MDF Leadership Maine: Taking Applications

Leadership Maine

Preparing statewide leaders to shape Maine’s changing economy.

Maine Development Foundation’s Leadership Maine is a powerful, year-long experiential learning journey that expands leaders’ capacity to shape our state’s future. Through the program, leaders:

  • Explore our state’s diverse regions, assets, economies, issues, and people through direct interaction with Maine leaders and Maine places;
  • Develop important and lasting relationships with a diverse community of business, community, government and educational leaders; and
  • Uncover and build upon their personal leadership strengths.

Curious if Leadership Maine is for you?

Attend an upcoming recruitment briefing to network and learn more.

The Leadership Maine curriculum is designed for leaders from all sectors. In the past two decades, over 1,000 leaders have graduated from the Leadership Maine program. Their alumni are leading the way in creating an economy driven by educated, healthy, innovative and engaged people.

This year’s application deadline is Friday, April 14, 2017.

Edge members are eligible to apply for the Realize Maine Network Scholarship. Competitively awarded to one member of the network’s regional affiliate groups, the scholarship is valued at up to $4,500.

Click for more information and to apply.


Leadership Maine Schedule

Orientation: Friday, June 16, 2017

Overview of the Program, Understanding the Economy, and Forming Community Partnerships

OPENING RETREAT (mandatory/three days)
Wednesday, September 13 – Friday, September 15, 2017

Establishing a Foundation and Forming Teams
Wavus, Jefferson
Facilitated by Hurricane Island Outward Bound School

Wednesday, October 18 – Friday, October 20, 2017 (mandatory/three days)
Exploring Rural Maine: A three-day bus tour

Friday, November 17, 2017

Friday, January 19, 2018

Friday, February 9, 2018
Experiencing a Day as a Legislator: Mock Legislative Session
State House, Augusta

Friday, March 9, 2018
Downtown Revitalization

Friday, April 6, 2018

Exploring Bath Iron Works and Brunswick Landing:  Shipbuilding and New Economy

Thursday, May 10 & Friday, May 11, 2018
Learning Demonstrations and Celebration
Migis Lodge, South Casco

Ditch the elevator pitch

I don’t recall exactly when I heard the term elevator pitch. If I was going to take a guess, it was probably well over a decade ago, when I embarked on grad school. I will readily admit that the concept was initially intriguing. By way of a recap, the elevator pitch is intended to be a prepared summary of an idea, product or service in 20-60 seconds. About the time it takes to ride in an elevator (hence the term.) Presumably, having practiced an elevator pitch puts you at ease, since you are prepared at the drop of a hat (or when the elevator doors close). The goal of such a delivery is to catch someone’s attention long enough to continue the conversation, at a later date, with a more in-depth discussion. This was appealing to me, because I: a.) like to be prepared and b.) it seemed like a reliable technique to easily launch into conversations.

In retrospect, it didn’t work at all. To be frank, it was an epic failure. Perhaps it was my delivery or my tendency to overthink such things. It has taken me many years to learn that it just does not work for me. The reason: the elevator pitch is deeply flawed in that it is intended to be a one-size-fits-all solution. If you stick to the script it is nearly impossible to shift gears and customize the discussion. When someone asks me, “What do you do?” or I ask them to “tell me about your company,” I assume that this is intended to open a dialogue, not that they will launch into a script. The goal is to make a genuine connection.

Much to my disappointment, genuine connections cannot be preplanned.

If the elevator pitch is working for you, then by all means, stick to the script and feel free to stop reading right here. If you are ready to ditch the pitch, here are some alternatives:

First things first, spend less time talking about you and more time talking about them. A very smart man once said, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” While active listening might take more practice than reciting that elevator speech, it will provide immeasurable insight into how you may be able to assist each other moving forward.

To get them talking, ask open-ended questions to learn as much about them as you can. Instead of composing your speech, compose some interesting questions that will build a conversation. The way in which these questions are phrased can make the difference between a very brief conversation and one that lends itself to making a genuine connection. We have all found ourselves asking, “How was 2016?” and having them respond with a brief, “It was good.” You then find yourself looking for the next question. After about 5 or 6 of those in rapid succession you feel like this is more of an inquisition than a conversation. You have to be more creative in phrasing your questions. For instance, try asking, “How did you find yourself in this line of work?” or “What do you think your biggest challenge will be in 2017?” Before you know it, you are in a real, deeply exploratory conversation about their business and how you might be able to assist them.

People want to do business with people that have a vested interest in their success. I know that I am only as successful as my clients/company/employees that I serve. Convey that you care about the project, the company, the problem they are facing and be genuine. If they know you are working hard for them, they will appreciate that effort. That is where real connections are made.

While you should be respectful of their time, if you have made a genuine connection, don’t walk away until you have discussed what the next step is. If there is a real need to build that relationship, this should come naturally. Traditionally this a “call to action” but you can think of it as asking for a follow-up. By simply stating that you are really interested in continuing the conversation and asking if you can give them a call tomorrow/next week/later in the month, to discuss how you can help them. Hint: they should say “yes.”

Lastly, while you should give them a business card, there is another technique to stay in contact that is even more powerful. We all have our cellphones in our pockets. Take it out and send them an email right then and there. They now have your contact information, even if that business card ends up on the floor of their car or the bottom of their purse.

Feel free to exit the elevator on the next floor.

Take a Break for Summer Break

There are moments when I find it especially hard to be a working parent.

Those 3:00 a.m. feedings, especially when I knew I had an early meeting, stand out in my mind.

Those days you are traveling for work and get stuck in the airport. All you want to do is get home to your kids, despite the gift that is FaceTime. That is heartbreakingly hard.

For me, summer break is also one of those times. The weather is now downright beautiful here in Maine and the kids are finally out of school. This is one of those times I want to be hitting the beach and going to the summer festivals. I want to be playing with them in the sprinklers and going to the park. I want to do all the things. All the summer things.

Like so many families, we can’t do all the summer things. Our days are still filled with rushing off in the morning, the demands of getting dinner on the table at a reasonable hour and bedtime routines, even if it is still light outside. Those precious weekends are still filled with the monotony of getting ready for the upcoming week, with mountains of laundry, errands and food shopping.

We do manage to squeeze a fair amount of fun summer activities into weekends, preferably outside. While we may not be enjoying 11 full weeks of the easy, relaxed, fun of “summer break” for some families, we look for those little corners of time to celebrate summer:

  • Plan at least one fun thing each weekend, such as stopping off at a park, even if it is on the way to do the food shopping. This is actually the goal all year round, if we can manage it.
  • Set-up a tent and let your kids “go camping” right at home. They will have the added bonus of having the kitchen and bathrooms not too far away. My kids are still little enough that they would not sleep in the tent, but it is still a fun activity. You can even do laundry at the same time.
  • Surprise your children with ice cream for dinner after camp/daycare pickup. Admittedly this does not happen often in my house but when it does, it is a great surprise. The kids love this!
  • Picnic in the yard for dinner. No need to cook. Sandwiches count as dinner when you are on a picnic blanket.
  • If your town allows it, have fire pit and roast marshmallows! Experiment with different s’mores combinations.
  • Once it starts to get dark a little earlier, in August, go out and catch fireflies in the yard. I remember doing this as a child and the first time I caught fireflies with my own children I realized that it was one of my fondest childhood memories.

There are countless other ways to take in all that summer has to offer. We live in an amazing place where it is easy to pick fresh strawberries, squeeze in a short hike, stop by a free concert or go kayaking for even just an hour. Thankfully, if you are not able do all the summer things with your kids, you still can enjoy some of the summer things. It will be memorable, just the same. Get creative and take a (little) break, this summer break.

Loving Where You Live / Loving Where You Work

I love Brunswick, Maine.

Sure, it’s wonderful for my tech company to have a home base in the city Google selected as “The strongest online business community” in Maine.

But that isn’t why I love Brunswick, I feel like that’s just the icing.

The number one reason I love Brunswick: the food!

With two sushi bars, two Indian restaurants, three epic coffee shops, countless food venues, plenty of bars (ranging from sports-pub to something right out of NYC), and the infamous Frontier restaurant overlooking the ever-flowing Androscoggin river…. how did we get so lucky? Not to mention all of the above is just on Maine St!

The number two reason I love Brunswick: the people.

I know this is a weird add-on to the above statement, but I am fascinated equally by the living stories and the stories of the past of the people who have passed through this small city. Some of those historic figures include Joshua Chamberlain (former governor and military legend for the battle of Gettysburg), Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (what a poet  – oddly he lived in Chamberlain’s house at one point!) and the inspiring Harriet Beecher Stowe (authoring the “book that sparked the Civil War” in Uncle Tom’s Cabin).

But even today, you can walk the street safely at any time, and if you see strangers on the sidewalk, chances are they will say hello to you. Many of the people I’ve met are approachable and just wanted a slower pace for their world than a big city would create. Young, old, and everyone in between – Brunswick is a melding pot of life and ideas where it’s encouraged to interact with each other as neighbors and friends.

I’ve lived in a few different states and a few different towns, and I grew up in Topsham (right next door to Brunswick) and no matter when or how I’ve tried to leave, I always wind up back here. Happy. Relaxed. With friends. And great food. And a baller internet connection.


edit: I wish I could have listed more of the amazing places here, like our 4 star restaurant or the prestigious Bowdoin College because you all help make Brunswick what it is

Kelly Dorsey

Member Spotlight: Kelly Dorsey

Name: Kelly Dorsey
Occupation: Most Fun Banker in the Midcoast!
Employer: Androscoggin Bank
Town of Residence: Freeport

My husband, Ian, grew up in Freeport and we decided that, after living in Ohio and New Hampshire, this is where we wanted to be when we started a family. Our families live in the neighboring towns so it seemed to be a natural fit.

Midcoast Edge supports our members’ personal and professional goals. What do you benefit from most by taking part in Edge events?

It’s a great way to keep in touch with people that we don’t normally get to see because, as a brewer, Ian’s hours of operation are a little different than the norm and the Edge has given us a way to continue networking with people in our own demographic together. The Edge is also family friendly so, as new parents, we really appreciate ways we can meet more people in environments where we know our little guy is welcome. It’s a very versatile network and we’ve made some really meaningful and lasting connections because of this group.

The Edge reinvests in the economic prosperity of the region and we want to see our communities grow. If someone is considering moving to or taking a job in the area and asks why you have, what would you say?

This area has a very hands-on and in-person focus. There is a personal touch with everything because the community is small enough to support that. That said, the people that make up the community are so welcoming and thoughtful, they make you feel like you truly belong here.

What’s on your reading list for professional development?

The Wall Street Journal, MaineBiz (religiously), and the Chive…because no matter how professional you are, if you don’t laugh no one will want to work with you.

Tell us a little about the causes you support or volunteer with in the area.

I sit on the finance committee for the Cathance River Education Alliance (CREA) in Topsham and I also sit on the board of the Midcoast Edge in an effort to do my part in attracting and keeping young people in Maine.

Many connections can be made from sharing common interests. What are your favorite hobbies?

My favorite book is still the Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I hated reading when I was younger but when I ready Gatsby, it changed my opinion entirely. The story line about being rich and fabulous and then losing everything so fast was eye-opening and subsequently wildly entertaining for me. After that book, I was a lot more open to the idea of reading for fun.

Deep down inside we’re all a little nerdy about something. What’s the nerdiest thing about you?

I am obsessed with Queen Elizabeth I. She has been an idle of mine since I first learned about her in elementary school and the more I got to know about her as I grew up, the more fascinated I became. She is such a successful figure in history but her behavior was less than perfect most of the time. The first time I saw her memorial in Westminster Abbey, I cried.

What’s your favorite local spot?

I love Maine Beer Company! Not only because they are an outstanding example of two people with a passion and a very-focused vision, but because they are always willing to help out their neighbors at a moment’s notice. They have embraced the Midcoast community as their own and have given a newer, greener look to successful economic development in a town previously known for its national brands. They also make some killer beer!

What family activities in the Bath-Brunswick-Topsham and Freeport areas do you enjoy?

We really enjoy finding new or different places to eat all over town. In the last ten years Freeport and Brunswick have become little foodie meccas in their own rights, and it’s so fun to try each establishment out. We also love exploring around Wolfe’s Neck Farm on the weekends.

We want our members to benefit from peer-to-peer networking about living, working, volunteering and/or socializing in the Bath-Brunswick-Topsham and Freeport areas. Anything to plug?

The Midcoast has everything someone 21-40 would want, no matter where you are in your career. If you want more schooling, there are three colleges here. If you want a different job, the Chamber has over 700 members. If you want a hip place to live, this whole area is ripe with buying or renting opportunities, and is only 30 minutes from Portland or Augusta.

Can you hear me now? The Power of Listening.

It was once said that, “When you speak you are only repeating what you already know but when you listen you may learn something new.”

Of course I am a little fuzzy on who actually said this. An ancient Chinese proverb? That very well could be. It might also be something I heard at a leadership class once. Then again; it is entirely possible that it is a random meme I came across on Facebook. Does sound very profound, though, doesn’t it?

Sources aside, active listening and learning how to really hear people is a valuable asset. It is one skill in our “soft skills” toolbox that often gets overlooked. It not only has the ability to either enhance or erode our ability to lead, but such a skill is helpful in a wide variety of situations.

It is those with outstanding listening skills that are providing exceptional service to their customers.

Great listeners can work cohesively with teammates.

Enhancing our listening skills can even assist with building and maintaining personal relationships.

This may come very naturally for some. For others, more development in actively listening can help us be more effective in these various aspects of our lives.

All I have to say to my preschooler is “turn on your listening ears” and he will reach up with both hands and turn the imaginary switch next to his ears, giving me a little “click-click.” Yes, that is adorable. I know. This simple act lets me know he is ready to hear me. Those of us in the business world have graduated to a higher level of listening and our switch is a smidge bigger. If you are ready to turn your grown-up listening ears on, here are a few pointers.

Don’t multi-task.

Put away the phone. Set aside the work on your desk. Whomever you are speaking to deserves your full attention. If you can’t give your full attention at that moment, consider scheduling a time when you can.

Make eye contact.

When you listen intently you are looking at the person you are speaking to (excluding phone conversations and hitchy FaceTime). The infamous 7 percent rule tells us that 93 percent of communication is nonverbal. This is comprised of both body language at 55 percent and tone of voice at 38 percent*. Explains why sometime emails get misinterpreted, now doesn’t it? When you make eye contact you may notice subtle changes in facial expressions or body language that are pertinent to the conversation. You need to hear that part of the conversation too.

Take notes.

You don’t need to transcribe the entire conversation but if something peaks your interest and you know you will want to recall later, write it down. While you may never review those notes, the simple act writing the note will help your retention of the conversation.

Don’t prematurely plan your response.

As hard as it is, resist that urge to plan what you are going to say next, while others are still speaking. You will not be as focused on what they are saying or, even worse; you may interrupt or finish the sentence for them. It is best to wait until they finished and then some thought as to what is the best response.

Get comfortable with silence.

They call it an awkward pause, because it is so awkward! However, sometimes that silence is important. It gives people time to reflect and absorb what has been said. It also give you time to consider how to respond. Don’t just fill the void with meaningless conversation to avoid that awkward moment.

While this is just one aspect of becoming a great communicator, it is perhaps the most important one. Turn those listening ears on! Click. Click.

A nod to the network.

Who are the people on this earth that truly know what makes you happy? Those people, in your inner circle, that would know if you were sad or angry. How many people in your world understand what would make you go right or left at the proverbial fork in the road? There are likely few that know us on that level. That inner circle is to be protected and cherished. However, there are hundreds, if not thousands of people in our larger circle(s) and all too often we may not give them the credit that they deserve. We are social beings and, as such, we interact with the people around us, wherever we go. The level of that interaction may vary significantly but almost nothing we say or do is in complete isolation. While there may be a select few in our inner circle, we all have a wider network of people in our lives. That net is cast far and wide.

My net includes current and former colleagues that I have worked with, laughed with at happy hour, played golf with and broken bread with at the company potluck. We even toiled late into the night, from time to time, when the real work needed to get done.

My net includes that sweet barista that cheerily makes my coffee, as we are hurriedly on our way to soccer practice. She knows that I like my coffee with cream, two sugars and a warm smile.

My net includes the countless friends-of-friends that are now my friends. Our paths cross frequently enough to know that they have an exciting family vacation coming up or that their mom has recently been very ill.

My net includes Kyle, who bags my groceries every Saturday and tells my kids corny Halloween jokes. Even if they don’t make them laugh. Crickets Kyle, crickets.

My net includes the UPS man that whistles as he walks up the long driveway to bring us the all too frequent online shopping treasures. The dog even knows he will have a biscuit in his pocket just for her.

My net includes countless fellow parents that we see at birthday parties, the playground, school functions and the oh-so-crowded Applebee’s on Friday nights. Perhaps we don’t know them too well, but we know their children and they know ours. We know what car they drive because we see it at pick-up and drop-off and we give them a friendly wave as we rush off. We know what sports their children play. We stop and chat about ear infections in the waiting room at the pediatrician’s office.

This is our network. They may not be sending you hot referrals. They may not be trying to recruit you for your dream job. They may or may not be connected to you through social media. These are the people that we are all connected to here in real life.

Remarkably, it is often this net that will catch you when you stumble. It is this net that will lift you up. Do the same for them.

Katelyn Syphers

Member Spotlight: Katelyn Syphers

Name: Katelyn Syphers
Occupation: Funeral Director and Part-Time PiYO Instructor
Employer: Funeral Alternatives / Kincer Funeral Home, and Believe Fitness Center
Town of Residence: Brunswick

I always loved Brunswick! After spending two years living a couple hours north in Madison, my husband and I were in need of a change. He grew up in Brunswick and wanted to go back, and I couldn’t think of a better place to move to!

The Edge reinvests in the economic prosperity of the region and we want to see our communities grow. If someone is considering moving to or taking a job in the area and asks why you have, what would you say?

I would tell them this: The Brunswick and Midcoast area is one of my favorite places to work and live. I have had more opportunity to meet people here and network than I have in any other area that I have worked or lived in. The community is wonderful. It’s not too big and not too small, so you really get to know a lot of people, but you’re not overwhelmed with there being so many different people to meet. There’s a lot of diversity here, and I believe having Bowdoin College in town really contributes to that.

I’ve truly enjoyed the small town feel and seeing familiar faces everywhere, along with the variety that downtown Brunswick has to offer. And the location is perfect! I’m not far from southern Maine, the coastal region, the mountains, or the area I grew up in north of here. I couldn’t imagine a better place to be. And in regard to my career here, I have been blown away by how willing everyone is to learn more about my business, as well as how the local groups, like the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber, Midcoast Edge, and Brunswick Downtown Association, are so willing to help promote local businesses and help us grow. It’s an excellent community for work, play, and building a life.

Tell us a little about the causes you support or volunteer with in the area.

I love getting involved in local organizations. I am a member of Brunswick Coastal Rotary, and I truly enjoy supporting and contributing to the local and international causes that we work with. Rotary has been one of the best organizations I have had the privilege of belonging too. We really make a difference in the world, and we do it effectively. I also really love working with the Brunswick Downtown Association!

Many connections can be made from sharing common interests. What are your favorite hobbies?

Wow, tough choice. Well, let’s start with health and fitness. I love various forms of physical fitness – Crossfit, hiking, teaching PiYO, road biking, obstacle course races, and sports. And of course geeking out about nutrition goes with that.  I really love cooking, too. I don’t want to brag, but I know my way around a kitchen very well. And I am a total foodie! I plan most of my trips around the best places to eat and know most cities by which restaurants are notable, or I will ask people the best places to eat if I’m new to the area.

Deep down inside we’re all a little nerdy about something. What’s the nerdiest thing about you?

I am a MASSIVE Doctor Who fan (a Whovian if you will.) I also love graphic novels!

What’s your favorite local spot?

I adore The Little Dog Coffee Shop!

Going on a Job Hunt

This summer I found myself in full-on-job-hunt-mode. It was not the sort of job hunt when you throw your hat in the ring, just to see if the grass is actually greener. It is the kind of job hunt where you no longer have a paycheck. If you have been there you know that can be, well, scary unnerving. It also requires a fair bit of time and attention to rectify that situation.

So this summer, in between some long overdue reading, writing, running (badly) and an occasional trip to the beach with my offspring, I set forth to once again get myself employed. Carefully customizing resumes, drafting cover letters, networking, networking and more networking. Not just social networking; but plenty of that too. Then came the interview process. There’s something both uncomfortable and rewarding about having to answer deep, thought-provoking questions about oneself. Even when fully prepared, you just never know what question might be hurled your way. Especially when you are on your fourth interview with a prospective employer or attending the dreaded “panel of peers” interview. Having to answer such questions on the fly can make those responses pretty insightful to both the interviewer and interviewee, alike.

This process was not only a means to an end – the end being to restore that missing paycheck – but it also became a long neglected journey of self-discovery.

A pilgrimage?

Perhaps that’s just a bit indulgent.

However, I was rediscovering who I was and, as importantly, I was redefining what was important to me. With a little patience, it was a journey that did lead, eventually, to the right job.

The only way you will know if it’s the right job is by giving considerable thought as to what you want out of that next opportunity. What is important to you? As a jumping off point, here is my wish list, in no particular order:

  • I want work that is interesting and challenging.
  • I want to have fun and work with others that want to have fun.
  • I want to make a difference and contribute.
  • I want to give back to our community and help people.
  • I want to be paid what I am worth.
  • I want to be respected for what I do.
  • I want to be recognized for my accomplishments.
  • I want to be in a position to help others be successful at what they do.
  • I want my career to be a priority but not the only priority.
  • I want to work with people that are supportive, collaborative and innovative.

Next time you are peeking over the fence to see if the grass is greener or perhaps, like I was, you are in full-on-job-hunt mode, consider what is important to you. While compensation and benefits are important, that might just be a starting point.

How does this compare to your wish list?

Member Spotlight: Jacob Korb

Name: Jacob Korb
Occupation: Program Director, Main Street Bath
Employer: Main Street Bath
Town of Residence: Bath

Prior to moving to Maine Jacob was living and working in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but would visit Bath at least once annually to see family. In April he decided to make a move and found that the Program Director position was open at Main Street Bath, the job combines many of my interests and seemed a natural fit.

The Edge reinvests in the economic prosperity of the region and we want to see our communities grow. If someone is considering moving to, or taking a job in, the area and asks why you have, what would you say?

Take the leap. Moving to a new area is intimidating no matter where it is, but Maine and the Midcoast is one of best places to do it! There is a community to fit everyone’s needs and interests and you couldn’t ask for a more beautiful place to live.

What’s on your reading list for professional development?

My reading list for professional development is a bit all over the place, I read a lot of different pieces on leadership and have really enjoyed books by Frances Hesselbein, but I also use twitter and LinkedIn to find pieces written by peers about their day to day challenges and experiences.

Many connections can be made from sharing common interests. What is your favorite restaurant and why?

My favorite restaurant since moving here is probably Enoteca Athena, it’s a great casual spot for dinner and they make a killer Manhattan!

Deep down inside we’re all a little nerdy about something. What is the nerdiest thing about you?

I love Jurassic Park. The new Jurassic World movie was great, but the original is still the best. I secretly will watch the 2nd and 3rd when they are on TV, even though they are pretty terrible. I would still visit the park even after watching the movies, and be honest; you would too!

What is your favorite local spot?

My favorite local spot is the Waterfront Park in Bath, early in the morning. A few weekdays before work you can find me with a pastry and coffee from Cafe Creme sitting in one of the adirondack chairs enjoying the view.