The academy is conducted in-house at a minimum cost.”
The purpose of the Robeson Leadership Academy, according to Graham, is to encourage personal and professional development; self-discovery through human patterns; strengthen organizational leadership through personal leadership; and the connection of employees through team building, personal responsibility, effective communication, and community service. Participants are also expected to have fun, fellowship, and create a sense of community among county departments.
Graham said “the key to being an effective leader is first to understand one’s self. Understanding others and effective communication are also strong attributes needed by a supervisor. A good leader is one who knows their strengths and understands their areas for growth.”
During the graduation and celebration luncheon, a number of academy participants said that the five-session course, which even included instruction through music and dance, increased their knowledge of themselves and others. Many said that what they learned would make them more effective leaders and better workers.
“I am a better director and understand how my values and those of my employees are not always the same,” said Ron Oxendine, director of Robeson County Housing Authority. “I’ve learned a deeper appreciation for differences among my staff and will use that knowledge to improve my department.”
He said that he enjoyed the academy, because it brought together county employees of all levels. He also said that the training made him understand how a good leader and worker needs to be able to adjust to changes in the work environment.
During the graduation celebration, Niakeya Jones, Yulonda McLean, and Tony Miller introduced Brice Altman, a county employee who has faced many health issues. The academy participants “adopted” Altman and his family as a community service project.
For information about Leadership Academies, contact Cathy Graham, Cooperative Extension, at 910-671-3276, by email at Cathy_Graham@ncsu.edu, or visit the website at http://robeson.ces.ncsu.edu/.