Monthly Archives: July 2015

Reflections from Emerging Leaders Academy Graduate: Shawn Kirkwood

Good afternoon. Friends, colleagues, Kansas University PMC staff members and instructors, and most importantly, my fellow distinguished ELA 2015 graduates. It’s truly an honor to speak on behalf of the Overland Park, Emerging Leader’s constituency.

My experience with ELA this year has been awesome. From the first day of class on March 4th, I could sense that this learning experience would be different than any I had been involved in.  How did I know you might ask?  Well, for those of us in Overland Park, you might remember, the impromptu blizzard that greeted us that none of our local news stations predicted.  In my opinion, that was a sure-fire indicator that this learning experience would be an interesting ride. And an interesting, engaging, empowering experience it has been.

I don’t think I would be out of place in stating that if the Overland Park ELA participants represent the prosperity or demise of the public sector, the future of our respective governmental agencies couldn’t be brighter.

Before I move on, I would like for us to all to take the time to acknowledge and give a big round of applause to our fearless, empowering, thought-provoking, Linked-In invitation accepting, red headed, left-handed, encouragement guru, the Emerging Leaders Academy Director, Noel Rasor.  Noel has kept our classes interesting by pushing us to not only think or re-think about our current roles in government, but via the various sessions and interactive activities, like “Generations in the Workplace” and Laura Howard’s session “The Future of the Public Sector” we have been equipped with tools that allowed us to take a glimpse into our upcoming roles as government leaders, and innovators.

Personally, I enjoyed the sessions that made us explore ourselves as individuals and then took us below the surface in defining who, why and what we are in our roles as public servants. Two of our TED talks were quite impactful. First, Karen Tilstra’s, Yes, And, taught me that every ideal, good or bad idea deserves at least 1 minute of our time.  And Benjamin Zanders, “Shining Eyes” not only taught me how to listen to classical music but it cemented in me that most every ideal or request we receive as public officials is of the upmost importance to the person making the suggestion.

Ms. Terri Callahan’s session, “The Power of Attitude” had a tremendous impact on me, as she empowered us to check our personal attitudes at the door, remembering that as public servants, we should always display servanthood in what we do.  I want to thank our speed mentors, who took the time out of their busy lives to share with us.  Marilu, Gordon, Crystal, Leslie, Dave, Scott, and Patty were awesome.  I got the chance to sit with 3 of them and in that brief time I took away a nugget of wisdom from each of them.  Patty, I now have the words, “Be Nice” posted on my computer at work.   Crystal made reference to a brilliant quote “Straight roads don’t always create the best drivers”, what I got from that is,  no matter how we got here, we are here,  and we can and must make a positive impact.  Mr. Gordon Criswell, I learned a lot in our 10 -20 minutes together, but the one thing I took away was something he probably wasn’t trying to teach.  When in a small group of people, if you talk in a very low, deliberate, controlled pitch, you sound very wise and your audience to lean in and listen.

I would be remise if I didn’t mention how much, I believe, we as a group learned from each other. As I mentioned before, our Overland Park group was great and contained many awesome individuals.  From, the great attitudes/positive energy displayed by folks such as Angelene, Vince, Mike and Heather, to the restroom break sidebar insightful discussions I had with Calvin.  I learned tons of things about the public sector that I otherwise wouldn’t have known. Joe made me realize the importance of GIS work , while Jessica, as meticulous, nice, neat and perfectly aligned as she kept her classroom materials, it’s only fitting that folks like her and Jaime are in the planning business.  My City of Kansas City departmental co-worker Chad forced me to see the value the millennial generation adds to the public sector.  If I’m ever involved in a plane crash in the Pacific Northwest and all I have is some matches, bubble gum and a can of Crisco grease, I want William by my side.   Diane, our future politician was always encouraging, and often times made me want to switch tables as she found and shared, (with her table only) the most delicious after lunch deserts known to man.  Good luck in all your future endeavors.  Beatriz Way the David to my Goliath, size wise, was a person who I found I had the most in common with. We both share a love for documentaries, more than a few Strength Finder characteristics, and a passion for wanting to help our nation’s children and elderly population. Last but not least, Ms. Jess Finely.  Early on in ELA, she shared with me that she will be married soon and plans to honeymoon in Jamaica, at a similar resort as I did when I was married. Jess, a few words of wisdom, similar to the  Las Vegas catch phrase, what happens in Jamaica…………..takes about 6 weeks to get out your system…… plan accordingly.

In closing, ELA has been a rewarding experience and I am thankful for the professional and personal relationships I have gained. Noel, if there is ever anything I can do to assist you in making sure future ELA participants are given the same opportunities,  please don’t hesitate to call.

Thank you.

Reflections from Emerging Leaders Academy Graduate: Brittany Keegan

Brittany Keegan ELA Graduate 2015 Curator/Collections Manager Watkins Museum of History

Brittany Keegan
ELA Graduate 2015
Curator/Collections Manager
Watkins Museum of History

The Emerging Leadership Academy can be summed up for me in two words: strengths and collaboration.

We learned that to be successful we should focus on the skills that challenge and engage us. That, I think, is the key to the ELA’s success: we learned to develop strengths we already have. In doing so we learned about the strengths and skills of the people around us. This was never clearer to me than in the discussion of our Strengths Finder test. The importance of the assessment was not that it pinpointed our motivating factors, but that we saw how those factors have played out in our past achievements.

Learning my own motivational drives fostered a curiosity about the people in my life: what drives them? What different skills do we each bring to the table? In short, I became conscious of what steps to take to create positive partnerships and leadership.

In ELA, collaboration is the cornerstone for success. Many of us work for organizations that rely on outside partnerships. Working in the public sector means that many projects cannot be achieved without partnerships. Meanwhile, our daily work is a series of collaborations with co-workers, employers, and clients to succeed in a shared goal.

The discussion of collaboration was my favorite class moment. To learn about collaboration, we were divided into groups based on similar collaboration styles and asked to decide how we would survive a very specific disaster scenario. We engaged the problem as a group, we had fun, and we found a solution we all were happy with. It served to remind me that we are rarely the only person responsible for our projects or achievements. Sharing the work with equally motivated people creates a better work environment.

In the same class we learned that people will more than likely sit in a building that may be on fire just because others refuse to leave the building. While it seems ridiculous, learning that was an important reminder that we collaborate best when we bring our individual thoughts and experiences to the table. It is tempting at times to just agree with the group, but collaborations succeed when we each engage at our highest levels. But seriously, if you’re in a room that suddenly fills with smoke: just leave no matter what other people are doing.

I look forward to whatever collaborations come from within this group. Everyone involved in ELA has great minds, great senses of humor, and, as the portfolio presentations proved, great accomplishments. Knowing each other, Noel, and the ELA’s guest speakers, I’m sure these collaborations will create long-lasting positive impacts on our communities.

Emerging Leaders Academy Graduation Speech: Mike Rounds

Celebrate: congratulate – give yourself a hand, you deserve it.

Honor: Thank you for having me today – I have heard a lot about the Emerging Leaders Academy and it is an honor to be able to share in your graduation ceremony today. One of my team mates in the KU HR Department is a graduate of ELA and I asked her what advice she had to prepare for my discussion with you today. As I expected, she provided some terrific suggestions. First she emphasized to be mindful of the diversity of the participants who come from a broad range of organizations across the greater Kansas City area (and not just KU). When I was reviewing the list of graduates, I was very impressed by the number of organizations represented and I am confident that the opportunity to share insights on the culture and strengths of each of your organizations has been an important part of your program. The network that you have established will also serve you well in the future.

She also recommended that I point out that, while attendance in ELA is an amazing opportunity, it is only one step in your personal and professional development responsibility that comes with a lifetime of public service. I have worked in the public sector for over 35 years and about 25% of that time I have been involved at some level in part or full time professional development. While all of us are extremely busy, I hope that you are already thinking about what you need to do next to continue to grow. One thing that is certain, and something I am sure that you have discussed during the program, is change – as the world has changed around me, I have felt compelled to evolve with it. I have been fortunate that I have always worked for organizations and leaders who place a high value on professional development and, the fact that you are here, is evidence that your organizations do as well.

Most important, Traci thought it would be useful to share a couple thoughts on leadership with you. I have spent my adult life studying and practicing leadership. Before I share my thoughts on leadership principles, I have come to 2 conclusions. First, while leadership principles are generally relatively straight forward, the practice or implementation of those principles is the most complex activity most of us will ever be involved in. As I mentioned, our environment is always changing and we have to be agile enough to take the principles we believe in and shape them to the situation in front of us. Now that I am working in the HR sector, we joke sometimes that our jobs would be simple if they didn’t involve people – but committing to life in the public sector is all about serving people and the complexities that go with that service. Second, growing my own leadership skills has been a journey and not a destination. I am closer to the end of my professional life than the beginning, but even so, my current position has demanded that I continue to grow. In a University environment, a premium is placed on collaboration and I have had to adjust this new environment. By adjusting, I have grown to appreciate the power associated with productive collaboration even though it is a new environment for me.

Since I have been to quite a few graduations and my suspicion is that you would prefer that I stop talking sooner rather than later, the vignettes that I want to share with you are very brief, but they illustrate 3 things that are fundamental to my beliefs and serve as the foundation of my leadership style.

  1. Anne’s story: Never underestimate the abilities of others.
  2. West Point epiphany: The power of dignity and respect.
  3. The baseball coach: Doing what you have a passion for.

I recommend that each of you should have a few fundamentals that govern how you lead as these principles influence how I think. The fact that you take the time to understand what is most important to you enhances the probability that you will stick to these principles even under pressure. As I mentioned, I would expect that your fundamental leadership beliefs will continue to evolve.

-At this point, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out, on behalf of the graduates, that it is important to remember and thank those that have made this opportunity possible:




-I hope as you depart with your families today that you will get an early start on your 4th of July festivities – as I thought about it, it is an appropriate time for you to be concluding your program since it connects you directly back to the public servants who founded the nation. I suspect, however, that many of you will be serving your communities over the 4th so your great communities can celebrate safely.

Finally (really) I would like to conclude with some thoughts from Rudyard Kipling’s poem If. There are a couple of excerpts that I feel capture what it means to be a public servant and the selfless service that goes with it. Many years ago Kipling suggested:

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowances for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, but don’t deal in lies,

Or, being hated, but don’t give way to hating

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with kings and not lose the common touch;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.

Congratulations and I hope that each of you head back to your organizations confident that you are prepared for your next unforgiving minute – whatever it may be.