COA invests from within with new Management Development Program

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Managers in Training
Jeanne Wallman (left) and Danielle Amrine are the first COA employees to participate in the Management Development Program

How can an organization increase its management capacity while also creating opportunities for employees to move into managerial roles?  These were two important issues Council on Aging (COA) set out to address with the creation of a new Management Development Program. 

As opportunities become available, COA staff can apply to become a “Manager in Training” and participate in a nine-month program designed to prepare them to move into management and project leadership roles within the organization.

“This program provides a unique learning opportunity for employees who want to move into management positions at COA, while also increasing our capacity to take on new projects and manage day-to-day business operations,” said COA’s Director of Human Resources, Jacqueline Hutsell. 

The program is ideal for employees who demonstrate a capacity for leadership and business acumen, but who’ve received little or no formal business or management training.  As one of the program’s first participants put it, “Project planning is not something they teach you in social work school.” 

Through the program, “trainees” receive hands-on management and leadership experience through practical work applications and projects.  Trainees are exposed to all aspects of management and leadership within COA while also learning about their own managerial style, strengths and weaknesses.

A supervisor and a mentor guide each trainee through the program, providing support and feedback, and helping them apply what they’ve learned to a specific project(s).  The curriculum includes modules ranging from leadership and self-awareness to project management and business innovation.  Trainees must receive a successful evaluation at the end of the program to be promoted into a management position.

Danielle Amrine, MSW, LSW and Jeanne Wallman, LSW are the first COA employees to enter the training program as program operations managers in training.

“When a business is considering a new project or changes to policies and procedures, it often doesn’t spend enough time considering how those decisions will impact front line staff,” said Hutsell.  “Danielle, Jeanne and other staff who successfully complete this program will bring that valuable ‘front lines’ perspective to our management team and decision-making process.”

Wallman has been with COA for nearly eight years as an Elderly Services Program care manger and team educator.  In her role as program operations manger in training, Wallman will focus on program operations and project management in COA’s long-term care programs, including the PASSPORT and Elderly Services programs, the Aging and Disability Resource Connections department, and Housing.

Amrine has been with COA for almost 7 years and most recently worked as a coach in COA’s successful Care Transitions program and as a PASSPORT care manager before that.  Her area of focus in the Management Development Program will be Transitional Care services, including Care Transitions and the Community Transitions program.  


We spoke with Amrine and Wallman about their participation in COA’s Management Development Program.

Why did you apply for the Management Development Program? 

Jeanne Wallman: Management has always been something I wanted to do.  I have been looking for opportunities for advancement at Council on Aging, but there have not been many opportunities that interested me.  The Management Development Program was the right position at the right time.  Because I did not have a lot of business or management experience, the structure of the program appealed to me – a mentor, hands on training, a gradual introduction.  You’re not thrown to the wolves!

Danielle Amrine: I’ve had a lot of experiences at Council on Aging and I felt it was time to take those experiences and get involved with the organization at a higher level.

What do you hope to achieve through program?

Jeanne Wallman: I hope to have a better understanding of COA as a whole, beyond a single department or program.  And, I hope that I can better the agency through my assigned projects and help move us along toward our organizational goals.

Danielle Amrine: I would really like to get the whole picture of the agency from a manager’s perspective.  This training will help me understand all aspects of the organization so I can be the most well-rounded, impactful individual I can be.  Ultimately, that’s the best value for the organization as well. 

What has been the most challenging aspect of the program?

Jeanne Wallman: Project planning!  I didn’t go to business school and this is not something they teach you at social work school!  [The Management Development Program connects you with other organizational leaders and gives you the opportunity to learn from their experience and skills.] Tapping into Sharon Fusco’s [COA’s Director of Business Results and Innovation] project management expertise has been very helpful. 

I’ve learned new software to help me organize projects on paper or in a visual format – something I’m not used to.  In the past, if I had an assignment, I would just do it and think things through on the fly.  This experience requires that I think through every scenario and put my plans on paper before I execute.

Danielle Amrine: Broadening my horizons and seeing the big picture.  As a manager, you have to understand how a decision or action affects the entire organization, not just one program or area. 

The program’s curriculum does a great job of introducing all aspects of business and management, but to me the most important part of the program is the opportunity to work with people from all levels and areas of the organization.  In my previous position, I worked from home and did not know 90 percent of the employees here.  Now I’m getting to know people and have a better understanding of how everyone contributes.

For me, this is the most challenging part of the program, but I also see that it will help me to achieve my goal of being a well-rounded manager and COA employee.

What do you enjoy most about working at COA?

Jeanne Wallman: Council on Aging is a great organization to work for. We provide a service I believe in; something I know really helps people.  I see this change in position as an opportunity to lend my leadership skills to the organization in a different capacity. 

Danielle Amrine: The mission.  We have a mission I truly believe in and it’s easier to do a job if you believe in the mission. 

Even though I’m not hands-on with clients anymore, I know the work I’m doing is impactful of our mission.  This weighed heavily on my decision to participate in the Management Development Program.  I knew I would lose the direct connection with clients, which I enjoyed so much as a coach and care manager.  But, I realized I could still have an impact by working with our employees – making policies and procedures, implementing new programs.  I’m still there for our clients, just in a different way.