15 December 2020
Spokane Leadership Assessment Reflection
In my Spokane Leadership Assessment, I had the opportunity to visit DAA Northwest
and learn from Mitzi Vanhooris. To share a little bit about Mitzi’s background, she is the VP of
Marketing for the McConkey Auction Group. Mitzi’s role entails family branding along with
promotional events, national and regional advertising, social media, public relations, and internal
and external communications. She is the face behind all the advertising and communication of
DAA Northwest. Beyond her role, Mitzi shared that servant leadership is very important to her.
Growing up, she was not familiar with the term servant leadership, but described seeing it lived
out by her parents. Mitzi shared that her parents, teachers, and professors were true servant
leaders in her life and have molded her into the woman she is today.
As for what my group had the opportunity to do while at DAA Northwest, Mitzi showed
us around the facility, talked about her experience as a leader, and raved about the culture of
their organization. Creating a culture where everyone is welcomed is a big deal for DAA
Northwest. They enjoy having breakfast meetings, sitting at different tables during community
gatherings, and all share their favorite tradition of having massive cinnamon rolls for Christmas.
While my visit was a different scene than it would normally be on auction day without COVID, I
still got a sense of the community and how they worked as a unit.
Eventually, after touring the facility, we had the chance to ask Mitzi some questions
about how she has come to where she is, her leadership theory, and additional questions relating
to the company and how they lead. One question that I asked her was how DAA Northwest
works individually and collectively, as this is a concept we have focused on this semester. Mitzi
immediately answered with the vital few. Vital view are initiatives focused on as individuals.
Examples of these initiatives are selling cars, working on the facility, and developing culture.
Working on these vital view initiatives are individual jobs but ultimately build up the company
collectively. Connecting the vital few to Salsa, Soul, and Spirit, Bordas defines leadership as a
“communal responsibility with a concern for the welfare of the people or tribe and then sharing
the work that needs to be done based on skills and abilities. Leadership is seen as shared
responsibility and promoting people’s wellbeing (Bordas, 2012, p. 123). The vital few initiatives
at DAA Northwest demonstrate this exactly. Ultimately this definition of leadership in
collaboration with the vital few initiatives represent how leadership is shared responsibility and
is done together.
The main vital few being culture, is what the DAA Northwest prides itself on. The
personal service is a big competitive advantage and is the core factor that sets DAA Northwest
apart from other auto auctions. Most car auctions are a transactional service not a transformative
one. The transformative service that DAA Northwest brings is a continuation of their service and
relationship as customers and dealers come in regularly. Mitzi says they like to call it a “club
house” because everyone knows each other, the service is top notch, and there is always food at
Furthermore, to tie the culture of DAA Northwest to our texts from this semester, Salsa
Soul and Spirit states the importance of tradition and upholding core values. In a similar way,
DAA Northwest and Neolithic cultures believe that “Social relations are primarily based on
principle of linking rather than ranking” (Boardas, 2012, p.52). The culture as mentioned is
solely focused on linking and making connections. DAA Northwest upholds this by their
traditions they put on each year. They hold an annual moose barbeque, July rock and roll sale,
and Christmas party. These are massive events that draw all customers, dealers, and companies
not only for their auctions they hold, but for the communal aspect of everyone coming together.
Getting outside the box and making personal connections is another thing that DAA
Northwest places emphasis on with their employees. In addition, stepping back and getting a
balcony view is where Mitzi feels that DAA Norwest does a great job. Their company went
through training with Shann Ferch from Gonzaga who taught all about Servant Leadership. This
training laid the groundwork for how they lead and work with customers. To add on, DAA
Northwest sends their mangers to an auction academy, and is involved in the national auto
auction. The auction academy focuses on development and learning from other companies. In the
national auto auction, there are committees where collaboration is had between independent and
cooperate auctions. Mitzi believes that the outside perspective as the customer in the national
auction has shaped DAA Northwest because they know what it feels like to be on the other side.
DAA Northwest ultimately does a great job and places importance of learning from others. As
Mitzi described, they want to be the best they can be and this does not come from following how
one company does it, it is about combining lots of different ideas and methods from a
combination of companies. Being involved in these trainings and groups, overall helps DAA
Northwest see an outside perspective as a customer and has employees see from the balcony.
In the end while my group had a different experience than students who have come
previously without Covid, I am grateful that we could visit the facility in person and could talk
with Mitzi face to face. In addition, this project made me think beyond the walls of the Gonzaga
bubble and more about learning from leaders in the Spokane community.
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