CIN Board Member Kenny Ashe is a philanthropist and social entrepreneur. His business leadership skills that he initially developed at his alma mater, Florida A&M University and ultimately sharpened in the corporate arena are making an impact in the nonprofit/philanthropic sector. Below he recounts his experiences and thoughts during CIN’s 6th Leadership Summit in Chapel Hill, NC.
This past weekend, Community Investment Network members descended upon The Triangle in North Carolina for our CIN 2013 Leadership Summit. The RDU Airport was busy with flights from across the nation. Although most of the attendees were local or regional, some summit participants who traveled by plane like I did from Philly or by train arrived as scheduled, while others were delayed as a result of being re‐routed due to inclement weather or missing connecting flights. We primarily convened our meetings in Chapel Hill.
Some of the CIN board members and attendees arrived the afternoon before the conference commenced and were treated to a brief tour of downtown Durham. Tobacco Road Sports Café, conveniently located between the Durham Bulls Athletic Park and the DPAC, was selected as a brief resting place to refresh from our travel, complete with flat screens and a large patio overlooking the ball park. The baseball field looked as if it were in HD green. It reminded me of the movie classic, Field of Dreams. It was a beautiful scene, especially as the sun began to set. We had great hospitality service from our servers, Lisa and Lauren, hopefully, whom we tipped well after having repeatedly replenished numerous dropped forks at our table.
Afterwards, we had a brief tour of the American Tobacco Campus downtown on Blackwell Street that included a Cuban restaurant, Duke’s Office of Information Technology, as well as the Triangle Community Foundation (TCF). The campus architectural design of the redeveloped property and buildings was awe‐inspiring. Moreover, during our Friday evening opening reception, we were pleased to meet and greet two Donor Engagement Officers and the President of TCF.
Since the only constant is change, by design, the weekend agenda for the Leadership Summit was crafted so that the board members would be the primary facilitators of the small group breakout sessions. Leadership is not only about providing direction, implementing plans, and motivating people, but also, a key component is listening. This past weekend, we as the board listened intently, took notes from our sessions, and then let those comments and expressions marinate for a while.
As a result of our being open to transparency in our sessions this weekend, one attendee felt comfortable in sharing a financial concern. They questioned why we should spend the inordinate amount of money to host this Leadership Summit weekend opportunity for our circle members? It was expressed that some folks felt that we should possibly use that money to distribute to the circles toward their grant gifts. I am grateful that we have evolved where a participant felt open enough to share a nagging concern that others have expressed.
WITH ALL DUE RESPECT, without this financial investment in our circle members this past weekend, there would have been a diminished opportunity for growth in a myriad of ways. A conference call, SKYPE, email, social media or text message is not always going to address the vital human element in disseminating information. Hence, we all were reminded this past weekend by a circle member during their PK presentation, let’s have fun – again – in our field of dreams. The Summit provided an opportunity as a leader to attempt to find some balance throughout the weekend to work hard and play hard. Those seemingly “downtimes” or open space periods were catalyst moments that helped spur creativity and innovation in our field of dreams. It was imperative that we as leaders gathered this weekend because the opportunity to adjust our paradigm and/or tactics in accomplishing our collective goals would not have been as focused without the feedback of each circle member in attendance. The awesome part is that every attendee contributed their input. This information will now be incorporated into the strategic planning as we journey beyond the mountaintop towards the CIN 2013 Conference hosted in Denver.
Most notably, I personally saw leaders (circle members) step up and provide guidance and comfort to a fellow member in the midst of tragedy while we were yet convening this weekend. That’s leadership folks. I learned years ago, that adversity doesn’t make or break you – it reveals you. I am so proud of those individuals and my level of respect for how those involved handled the adversity is immeasurable. Consequently, that is why our investment in our leaders this weekend is so vital, because we get an opportunity to share our time, talent and treasure. Yes, practical application in its purest form; so that when each leader returns home, they can communicate what was experienced, seen, heard, and learned with their prospective circles, colleagues, friends and family.
Thus, I would like to give kudos to the phenomenal women (Valaida, Melandee, Tina, Jan and Ava) who assembled the first Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man session in the hotel lounge on Saturday night. In addition, I would be remiss if I did not congratulate the men (Sino, Naryan, Mark, Lyord and me), who consented to be on their “hot seat.” I must admit, I am confident that we held our own after the grilling questions. Or maybe the ladies let us “think” that we had the upper hand in the conversation! Yes, it was a fun weekend in between a time of action.
It was even more fun when we initiated a spontaneous CIN Moment of Action, coined by Ken Perry this weekend. He requested those that had the capability via technology to “Like” Growing Black Men of Milwaukee’s Facebook page; to participate as a group to collectively support and encourage a fellow member. I am so glad that we as an organization had the courage and insight to invest our resources to meet the growth and development needs of our members, specifically during this CIN 2013 Leadership Summit. Yes folks, we as leaders, all need encouragement and support at some point, as we return home to our field of dreams in order to activate our own moment of action. This Summit not only helped to reinforce that we are philanthropists, but also equipped us to be better leaders. Undoubtedly, to me—that value—is Priceless.