CONVENER CORNER: MEET DR. JULIE CONNOR!
Dr. Julie Connor is a field supervisor for student teachers at UMKC and has more than 30 years of experience as a writer, teacher, motivational speaker, goal-setting strategist, planning coach, diversity advocate, and consultant.
Connor’s first organizational goal-setting experience took place three decades ago when she formed a teen leadership team as a youth minister.
“I did not ask for leadership volunteers; I hand-selected students with different leadership skills and provided a training process,” Connor said.
Connor’s youth group participated in a mission and vision leadership training with other teens from area churches and organizations. Unlike voting, consensus involves input of all members in group decision-making processes.
“Their job was to define their statements, [and] my job was to challenge them and ensure they used consensus skills,” Connor said. “Within 15 minutes of the vision-creating process, they began to argue with one another.”
Connor explained that some of the teens emotionally dropped out of the discussion while others tried to dominate other members.
“How do you feel about what was just said? Do you all agree? What would you change?” Connor repeatedly asked them.
Connor described how at first, the teens felt angry when she interrupted them because they wanted to complete the task. But consensus-seeking strives to ensure the participation of all members.
“Slowly, the teens started to challenge one another with questions,” Connor said. “They encouraged those who were not participating to join in the discussion. They listened and demonstrated mutual respect.”
When the teens entered the large group discussion, many youth groups presented elaborate vision and mission statements with lofty goal-setting plans.
“One or two teens from each group enthusiastically shared their plans while the rest of their groups’ members stared at the floor, out windows, and into space,” Connor said. “Our group was the last to present to the other participants.
“They slowly shuffled to the front of the room to share their vision statement,” Connor said “There was only one sentence on their poster; no mission statement, no goals, no plans. Teens from other groups snickered at all of the white space on their poster.”
“How did you develop your vision statement?” the group facilitator asked Connor’s youth group.
“They described their process of norming, storming, some more storming, and forming a vision statement,” Connor said. “Their statement embraced inclusion and celebration of diversity.”
“Who were the primary authors of this statement?” asked the facilitator.
“All of us wrote it,” they agreed.
“It wasn’t easy,” Ellie said.
“We argued,” Ben added.
“Everybody had something to say and everybody listened,” Toya said.
“And that’s all you got?” asked a member of another group, sarcastically.
“The group facilitator stepped to the front of the room and next to our youth group,” Connor said. “He pointed at their poster and shouted, ‘This is how you come to consensus. Everyone has something to add. Everyone listens. Everyone participates.’
The youth group teens beamed with pride. In the months and years that followed, the teens were invited to become representatives on the church council, leadership teams, and community committees.”
“Why do we have to use the consensus skills and the adults don’t have to?” the teens asked Connor.
“It doesn’t matter what they do,” Connor always answered. “We can control our own words, thoughts, decisions, actions, choices, and behaviors. Their words and thoughts and actions belong to them.”
“All of the teens are grown now,” Connor said. “Ellie is a youth group leader. Ben is an attorney. Toya is a school guidance counselor. Their mission, vision, and goal-setting practice as teens allowed them to create dreams-to-action plans of their own as adults.”
Connor became a passionate advocate of vision, mission, and collaborative goal-setting strategies through Lily Endowment training.
“Consensus building can be a difficult process, but it invites group buy-in, camaraderie, and mutual support among members and the shared support of the vision and mission of the organization,” Connor said. “Members of organizations must be willing to engage in courageous conversations about their unique similarities and differences if they want authentic collaboration.”
Connor especially loves the diversity among participants in her Communiversity classes.
“Some are college students, some are retired,” Connor said. “All ages, [genders], ethnic backgrounds, [and] spiritual practices. The diversity allows for rich dialogue and deeper learning experiences.”
Connor has a doctoral degree in education, and is teaching “DREAM it! PLAN it! DO it!” and “Creating a Vision Board” this fall for Communiversity. She will also be co-facilitating “From Dream to Action Plan” with John Schuley and “How to Write Right” with Corinne Corley. Connor is available for group presentations as well as individual personal planning and coaching.
“I facilitate vision, mission, and collaboration dialogue,” Connor said. “I teach multicultural inclusion and diversity classes, [and] I provide creative writing workshops for students and adults.”
Connor shows others how to dream big, plan well, work smart, and live with purpose and intention.
“I help individuals articulate their dreams and provide resources and support to transform their goals into a plan of action. I provide individual planning coaching and facilitate organizational vision, mission, collaboration, and goal-setting strategy dialogue.”
Connor’s areas of presentation and workshop expertise include vision and mission development, diversity and multicultural inclusion, communication and collaboration, conflict resolution, leadership training, data analysis, crisis intervention, and outreach to at-risk youth and families.
WORDS CONNOR LIVES BY:
“The art of acting morally is behaving as if everything we do matters.”
WHERE YOU CAN FIND CONNOR:
To take a class with Connor, search Communiversity’s database by “Convener Last Name” and type in “Connor”.
JUST FOR FUN:
If Connor were an animal, she would be a mountain goat.
“I like to jump high and take risks,” Connor said.
By Jessica Turner and Dr. Julie Connor