Another CLI, another HUGE success!

The 2013 Community Leadership Institute is another home run, or a grand slam for that matter!

It’s Monday morning after a long flight across the country last night. I am exhausted. And, I am absolutely alive and full of hope!

I just spent the better part of three days in Sacramento with 18 ROC leaders from Washington, Montana, Minnesota, Delaware, Connecticut., Massachusetts and New Hampshire and I could not be more inspired. Truly.

The Community Leadership Institute (CLI) is a place where volunteer community leaders – some 1,000 this year – come to learn and pick up new tools to add to their toolboxes. As you’ve likely seen me write, “We believe that we succeed when our communities succeed.”

And, frankly, I have witnessed over the last 25 years that communities that succeed do so through good teamwork and good community leadership. ROCs that have both good teamwork and good leadership accomplish great things.

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There are numerous examples of this – ROCs with strong secure finances, newly paved streets, new signs, social gatherings, newsletters, and so on. But, this stuff doesn’t come automatically. ROC members and leaders need to work on it. They need to be thoughtful and intentional.

So, to make my point at the outset of our time together, I challenged this year’s group with the following statement by Brian Tracy:

“Leaders think and talk about the solutions. Followers think and talk about the problems.”

That was the BIG idea that was woven into the much of what we did in Sacramento. I started by saying that positive leadership always defeats negative leadership in the medium-run. I believe that negativity begets negativity and that people don’t follow negative leadership for very long. I believe that homeowners want to live in a safe and secure community – they want a home that is safe from financial and health threats.

The challenge is, “How do we practice positive leadership and not get dragged down?”

The key is pretty simple: Positive leaders are solutions oriented! Re-read the quote above. Think about it. Who really wants to listen to endless complaining? Don’t you prefer to think about solutions? Most people do. So, the challenge is figuring out how to become solutions focused if you’re not already.

Solutions-oriented leaders are self-aware, they take a deep breath and listen for the underlying problems in what might be a firestorm of expression. (Democracy is messy sometimes, right?) Positive leaders shift the discussion from laboring on about the problem to gathering ideas for solutions. Anyone can do this: Listen hard, stay centered, ask clarifying questions but intentionally shift the discussion from complaining about the problem to generating ideas for solutions.

Keep in mind, to do this, you don’t need to have all of the solutions in your own head. Take that pressure off yourself. You can use the Board, a committee or the Members to generate ideas that solve the problem. Also, the team might involve your association’s lawyer or accountant or TA provider or fellow ROC leaders on! But, ultimately solutions – aside from personal problems – will involve the Board and quite possibly the Members of your organization.

At the CLI we used a lot of activities to engage people in the discussion and we encouraged ROC leaders to use them at home. For instance, if you brainstorm a list and want a fun way to reduce the list to three to really dig into, you can give 3 sticky notes to everyone and have them vote for their top 3 choices. The top vote getters are then discussed in detail. Such methods – tools in the toolbox – can be used to mix it up and accomplish the task of advancing the discussion.

Everyone attended workshops on issues ranging from Retaining Volunteers to Board roles to community gardening. We learned about filling vacant lots and learned that we’re naturally competitive and will push back when pushed. We did a lot and we laughed a lot. Saturday night on a dinner boat lasted an hour later than scheduled but no one noticed! The room was so full of laughter, we couldn’t stop ourselves!

I hope you’ll consider applying for next year’s CLI. Watch for news next Spring on And, you’re welcome to message me (see above right) to let me know you’re interested and we’ll make sure you get notified when applications are being made available. We’ll be in lovely Cincinnati, Ohio in 2014!