Standing on the Shoulders of Colorado’s Water Leaders


Cheryl Benedict facilitates the first Water Leaders session for the 2015 class.

It’s all about the interpersonal skills. The more senior you advance in an organization, the more important your emotional intelligence becomes—it’s a big predictor of success, and is especially true in the water profession, says Cheryl Benedict, Water Leaders facilitator.

Through the Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s Water Leaders program, mid-level water professionals have the opportunity to explore emotional intelligence and network with a cohort of others who live and work across Colorado. The 2015 class of Water Leaders met for the first time last month.

“Every class I’ve facilitated has been amazing,” Benedict says. “One of the consistent characteristics I’ve noticed about each of the participants is how cause-motivated and passionate they are about the water profession…Frankly, I’m smitten with the whole Water Leader group.”


The 2015 class of Water Leaders

Last month, the 2015 Water Leader class began its focus on emotional intelligence or EQ. “EQ is made up of four quadrants: self-awareness, self-management, awareness of others, and being able to manage others based on who they are,” Benedict says. “Lightbulbs have been going on for people when they start to realize ‘Wow, I wasn’t taught this in school, but it’s what leadership is all about.’  It’s having the skill to build relationships and create followership.”

The first session focused on ‘Myself as a Leader.’ Participants used personality assessments to identify their strengths and personality types and did a team assessment to diagnose team performance issues. “In the water profession, and with water stake holders, the true question becomes ‘how can we develop more trust, engage in healthy and constructive conflict, build a unified commitment, establish shared accountability and focus on the same overall result? ’” Benedict says.

The 2014 class of Water Leaders

The 2014 class of Water Leaders shared their words of wisdom with the new class.

The 2014 Water Leaders  class found the program so meaningful that they voted to hold an extra session—session five—because they weren’t ready for Water Leaders to end. During session five, among other things, they passed the torch to the Water Leaders 2015 class by sharing what the program meant to them. Benedict shared those words of wisdom with the 2015 class to open their first session:

Water Leaders is woven into us now. Our self-awareness is a lot higher than it was before.

The ability to do self-reflection on personal behavior and to recognize what’s going on around me was the most applicable and valuable from the Water Leaders program. Also, figuring out how to build trust with others in my department has been great.

You’re a group of people that I can seek advice from; it’s been absolutely invaluable for me. I’ve never had this before.

I’m using what I learned in Water Leaders, especially the small talk skills. The network that’s been created is of great value to me.

In dealing with employee issues, I feel like I have more skills. I really enjoyed the networking. I haven’t had a group like this since high school.

I use Water Leaders every day. I appreciate being able to talk candidly with this group about our projects because it’s easy to doubt yourself in water. It’s really helpful to push that doubt aside.

Relationships are important. They are invaluable to move forward and be successful in the water profession.

Water Leaders helped me figure out what’s next for me and how to build trust.

I am more thoughtful as a leader. I’m fairly intense with getting things done but I am paying more attention to others’ non-verbal cues. Thanks to Water Leaders, I’m thinking through the question, ‘What is their perspective?’ I’ve gained strength from the camaraderie of this circle and to know the challenges we’re all going through.

I’ve lost the ‘grass is always greener’ syndrome. The check-ins have changed my world. It’s an amazing reality check.

The skills and confidence I’ve gained—finding my voice and learning the value of forming relationships.

What I’ve gained is being more self-reflective, being able to understand the different personality types.

Welcome to this outstanding new 2015 class of Water Leaders, standing on the shoulders of Colorado’s many strong water leaders and the nearly 100 alumni who have gone through the program.

Tammy Allen, CDPHE Water Quality Control Division
Erik Anglund, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation
Laura Belanger, Western Resource Advocates
Matt Bond, Denver Water
Sean Cronin, St. Vrain & Left Hand Water Conservancy District
Jordan Dimick, Leonard Rice Engineers, Inc.
Heather Dutton, Colorado Rio Grande Restoration Foundation
Angie Fowler, SGM
Hillary Hamann, Univeristy of Denver
Benjamin McConahey, Hydro Advisors, LLC
Kevin Niles, Arkansas Groundwater Users Association
Susan Ryan, Ryley Carlock & Applewhite
Stephanie Scott, Colorado Trout Unlimited
David Skuodas, Urban Drainage & Flood Control District
Kristina Wynne, Bishop-Brogden Associates, Inc.

More assessments, coaching, shadowing and work is soon to come with the 2015 class’ second session scheduled for May 28 and 29 in Estes Park.

Find articles from previous Water Leaders:

Water Leadership, by Dana Strongin
Discovering my Water Leadership Potential, by Kristin Maharg
From Professionals to Water Leaders

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