NCAA Division II Team Report – Meaningful Results in Program

March 15, 2011

The Division II pilot initiative, Total Engagement Adds Meaning (TEAM) is proving to be a success. The community engagement program begun four years ago has been developed by reaching out to government, business, and local organizational leaders to build a greater home community and strengthen colleges and universities themselves.

VP Mike Racy and Jill Willson, Double LL Consulting, chose two terrific schools to lead the effort, the University of Central Missouri (11,000 students) that is a state university in a community of 20,000 residents and Caldwell College, a private school of 1,300 students, located in a multitude of municipalities each of about 8,000 in New Jersey.

I began with interviews with President Charles Ambrose and Athletic Director Jerry Hughes at UCM and President Nancy Blattner and AD Mark Corino at Caldwell College and other campus officials and teachers. We discussed their current community engagement programs as well as community communications, interaction, issues of mutual concern, potential areas of utilizing campus assets including athletic facilities and students – athletes. What I found were schools indeed making a positive difference in their communities and the potential to expand to the benefit of both. The athletic department is the front porch that provides a welcome to the college and university that will further develop the opportunities for community service.

To get an idea of interaction of the schools with local leaders in Warrensburg, Missouri where UCM is located, I met with the city manager, the school superintendent, the chamber and economic development executives, the hospital administrator, a state representative, and business leaders. I asked about relationships and communication between the University and the community. Immediately, I found a city that is proud of its university and participates in the athletic and other activities of UCM. There is a pride that is seen by the people that UCM is “our university”. The assets of the university are much appreciated and utilized. That doesn’t mean that there is a complete use, but all spoke of furthering the potential of growing and developing together. Whiteman Air Force Base is also located in Johnson County and has 6,000 airman and officers that interacts with the university and community. Because of UCM, education is highly regarded in Warrensburg.

As I did my analysis, the immediate impression was that the trust level was extremely high. This is probably because of the current interaction of the community in programs of the campus as mentioned. But all recognized that the potential for community development was there. I suggested that the outreach programs of the student – athletes certainly continue, but that more could take place. The leaders are on the same road, but without a map. I found out that there exists a group called the Administrative Council composed of the UCM President and other local leaders of major organizations that had not meet in many months. The group was called together and I was asked to attend and make a presentation to them about the facilitation of a Community Vision/Action Plan. I did so but added that there exists an opportunity to train students in learning the Servant Leadership model while guiding the development of the community plan. We have begun that process and will complete by the first of May with a completed document. It will state community resources that will most certainly include the UCM multitude of assets to address the goals of Warrensburg.

At Caldwell College, I also interviewed campus leaders as well as mayors, school district officials, business leaders, city recreation leaders, library officials as well as others. Here was heard the refrain that Caldwell is a gem to have in the community. The leadership of student – athletes and the use of athletic facilities has provided the cities in the area great opportunities for their programs. One is the local high schools have a basketball tournament that creates great excitement and participation held on the Caldwell Campus. There are also many and varied programs that have the students involved from visiting the senior citizen’s apartments near campus and making them feel loved to reading to grade school youths encouraging good habits. I encouraged the continuance of these programs as well. I watched the interaction of athletes at the campus cafeteria and saw their cheerfulness, energy, and enthusiasm. I learned that in addition to studies and practice some have jobs as well. I saw truly balanced people growing through sports and community service. The interaction of administration, teachers, coaches, and students was an example of the good things that are happening on Division II campuses. They are living the attributes of service, teamwork, and education.

Since there are so many local municipalities in Caldwell’s service area, I suggested that they could be the “convener” of leaders that could look at area issues. Since cities and towns are under extreme pressure because of finances, this role is a natural to diffuse possible political tension. Dr. Blattner sees the potential of utilizing the College influence and assets this way. The assets of Caldwell College can be enhanced and recognized as a result as well.

I have been asked to do a TEAM project at the University of Indianapolis (over 5,000 students) and we are in the process of developing an interview list. This study is based in a metropolitan area of 1.5 million people in an urban setting. The success of the UIndy athletes is sometime overshadowed by larger colleges and universities in the area. We hope to grow that potential as well. We will complete this Spring.

A complete report will be given at the Division II Community Engagement Conference in Indianapolis on June 1 and 2. A discussion panel of the TEAM project and how it can be applied to other members will take place.

In the meantime, if you would like to discuss the opportunity for your campus, please contact me at 317-402-0524 or by email at You can also visit our web site at

Is China Winning?

November 18, 2010

In preparation for my journey to speak to several colleges and universities this fall, I have been busy reading a Peter Drucker book published in 1989 entitled The New Realities. Written more than 20 years ago, it talks about the changes coming to the manufacturing world, with automation, outsourcing, and its impact on production and jobs. In fact, the economic condition we are going through right now should not be a surprise to anyone, as many indicators predicted its coming.

This reminds me of the great Warren G. Bennis quote: “The factory of the future will have only two employees: a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.”

With our current 10 percent unemployment rate, low student test scores, and our country’s lack of concentration in math and sciences, our identity as a country has fundamentally changed.

China is winning the manufacturing game. Sure, we may have increased our manufacturing output, but the machines are doing it.

How, then, do we get ahead as a country?

It takes a team effort – an effort that includes improving education and labor, but also involving parents, businesses, students, the workforce and the government. We also need to make some fundamental changes in our communities.

Instead of lamenting the unemployment rate, the loss of manufacturing plants in our country, or the loss of business to outsourcing overseas, let’s work together to improve our own economic conditions.

Otherwise, we’ll all be competing for that one factory job…

Pooling your Community Resources for Greater Impact

November 11, 2010

Many of you have probably heard of Pepsi’s recent community-giving project called the Pepsi Refresh Project, which allows organizations or individuals to submit a request for funding their community project. A nationwide vote determines four monthly winners with grants of up to $250,000 for community projects. It’s a great idea for letting Pepsi’s fans determine the viability of each idea submitted and which organization should receive funding.

Local community foundations do not have the resources of Pepsi to determine ways to distribute their grant dollars. In addition, local nonprofit organizations often compete with each other for community dollars.

What is a potential solution to this challenge? Let the community organizations pool resources.

In general, this is not happening anymore; communities are not working together and pooling their resources for the good of the entire city, town or county.

Typically, community foundations fund individual community projects. When an organization fills out an application for a grant, it is often accepted, and they receive the funding. However, there are some community foundations who are funding a vision/action plan, which will let the community members determine where the money will go, based upon the vision of the community.

When we participate in community projects, we get more of a short-term benefit – a good feeling that we are accomplishing something. However, we will never be fully satisfied with the short-term outcome. That is, we are changing our community little by little, but without our eye on the common goal: how the community needs to change to grow and to meet the needs of future generations.

My business, Winning Communities, helps people develop vision and action plans for the entire community. Resulting from that plan are action steps that the cities, towns and counties can take to improve their future – along with defined priorities for community projects. Once the community has rallied together, taken account all needs, then the community initiates each project together. This often includes applying for grants for community projects.

People think that vision planning is just an academic exercise that does not lead to action. However, my experience is that proper vision planning not only leads to more action; it leads to a greater outcome.

Does your community have a vision, or is it still operating on a per-project basis? I’d love to hear from you.

NCAA Division II Blog for TEAM – Total Engagement Adds Meaning

November 1, 2010

I have been engaged to facilitate a pilot project to further expand the Division II outreach in Community Engagement. Titled TEAM, which stands for Total Engagement Adds Meaning, the program responds to the Challenge of Change that is affecting communities across the country.

A little bit about myself – I have over 23 years experience as CEO of six chambers of commerce and economic development councils and taught Community Analysis and Development at the Institute for Organization Management. In 1995, I founded Winning Communities, a community consulting company that coaches cities, towns and counties to create a shared Vision/Action Plan by developing positive relationships among the various leaders and the groups they represent.

The pilot project will include two D II members who will lead this new initiative that seeks to serve the cities and towns where the schools are located. The leadership resources of the members will be offered to discover what works and what can be improved.

The University of Central Missouri and Caldwell College in New Jersey will be involved in developing ideas, tips, and suggestions on how school leaders can more successfully be engaged with local elected officials, not for profit groups, and other community organizations. As members’ administration and athletic departments aspire to be the “Front Porch” of the university, we will base these pilot projects on the six attributes – Service, Passion, Sportsmanship, Resourcefulness, Balance, and Learning. These attributes will be shared in participating with the key decision makers within the communities.

I will meet with D II leadership, administration and coaches and community elected officials, chamber and economic development executives, and community based organization officials to determine the state of relationships and communications, challenges of mutual concern, and opportunities for development and enhancement. We will suggest further ways that D II leaders can work as a TEAM with community leaders. Examples of successful models will be shared to maximize the effort.

I will make a report that will be shared with D II members about how the TEAM approach can benefit your own communities. Engaging university officials with political, business, and organizational leaders will lead to a greater home community and lead to strengthening the colleges and universities themselves.

Pending the success of the first two pilots, another school will be chosen that is based in an urban setting where a similar analysis with recommendations will be made.

I believe this will provide a great opportunity for further utilizing the resources and skills of the D II members as you continue to meet the Challenge of Change. Thanks for the opportunity to be a partner in the progress of this initiative. For more information, contact Jill Willson or Mike Racy at the NCAA Division II office.

Is Fear Holding you Back?

October 18, 2010

Recently, our refrigerator quit working. I sighed as I thought of having to replace my refrigerator. After sitting on the phone for 30 minutes with my appliance manufacturer, and getting to the wrong department, I finally asked for a referral from one of my neighbors, and called a local appliance repair company, who was able to set up the appointment for the next day.

The repairperson, also the owner of the company, came out to my house, analyzed our refrigerator and repaired it without a problem. During the process, we started talking about the future. I asked him how his business was faring this year. He said it was doing pretty well, and we talked about how with the economy, more people were repairing what they have instead of replacing their appliances and household items. (I could see his point, and was glad to have paid $190 for repairs instead of $1100 for a new refrigerator!)

He also mentioned that he could actually use two additional people, but that he wasn’t going to hire them right now because he didn’t know what the future would bring. He said that he was comfortable enough with where he was and that he could keep on going at the same rate and support his family, even though he really wanted to expand the business.

I got to thinking: that’s two people and two families who don’t have the opportunity to earn an income now because of this indecision. If you multiply that times 1000 businesses, it’s no wonder we’re stuck in this economy. We don’t like the direction we’re going in, but we’re too afraid to change anything.

Does the football coach instill fear in the minds of his team when they take the field because the headlines say how much the opposing team will dominate? The answer is no. True leadership will build confidence based on the ability that the team has.

How many times do we hear the words fear, confusion, consumer confidence or other words in today’s media or conversations? Are these words of doubt holding you back in your business or in your community? What are you doing about it?

 We’re waiting for times to get better, instead of making them better right now.

Community Projects with a Purpose

October 13, 2010

Cities, towns and counties are involved with many activities in a given year, from festivals to clean-up/fixing up the local creek or revitalizing the downtown area. These are, of course, all valid activities that are positive for the community. However, they are all very project-based, without anyone asking the question, “So what?” “Where are we going?” “Why are we going there?”

 It reminds me of Shakespeare’s famous description of life in Macbeth: “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

On paper, it looks good to have all of these community projects going. But at the end of the day, what the community needs to think about is: What vision does this reach for the community? Why are we engaged in so many projects? What are we building here? What is the bottom line?

There are people doing many good things, but they are going along the same path without talking to each other. Few are communicating about the cooperative nature of these projects. In geometry, the sum of the parts equals the whole, but is this happening in the community? The community needs to find the underlying reason why everyone is doing these projects. In other words, they need a vision.

Last week, the city of Indianapolis closed down six miles of Interstate 70 for the city’s biggest beautification project. More than 8,000 volunteers from Eli Lilly planted 73,000 trees, plants and shrubs for their annual day of giving. The purpose of this project? To prepare for the city’s hosting of Super Bowl 2012, as well as to welcome and give a positive impression to all of the additional visitors who will travel this road. Now that’s a project with a purpose. The city has a vision of what the downtown will look like, with the purpose of creating a positive impact on the economic vitality of Indianapolis.

If we are able to undertake projects within our communities, why not have the leaders and citizens of that city, town, county or village come together to discuss the vision and total goals needed for improvement, not just the individual project? It’s like a football team scoring a touchdown in the first quarter without keeping an eye on the end score. What resources does the team need to pull together as a team in the 2nd, 3rd and fourth quarters to win the game?

A community vision would help answer the question, “What do these projects equal as we look into the future?” “How can we best utilize these resources for a set of common goals?” Having individuals get together to discuss the overall impact also ensures that everyone’s on the same page. And having a collaborative effort will ensure that your community “wins the game.”

Meeting Overload – How Group Meetings can Hinder Getting Things Done in your Community

September 2, 2010

Whether you work in a corporate setting or for a government entity, I am sure all of you have experienced “Death by Meeting,” which is actually a title of a book by author Patrick Lencioni.

Calling a meeting is a great idea for organizing collective power to get things done, but when the group spends most of its time meeting and little of its time acting, they have a problem.

I have seen this repeatedly when working with cities, towns and counties to initiate a vision and action plan. The key players are excited about the possibilities of improving their community, so they call a group meeting. They discuss. They take notes. They leave the meeting feeling invigorated about the future.

And then…nothing.

They schedule another meeting for the next month. The next time the group meets, the same topic may come up again. What has progressed since the last meeting? Nothing. If everyone is on board, why isn’t anything happening?

I have discovered several reasons for this inactivity that comes from meeting overload:

1) No written game plan. In order to reach goals, you need to have a written game plan for how you will achieve a specific objective or objectives. For communities, we call it the Winning Communities Strategic Vision & Action Plan. Someone needs to formalize the group’s goals, write them down, and distribute them to the group.

2) No list of action items. The game plan needs to include a variety of concrete, actionable items. For community vision plans, an example would be to form a steering committee, designate a communications point person, hire a consultant, find funding sources, etc. Without a list of action items, your goals will remain just that — goals. Brainstorm on all possible action items that the group must complete to achieve the goal(s).

 3) Persons responsible. For each action item, assign a person, persons or group responsible for making it happen. Whether it’s the local marketing firm to promote the community vision project and mail out postcards to residents, or the local banquet center who will be hosting the kickoff celebration, your group needs to determine what parties are responsible for which items. Don’t forget to notify those individuals or groups that they are responsible for the action! We find it helpful to make a chart of these action items, activities and persons responsible to keep the group organized.

4) Timetable for achievement. Always include an anticipated completion date for each action item in the game plan. Try to work backward from the end goal, and determine how long it might take to finish the action. Remember that your team can be working on some goals concurrently for maximum efficiencies. Finally, have an overall completion date for your entire project or group. This motivates the group to continue and to achieve more.

5) Designate a leader. If your group has trouble staying organized and keeping individuals motivated to complete the action items, I recommend hiring a consultant or designating a leader to keep things on track. Give this person the role of facilitator for the meetings, and allow them to communicate with all members of the group throughout the process, to keep projects and activities rolling and moving forward.

6) Continue the communication. Remember to call a meeting when necessary, but use other communication tools such as email and phone conversations in between meetings to connect with specific members of the group. This will ensure that you can get questions answered or action items crossed off your list without having to wait for the entire group to meet again.

Now that you’ve got some tips for organizing your meetings and structuring your group’s goals, you’re on your way to the ultimate goal – and that is getting things done.

What is your excuse?

August 24, 2010

What is your excuse?

“It is the end of our fiscal year…”
“I am retiring in a month…”
“We are already doing a big community festival…”
“We already did a study last year…”

These are just a few of the excuses I have heard from community leaders who are not committed to doing anything to promote change in their villages, towns, cities or counties. The people who make excuses for why they cannot get something done are often the ones who never achieve the success they seek.

At Winning Communities, we are looking for individual city, town and county leaders who “get it” and are ready to step forward, roll up their sleeves and make it happen in their community. We are looking for individuals who see the potential for greatness in their community, and who believe they can achieve it with a little bit of effort. Finally, we are looking for those who are ready to rally others to the cause by simply calling a meeting.

One of my favorite quotes is this:

“The American, by nature, is optimistic. He is experimental, an inventor and a builder who builds best when called upon to build greatly.” John F. Kennedy

That is what we are called for today in our communities. Are you one of the few who feels compelled to lead and take action? Come on! Your community is counting on you.

How School Leaders can Respond to Their Community’s Needs

August 9, 2010

Through the years, I have recognized the efforts of school officials, school board members, teachers and PTOs/PTAs in community building. I believe this is partially because people identify and connect their schools with their communities. When families move to a new area, they often look to see which community has the best school system because they want their kids to develop physically and intellectually, and the foundation of that growth is in school. Those individuals who are actively involved in the school system are those who are typically raising children and want their children to succeed in a good school system, with a good athletic team, etc.

Andrew Black, President of Princeville State Bank in Princeville, Illinois, serves on his area’s local school board. He sees his obligation as a community leader to help students develop into future leaders. Since undergoing the Winning Communities Vision and Action Planning Process, Princeville has focused upon downtown improvements, building a new community website, promotional videos and other initiatives to help move that village forward. The community meets regularly to ensure that they make progress on the initiatives outlined in the vision and action plan. Their success has been thanks in part to one school leader who recognized the need and stepped up to make change happen in that community.

Involving High School Students in the Visioning Process

This Tuesday, I will kick off a pilot project in Crawfordsville-Montgomery County, Indiana  for a vision and action plan, where, for the first time, students will be involved in participating and producing their community’s vision plan. Students will be involved in promoting and encouraging community participation at meetings, surveying citizens, doing research and development of the actual plan. What better way to develop student leadership skills than to allow them to lead their own community to success through this vision process!

I recently spoke at the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s (IHSAA) Annual Student Leadership Conference. After talking with the students, most of them could identify some things that they would like to change about their hometowns (a new track, better park systems, etc.), but overall, their concerns were similar to those of adult leaders to whom I have spoken. Most of the adults in leadership roles within the community are most concerned about their own job initiatives, rather than the community as a whole and its vision for the future (see my previous blog post on Why Communities need more Leaders).

Much like the adults, the student athletes’ main concerns were about building up their sports team and encouraging fan support within the community. They were not thinking about or looking at the big picture – which would mean starting with the community as a whole and then looking inward. I hope that I got them to think outside of their team and school and learn how building a better community has the potential to improve their school and team in the future.

Expanding Students’ Impact on Community Building

The IHSAA is anxiously awaiting the results of this student pilot project in Indiana. Over the next month, I will also be meeting with high school athletic associations in Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and West Virginia, so we can get our nation’s youth involved in the community-building efforts. My goal is to reach Coast to Coast by the end of the year. Along with the chambers and mayors, city/county councils, and ordinary citizens, we will not only help students build the skills they need to lead our communities into the future, but we will allow them to play a part in building their own future.

Why Communities Need More Leaders

July 8, 2010

Many individuals make up a community. Many of these individuals serve in leadership roles, such as the mayor, chamber of commerce executive, community foundation board or county commissioner. Yet how many of these people have convened others to develop a Vision for the community’s future?

In most cases, the aforementioned leaders must deal with immediate and legitimate concerns within their own organizations. For example, a mayor may face cutbacks due to diminished funding, mandates from the state government, parks and recreation expenses or infrastructure issues. A chamber of commerce executive might have concerns about decreasing membership, programs or sponsorships. County commissioners might worry about drainage or fixing county roads. A community foundation president may be concerned about the declining stock market that devalues the foundation’s assets.


All of these leaders are leading their own organizations, but who is looking to the future of the total community? Who is convening people to talk about the community’s vision future five years from now, and its plan for growth and prosperity?


As I mentioned in my last blog post, comprehensive plans, such as those for land use or zoning, do not help to paint a picture of the community’s vision and possibilities for the future. A vision and action plan involves a much broader picture of all areas of the community – from infrastructure to recreation, health care and technology. Every community should not only have such a vision plan, but also involve all of the community’s leaders and ordinary citizens in the process.


The community of Crawfordsville / Montgomery County, Indiana is doing just that. With the help of Winning Communities, they have organized a leadership team, which includes the typical government leadership but also includes students and representatives from the school corporation. This shall be the first “pilot program” involving both adult community leaders and student leaders. Because of the common issue of brain drain in many communities, I believe that involving students in the process of helping make their community better will not only instill in these students future leadership qualities, but will enable them to take a part in building their own future.


When I was a chamber of commerce executive back in Marietta, Ohio, I used to believe that being a good leader was having the best Christmas parade in the state.  Now I know that being a true community leader is much more than that. Leaders have the double task of leading their organizations and convening people to lead their communities into the future.


And I know that, if you are the mayor, foundation president or county commissioner, you will not find this leadership role defined in your job description, but it’s your duty. As I mention in my book, it’s not leaving your comfort zone, but expanding it to include concern — not just about those issues related to your job — but concern and commitment about the growth and success of your communities. And that role has a much greater and lasting impact. Your community depends upon it!