Participants in September's training for emerging leaders.
Participants in the Voinovich School's September training for emerging leaders.

Voinovich School offers Ohio community public leaders tools to put theory into practice

Daniel Kington
November 7, 2017

Professional development and executive training challenges many organizations. Putting together a program that combines effective, high-level training with best practices and the latest research takes time that most leaders and executives do not have. To assist, Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs offers a professional and executive education program, led by director Jay Johnson.

The program tailors training to the needs of the public, private and nonprofit sectors to help executives, managers and emerging leaders think strategically about their organizations as value-creating entities.

“Today’s public and non-profit leaders are constantly facing complex problems and uncertainty in an ever-changing global environment that cuts across many sectors within their organizations,” Johnson said. “Consequently, the goal is to develop today’s leaders into tomorrow’s public sector champions. This requires providing our leaders with practical and relevant training so they can handle crises within their communities and organizations.”

In September, Johnson coordinated a day of training at the Dublin Integrated Education Center in Dublin, Ohio, for members of the Ohio Conference of Community Development, a statewide coalition of more than 170 public and nonprofit organizations devoted to making Ohio’s communities better places to live, work and enjoy life.

“Since 1965, OCCD has been dedicated to helping develop, implement and improve federal, state and local programs for community development across the state of Ohio,” Debra Mayes, the organization’s training coordinator, said. “Partnering with Ohio University's Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs has only increased the value of the services we provide.”

The training offered OCCD members a “new framework to succeed,” Johnson said. That abstract description of his program’s goal is coupled with one that is much more concrete: “We want to provide participants with real world instruction, skillsets and tools that they can begin using when they go to work on Monday,” Johnson said.

Rick Griest, a volunteer with Country Closet Thrift Shop in Plain City, Ohio, said the training accomplished exactly that.

“The training definitely expanded my strategic planning capabilities,” Griest said. “In my work at the thrift store, I’ll immediately be able to utilize the communications styles we learned about, as well as the venture canvas model, which facilitates thinking about who key partners are for the purpose of solving problems and creating value.”

The venture canvas is a one-page planning tool taught by Faith Knutsen, associate director of TechGROWTH Ohio. Knutsen led a session on the model and its application to existing businesses.

“Faith helped us understand what we were doing and why we were doing it, and the exercise process she facilitated, in which we applied the canvas model as a group, helped bring it all together,” Griest said. “Her training painted a concrete picture of how we could all use the model she’d described.”

Alan Humphries, manager of the thrift shop, said the training’s lessons would help him in his leadership position.

“The communication tools will help me to be more aware of personality differences, and put volunteers together who compliment one another’s strengths,” Humphries said. “I also plan on using the canvas tool to identify potential risks to the thrift shop that I may not have otherwise focused on, since we’ve been in a period of growth.”

Training events can be customized to the needs of any group – public, private, nonprofit – that wants to create public value. Sessions can cover strategic and organizational leadership, human resources management, public budgeting, organization communication, strategic planning and change and more. Johnson will work with organizations to further personalize the content. Sessions are designed to meet participants at their level of experience: emerging leaders, professional or middle management, or strategic and executive-level leaders such as CEOs, mayors and city managers.

Although Griest participated in the training in his role as a community volunteer, he said he will apply what he learned to his job in manufacturing for Honda.

“The communication styles we learned tie in with other tools I use, and the canvassing model compliments the problem-solving tools that we use here at work. Adding these methods to my toolbox enhances my ability to create value and gives me different ways to do things,” Griest said.

Organizations interested in participating in the executive and professional education program may click here for more information or contact Jay Johnson.