Pilot Program Cultivates New Crop of YAI Leaders

Tue, October 01, 2019

Group of people from the YAI Management Development Training pose for photographOn September 19, participants in YAI’s first-ever Management Development Program celebrated their graduation. Led by experts from Smergut Consulting, Rutgers University, and The National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities at the University of Delaware, the year-long course was open to senior managers whom supervisors had identified as having the potential to transition into top leadership roles at the agency.

 “I’ve been doing this for five years and I’ve taught roughly a thousand people at various organizations,” said Peter Smergut, President of Smergut Consulting and former CEO of Life’s WORC, Inc. “Out of everyone I’ve coached, this cohort was right at the top. They truly understand what leadership is about and that was reflected in those around them, from their direct reports to their own supervisors.”

Smergut said that, despite already being strong leaders, that this year’s group of 16 senior managers improved on every metric, from boosting their emotional intelligence to expanding their inventory of leadership best practices.

“They really internalized that good leadership is all about building relationships and empathy,” he said.

According to graduate Stephanie Rozanski, Assistant Coordinator of Education and Training, the classes enabled her to learn from other senior managers at YAI and pushed her to take stock of her own skillset.

“One of the most important takeaways for me was the understanding that you should never assume you know how well you’re doing,” said Rozanski. “To really excel at your job, you have to talk to your colleagues and those you supervise and get their honest feedback.”

It’s this type of open communication and feedback that Anthony Ottrando, Chief Human Resources Officer, says is essential to the agency’s continued success.

“At organizations as large and complex as ours, interdependence is everything,” he said. “YAI is invested in cultivating leaders who not only bring fresh solutions to the table, but who are also good listeners who invite others to collaborate on their vision.”

It’s a sentiment with which Rozanski agreed.

“In terms of disability service providers, YAI is already at the cutting edge,” she said. “After this class, I can confidently say that we are on the cusp of achieving even more tremendous strides in our leadership and innovation.”