New Memphis Institute Fellows Program pt. 2

Becoming a leader does not happen overnight. You have to establish your role and develop the strengths you do have, while exploring your shortcomings as opportunities. In a sentence, this seems easy, but both parts are actually very, very hard work. What do you think a leader looks like? Where does that person’s influence begin and end? Being a leader encompasses so much of a person’s whole self, while also ensuring that they are always learning. Even as a small business, there is room for everyone to feel empowered as a leader within our team and community.New Memphis Institute Fellows

I shared in a blog post a few months ago that I was on a year-long journey with the New Memphis Institute. The Fellows program works to take professionals already rooted in their careers and develop their current skill set. This empowers them to be more transformative for themselves, their businesses and their community. I’m an introvert that can easily put on my extrovert mask, but this program intimidated me from the very start. I had self-doubt akin to my high school days when I first started this experience. Each session was powerful, fun and educational, but I found myself being really self-conscious about what I could bring to a group of individuals with this track record of success. I started to slowly, but surely, become more aware of my role in the group and focused on my own growth and learning. When I began to let a bit more of myself show, I was embraced by so many fantastic people. I began to let my guard down and really dig in to the opportunity that was this experience.

Enter Team Trek

New Memphis Institute Team TrekAs my walls were coming down and my eyes opening to what this process was truly doing for me and the City of Memphis, we all loaded onto a bus to travel to a weekend Team Trek experience in Arkansas. We had spent a fair amount of time together at this point, but nothing on this level. I think I can speak for everyone when I say we were very apprehensive. Sleeping side-by-side in the hot August summer with people you really don’t know on a personal level may seem fun for some, but I think most of us were very skeptical about how this was going to impact our ability to be better leaders for our city.

Upon arrival, we quickly learned that this program had deep roots in developing leaders and, while still hesitant, I started to open up to the personal and collective growth that would be taking place. I did not, however, expect to be met with my long-forgotten fear of heights, or having to sit in front of my cohorts and be hit with a wall of compliments under the strict rules of only responding with, “Thank you.” These exercises would be challenging even with your own family, so practicing with people you’ve known for less than six months takes you to a new level of personal understanding, inclusion and growth.

A Transformative Experience

On the bus back to Memphis, we were a new group. We’d discussed hair products in the bathroom, drank wine and Jell-O shots in the evening after grueling days in the heat, and channeled our individual efforts to make this experience a success for everyone involved. One of our group members had gotten sick on the last day and wasn’t able to participate in the last exercise, one that was particularly powerful for all of us. When we got back to Memphis, we each made her a small video around the topics of that exercise so she could have the experience, too. We didn’t have to do this, but it is a great example of how we’d grown as a group. We didn’t want her to miss out on it, so we brought it to her! It was rewarding for everyone involved, and something we might not have done, had this experience not brought us so close.

Back to the Roots – A Community Action Project

Back in Memphis, it was time to shift our focus to the city. Before our trip, we met with local nonprofit organizations to hear more about what they were doing for Memphis and where their needs weren’t being met. We were tasked with deciding which call-to-action most spoke to our individual spirit and where our current skills could be most effective. Instead of picking a group, we picked a cause and our group fell into place from there. I appreciated this approach, as I was eventually placed with a group of guys I hadn’t had much interaction with over the course of the year. This meant I’d be working to help an organization and learning a whole new group dynamic.

I choose to work with The 100 Club of Memphis. This organization has been around for more than 60 years, and as a daughter of a retired Memphis Police officer, I was surprised that I’d never heard of the amazing work they do for all first responders and their families. This is exactly what they wanted help with: name recognition. We worked together to draft tools for them to communicate with the people they support every day and provided ideas on how to diversify their message. If we could get the first responders talking about this organization’s impact, we could create a ripple effect that would result in more website traffic and donations via word of mouth.

Our project wasn’t perfect, but we learned a lot about the trials of a nonprofit organization in the Mid-South, which has over 5,000 organizations vying for the community’s time and financial support. We focused on giving the 100 Club of Memphis tangible tools to grow their message and expand their reach in the community.

The New Memphis Institute Fellows program has been an experience that I’ll never forget. It couldn’t have been at any other time, with any other people: it had to be now. I have learned so much about myself and the Memphis community that I will use to become a better leader, a better friend, a better part of my community and a better version of myself. I’ve pinpointed what drives me and been reminded of the magic that makes the Bluff City a truly unique backdrop for greatness. The world thinks they know what makes Memphis special: Graceland, the Civil Rights movement, the birth of rock and soul (to name a few), but really, it’s the people. The leaders and lovers of the great City of Memphis are all on the same path to make our spot on the river the best it can be, and the only way to do this well is to do it together.

To learn more about Lindy Faulkner and other members of the Eclectic Eye staff, head over to our team page!