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Five Minutes With . . .

In "Five Minutes With...," we look to both members and friends to sit down for a brief conversation about their experiences, the lessons they've learned, and any advice they might have for our readers. Through these conversations, we hope that readers can learn a little more about leaders and friends of the fraternity while also receiving some advice about leadership, fraternity and more.

Chad Coltrane, CEO, The Ability Experience

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Chad Coltrane, Epsilon Iota (UNC – Greensboro), has been Chief Executive Officer of The Ability Experience (formerly known as Push America) since 1997. As a student, Chad was a cyclist and a crew member on Journey of Hope in 1992 and 1993, respectively. As CEO, he is responsible for the overall operation of the organization including staffing, programming and finances, and also attends all board meetings and board-related functions. Chad enjoys working with the men of Pi Kappa Phi and watching them develop in mind, body and spirit through the service of people with disabilities.

First off, can you explain a little bit of how the name change came to be?

Our branding consultants interviewed several stakeholders. There was also a survey which went out to all our database via email. Based on the responses the consultants concluded we should change the name because Push America didn't represent what we did as an organization and we no longer build "Play Units." The staff and Board of Directors reviewed the recommendation very seriously. We pulled together a naming committee and as the discussions took place we began to see the real potential in a name which represents our mission and vision.

How did leadership play a role in this whole rebranding process?

Leadership was huge in the entire process. Staff had to take the recommendation and lead the organization through a process to consider a name change. Additionally, a small group of current and former leaders came together to consider new names. This group had some large personalities who have played a significant role in what Push America had become including the person who led the last name change to "Push America." These leaders had to work together to consider all options. The group was not shy about sharing their opinions, and I believe a lot of compromise and learning took place from those discussions. It was a great testament to the old adage, "A good leader knows when to follow and let others lead." At the end of the day, the Board of Directors had to make the final decision. It was not an easy decision and then-Chairman William Sigmon did a masterful job getting input from the National Council, naming committee and other board members to ultimately make the decision.

The mission of Push America was, "Building leaders of tomorrow by serving people with disabilities today." Does leadership play less of a role in The Ability Experience now?

No, not at all. Everything The Ability Experience does is based on the premise of "leadership through service." Leadership will continue to play a prominent role in what the organization is teaching and promoting. Our new mission statement is "We use shared experiences to support people with disabilities and develop the men of Pi Kappa Phi into servant leaders." We simply wanted a mission statement that read less like a tagline, but kept the same spirit and meaning of the previous mission.

What have you learned recently about leadership in your own life?

You have never arrived. You are always learning as a leader and as a person. I look to mentors, people I admire and my bible for advice, suggestions and ways to navigate difficult decisions.

Some advice I would share: You are never going to make everyone happy and you have to compile as much information you need to make an informed decision that you think is best. I have always tried to live by Margret Thatcher's quote, "Being a leader is kind of like being a lady. If you have to tell someone you're one, then you're not!"

What is some advice that you have for current undergraduates as they navigate this shift to The Ability Experience?

First, let our office know how we can help. Let us know if you are struggling with it and why. We intend to have a full training at Pi Kapp College for Chapter Officers in January (formerly known as Mid Year Leadership Conference).

It is going to take some time to adjust. That is certainly the case for me. I have been eating, drinking and breathing (maybe even shed a tear or two) Push America for 21 years. There will be an adjustment period. We just made the name change announcement in August. The period of adjustment will be from the announcement to January 1, 2015. If you can change your events now, then change them. If you have a lot invested in an event under the name Push America, then use the old name. I am still writing thank you notes on Push America stationary until we run out of it! More than anything, use this as an opportunity to share with your stakeholders and community the new name and what that name means. It's as simple as, "The Ability Experience promotes the abilities of all people through shared experiences between the men of Pi Kappa Phi and people with disabilities."

Whatever your question or concern with the name change might be, I can't stress enough the importance of an open line of communication with our office. Our whole staff is willing and able to help our chapters through this transition. All you have to do is ask!



Last modified on September 29, 2014

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