Margaret Taylor

Colorado Parks and Wildlife employee completes high performance leadership program

Margaret Taylor started off her career as a Park Ranger for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. It was a perfect launch for the biology major. Now 21 years later, Taylor is the capital development program manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, a very different role, requiring different skills.

“I plan and oversee construction projects throughout the division,” Taylor said. “We’re running multiple million dollars’ worth of projects, so it involves a lot of budgeting, forecasting and project management.”

When you think of Colorado Parks and Wildlife you might think about recreation and adventure, but imagine all the infrastructure that supports the outdoors. Taylor oversees a team that makes sure Colorado’s dams are safe and operating optimally. Her team maintains the buildings where the state’s hatcheries are, ensuring anglers have fish in the state’s ponds and rivers. And, the next time you go camping, look around—her team makes sure your bathrooms, showers and RV hookups are ready for use.

“We’re a pretty infrastructure-heavy organization,” she said. “We fund about $50 million a year in projects.”

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has a long-standing relationship with Executive Education at the Daniels College of Business. CPW employees take leadership coursework through Executive Education using the Insights Discovery System, which helps organizations improve business communication and emotional intelligence on teams. Taylor first took the course in 2014.

“Leadership and leadership training have always been something really important to me,” Taylor said. “I’ve studied it over the course of my career.”

Amanda Cahal headshot

Amanda Cahal

Executive Education and Daniels faculty have used Insights for decades. It demonstrates high statistical validity and reliability, and has proven to be so helpful, the tool is administered to all Daniels faculty, staff, MBA and a few Master’s of Science classes.

“When teams speak a common language about communication preferences and can develop awareness of themselves and others, it allows them to adapt their behaviors to others’ preferences for increased camaraderie and team effectiveness,” said Amanda Cahal, who teaches in Executive Education.

As Taylor moved up in her career from park ranger to park manager, and then into administration, she used what she’d gained in the leadership classes to manage engineers and technical experts. In 2020, she was ready to broaden her coursework. She opted to take two Executive Education offerings: Data Visualization Using Power BI and Finance for Non-Financial Managers.  

As you might imagine, Taylor’s department collects a significant amount of data, and they were already using PowerBI.

“It was it was really helpful for me to take that class to kind of understand how the data gets used to tell the story,” she said. Students in the course can bring their organizations own data to use, so they can learn with live examples. “Data analytics will never be my niche, however, just learning the bigger picture was really helpful to me.”

In addition to all the budgeting work Taylor does for CPW, she also sits on the board of a nonprofit. She wanted to understand its financial statements better.

“It was really hard as a lay person to understand those financial statements,” she said. “The class helped me really understand them and speak the language, especially the language of accounting.”

Taylor ended up taking one more leadership course to earn a High Performance Leadership micro-credential: Building Teams & Organizations Using Insights DiscoveryÒ.

“It was just kind of the icing with a cherry on top,” Taylor explained. “Because I had worked with Insights so much and use it to lead quite a few teams, this was a nice refresher and solidified what I’d learned six years ago.”

The High Performance Leadership Program allows professionals to work at their own pace and according to their own schedule to earn a digital badge from the University of Denver. Four courses are required: one in leadership, two in business acumen and one in building teams.