So far, the issue that has surprised me the most is recognizing how I have been better able to remove myself from trying to do so many things alone, to allowing teams and group processes to transpire. This has allowed the individuals in the teams to strengthen their own skills and generate creative approaches to challenges. In this process, we learn from each other in an environment that is increasingly collegial. This increased ability and awareness came from reading Parker Palmer's book, The Courage to Teach. In the book he wrote about his earlier years of being a professor. He described how he over prepared for classes he was instructing. He was at the ready to answer any question a student would throw out to him in such a way that there was little wiggle room for error. He became aware that in that process, he also minimized the students ability to problem solve or puzzle through various other possibilities. Parker Palmer was able to identify that he performed this way due to his own insecurities. This part of his book resonated with me, so much so that I spoke to members of my leadership team regarding the excerpt from his book and how I felt like I was also guilty of such behavior in my leadership. Much discussion has taken place about how I arrived in a position of leadership in which I felt like I needed to know everything to be the resource to the rest of the team. There has also been discussion about how that is no longer either necessary or desired. The process has since allowed me to expand my interests into other domains and has increased the shared responsibility amongst the leadership group.
I also believe at this time that I am leading with a restored sense of passion. With that passion I have partnered with other like minded and motivated individuals or groups of individuals in collaborative efforts to make a greater positive impact on the mental health care for the youth in North Dakota. It was serendipitous that I had the opportunity to write a grant application through my work and in partnership with the ND Department of Health to expand the pediatric mental health care access to rural and undeserved areas via telehealth. In addition to working with clinics throughout the state, we will also be working toward implementation of direct care delivery to schools in those rural and undeserved areas. This is something that I addressed in my Fellowship application in 2017 and today am making a reality. This is a very exciting time. If you believe in positive attracting positive, there are many partners/stakeholders that I have been able to meet with and collaborate with to advance the project greater than and faster than I could have done by my own design. One such example is partnering with the Project Echo from the UND School of Medicine to deliver the monthly psychiatric education series to the primary care providers throughout the state. When I wrote the grant, that was going to be a service I was going to provide. My growth as a leader was recognizing that the learning curve to implement a Project Echo successfully would have delayed the project and recognizing that the UND School of Medicine Project Echo was already a successful program which had routine attendance by the state providers. Therefore, it became an easier decision to transition that element to a partner verses doing it myself. I can say that previous to some of my PhD coursework and leadership skill learning, I would have likely figured out how to do it all on my own! I am so grateful to be able to see it from this perspective now. To know that spending time to learn how to do that particular task, was not going to be the best use of my time. Furthermore, there is belief that the project will be much better as a result of such a partnership. That is just one example of many that I could share regarding my transition of leadership style.
I have stated that this leadership journey is a challenge to me mentally, spiritually and physically. I have completed two weeks of the silent Vipassana meditation retreat. Here, I learned discipline and focus. It was one of the most difficult things I have done in my life. I had to "let go" of being connected and distracted when handing over all technology and focusing on myself. By sorting through all of the deeper rooted subconscious thoughts you have after sitting in quiet reflection this long, I was able to restore purpose and clarity rather definitively. I did not attend the retreat with expectations, but I walked away with a lot of insights about how to live, love and lead in the truest, purest possible way. The mental challenge continues to be the pursuit of my PhD. At this point I have completed three semesters and have just started my fourth. I have submitted my topic for research, which is to study if youth who receive mental health skills in school report lower depression and suicide scores than youth who do not. This is a point of synergy for me with the pediatric mental health care access as well as the research that I will be doing in New Zealand. New Zealand launched a mental health curricula in their schools already. My interests are in their outcomes of reducing mental health symptoms scores in youth. I look forward to this opportunity. The physical challenge has been the past month of working with a virtual coach in a training program to do a rim to rim to rim in the Grand Canyon. The challenge with this is the commitment of time. I have had to prioritize many things to keep focused on the Fellowship, school, work and of course my family. I am getting better balance with family than I had previously and that too has been a great achievement to find some semblance of routine again with them with time constraints. Spending time with friends however is something that still needs to be worked on.
I will close with a reflection of an African proverb. "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." To expound on that, I believe I will go farther and achieve more by working together with people more successfully than I have before.