In Your Words: Haas Culture

By Melissa Kelley, MBA 93
Recipient of the 2010 North Bay Haas Alumni Recognition Award


Students always.
Confidence without attitude.
Question the status quo.
Beyond yourself.


It's the end of a long workday as I walk into Santa Rosa's Central Library. I settle myself at the head of the table in the meeting room, and 25 expectant faces turn toward me. For the next hour, I will lead them as we brainstorm, plan, schedule, assign tasks … and also cheer, laugh, and delight in each other's company. We are organizing the next Sonoma County Book Festival.


The aspect of the Book Festival that I find most remarkable is that these 25 volunteers—and 50 more volunteers on the day of the event—collectively donate thousands of hours to make the festival possible. I am the organization's only paid staff, and the one-day extravaganza for literacy and the literary arts would not be possible without their efforts.


I am keenly aware of the skills I must bring to that table to keep these volunteers coming back month after month. Attention to detail, clear communications, patience, humor, and enthusiasm, of course, are all important. Perhaps the most critical skill of all, though, is confidence.


Throughout nearly a year-long planning process, I must maintain confidence in my ability to direct this wide-ranging process to a successful conclusion. Even more important, I must earn the team's confidence in me as a leader. The only attitude I project is a positive one. An arrogant book festival director would quickly find herself organizing empty chairs.


As I write this, our team is switching into high gear to plan the 2011 Sonoma County Book Festival, scheduled for Sept. 24. I look forward to applying the Haas School's defining principle "Confidence without Attitude" for another year.



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