What's Your Insignia?!

The Insignia Foundation is a new kind of national leadership organization that is starting right here in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area. Insignia, through its seminars and Roundtable groups, provides life skills training and life coaching for all who desire it, including those who cannot afford it. Further, Insignia offers a platform for civic leaders and community members who wish to be involved in mentoring others and are looking for a venue through which to do so. We recently caught up with its Founder, Douglas Howe, and asked him to explain it all to us.

 

Download the Insignia Media Guide View a downloadable versions of the FAQs below

 

What, exactly, is The Insignia Foundation?

Insignia is an innovative 501(c)(3) public benefit charity that accepts financial gifts to make fantastic leadership programs possible for those who might not otherwise have access to it. Insignia Coaching helps people achieve their goals in life while overcoming any past or current challenges that may be holding them back.

When you say “the program,” what do you mean by that?

We offer our clients the opportunity to consider the lives they want to have, examine the obstacles they’ll have to overcome to get there, identify the resources required to make it happen and then develop an implementable plan to do so. It all starts with healthy self-awareness, which leads to self-leadership, which leads to self-mastery. Our primary offering is through round table groups for 8-10 clients who meet for a course covering eight sessions.

What happens at an Insignia Roundtable?

Each group has a trained facilitator and each session features a community leader, business leader, relationship expert or other topical speaker who offers not only presentations but also their expertise through the valuable Q and A component of each session. The clients also get to learn from each other in an organic environment, through which they can develop skills such as effective listening, conflict resolution and overcoming potential defensiveness. We also offer seminars on specific topics when sponsoring organizations or businesses want to bring us in.

That doesn’t sound so new; aren’t there other leadership organizations that offer roundtables?

There absolutely are. And they’re good ones. We founded Insignia for those who either can’t afford the offerings on the market, or don’t have access to them, or for whatever reason haven’t found what they’re looking for. If you’re not a CEO, you can’t really join a CEO roundtable. If you’re not a small business owner, you can’t join an owners’ group. If you don’t have the cash, you can’t join a publicly offered roundtable. And, if you’re always feeling like everyone’s always giving you too much advice, perhaps you just haven’t wanted to join one.

What makes Insignia roundtables unique?

One factor is that we’ve written the curriculum and, deeper than that, the methodology. I won’t give away too much of the “secret sauce” here but it really works. I’ve been workin’ on it for over 30 years myself during the various stops on my career path, and have benefited from the contributions of a wide array of friends and colleagues.

You mention your career path; where has that taken you?

I was an entrepreneur in the non-profit world for about 20 years, and you really learn how to motivate, inspire and lead people when you don’t have any stock options, equity events or other financial incentives to offer. I also was a Pastor in three churches where we sought to make things relevant and innovative. For the last 8 years, The HOWe Team (my little company) has served small and large businesses and non-profits with leadership development services and other H.R. solutions related to performance improvement (which continues to be my day job!)

You said you were a Pastor. Is this a faith-based organization?

Not really, although faith is one of the F-bombs we address in the Roundtables because all of us choose to put our faith in something or someone, even if we don’t know it. Insignia is a public benefit organization, which means that our services are offered to all regardless of background. If one were to study the history and etymology of much of our source material, they’d find that we’ve benefited from ancient texts originally written in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic that were actually translated into Latin long before they were translated into English. And they’re so reliable that most of today’s books on leadership, management, relationships, finances and other kinds of help are actually traceable to the principles found in the source material we use.

How do you assess that there is a need for Insignia?

The last I checked, the imperfection rate in humans was running at right about 100%! So none of us are perfect. Most leaders—and people who’ve succeeded in life—have learned about how to handle and manage our imperfections, which starts with self-awareness and leads to self-leadership and then self-mastery. Some are fortunate enough to have access to their company’s leadership track, peer organizations or houses of worship, but there are many others who are still looking for the missing ingredients and I believe we’ve got some key parts of the recipe for them.

Is there a specific curriculum?

The initial course covers what we call our eight F-bombs, because they’re so important in life: Family, Friends, Finances, Fitness, Future Vision, First Impressions, how we handle Failure and then the last one, Faith. There are also special topical roundtables that focus on more on a specific area of life or a specific need or crisis.

How do you choose the members of a roundtable?

The make-up of a group is obviously so vital and important, so our team makes sure that we match the right people with each other. The most reliable filters are affinity, season of life and need. For example, we likely wouldn’t have a single mom starting her new life together with a married father of five who wants to make his retirement years count. We probably wouldn’t put a middle manager from a hostile corporate environment with a young gun who can’t seem to keep a job. A little diversity is always good, but we also want the members to have some common reference points with each other.

Can you be a little more specific?

Some people just need a pit stop in life’s rat race. Others need a tune-up or a check under the hood. Then there are those whose lives need a complete overhaul. Fortysomething Roundtables are for those with midlife issues combined with stress and fatigue. Young Guns are for men and women in their 30’s whose present choices will determine so much of their future opportunities. Then there are the overgrown college kids who’re finally ready to listen to some advice! Lifelong Learners are those who’ve achieved some success in life but want to take things to the next level. Legacy Members are those who want to accomplish more before their run is done. Second Winders are those who’re ready to start a new season or chapter in their lives, either vocationally or relationally or with a greater sense of purpose.

Who are your leaders?

Our Governance Board is a national group, in support of Douglas Howe, a Founding Board Member who serves as our Executive Director. Each community that sponsors a program forms its own Advisory Board. Bob Lynch is our Controller, who handles all donations, receipts and follow-up. Greg Leisinger is part of our Cincinnati leadership team and focuses on the inner city. Chris Leech is our primary outfitter and lead guide for our fishing retreats.

What kind of reception are you getting?

So far I’ve gotten a 100% “yes” when it’s come to inviting people to come speak to one of our groups or support us in some other way. And that doesn’t surprise me. You know, doctors will go to foreign countries to fix cleft lips, and dentists will go to pull teeth and fight gum disease. This is sort of a way for local leaders to share what they have to offer to those who need it, in a structured environment where they can help without having to leave the country. We’re more ready than we’ve ever been for the community to send us those who they believe would benefit…starting with themselves!

Are there career opportunities with Insignia?

You bet. We have several life coaches, businesspeople and community leaders who’re volunteering with us now, but at some point we’ll probably need to hire some people to help us keep up with demand. This will probably be a great place for someone to moonlight if their current career offers that freedom.

Where did the name “Insignia” come from?

For centuries, an Insignia has been a symbol or mark or stamp of status, power or authority. A King’s seal is probably an image many of us can remember seeing in a movie or documentary, where the seal is placed on an envelope or ticket of passage, declaring the sender’s power. Through our Foundation, we hope to help countless numbers of people learn to “make their mark” upon their world, rather than seeing themselves as simply survivors or passers through. We want them to reach their highest potential, to become the best version of themselves they can be. And that goes for those of us in leadership as well.

What is your long-term vision for Insignia?

Well, it may sound crazy, but we’re hoping that after we establish proof-of-concept here and learn a few things, we’ll want to reproduce this nationally. After the first Kiwanis club, another town started one. Same with Rotary. Same with the YMCA or Young Life or other non-profit organizations. Our hope is that someday there’d be an Insignia chapter in every city in the United States, where those who need a hand-up and those looking to lend a hand could both find each other at Insignia Round Tables. It would make them, their families and their communities a lot happier and a lot more fulfilling. For now, though, we’ll focus on making the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky chapter as successful as we can.

 

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