How has your understanding of your own leadership changed through the Fellowship to date? I believe I have moved from a high level manager to higher level leader. There were and albeit still are times that I would enable people to not have to fully figure things out on their own as I would serve as a resource for problem solving. I have instead, excused myself from the problem solving pieces more and allowed the staff to puzzle through things. This allowed them to grow by experience success and skill building as well as freed me up to take on additional challenges. As I have become more aware and in tune with my professional passion and a path to focusing more on that passion, I have been able to talk with my staff about their own goals, personal and professional. In those conversations I have been open to supporting them in their aspirations and growth, even if that meant at times leaving the company we were working to achieve it. I have read and am in agreement with Nathan Anderson's work on successful role fit, which is described as having capacity to do the work+ finding the work relevant + having passion for the purpose of the work. In one particular situation, I was working with a wonderful person who had the capacity to do the work, but lost the relevance and the passion for it. Through multiple conversations about other possible roles this person could take on, the passion was just no longer there. We worked on her exit from the organization prior to a two month leave of absence I took. Upon return to the community, I met up with that former staff one morning for coffee. She found a wonderful job in a school where her children are. She has a lot more capacity for the work than she is using, but the passion and relevance to the role were high and the school was already identifying her abilities to do more. She was not simply showing up to work anymore, she was showing up to live each day in much happier new way. This kind of event made my heart happy because I was able to mentor her into finding her way.
Upon return to employment after a two month leave of absence,I was informed that due to restructuring, my position had been eliminated. I was surprised to say the least after twenty-one years of working there that this was going to be how I exited the organization. The reality was however, I was ready for that transition. I was preparing for a transition into a role in which I could fulfill more of my own passion and provide a great impact on the community and state. It was a synergy between a grant project that was awarded and my Bush fellowship plan that made me realize I was not living my own truest plan. I am now in conversations with agencies who have similar missions to my own and that align with the grant that will be in operation for the next four years. In this transition, which was one day, I have gotten so much feedback from staff via text, email and calls. The messages of thanks, frustration and sadness that I am no longer present in the facility. Themes emerged in how they thanked me for, mentoring, supporting and advocating for them or their departments, helping, challenging, and being a resource for them. People talked about my empathy, understanding and always be available to them for whatever reason being so appreciated and being sad that it would not be there anymore. When you go about the day to day and those days add up to twenty-ones, I guess I lost sight of the impact of all of those moments shared over that course of time. I was grateful to have been there. I grew a lot. As a leader, we are helping each other move through this transition despite me no longer being there. I can continue to empower them in the skills I know they have, to continue to do the great work they are charged with for a good greater than their own. Without the work I have done in development of self-care skills and leadership, I do not believe I would have been able to transition through this with as much resiliency as I am feeling at this time.
How has focusing on your own leadership changed the way you lead in your work? There was one experience in these past six months in which I was completing the rim to rim to rim with the Project Athena group. I was walking out of the south rim next to Robyn Benincasa, author of How Winning Works. We talked about how I did not want to return to the south rim and how I wanted to finish strong and feeling good on the north rim with a rim to rim completion, despite having signed up and trained for the rim to rim to rim. I did not want do the last part because I was concerned I might need help, and sure enough, I did. For twenty minutes, someone carried my pack for me as I was getting dizzy in the 115 degree heat the sunny August day. I was able to recover and get my pack back by the time Robyn gave me some profound lessons. Her conversation about being a global adventure racer with a team meant that the team supported each other. All members needed to cross the finish line or they were disqualified. She talked about not being the strongest person on the team, and when she was pulling one her guy team mates, she knew they were not winning, but they were still making progress. The making progress and asking for help where critical elements for me in my ability as a leader to be able to ask for help and not see it as a weakness. She went on to say that if you do not ask for help as a leader when you need it, it could be detrimental to the team and take you out of the race. The application of that to my work space resonated quite well. She also stated she was glad I pushed and completed as we do not grow in our comfort zones. I have never judged giving someone help. I went into a helping profession intentionally. I have however, always been concerned about being judged as weak if I needed help. Brene Brown was instrumental in that lesson as well with her works on vulnerability. In my own work, the change had been asking for help and allowing others to provide help. Allowing others to take over a project while I was out of the country for two months. It has also allowed me to delegate some tasks that allowed some staff members to stretch and grow to complete them. As a leader, establishing a successor and training him to do a portion of my job while I was gone and trusting and letting him perform it and offer me help upon return was a significant departure from my previous, I have to do everything mentality.
How do you now view the role of self-care in sustaining your ability to lead? When I first started this fellowship journey, I was doing a lot of physical activity to stay physically healthy. Through the fellowship, that self-care grew immensely with the experiences of the ten day silent retreat, the physical challenge of the Grand Canyon rim to rim to rim and the ability to take a significant time away from work to learn and be reflective about my journey. All of these events, especially the time away, culminated in really significant ways. The time away allowed me sufficient time to detach from work and to evaluate even more about my role and personal purpose. It gave me an opportunity to experience life without the constant demands of the high pressured work place demands I was used to. In the distant and reflective space I became increasingly aware of my what I truly wanted to do and the time needed to mental prepare for such a transition. Without the self-care of these three significant lessons, mindfulness at the retreat, time spent in physical training and a trip to a foreign country, I do not think I would have become as aware and may have continued to live life in an auto pilot kind of way. The self-care that I have gone through, in rather extreme ways, has allowed me to be more reflective, calm, level-headed and to work with my staff even more patiently. I was calmer about problem solving issues and allowing others to puzzle through scenarios without chiming in to resolve it for them. I have a deeper sense of calm, meaning as well as optimism. I have learned more of the art of being present in the moment without stress of past or future concerns and that has allowed me reframe staff concerns so that they too can become calmer in addressing the issues at hand.