Interpersonal Communication

Learning Objective

Develop and demonstrate the interpersonal and engagement skills necessary for effective leaders in a global community or organization.


Final Capstone Paper


A large portion of this program involved initiating, researching, and bringing a change initiative to fruition. This final paper represents the culmination of my work and learning at Claremont Lincoln University– this project was focused on bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders, tasked with redefining how quality care could and should be delivered to individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities, in the state of Arizona.

This process would not have been possible without engaging in mindful and empathetic dialogue with my stakeholder group. In fact, the project would have gone an entirely different direction had I not been given the tools to listen and hear their needs.

When I began this research project, I was convinced that the problems facing the disability community could be solved by creating collaborative, cross-sector alliances with other communities. My experience and bias told me that quality care would be likely to increase if I could create an environment where the broader community was engaged in how people with disabilities were cared for. When I approached my initial stakeholder group to share my research question with them to seek feedback, I was made immediately aware of my misjudgment. The disability community is reliant upon and funded by a state-wide system that has no tangible way to measure or ensure quality care. Creating a sustainable way for the disability community, themselves, to understand quality needed to happen before the larger community could be invited to partner.

I reflected in my Capstone Action paper:

…the stakeholder interviews helped me recognize that I couldn’t force what I thought would be the best approach to change within the disability community.

I had to be aware of what was emerging as the conversations were happening and build upon them rather than forge ahead with my own idea. In order for the change to be meaningful it needed to be driven by the people who would benefit most from the change.

Essentially, they were asking me to help them tackle an issue that we all had very little control over. The state monitoring body is responsible for determining how quality care is delivered and what that looks like in a very tangible, day-to-day way. Therefore our change initiative had to be accessible to this organization while also creating small inroads towards change, especially, if we wanted to see it come to fruition or be sustainable.

I reflected in my Capstone paper:

As a result of this discovery, the stakeholder group and researcher undertook the following: the creation of a definition of quality care, the development of a vision statement as it relates to quality care and the current service model, identification of a quality standard tool that could be implemented in the current service model, creation of an impact assessment tool to measure the effectiveness of the quality standard tool and the submission of a letter to DDD and AAPPD encouraging them to adopt and pilot said definition, vision and quality standard tool.

In addition to those accomplishments, the researcher and stakeholder group also developed a greater understanding of disability care, how the current service model works in the state of Arizona, how quality care can positively impact people with disabilities and they created stronger bonds with one another.

None of this would been possible without being committed to the idea of emergence as a means of change. The members of my stakeholder group were able to help me see the issues I had identified in a deeper way. Our safe dialogue container made it easy to be honest with one another.

In our dialogue coursework, I learned that Isaacs encourages us to listen deeply and search for what we are most afraid to voice. You do this by asking yourself, “What do I most long to create in the world? And why do I long to create it” (pg. 174)? These open ended questions allow you to start from a place of loving-kindness. You become grounded in your own intentions. This gives way to better understanding of the paradigm from which you operate.

I saw what was underneath the current system of care. Almost like fixing a broken foundation, we were able to pinpoint the root of an issue that impacts 35,000 people in Arizona. I longed to create a way to ensure people with disabilities got the care they needed to be successful and my stakeholders longed to see a broken system mended. These combined desires built our change initiative and made it possible for us to work as a collective whole.

Change in Profession

I’m a much quieter leader. My professional role has become one of reflection and pause. It’s not that I work slower but I’m less likely to move to action without thought. When I choose to ‘voice’ I’m often searching for a way to express what needs to be said or represented and not necessarily what I believe to be the answer. This is the result of my Capstone work– I began with a solution to a problem that was grounded in my own bias and had to learn to listen to others and collaborate.

Change in Relationships

My stakeholders and I have continued our dinners! At the beginning of this process, I made a point of inviting stakeholders that I knew well from my work at Mosaic and others from organizations that I didn’t know at all. Not surprisingly, the stakeholders that were most engaged and sought to be a part of the project, until the very end, were those that I already knew. Our relationships have grown and we now have even greater respect for one another and the values we each hold.

Change in Self

When this project started I was working for a disability organization and was deeply entrenched in the ‘the work’ on a day-to-day basis. But about half way through the project, I started a new job and this project became something driven by passion, not obligation. I realized that I can be both a champion of girls and be moved to advocate for people with disabilities.

Isaacs, William. Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together. New York: Random House [Doubleday], 1999.

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