Thursday May 26, 2016

Career-Altering Experience for Dayton-Area Business Leaders

Program provides career-altering experience for Dayton-area business leaders.

The greatest truth Tracy Szarzi-Fors ever learned about leadership was one of the last things she would have thought was needed to advance her role as a local leader.

"Leadership is not about you. It's about everyone else," says Szarzi-Fors, who serves as vice president of marketing and business development at Wright-Patt Credit Union. "You have to get yourself out of the way and allow others to succeed."

Leadership is made when others are valued

Szarzi-Fors credits this career-altering truth, and many more, to her participation in the University of Dayton Emerging Leader Program, a 12-month high-level, intensive course designed to take local leaders to the next level. Szarzi-Fors entered the program four years ago, after consulting the vice president of her company’s human resource department about her options to advance her skills as a leader and, ultimately, her career. At that time, pursuing a master’s degree was at the top of her list.

“After talking to her, I realized what I really wanted was not just to add another notch on my resume or gain a degree to hang on my wall, but to spend time understanding leadership and being coached on what that really means,” she recalls.

Szarzi-Fors was introduced to the UD Emerging Leader Program and realized it was exactly what she needed. Concepts such as strategic planning, time management, employee coaching and operations management were all common vernacular to Szarzi-Fors, but they took on a whole new meaning when taught from a high-level perspective at the program. Yet, the most powerful part of the program for her was simply learning to understand people.

“My personality type is that I am a driver, and I had to understand that not everyone is like that and that we each bring value to the table,” she says. “I have a polar-opposite personality type that I work with who is very analytical and does everything by the book. I am now able to see how we balance each other out very nicely.”

Instruction both seen and heard

In 2003, Bryan Bucklew was vice president for economic development at the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce. He had completed his master’s degree in public administration, but was looking to hone his leadership skills in a more practical way.

“I had a strong background in public policy, but not as much background in areas such as finance or strategic planning,” says Bucklew. “I was looking for an opportunity to build those skill sets and the UD leadership program fit it to a T.”

Bucklew was overwhelmed by the caliber of instructors, but what he enjoyed most was being surrounded by other leaders from so many different industries. Individuals from Procter & Gamble Co., NCR Corp. and DP&L – not to mention nonprofit organizations – joined his classes and provided unique perspectives on how leadership was modeled in their companies.

“It was interesting to see how each company would tackle problems in their own unique way,” he recalls. “The perspective of a P&G leader would be much different than that of one from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and theirs would be different from a nonprofit executive. The unique lessons came not just from the strong, planned curriculum, but from leadership in the community.”

There is another benefit the program afforded Bucklew: A personal mentor to walk with him through the 12-month process.

“It was like having your own executive coach,” Bucklew says. “Through that relationship you build your network and are exposed to so much that pays off, even to this day.”

Program provides career-altering experience for Dayton-area business leaders

The greatest truth Tracy Szarzi-Fors ever learned about leadership was one of the last things she would have thought was needed to advance her role as a local leader.

“Leadership is not about you. It’s about everyone else,” says Szarzi-Fors, who serves as vice president of marketing and business development at Wright-Patt Credit Union. “You have to get yourself out of the way and allow others to succeed.”

A life-long leadership manual

Szarzi-Fors assumed her position as vice president of Wright-Patt Credit Union just a few months after finishing the Emerging Leader Program. Although she had graduated from the course, she leaned on its instruction many times in the first year in her new role.

“I have gone back many times to my three-ring binder – which is now has turned in to two three-ring binders because it grew to be so thick – and referenced it when I was in certain situations,” Szarzi-Fors says. “That first year in your leadership role, you want to do everything well, and you want to apply what you have learned. There were many times I would reflect back on the information as a quick reminder.”

More than a decade after taking the UD Emerging Leader Program, Bucklew serves as the president and chief executive officer of the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association. He since has paid forward his experience by encouraging two employees within his organization to go through the program.

“This is not a one-day seminar to build leadership skills. It requires not only a commitment from the employees, but also their employers,” Bucklew says. “However, the return on investment for the individual and the organization far-outweigh any cost or time invested in it.”

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