Sheri Miller learned her business skills from great mentors, her father and uncles – the founders of mail order office products giant Quill, now a leader in online catalog sales. Now the executive director of the Charmm’d Foundation, Miller combines those lessons with her community experience to provide leadership lessons to schools, chambers of commerce and other nonprofit organizations in Lake Forest, Lake Bluff, Zion-Benton Townships and New Trier Township north of Chicago.
Charmm’d “trains leaders in a safe environment to build their skills and create a culture where they can learn to handle conflicts, solve problems, lead and -- ultimately -- enjoy their lives more,” she said. It began working with schools and expanded to the broader community of tax- exempt leaders.
Community program director Ashley Ward, LCSW, explained, “We are intentional about being positive leaders and examples for others. The stronger our organizations, the stronger our families and communities are going to be. When leaders focus on developing themselves, as well as empowering and developing others, the whole community benefits.”
Using the CASEL philosophy and methods of learning, Charmm’d collaborates with nonprofit organizations and tax-exempt organizations, to work within their cultures and create an environment where they learn from each other. Through Charmm’d, organization leaders collaborate and help each other solve problems and learn best practices they can bring back and share with others in their institutions.
“We help people challenge themselves and others in a respectful way,” said Gene Salvadalena, Charmm’d leadership development director, “and push them to paint a bigger picture, determine the real story and determine what they are really trying to do.”
A number of free valuable resources are available on Charmm’d’s web pages for public access. These involve active listening, conflict resolution, effective communication, ethics, leadership, problem solving, stress management and much more. This site also recommends books and offers helpful video clips.
In addition to its pro bono work and workshops, Charmm’d partners with schools like the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the FranklinCovey group to offer sessions that enable leaders to learn from and network with one another.
“Our commitment is to be in the community for 20 years and, during that time, begin to pass the baton so this is sustainable,” said project coordinator Susan Baird. “With our online resources and other offerings, we have touched thousands of people, even if we haven’t changed them. We are very intentional about teaching community leaders so they can take it to their respective organizations. Whether the community is affluent or less well off, they are no different. Everyone has problems they want to solve.”
“All of us are passionate about helping others succeed,” said Miller. “We have no hidden agendas.” A motto hangs in her office that reads, “If you look in the mirror every morning and know that you took care of yourself, helped others and made a difference, there is nothing better!”