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Chris Richards — LGM03 graduate and Vice Chancellor Emeritus for UW–Stevens Point — likes to share an important lesson he’s learned in life. “So often you make all the plans and take all of the steps, but things take unexpected burns and you discover that the effort pays off in a totally unexpected way.” In other words, life and leadership are often messy.
Chris shared his observations and experiences with Lynn Wood (LGM12) and Jenn Krebs (LGM28) as part of an LGMAA Lead from Where You Are podcast. Chris began his career as a journalist with Wisconsin Public Radio and after several years transitioned into development and fundraising. That’s where he found his passion. He supported higher education in development and fundraising for more than 23 years at the UW–Madison Foundation and for 10 years after that at UW–Stevens Point.
Chris explained that the skills he learned as a journalist — communicating, convening, listening, following up and motivating — continued to serve him as he moved from one career path to another. He says as long as someone is actively engaged and always learning, unexpected miracles can happen. But it’s important for leaders to stay true to your intentions and values and be able to adjust when life gets messy and throws adversity and challenges your way.
In addition to begin adaptable, Chris says leaders must be empathetic. For Chris, leadership means focusing more on other people than on yourself and finding ways to be as concerned about others’ lives as you are about your own. That kind of focus and commitment can give meaning to the messiest moment.
ABOUT CHRIS RICHARDS
Chris Richards is passionate about supporting higher education and nonprofits. Chris currently shares his expertise as a capital campaign consultant for nonprofit organizations and is a consultant in nonprofit development, leadership development and executive coaching. He retired n 2022 as the UW–Stevens Point Vice Chancellor for University Advancement and the Executive Director of the UWSP Foundation. He is a proud UW–Stevens Point alumnus.
Chris called Madison home for many years. After a stint as a producer, news anchor and general assignment reporter for Wisconsin Public Radio, Chris moved into fundraising for WPR, securing corporate support for the statewide radio network. After nearly five years in that capacity, he joined the UW Foundation as director of development for the UW Law School. For more than 23 years, he worked closely with a portfolio of major donors as a development director, managed a $1.86 billion capital campaign, and been part of the UW Foundation leadership team, ultimately serving as a vice president.
But when the opportunity arose, Chris jumped at the chance to return to his alma mater. “Being able to provide opportunities for future generations of Pointers excites me,” Chris said when he joined UWSP in 2012.
A graduate of Stevens Point Area Senior High, Chris studied communication at UW-Stevens Point, was a manager at the campus radio station, WWSP, and participated in the university's study abroad program. He is a graduate of LGM03.
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“The further you are away from the problem, the harder it is to understand the challenges,” says Matt Cranney, Executive Vice President with M3 Insurance Solutions and LGM20 graduate. Matt says when trying to understand an issue, “proximity determines your perspective.” Matt explained his personal approach to leadership to LGM Program Director Lynn Wood and Diara Parker (LGM28) with EQT By Design as part of the LGMAA Lead from Where You Are podcast. He says his LGM experience and its emphasis on getting close to issues were pivotal in helping him gain perspective through proximity.
When you understand the issue and how it impacts the community, that’s when you’re best equipped to find where you can lead and serve. For Matt, leadership is all about influence and service. He says when you define leadership based on your influence and what you bring to the issue, that’s when you can figure out where you can have the greatest impact. Matt says people should serve out of what breaks their heart. In other words, what they are passionate about. Once they’ve determined their passion, leaders decide how to best use their time, talent and treasure to make a difference.
In some cases, impact lies in helping people when they most need it or in assisting them reach their full leadership potential.
“Leaders are people who make people in situations better. Can the Madison experience be a good experience for everyone who calls it home?” Matt asks. He says some of his most memorable leadership journeys were when he had the opportunity to walk with others during some of their darkest days. That’s when you really understand the concept of service.
“Are you a thermostat or a thermometer?” Matt asks. After all, a thermometer might measure temperature; but a thermostat can adapt the environment. Leaders must be willing to set the culture and tone and be ready to listen and engage. Then they’ll be a thermostat rather than a thermometer.
ABOUT MATT CRANNEY
Matt Cranney is the Executive Vice President of M3 Insurance Solutions. He’s a past president of the Professional Insurance Agents of Wisconsin (PIA of WI). Matt has been an active leader and supporter of United Way of Dane County. He is a Past President of the United Way Key Club Council. A native of Scotland, Matt moved to the U.S. approximately 17 years ago. Matt uses his passion and soccer-playing experience to coach the next generation of players.
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Jenna Atkinson is passionate about helping people succeed in business so they can impact their community. The enthusiastic entrepreneur and LGM19 alum shares her business acumen with other tech-driven entrepreneurs through her business the P5 Project. The fact that the five Ps in the P5 Project are purpose, passion, profits, progress and possibilities says a lot about Jenna’s approach to leadership.
Jenna says if you want to reach the highest level and make the biggest impact “dream big and think bigger.” She seems to find inspiration everywhere. She was motivated to think big thanks to American Family’s Dream Bank. She discovered the importance of finding ways to stir other people, which creates a ripple effect. And the bigger the ripple, the bigger the potential community impact. “Shift your goals and your dreams and you’ll see the shift in your action and increase your impact,” Jenna says.
She says roadblocks often block people’s path to success. Deeply ingrained limiting beliefs can hold anyone back. She also urges people to not be afraid or ashamed of financial success. She explains that money is a tool and if you have the resources, skills and desire; you should pursue success. After all, your success could be the miracle for someone else.
Jenna describes her LGM experience as an inflection point in her career and journey. She says she learned both the importance of getting locally involved and building authentic relationships and networks. Those lessons were evident in her LGM team project — CONNECT Madison. Her team created the 501 (c) 3 to help young professionals connect with each other and with area non-profits.
Listen to Jenna’s full conversation with LGM Program Director and LGM12 graduate Lynn Wood and LGM28 alumni Chris Erickson. You’ll be inspired to dream big and make a big impact too.
Before starting The P5 Project in 2019, I worked for several large professional services firms. I helped high net-worth financial advisors, accountants and attorneys grow their book of business and bottom line, while also helping position them as the “go-to” industry expert. I wanted to lead by example, and earned opportunities to write for several professional industry publications and speak at local and national conferences and events. Eventually, I had partners from competing firms asking if I could help their team with their marketing and business development strategy and training. After enough requests, I decided to leave the corporate world and start my own training and consulting firm. I worked with financial firms, accounting firms and law firms across the country and the business was doing well.
But, then in 2017, my husband Matt and I welcomed our first daughter, Bella. And…then 18 months later came her sister Lexi! Two under two is no joke people. As most new moms do, I needed (and wanted) to re-evaluate my career and life. Although my business was doing well, I wasn’t very passionate about it anymore. I’ve definitely never been the stay-at-home-mom type (nothing wrong with it if you are- it’s probably the hardest job in the world!), but I also knew that if I was now trading time away from my family, I wanted to make sure it was something that was about more than just making money. I wanted to use my strengths to do something I was passionate about and could create the most value for others- and don’t get me wrong- also make a good profit!
In my experience, when I can’t find something I am looking for, that means other people are too. So- I created The P5 Project. The mission of The P5 Project is to help women set and achieve even BIGGER goals to increase their income, impact and influence through no B.S., dynamic events, training and opportunities. We value collaboration over competition and believe that #womenempoweringwomen needs to be more than just a cute social media post, but actually taking action to lift each other up and putting your money where your mouth is to show that support. We believe that continuously striving to be the best version of yourself and pursuing financial success is your duty. We want to remove the negative perceptions around building personal wealth and help women see that money is only a tool and amplifier that will allow you to have more influence and impact on the people, communities and causes that are important to you.