Leadership Tools

Donna Rae Scheffert

This blog features stories of people who are actively working to make a difference in their own lives or for others.

How are people using leadership tools to make change? Read stories about people getting involved to make real change for the benefit of others.

Feb 13, 2020


Tools of facilitation to help you design and manage a process that helps a group accomplish its work while minimizing problems within the group.

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Nov 21, 2016

Leadership and Integrity

Leaders must find the courage to promote and act upon organizational core values in a positive way. This exhibits integrity. Leadership and integrity is adhering to a set of values for the common good.

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Jul 27, 2013


Best-leadership-tools, virtual for leaders, to save you time and money. Includes individual and team decision making assessment, organizational assessment and 360 assessment.

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Jul 26, 2013


Tools to use when a sensitive-situation or subject requires behaviors that minimize controversy.

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Sep 06, 2012

How the Jesse James gang was defeated by a little town in Minnesota (Video)

After more than a decade of lawlessness (1866-1876), the James-Younger Gang was stopped on September 7 in a small town on the prairie by courageous local residents.

It all began when the James-Younger Gang decided to do a foray into Minnesota and rob the bank in Northfield on September 7, 1876. The heart of the gang had been together for ten years, robbing banks and railroads. The eight bandits who rode in together that day were unable to get money here, some were killed, and others escaped and were captured later. This notorious band of outlaws never robbed a bank or a railroad again due to the determination of the citizens of Northfield and the courage of local merchants.

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Aug 27, 2012

Better food for your children can make them healthier and smarter

DULUTH, Minn., August 25, 2012 — Increasing access to healthy food for low-income children may be one of the best prescriptions available, according to a Minneapolis physician. It can increase the likelihood of childhood development within normal limits and good health. Federal nutrition programs for children make a difference that can last a lifetime.“Kids under three are often not monitored in other places besides coming to see their doctor,” says Diana Becker Cutts, MD, Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC). And the “Vulnerable Period” for human brain development is birth to age three. That is why, in addition to giving immunizations and writing other prescriptions, she is championing participation in the federal nutrition programs.

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Aug 11, 2012

Walter Mondale and Hubert Humphrey: Minnesotans pave way for Pawlenty as Vice President

As Garrison Keillor says about Minnesota:

“Welcome to Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

Two of our above average children have been elected Vice-President of the United States. Hubert H. Humphrey who was on the ticket with Lyndon B. Johnson in November of 1964. Then jumping ahead to 1977 when Minnesota landed another Vice-President, Walter Mondale.

What legacy did Humphrey and Mondale leave?

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Jul 18, 2012

Entrepreneurs and teleworkers flocking to coworking spaces

A decade of job downsizing and growth of independent workers has led to a new type of work space. Often called ‘coworking’ spaces, or cowork hubs, these are a boon to workers who wish to move from their basement to the boardroom. Or out of the coffee shop.

Deskmag projects that there are now more than 1,100 coworking spaces worldwide, more than double the number in 2006.

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Jul 18, 2012

Penn State joins Watergate and Chernobyl as examples of moral failure

As details are revealed about the cover up of child molestation at Penn State, I am taken back to 1994 when I spent two days at the Nittany Lion Inn on campus teaching “Enhancing Ethical Leadership.”

Anger mixes with my sadness as I recall that lively and informative session. And the laughs we shared at the quip “rot at the top.”

However, moral failure is not funny business, not at all. While our first thoughts are rightly with the victims, and our second ones with the perpetrators, our third thoughts can be about the lessons learned lest they be repeated.

At Penn State in our ethics session, we talked about Watergate and Chernobyl. What was the role and responsibility of leadership? What were the moral failures of those situations? Why?

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May 29, 2012


Use this simple tool to plan more inclusive-meetings.

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May 01, 2012

Online MBTI

Take the Online MBTI, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator online, and connect over the telephone with a coach to interpret your results.

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Apr 18, 2012

Elevator Speech

Create a compelling elevator speech using these simple questions.

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Jan 25, 2012

Paula Deen: Her revelation points to a costly public problem

Paula Deen revealed this month that she has a disease: diabetes. Sharing her private condition in a public manner generated a firestorm of response.

However, this is not just about Paula. It is about all of us facing a huge health care bill in the future unless we turn the tide on chronic disease.

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Jan 18, 2012

Costa Concordia sinking: How often does it happen and what does it mean for cruising?

Sandwiched between memories of being on an Alaskan cruise ship that tilted wildly and plans for a Caribbean cruise, the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia's sinking has me alarmed.

Just how frequently does something like this happen?

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Jan 10, 2012

Joan Steffends new project after Decorating Cents

If life is like a play, then fifty-some year old Joan Steffend is in her fourth act. The first three included actor, news anchor, and television host. Now add speaker, author and non-profit leader. She is devoted and passionate, finding and sharing inner peace on the pathway to world peace.

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Jan 04, 2012

How to survive and thrive with workplace changes

Has your workplace announced a reorganization or other changes? If so, you may be holding your breath hoping that it will all work out OK. Instead, take a few deep breaths and put your confidence into four crucial core values. Research done in organizations indicates that employees who approach change with honesty, trust, hard work, and hope bring about desired innovations.

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Dec 11, 2011

Christmas recipes for red and green salads

Salads are often the sensible, yet boring option on many dinner tables. By adding a new twist to old favorites, you will increase the nutritional value and move your salad from silent to stunning. Make your salad the talk of the party and be ready to share the recipe.

Both of these recipes are easy and both start with cabbage

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Dec 08, 2011

Blue ribbon Christmas cookie and snack recipes

Judges try hundreds of products and award top placement to very few. Launch your cookie and candy baking with these sure-fire recipes. Simple and promising to please, they are also quick and easy enough for children to make.

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Dec 07, 2011

Simple and satisfying Christmas cookie recipes

Looking to add a new favorite recipe to your collection? Here are two proven taste treats for all ages.Are you baking for someone who requires a gluten free cookie? Try Peanut Blossom Cookies. Children love to help make this holiday cookie. If you want a unique recipe for a cookie that will be selected first from the assorted cookie plate, try White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies. This is a winner!

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Dec 01, 2011

Succession Leadership Case Study

A succession leadership case study illustrating some of the the challenges and opportunties.

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Dec 01, 2011

Payback Leadership Case

A case of extraordinary payback leadership that is helping hundreds of people throughout the world.

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Dec 01, 2011

Crisis Leadership Case

Short leadership case about the Minnesota bridge collapse appropriate to discussion of crisis leadership.

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Nov 29, 2011

Food Day rivals Black Friday and Cyber Monday

November 29, 2011 — Food stamps have been replaced by food electronic balance transfer (aka debit) cards. Low income people now get nutrition assistance when the government adds a monthly balance to their electronic account. When their food money arrives, people immediately head to the store to refill food supplies. Midnight runs help replenish food stocks that run out.

It is a new twist on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Perhaps it could be called Food Day for the 46 million people who benefit from national food support. So many people shop immediately when they get their monthly benefits that it rivals more famous shopping days.

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Nov 15, 2011

Cyberbullying ruins lives but teens fight back

NORTHFIELD, Minn., November 15, 2011 — Peter Jacobs was a popular soccer player until he missed a goal and lost the championship game. Cyberbullying started, and he lost his popularity, his girlfriend, and his confidence.

Online bullying, or Cyberbullying, happens when teens use the Internet, cell phones, or other devices to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person. Cyberbullying is a problem that affects almost half of all American teens. (NCPC), 2011).

How can we speak out and fight back to reduce Cyberbullying?

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Nov 03, 2011

Kris and Kim Breakup: Was ‘Yee-Haw Minnesota’ a Problem?

As a Minnesotan, I have to wonder, was a Californian's perception of Minnesota an irreconcilable difference?

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Oct 19, 2011

Bad at math? You may have dyscalculia

Are you are familiar with Dyslexia, the disorder that affects how the brain forms letters? Yes? How about Dyscalculia, the disorder about the brain and numbers? This disorder was unknown to me until recently.

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Oct 06, 2011

A Salute to Peter Benson, aka Mr. Helping Kids Succeed

Millions have benefited from the work of Peter Benson, who died this week, finding out how to help all children grow up to be healthy, caring, and responsible.

Do you want to increase your likelihood of helping kids succeed? Peter Benson and the Search Institute left a legacy of wisdom for you. For raising kids, they reduced trial and error and increased the science. Their most famous work is “Developmental Youth Assets.”

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Sep 30, 2011

Angel Food Ministries closes operations after 17 years

NORTHFIELD, Minn. September 30, 2011 — A giant in the U.S. affordable food distribution system has stopped operations. Angel Food Ministries (AFM) had provided affordable food to more than 45 states. The increased price of fuel and food, along with a growing number of customers who were unable to pay, contributed to a decline in sales.

Angel Food Ministries was a non-profit, non-denominational organization, dedicated to providing food relief and financial support to communities throughout the United States. While Atlanta was their home base, boxes of food purchased at affordable prices were distributed through local sites across the country.

Last year we brought AFM food to town to supplement our growing need for affordable food. As a board member of Northfield Community Action Center, I watched the number of people seeking food from the Food Shelf climb. It appeared that we needed more options. So I organized meetings, championed a site proposal, and cheered when we received our first food from AFM.

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Sep 23, 2011

Is Granny’s quilt a lost treasure?

DUNDAS, Minn., September 23, 2011 — Curious or just want to cash out on a quilt? Knowing its name will add satisfaction for you and/or could create value for your quilt. Rosie Werner has compiled pictures and information about 4,000 quilt kits. Quilt kits were popular in the 20th century. You would purchase one and it would include your fabric, pattern, and other resources needed to complete a quilt. So if my grandmother in North Dakota got a kit and your Grandma in Maryland did too, it is a similar quilt with the same name.

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Sep 17, 2011

Great Food Truck Race is On

NORTHFIELD, MN August 29, 2011—Maria Estrada wants more Minnesotans to eat on the go, literally.

Owner/operator of Northfield-based Maria's Taco Hut, Estrada said she envisions a time when food trucks and carts serve meals to hungry residents daily, rather than just festival time.

"Northfield could benefit from having food trucks around town," she said. "We serve good food that people like."

Food trucks and carts are becoming commonplace on city streets throughout the United States, not just in large cities. For instance, the Minneapolis City Council voted earlier this year to permit food trucks to set up shop in more locations.

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Sep 16, 2011


Use this sample code-of-ethics to develop your own for your team or organization.

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Aug 29, 2011

Following Steve Jobs: Good luck Tim Cook

CEO succession events are critical junctures for organizations. When the executive is also a founder, it is trickier. Luckily, those who have been in their shoes and scholars think deeply about this transition. “You can replace an executive, but you can’t replace a founder.” (Anonymous Investor)

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Aug 24, 2011

National Garden Clubs Inc. Welcomes New President

Shirley Nicolai of Fort Washington, Md., leads largest volunteer organization of its kind in the world. Among current projects are “Plant It Pink,” an initiative that encourages clubs to develop local programs to promote breast cancer education and awareness through pink-infused therapeutic gardens; flower shows; school gardening initiatives for children; and a host of civic beautification and improvement efforts.

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Aug 24, 2011

Life lesson for high school athletes

Youth athletes are gearing up for fall sports. Many dream of winning the big game. In reality many will struggle with drills, teammates, and losses. Inspiring life lessons were recently relayed to high school athletes and parents by Heather Dordinen Kampf. She fell during a college race, picked herself up, and went on to win.

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Aug 01, 2011

Beyond phone hacking: Ethical standard

Some organizations talk about ethical issues over coffee. Other may find themselves in the headlines. Some proactive ones ask their employees to take a survey. Data provides a starting place for conversation. The results direct action to vital areas.

Some employees act like Pollyanna. Nothing is wrong. Others are more like Chicken Little. The sky is falling.

The reality is often in between.

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Jul 25, 2011

Workplace success: Secrets for supervisors

When organizations hire new people, extra effort is needed to ensure workplace success. Organizations encourage and/or inhibit certain behaviors by individuals. Supervisors will find it pays to pay special attention to the culture surrounding the new employees.

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Jul 16, 2011

Volunteerism: Don’t let criticism sideline you

How are soccer and volunteerism similar? They both have players in the game and viewers on the sidelines. How this relationship works makes a difference to how the game is played. Shouts from the sidelines can encourage or distract the players from making their goal.

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Jul 08, 2011

Space shuttle final flight: Did you see it!

If your bucket list included seeing a space shuttle launch, you have run out of time. Today ended a thirty year era for NASA space shuttles.When I was a single, young professional four of us went on a spring trip to Florida. While there, I became an ‘accidental space launch spectator.’ Now, more than twenty-five years later, I appreciate that the beach we chose was near the launch site.

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Jul 01, 2011

State government shut-down is not Minnesota-nice

Today is the first day to see what it means to have state government meet some of your needs. Few can be met. Much of the state t is closed for business. We are used to this on Saturday and Sunday. Not during the week. Yesterday I drove past a sign that said, “Rest stop open 2 miles ahead.” Listening to the radio, I knew that was not true. The rest stops closed the day before.

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Jun 24, 2011

Is locally grown food going to your school?

‘Farm to School’ is the name given to efforts linking farmers' products with school district food needs. Almost 10,000 schools in the United States use products grown or made in the area. The movement is growing.

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Jun 14, 2011

Public participation: Voices of unusual suspects

Voices of people from all walks of life help shape social movements or policy changes. Think for a minute about a public forum or meeting. Who is there? Active participants are often called the ‘usual suspects.’ How do you go beyond the usual suspects for fuller public participation?

What about the ‘unusual suspects?’ How do you get the ‘right mix people’ in a meeting? How do you get more voices to chime in?

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Jun 06, 2011

Mighty Mississippi Soon to be Science Lab

The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America. How much do you know about it? Twelve students and five adults who helped restore the 43 ft. river boat now know a lot more about the river. And more of us can benefit too.

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May 26, 2011

Oprah: Role model for self disclosure

Oprah has ended her daytime TV reign. Other talk show hosts are jockeying for audience share. We are left to wonder: how did she do it? Connect with people? Build a powerful audience?

Self-disclosure may explain some of her popularity.

My introduction to self-disclosure theory came in graduate school. One professor was a fervent fan of it. He lived it as a professor. That meant we got to know him as a person as well as a professor.

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May 25, 2011

Public events: Seeing more incivility and hostility?

The League of Women Voters believes in the power of public events for a strong democracy. Began in 1920, they sponsor non-partisan forums and programs. Active at the national, state and local levels, hundreds of events occur with their leadership. Incivility at public events is of concern.At the Minnesota state convention, I gave a session on “The Power of Civil Discourse.” This story is about what it is and how it is being threatened. And why we should care.What is civil discourse?

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May 22, 2011

College student aid hunger relief

Potters create bowls. Others make soup. The community is invited to buy a bowl and fill it with soup to eat. The funds go to relieve hunger.

Then you take your bowl home. Each time you look at it you are reminded of the empty bowls in the community and world.

How did I get acquainted with Empty Bowls? At my regular monthly Board meeting of the Community Action Center the Executive Director announced the upcoming Empty Bowls effort. So, I trekked to Carleton College, scrounging fifteen dollars to bring along.On the lawn, during a beautiful spring day, the event took place. Six hundred and seven homemade pottery bowls, valued at $15 each, adorned some tables. Ceramic art students stood behind the bowls wearing T-shirts proclaiming “Empty Bowls."

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May 20, 2011


Tools and techniques to make working with difficult-groups easier

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May 10, 2011

Mission: Become your own boss

Adults do it. Kids can do it too. What they ‘do’ is run their own business. If you are interested in becoming a ‘Chief Executive Officer’ get started with a business plan. There are many excellent resources to get you on your way to your dream.

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May 03, 2011

Obama birth certificate raises a question for each of us

Is your information accurate? If not, want to change it? Read about how one birth certificate was amended and why.They don’t call birth certificates ‘vital records’ without a good reason. Do you know if your crucial facts are correct? If not, you may want to change your birth certificate. When I discovered that my birth certificate named me as a ‘male’ rather than a ‘female’ I amended it.Do you have a copy of your birth certificate? Have you scanned it for accuracy? Because I traveled to Canada as part of a youth trip I needed a copy of my birth certificate. We saw the mistake. At the time we joked about the error. Later, the implications of the error were more apparent and we got serious.

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Apr 26, 2011

Layoff: Survival tips for the spouse

NORTHFIELD, MN (4-25-11) – Bright and early on a Monday morning my spouse got a call from Human Resources. “Please stop down to our office immediately “says his colleague. After a long walk down the hall to HR, the message from the HR Director was clear. “Your division will be eliminated and tomorrow will be your last day” he said. Layoff!

Shortly afterward, I got the phone call with the news from my spouse. My morning chore list lost its urgency. Like thousands of others before us, unemployment became a new reality for our household. As the spouse of the newly laid off partner, I had no experience to fall back on.

So, what did I do?

First, I asked other spouses to share their experiences - survival tips for the newly initiated.

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