Developing the Potential of Women through Experiential Training

Contributed by JLM Past President (2013-2014) Stephanie Simpson

As a past president of the Junior League of Memphis (JLM), I have had several opportunities to discuss why I joined the JLM, and I usually share that I was attracted to the third prong of our mission – to improve the community.  I wanted to serve Memphis, and I knew the JLM’s reputation for making a positive impact in our city.   I had no idea of the impact that the JLM would have on me, both personally and professionally.

My JLM involvement prepared me for both volunteer and professional leadership roles. This training was not just the formal lecture-type events (although these are valuable) – it was through the experiences I had in my placements, specifically when in leadership.  During my early years, I was not even aware of the development that was occurring, but later in my JLM career I realized the growth and the benefits that I had accumulated through my time with the organization.

Since my year as President in 2013-2014, I have had new volunteer and professional positions. My participation in other organizations has reminded me of how valuable my JLM training is.  Here are a just a few simple yet very important lessons I learned through my JLM positions:

–  Plan ahead. Whether preparing for a presentation or for a personal activity, I’ve learned to do as much as I can in advance. You never know what can happen at the last minute, so starting early can help avoid a “crisis.”

–  Lead meaningful meetings. People are incredibly busy and want their time spent at meetings to be purposeful. Have an agenda, send it out in advance, and stick to the allotted time for the meeting (and start as close to time as possible). If an email or conference call is effective, consider these alternatives before requiring an in-person meeting (but remember that some topics and discussions are best in-person).

–  Evaluate – again and again. Whether an on-going fundraiser or a special project, an evaluation process is essential for continued success. It’s critical to determine what works well and what needs improvement.

–  Respect and value other opinions. I certainly don’t know everything, and I have learned that it’s essential to seek input from others. They may see a topic from a completely different perspective and help identify areas of opportunity. Collaboration with others is critical to reach the best possible outcome.

–  Prepare your successor/train your team. Think about what you wish someone had told you when you first started a position and make sure you share these ideas with your replacement. If you have a temporary volunteer position, take notes throughout the year instead of waiting until the end of your term to remember all you want to share. Remember to communicate expectations with your team and ensure that they have the necessary resources.

In addition to these lessons, I encountered countless situations that taught me how to interact with others, which has made me a better leader.

As I mentioned previously, the JLM did not just give me what I was looking for – a way to serve – it has given me so much more by developing my potential and providing me with a network of incredible women who continue to enrich my life!

Stephanie Blog Post collage