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Dear Chapter Leaders: Improving Our Work in 2016


By Dr. Judy Riffle


I am not a fan of New Year's resolutions because they usually don't work, and we should always strive to improve ourselves (not just at the beginning of each year). However, the New Year is a good time to reflect on how far we've come and where we want to go. In this vein, we as chapter leaders should be thinking about how to improve our chapters in 2016. This article is a letter to myself as Chapter Treasurer and to all grant pros who serve GPA.


Pete Seeger said it best: “It's a very important thing to learn to talk to people you disagree with.” We all deal with difficult people, personality conflicts, and negativity in the workplace and volunteer situations. Are there better ways to get your message across? Do your fellow chapter officers, members, and others feel comfortable and motivated to stay actively involved? Do they have a voice? Are there some conflicts you are unaware of but may need to be put on the table and discussed?


To lead with excellence, we need to be great communicators. I am making a promise to myself to improve my chapter, leadership skills, and how I relate to others. That may mean I need to engage in more training opportunities or read new materials. Or both.


Many of us have read about or participated in training focused on understanding ourselves and getting along with others. I participate in as many trainings as possible, but some are definitely better than others. One training, in particular, stands out where personalities were determined by how your lipstick looks after using it over time. The facilitator asked us to consider whether the lipstick was now flat, pointed, etc.? That analysis was not helpful in building my leadership skills or solving interpersonal conflicts to say the least, but it was creative. Sometimes we need to explore new ideas to make personal change.


To that point, we are almost overwhelmed with great resources. Here are a few you can use to improve your leadership skills, interpersonal relationships, and chapter this year.

  • The Platinum Rule: Discover the Four Basic Business Personalities and How They Can Lead You to Success by Tony Alessandra and Michael J. O'Connor

  • The Essential Wooden: A Lifetime of Lessons on Leaders and Leadership by John Wooden and Steve Jamison

  • Robert's Rules of Order In Action: How to Participate in Meetings with Confidence by Randi Minetor

  • Balance Your Conflict: Choose to Respond Effectively During Difficult Interactions by Dr. Jody Janati

  • (Cynthia D'Amour, GPA national conference presenter)

  • Dr. Beverly Browning's Nonprofit Board of Directors Boot Camp


Finally, remember to take care of yourself. Leaders need to know themselves first before they can effectively influence others. I am a strong believer in mindfulness and meditation. Being mindful in everyday activities involves acceptance, using the breath as a place to focus, and simply being aware of the present moment. One of my favorite mindful phrases is “I'm free not to…” How can you complete that sentence to help you become a better leader? Consider looking up mindfulness articles, videos and apps on the web. One website you may find helpful is


I'll leave you with the “7 Cardinal Rules of Life” which I have hanging in my office above my well-used computer. I encourage you to consider these rules as you strive to improve your chapter's work this year.

  1. Make peace with your past so it won't disturb your future.

  2. What other people think of you is none of your business.

  3. Time heals most everything. Give it time.

  4. No one is in charge of your happiness. Except you.

  5. Don't compare your life to others and don't judge them. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

  6. Stop thinking too much. It's alright not to know the answers. They will come to you when you least expect it.

  7. Smile. You don't own all the problems in the world.