The small group meeting at Willa Jean to discuss the core competencies was a success. Photo by Michelle Sens.

 

Since 1924, the Junior League has been uniting women to promote voluntarism, develop one another’s potential and improve communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Volunteering in our local communities to create lasting change is what shapes Junior League chapters as a whole, but what is it that shapes us as women of the Junior League in our personal and professional lives?

Last fall, JLNO partnered with Trepwise — a nonprofit consulting group — to assess what our members think about the virtues we attain as women trained in voluntarism. JLNO asked our active members what expertise unites the women of the Junior League. What came forth were testimonies of growth and advancement in members’ professional, personal and civic lives. Through this feedback, JLNO’s core competencies were born.

The core competencies consist of eight categories that shape us as community leaders and volunteers. These competencies are applicable to many facets of life whether managing a business, a household or a nonprofit. They serve as a representation of what skills we personally take away from voluntarism that can catalyze growth in all areas of our lives.

The first core competency is communication. When active members of JLNO were surveyed prior to the development of this list, the ability to communicate effectively emerged as the most important takeaway. Active member Jill Holland says, “It has been such a pleasure to work with women who communicate so effectively and with such grace.” She adds, “Each committee I’ve served on has been filled with women who communicate respectfully and clearly. I have found that our common goals to better New Orleans and the lives of women and children outweigh differences of opinion and/or personality. And we are consistently reminded how important it is to communicate positively and with open minds.”

Members were unanimous in the belief that teamwork is a critical skill they develop while serving with the Junior League. Becoming a good team player opens the door to personal growth by working towards common goals, maintaining a positive and productive atmosphere and embracing one another’s individual strengths. JLNO active Joan LaMartina says, “JLNO provided a sisterhood for me which made me feel comfortable enough to come out of the known and try new things. Once new little projects were met, I would start to ask, ‘What's next?’, ‘What else can I do?’ ” She goes on to say, “This transcended into my personal career as a social worker, where I was no longer afraid to go a little further, push a little harder, try a different approach, or even lead a project; something I probably would have shied away from had I not been given a chance to try and do with my sister leaguers.”

The third core competency is leadership. Some say leaders are born, but as is evident from our members, leaders can also be cultivated. Joan expands on her JLNO experience by saying, “There is a newfound confidence that makes it easier to advocate for others and myself. I might have obtained skills from other volunteer organizations, but JLNO's embracing and encompassing environment is really what helped bring it out. [It was] a kind push to realize and hone my potential to give, to lead, to learn — all in my own hometown.”

Next is time management and organization. Of course, these resonate with all individuals as an invaluable asset. Without time management, leadership and the ability to work within a team are moot. Jill points out, “JLNO has strived to create an environment where you can be a working woman and still give back to the community. It does this through many different opportunities to serve — weekends, weekdays, nights and evenings, moneys for mission and flexible schedules to work on your own time.”

Patience and flexibility are essential to leadership development, especially when engaging a volunteer based workforce. The old saying goes, “patience is a virtue,” and this is especially true when faced with uncertainty. Flexibility leads us to being women of resilience, something the women of New Orleans know quite well.

Vision and creativity are imperative to accomplishing any goal. The utilization of our visions and creativity help us stay relevant and achieve what we set out to do while also making us unique and individual.

Program planning and delivery are next on the list. Planning is crucial in voluntarism and represents a realm of opportunity in finding passion and purpose while serving in the community, thus creating continuous possibilities in contributing to a greater good. Through learning the essential components of program planning and delivery, we take away tools to be able to continue “paying it forward” throughout our lives as women of the Junior League.

Awareness of the organization and the community it serves takes its place as the final core competency. Understanding our organization and the needs of the community provides a path for women to find their most valuable ways to contribute, not just to JLNO but to our communities as a whole. Active member Rachel Batenga says, “JLNO exists to serve the community so I think that listening to what the community needs is really important and the aspect of communication that many members develop as members of JLNO.” Jill adds, “JLNO does a great job of giving its members background on who we are working with and what we are working towards so that our members can approach each project and opportunity as well-informed and goal-oriented individuals and teams.”

The core competencies are excellent tools for discovering what our return on investment is as individuals from the Junior League. As you continue through the League year, remember the core competencies are here as a means of personal reflection and development. These abilities are talents we already have; yet we can continue to promote growth within ourselves and, ultimately, in our community. With missions that matter, support and expertise, we will continue to grow as a healthy, vibrant and respectful group of women.

 

Savoir Faire