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Opinion / Partnerships and Building Relationships / Program Design, Development, and Quality / Staff Leadership and Management

The Flawed Leader… Follow Up 6 Months Later

Social Power is defined as the degree of influence that an individual or organization has among their peers and within their society as a whole.

6 months ago, I shared in this blog my challenges with my own leadership and that of the organization I started and grew over the past 15 years. I poured out on the table the comments my staff made in relation to my leadership flaws, and the ways I needed to be better for my team. Since then I have openly spoken in three different states in front of large numbers of people, both publicly owning my flaws and encouraging other leaders to do the same. I have done it for three reasons:

  1. because there is something incredibly freeing in the open acknowledgment of it and a release from the burden we all carry of constantly wondering what people are thinking;
  2. because if I can do it, I am hoping in one of those rooms someone else will be open to taking on the same challenge and owning their own flawed leadership;
  3. because it pushes me to continue to be accountable to myself and to those who hear me own my faults and commit to working on them.

The last six months have been an incredible period of growth and introspection. I have worked closely with a number of mentors and coaches to better recognize and be aware of my default behaviors, “Hello, my name is Annemarie and I am a dominant pacesetter,” how they impact my team and their performance, and how I use that awareness to change my approach.

I have received brutal feedback along the way, often smacked on the hand when I fail to recognize it first, but also have been praised for making progress in the right direction.

In fact, last week one of my board members called me to comment on how impressed she was with my leadership at the last board meeting. How I came across as relaxed, collaborative, calm, even when there were moments of intensity, and how I met the needs of everyone in the room, while still keeping the goal in mind and driving the agenda forward. She is right… I felt good in that meeting. With each question from board members, I reflected before responding, determined what would make them feel valued in this dialogue, how can I still get them to see where I need them to go, without shoving it down their throats, and most importantly how do I create a win-win for everyone in the room. What was really different though was how I felt. I felt empowered, rather than powerful; I felt a sense of collaboration and team ownership, rather than control, and I felt relaxed rather than worn down. All in all, it felt pretty incredible.

I have felt this feeling several times over the last few months and have come to crave this feeling after any team dialogue, meeting, or decision. I have realized that I feel my strongest when everyone wins, when everyone feels ownership, and when the team thrives, not just me. I have been told this is defined as social power. Something I always thought I was doing, but in reality, I wasn’t. To experience it now is pretty incredible.

I often hesitate to share some of the tactical changes I have made in my practice, because I think too often we seek to put the external ideas and practices into play without implementing the internal “self-behavior” changes that are necessary for real change.

So before I share a few of the tactical changes I have made, let me stress that you must be willing to look at yourself and your conscious and unconscious behaviors in order to really create change for yourself and others.

This is a never-ending process and you don’t always get it right, but you have to always be mindful of it and keep working at it in order for the “tactical” to work at its fullest capacity.

So as for the tactical changes, a few months ago, I began offering multiple opportunities for feedback, input, and reflection amongst my team. I started holding monthly fireside chats with the CEO. All staff are welcome, all questions, ideas, or thoughts are welcome. It is simply an open dialogue with the CEO. After each of my monthly coaching sessions with my direct reports, I implemented a series of reflection questions that address the quality of the coaching session, including what could I do differently next time and what I could do to better support the staff member. While initially, these were uncomfortable for the staff to answer, they have become much more open to providing that feedback (especially when they realize I genuinely want to receive it). I have started visiting our campuses and checking in with the staff to see how I can better support them and also privately recognizing achievements of our staff, both recognizing their accomplishments and showing gratitude for their service in different ways.

I am on a long journey that won’t be complete in 6 months or a year. As I said 6 months ago, it was painful to open myself up to the criticism, to own my flaws, and to be open to change. The process of change is even harder, and there is nothing glorious about it, but 6 months down the road, I can tell you I see moments of pride, both from my own self and those around me.  I also find that I am more willing to forgive myself when I don’t get it right and work harder to succeed the next time around. I strive to be better for those around me, to set the example for my team, our students, and our families.

If we want to be the best at what we do as an organization, we need to be willing to take the lead, set the example, and help others achieve. Are you willing to open yourself to the challenge?

For breakfast this morning I had a Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie: 1 scoop Protein Powder, ¼ cup Peanut Flour, 1 Cup unsweetened almond milk and1 banana.

Author: @annemarieg

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