Leader Spotlight: Danielle Graham

Leader Spotlight is a monthly blog to showcase our incredible volunteer leadership at The Mountaineers. It is a platform for our leaders to share tips and tricks, favorite memories, and inspiration for new and rising leaders. Meet this month's featured leader: Danielle Graham
Sara Ramsay Sara Ramsay
Education Manager
February 28, 2018

For our Leader Spotlight this month we talked to Danielle Graham, a volunteer leader with the Foothills Branch who encourages aspiring leaders to glean tips and tricks from every leader they interact with, and who wants all members to feel valued and included in The Mountaineers' community.

Name: Danielle Graham
Branch: Foothills
Where do you live? Issaquah, WA
How long have you been a leader? I have been a leader for 1 year, and a member since 2016.
What activities do you lead? Hiking, naturalist activities, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. 

Leadership Questions

WHEN DID YOU COME TO THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST AND WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO THE MOUNTAINEERS? 

I moved here five years ago from Vermont. Originally, I joined because I wanted to give my husband a great “experience” gift (a photography course) for our 20th anniversary. Then I discovered that The Mountaineers offered all sorts of things that I like to do

What inspired you to become a Leader for The Mountaineers?

I met so many enthusiastic leaders in my first Mountaineers courses: Introduction to the Natural World, Backcountry Snowshoeing, and Scrambling. I was impressed with how they managed to juggle fun, safety, education, and inclusiveness.

WHAT GIVES YOU THE MOST SATISFACTION OUT OF VOLUNTEERING FOR THE MOUNTAINEERS? 

Just last week, I advised a person in her 70s, who is brand new to the club, on how to put together the 10 Essentials for urban adventures. It was such a treat to see her beautiful new backpack on a field trip the next week. These are my favorite types of volunteer experiences: when I can facilitate members learning a new skill or getting out on their first trip.

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE HIKE OR BACKPACK ROUTE TO LEAD? 

I do like conditioners on Tiger Mountain in the evening. It’s just across the valley from my house in Issaquah, and it feels like cheating time to be up there in the setting sun or the dark in headlamps.

What is the favorite trip that you've led for The Mountaineers?

I can't think of one particular trip, but my favorite experience as a leader is when someone arrives who is brand new to the activity, or who is scared or anxious about their abilities or skills. Then they go home at the end of the day with confidence in themselves  and are excited to come back do the activity again.

How has your leadership style evolved as you've gained experience as a Leader?

I've learned that the more work I put into listing the trip or activity and communicating with participants ahead of time, the more relaxed I am leading and the more fun I have. That spirit is contagious. I want to continue working on ways to make all participants feel included and valued.

Are there any learning experiences you can share with us, such as take-aways from a close call or a near miss?

Some of the trips I've learned the most on have been "turned around" trips. They are a great opportunity to both learn group decision making facilitation from the leader, as well as to work on my own skills as a participant in confidently and comfortably sharing my concerns and ideas. These experiences really make me appreciate my fellow Mountaineers and the camaraderie and respect we share.

What advice do you have for aspiring leaders in The Mountaineers community?

Pay attention to different leadership styles and communication methods. When you see something that works well, see if it fits with your style and personality, and make a mental note or write it down. If you get a great "Dear Hiker" (or Scrambler, Climber, etc.) letter, save it, and borrow from it when you start to write your own.

ANYTHING ELSE WE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I have always been happiest outdoors, and I was fortunate to have a father who took me hiking, backpacking, and skiing. Although my current job title is Mom, my professional field is natural resource management, and I worked for various nonprofits like the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.

is there Someone that you'd like to see in the spotlight?

Send an email to Sara Ramsay to make a recommendation for one of our upcoming Leader Spotlights!