Leadership Retreat

by Helen Cowan '14

This spring marked the first time that the Glee Club and Chorus came together for a joint Leadership Retreat aimed to explain the ins and outs of our organizations to incoming officers, as well as to inspire participation in our current general members. When I signed up for the retreat, I was expecting to be in the latter category; I had been an enthusiastic member of the Chorus for six semesters, but I’d never found a niche in the administrative side of things. I was hoping to find a place for myself through the retreat. Also, one of my apartment-mates is the Glee Club General Manager, so I was feeling a bit guilty about my lack of official involvement. By the time the retreat rolled around, however, I had finally found a way to channel my enthusiasm as one of the two incoming Historians. With my new sense of responsibility and goals as Historian in mind, I filled out a questionnaire sent by Chorus alumna Anne Jones ‘04, got up early on Saturday, March 9, and settled into Lincoln B21 with a bagel and coffee. After a round of introductions from the fifty or so current members, ten alumni and incoming Director Robert Isaacs, we got started.

The first two presentations of the day were overviews of our organizations presented by Glee Club alumni; Organizational Management was presented by Brad Korch ‘99 and John Nicolls ’72, and Endowment and Budgeting was presented by Dileep Srihari ’00. Along with the intended subject matter, I learned three things: the Chorus is a far more complicated organization than I thought, women are apparently better at sustaining co-positions than men, and it would be really nice to see a Chorus alumna give some input to a presentation that was originally put together for an exclusively Glee Club leadership retreat (though valiant efforts to include the Chorus were made).

After lunch, we moved on to a panel discussion about alumni relations given by Betsy Erickson '80, Jessica Briggs '12, and Corey Earle '07, which segued nicely into another panel on fund raising given by Earle, Kathy Trogolo '95, Jon Ivers '00, and Deirdre Courtney-Batson '72. From there, we broke off into groups to brainstorm methods for keeping alumni and friends of the Chorus and Glee Club interested and evolved in long term projects, such as the Chorus’s Endowment Drive. Ideas ranged from collecting a small amount from graduating seniors in order to kick-start the habit of giving, to reaching out to more general supporters of the arts or women’s interest groups.

Anne Jones wrapped up Saturday’s session with a presentation on understanding leadership. After watching a group of five people, with both Chorus and Glee Club current members and alumni, make their way over a “lava pit” using fireproof buckets and plywood, we finally got to see the results from the pre-retreat surveys that we filled out. As it turns out, the five volunteers were all representatives of five modes of leadership as determined by their survey answers. The Competitors and Collaborators were highest on the scale of assertiveness, while the Avoiders and Accommodators were the lowest. On the other axis, Collaborators and Accommodators were the highest on the cooperativeness scale, while Avoiders and Competitors were the lowest. Compromiser, which was the group that I was sorted into, is smack-dab in the middle. With a warning that the names of the categories should not assigned value judgments, we split off into our groups and discussed the advantages and disadvantages of our conflict mode. As an interesting side note, three out of four of the incoming/outgoing presidents landed in the Competitor group. It was, all in all, an amusing way to end the first day of the retreat.

Saturday evening, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at The Terrace Restaurant filled with great food, conversation, and singing. On Sunday morning, we arrived back in Lincoln to split into our respective organizations and solidify a five-year plan to move forward with input from Director Isaacs. While plans are still a little tentative now, I can say with certainty that the Chorus will move in an exciting direction in the next five years. It’s my goal as Co-Historian to embody the advice of Brad Korch, “through knowledge transfer, strive to maintain continuity.” The leadership retreat left me ready to take on the responsibility of my position and to help the Chorus grow towards its future.