Milestone Blog

Leaders in the Trenches: Seeing More in Someone Than They See in Themselves

Posted by Milestone Leadership on May 16, 2019 11:54:09 AM

 

Rarely do we get where we’re going alone. Every stage of life and career is influenced by others—and those who see and enable potential in the people around them have some of the greatest impact of all. Personal and professional success comes, in part, as a result of leaders who take an active interest and role in developing team members. When a leader pushes the boundaries of an employee’s perception of his or her capabilities, it not only develops new skills and acumen, it builds the kind of confidence needed in fast-paced, ever-shifting work environments.

We invite you to read a great perspective on recognizing and cultivating potential from one of Milestone Leadership’s Soderquist Fellows:

“When I began working for Milestone Leadership as a new fellow, I walked in the door feeling like I was just a student. I was convinced l was incapable of taking on the things I was told I would be doing.

"I kept thinking to myself, ‘Don’t you know I don’t know how to do this? Why do you trust me enough to give me this role? I’m unqualified…don’t you see this?'

"Yet, every personal doubt of mine was met with encouragement from my leaders. I was surrounded by people who believed in me and my capacity to learn—they saw my potential before I saw it myself.

"I was pushed and stretched in ways I couldn’t have imagined, challenged every day by people who trusted and cared for me. I learned I could be the person they saw in me, and I began to move outside of my comfort zone toward a role bigger than I would have ever defined for myself.

"The expectations were very high, but with that came so much trust in my abilities. That unconditional trust has changed my outlook as a young professional. What an honor it has been to have people believe in me so strongly, while caring for me enough to push me to my fullest potential through meaningful feedback. I learned that receiving ongoing feedback should be normal from a team—not because I was wrong, but because I was capable of more and better.

"As I leave my role at Milestone, I carry with me what we refer to as humble confidence. I learned to have confidence in my and my company’s ability to deliver excellence, but with the humbleness that the outcome wasn’t about me. It was always about serving others.

"My leaders trusted and cared enough about me as a person to push me to my fullest potential. I now feel ready and qualified to step into my next opportunity, eager to contribute to others and embrace a fresh mission and culture.”

-Marisa Judson, Soderquist Fellow and Project Coordinator, Milestone Leadership

At Milestone Leadership, we know leaders worth following are those who help team members build from the place of their own strengths, while recognizing and addressing areas that need development. They willingly trust their followers, giving ample room to stretch and grow—but offer meaningful and constructive feedback and the confidence of a soft place to land and regroup when things don’t go as planned.

Who saw and appreciated your potential enough to guide, shape and encourage you along your path? Thank them.

 

Marisa Judson joined the Milestone Leadership team as a Soderquist Fellow in 2017 and completed her MBA with an emphasis in Market Research and Consumer Insights at John Brown University in the spring of 2019. During her fellowship, she was instrumental in helping coordinate outstanding leadership experiences for hundreds of professionals, as well as managed a wide array of marketing responsibilities for the organization. Marisa will begin the next phase of her career as an account manager with Field Agent, strengthened with the healthy confidence and capabilities that have grown exponentially as a result of working with a team of people who immediately saw and cultivated her enormous potential.

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Topics: Women in Leadership, Soderquist Fellowship, Productivity, Women, Growth, Worth, Candor, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Honesty, Authenticity, Candidness, Tone at the Top, Advice, Management, Empowerment, Millennials, Values, Feedback, Coaching, Self Awareness, Boss, Company Culture, Tips, Success, Workplace, Teams, Milestone, Truth, Team Health, High Performance, Mentorship, High Performing Teams, Challenge, Criticism, Mentors, Learning, Powerful Influencers, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Employee Development, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication, Gift

Minds are Like Parachutes: Best When Open

Posted by Milestone Leadership on May 9, 2019 8:57:27 AM

 

One irony of human nature is the tendency we have to believe everyone around us should be open-minded about our opinions and behaviors, yet so frequently we struggle with people who don’t think and behave the same way we do. On occasion, we encounter someone who demonstrates genuine openness to hearing new perspectives and is uninterested in qualifying everything as good or bad, black or white. Spending time around such a person can have an enormously positive impact, as it gives others tacit permission to express thoughts and capabilities without fear of being judged as right or wrong. 

This leadership story helps illustrate the value of having and encouraging an open mind:

“I was a 19-year old college freshman at a tiny liberal arts college, and I decided to take a public speaking course during a short winter term. The faculty was small, so some members covered a variety of subjects—and in this case we had a philosophy professor teaching us the topic.

“The class was made up of almost entirely traditional students, except for one single mom who seemed so much older than the rest of us (in reality, she was probably only in her thirties!) It was this woman’s turn to give her presentation, and part of the routine was for other class members to offer feedback at the conclusion of each speech. We took turns giving our suggestions, but as one member of the class was offering his not-so-constructive comments, the professor promptly interrupted him with this statement, “Be careful what you say. Have an open mind. If your mind is open, it leaves more room for the good stuff.”

“At the time, my professor’s remark didn’t seem all that profound. It was, though, and that guidance and management of the situation has literally stayed with me for decades. I realized her words were actually a kind, yet pointed, way of stopping unpleasantness in its tracks—and a simultaneous reminder that what we fill our heads with is a large determiner of what kind of person we will be. If we keep an open mind, we give ourselves the space to be positive and flexible to different ways of thinking. If we fill our minds with negativity, the likelihood is that we’ll behave in negative ways. I have been inspired by that simple statement and have called it to mind in countless situations over the years.”

-Laura Mabry, Manager of Corporate and Foundation Relations, University of Arkansas

A number of qualities are inherent to open-mindedness: continuous learner, curious spirit, knack for seeing things from fresh perspectives and respect for differing beliefs of others. People who authentically demonstrate these characteristics frequently have a special charisma and way of making those around them feel comfortable and confident.

At Milestone Leadership, we know open-mindedness is an important trait among leaders worth following. They inspire the best thinking, creativity and behavior in others. When followers are encouraged to be their genuine selves, the result is a greater degree of trust among team members, resulting in collective confidence and willingness to take calculated risks, communicate more effectively and bring their best efforts to the group.

Have you pulled the parachute ripcord for your team?

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Topics: Productivity, Growth, Candor, Motivation, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Honesty, Authenticity, Candidness, Tone at the Top, Advice, Management, Effectiveness, Reflection, Values, Feedback, Self Awareness, Boss, Company Culture, Tips, Emotional Leadership, Success, Workplace, Teams, Milestone, Truth, Team Health, High Performance, High Performing Teams, Dreams, Criticism, Powerful Influencers, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication

Transforming Pollyanna into a Warrior Princess

Posted by Milestone Leadership on May 2, 2019 10:05:00 AM

 

When I began my second year of graduate school for counseling, I didn’t think I was going to make it.  To be honest, I was turning out to be a terrible therapist.  I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was concerned about my situation.  I just didn’t know how to translate the book knowledge that I had learned in the first year into actually helping people. 

My program allowed me the opportunity to do live counseling behind a one way mirror, where a supervisor sat and observed me and my work.  One such supervisor was a woman named Sharon Shepherd. 

Sharon was an amazing therapist I had the privilege of observing as a student.  I was so excited to have her work with me, but was also terrified because I knew my counseling skills weren’t “clicking” between the two of us.  A few days after my first session, I received an email from Sharon.  In the email, she said many helpful things, but she used an image that helped me understand what she meant and what I needed to change.  She called me Pollyanna (like the Disney character).  I was having a difficult time giving honest feedback to clients.  I only wanted to talk about the good things that I saw.  Beyond this great image that helped me understand the work I needed to do, she also modeled the behavior she wanted to see.  She gave me honest feedback.  The feedback didn’t hurt.  It wasn’t harsh and it wasn’t personal.  It was true and I knew it.

I learned many things during my time in supervision for becoming a counselor.  One of the most important things was this idea of giving honest feedback.  How often do we hold back as coaches, leaders, supervisors, etc. because we are afraid of hurting someone’s feelings?  How often do we only point out the things that we are comfortable talking about?  When we are in a position to give feedback to someone, the only way to do so in a way that is respectful to that person and their growth is to give them the truth – positive and negative.

Over the next several months after receiving that email from Sharon, my technique improved and I wasn’t as terrible as I had been previously, thanks to many great supervisors.  After one of my last sessions, I received another email from Sharon.  In it, she let me know that Pollyanna had morphed into Xena Warrior Princess and that she was proud of me.  Because Sharon had given me honest feedback, the compliment I received from her was much stronger and more important than it had been had she ignored the truth.  I’m often described as someone who “tells is like it is.”  While I attempt to come at hard truths with compassion and kindness, Sharon truly taught me that telling the truth is a kindness in and of itself.

 As a leader, your job is to help people grow, and the only way to do that is to tell them the truth.  Help them find their inner Xena Warrior Princess.

Reposted from previously published blog.

Author:
Lori Chalmers

  

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Topics: Growth, Candor, Leadership, Honesty, Authenticity, Candidness, Tone at the Top, Advice, Humility, Management, Empowerment, Values, Company Culture, Tips, Success, Intentionality, Workplace, Milestone, Truth, Real, High Performance, Bravery, Courage, Challenge, Criticism, Mentors, Learning, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication

Teachers in the Trenches: A Brief Look at Receiving the Gift of Feedback

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Apr 15, 2019 2:08:03 PM

 

For this installment of “Teachers in the Trenches: A Brief Look at Real Leadership Stories,” we share with you a quote about the power of hearing and accepting input from others and the way one leader has been able to both teach and inspire his followers through a consistent, positive message.

“A number of years ago I was a newbie at P&G, and my leader at the time was Mike Graen, director of Information Technology. He had a huge impact on my career for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that he demonstrated what it is to be a true servant leader—always willing and ready to get in the trenches with his team. He had a wonderful way of empowering us to find solutions to complex issues. Mike taught me to push beyond the obvious, and his encouraging way of doing that, and his confidence in my abilities to do so, has given me lasting confidence.

“Mike had an impactful phrase he used, which has become somewhat of a mantra for me, ‘Feedback is a gift.’ Those words I’ve repeated many times, and the meaning is something I’ve taken to heart. That simple phrase taught me that hearing feedback can be incredibly valuable and critical to success. We have to own what we hear from others about the work we do—and we have an obligation to ask questions to gain clarity about that feedback. We must listen without defensiveness and learn to take action based upon what others share with us. Receiving feedback in the right spirit helps us build our toolkits and improve our work.”

-Suzanne Herzog Owens, Chief Product Officer, WhyteSpyder

Leaders worth following know how to provide constructive feedback that is actually motivating and beneficial to their team members—and they have to be open to receiving feedback, as well. Some of the best lessons that leaders can hope to receive come from their followers and peers. It is critical to internalize and act upon this feedback in the spirit it is intended.

Whether you’re leading or following (or both), here are some ways to graciously accept and use feedback as the gift it is meant to be:

  • As you’re hearing feedback, take a second to remind yourself that you’re gaining insight for ways you can improve your effectiveness or make something you’re working on better.
  • Listen fully and try not to let your brain race to the point that you’re not hearing what is being said. Once the person has shared their thoughts, restate what you believe you were told to make sure you’re on the same page.
  • Don’t go on the defensive. Don’t argue. Stop, listen and acknowledge what you’ve been told.
  • Ask clarifying questions and inquire about possible solutions for addressing any issues.
  • Thank the person who has taken the time to share feedback with you. It might not have been easy for them, but by acknowledging politely and sincerely, you are showing your respect for their assessment—even if you may not fully agree.
  • Afterwards, consciously look for examples of your behavior or activities that relate to the criticism and actively address them. If you find ways to improve and take specific action to do so, it’s great to follow up with the person who provided feedback to demonstrate your progress.  

 

At Milestone Leadership, we recognize feedback is a necessity, and like all communication, it’s best when it flows both directions. Building a culture that embraces and cultivates feedback invites trust and meaningful interaction among team members—which leads to innovation, productivity and loyalty.

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Topics: Productivity, Growth, Candor, Living Your Values, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Honesty, Authenticity, Candidness, Tone at the Top, Advice, Humility, Management, Empowerment, Effectiveness, Reflection, Values, Feedback, Passion, Organization, Company Culture, Tips, Success, Intentionality, Experience, Workplace, Teams, Milestone, Truth, Team Health, Top Down Leadership, High Performance, Purpose, High Performing Teams, Recognition, Learning, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication

A Millennial’s Perspectives on Leadership

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Mar 7, 2019 11:30:49 AM

 

Leaders worth following know their greatest influence and capabilities evolve as a result of consciously internalizing and applying a lifetime of experiences, both personal and professional. Some lessons arrive in the form of epiphany moments, out-of-the-blue realizations that render certain things crystal clear. Other lessons come about more slowly—through formal education or by learning to identify patterns and actions over time that begin to inform how best to guide and support others.

We have the honor of observing people at various career stages learn and grow in an array of settings. A particularly special group, the Soderquist Fellowship program, brings us new talented students each year who work with Milestone Leadership as project coordinators while pursuing their Master’s degrees at John Brown University. These bright individuals learn an enormous amount through applied academics and constant exposure to executives who are leading corporations and nonprofits at the highest levels. And the truth is, our seasoned professionals learn just as much from working with these students—and are inspired and invigorated by their enthusiasm, passion and idealism.

One of our Soderquist Fellows, Meaghan Ranz, successfully completed the program and earned her MBA in Organizational Behavior. She then stayed with Milestone for an additional year to work as a fulltime special projects coordinator. Meaghan is moving on to follow her passion for social work and to support efforts to help abused and neglected children, but pursuing new avenues does not lessen her love for what she has gained through her time with Milestone Leadership. We asked Meaghan to share a bit about what she has learned from supporting, observing and interacting with an array of leaders over the last few years.

Why did you initially decide to apply to become a Soderquist Fellow?

In 2016, I had just graduated with my undergraduate degree in family and human services (social work) and a minor in management. During my senior thesis and throughout college I was struck by how stretched thin nonprofit leaders and their organizations are. Many of the leaders we interviewed did not have enough time, resources, or training to strategically think about their organization or leadership. Several did not know if their organization was successful because data and feedback was not a luxury they had. This began my passion to understand the foundation of what makes a business and leader successful. I so desired to spend time gaining the education, skills, and training that would empower me when it was time to head back into the world of social services. 

What did the experience teach you about yourself on a personal level?

I am a completely different person now than I was before I started the fellowship, in the best way possible. My experience in the fellowship was something like a pressure cooker. I was challenged, given incredible responsibility, and treated like a professional. At the same time, the ingredients to succeed were all there, and the support from my team and our partners was amazing. Even in the most challenging times, I knew people had my back. In the end, I am loving the person I became through the process! I trust quickly, pursue excellence, view my teammates like family, desire to improve, do not put as much pressure on myself to be perfect, and feel much more confident walking into a difficult and stretching next role. The fellowship program has formed me into someone who knows her limits and isn't afraid of healthy boundaries—but also someone who is ready to break down barriers (with help!) and seek the type of professional and personal life that is worth following.

What professional skills did you gain from your time as a Fellow and through Milestone Leadership?

This list goes on and on! I gained incredible professional experience including but not limited to: written and verbal communication, networking with a wide range of leaders across industry lines, confident humility, continuous feedback loop with supervisors and teammates, leading meetings, strategic direction and execution, time management, delegation, reflection. Truly, I could keep going! The fellowship provided me with a framework to view leadership and my role, professionally and personally, as so much more than simply showing up and completing tasks. It has been about asking the difficult questions and beginning my journey of becoming a leader worth following

What would you encourage other 20-somethings to do which you believe could make the greatest impact on their professional futures?

Be vulnerable. Don't be afraid to not know all the answers: In the last year, about 80% of my job consisted of things I have never done before. I found that it is so important to first ask the question "What do I want this to look like once the problem is solved?" Then I bit the bullet and walked into the offices of many superiors and peers, as prepared as possible, but still saying something like, "I'm not even sure if I'm asking the right question or language around this...but here is how I understand it to the best of my ability. But you are the expert and I'm ready to learn so that we can tackle this problem together!" I was amazed at how much I learned, how quickly I grew, and the trusting relationships I built along the way with incredible people! I do not have the answers...not even a little bit! But I am creative and resourceful and not afraid to ask for help. We are better together!

Get to know yourself: Some of the most important moments in the past few years have not been working in professional environments...don't get me wrong, those have been great! But the best has been the lunches, coffee dates, counseling sessions, and meetings with people who help me reflect and get to know myself. Why do I do what I do? What informs my choices? How do I react when under stress? What do I value? These are the reflections that make real change. These questions help me know who I want to become and remind me that I'm not alone!

What will you miss most?

The people, absolutely! Our team shows up in trials and celebration, and they are some of the most supportive people I've ever met. I will be forever grateful for the role they've played in my life and professional journey. I'll especially miss having to make a nerf basketball shot before I leave the office...because it usually took at least 15 minutes. Ha!

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Topics: Professional Development, Growth, Candor, Leadership, Honesty, Authenticity, Candidness, Advice, Empowerment, Reflection, Career Building, Values, Feedback, Success, Experience, Workplace, Milestone, Truth, Purpose, Mentorship, Role Models, Mentors, Learning, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Service

"Thank you, Uncle Bob." - A Nephew's Leadership Tribute

Posted by Milestone Leadership - Alex Cornett on Feb 28, 2019 8:42:02 AM

 

I bet you have someone like this in your family.  You know, that one person the whole family informally looks to and looks up to.  The one who appears to be the rock, the anchor in turbulence and maybe even the first in the conga line at family get-togethers.  That was my Uncle Bob.  He owned a cabinet shop and it seems at some point everyone in the family worked there.  I think Uncle Bob carried a heavy burden to make sure our whole family was cared for, even though he was never formally given that role.

It was exceptionally hard when I heard this past week that he had passed away.  I headed down for the memorial service and had the privilege to share many of my thoughts and recollections with those gathered to mourn and celebrate his life.  He was a leader worth following in the truest sense.

At Milestone Leadership, I have the opportunity to coach, train and mentor many great leaders from industries and organizations all over the country.  One conversation we frequently have is about legacy.  You see, for many, legacy means  to them what people will say about them when they have passed, or what they might have written on their tombstone.  It is a very normal but self-focused perspective when you think about it.  For these leaders, I try to reframe that perspective. 

In light of --and in honor of Uncle Bob--I would also like to maybe reframe the concept of "legacy" for you. 

Legacy is not living so people will "say" great things about you at your memorial.  Legacy is living and impacting lives in a way that extends well beyond the span of your own life.  Legacy is happening now and always.  It is in real time and occurs in every choice.  Legacy is not about what people will “say” about you, nor is it just your physical offspring; it is about how they feel or what they DO because of you.  Legacy, therefore, lives beyond your physical existence, whether good or bad.

With that reframing, I want to tell you about Uncle Bob's legacy. 

  • I am better at family because of Uncle Bob.
  • I am a more loyal person because of Uncle Bob.
  • I am a harder worker because of Uncle Bob.
  • I have a better perspective on what excellence looks like because of Uncle Bob.
  • I know how to better show unconditional love because of Uncle Bob.
  • I know what it looks like when someone takes what is already great within himself or herself and allows personal transformation meant even more for the sake of others.

 

See you soon Uncle!

 

Alex Cornett
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Topics: Professional Development, Growth, Candor, Leadership, Honesty, Authenticity, Candidness, Advice, Empowerment, Reflection, Career Building, Values, Feedback, Success, Experience, Workplace, Milestone, Truth, Purpose, Mentorship, Role Models, Mentors, Learning, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Service

Three Reasons Why Mentoring Someone Isn’t “All About Them”

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Feb 21, 2019 11:00:12 AM

 

If you were to find yourself feeling a bit reflective about your career and paused to consider what had the greatest impact on your successes along the way, it’s likely some key people would come to mind. The relationships you had with these individuals may have varied in formality, but you could likely describe very specific ways they affected your development professionally, personally or both. These people were your mentors, regardless of whether it was intentional and formalized or not; their influence helped bring you clarity, inspiration, confidence and knowledge.

As you envision these people, did you ever stop to consider that their acts of providing guidance actually helped them grow along with you? Here are three ways you can improve your own leadership capacity by actively giving the benefit of your experience to someone else:

  1. Serving as an effective mentor means you’re making a commitment to offer honest feedback and constructive criticism. Providing this in a way that actually builds a mentee’s capacity requires diplomacy and a solid understanding of what the mentee truly needs—which comes only through observation and active listening. Leaders aren’t necessarily born with this skill set, but making a conscious effort to really support another person’s growth by taking the time to learn about them and offer meaningful guidance can have the added benefit of honing the mentor’s own listening and communication skills. The self-awareness that results from understanding the impact of your words on another person is valuable in literally every relationship you have, personally and professionally.
  2. Necessary components of any mentor-mentee relationship are honesty and trust. These elements are also absolutely critical to high performing teams—and must be continuously cultivated and nurtured by leaders. Not everyone arrives at a point of open honesty and a place of trust in the same way or at the same time, but serving as a mentor can help leaders who struggle with this by allowing them to let down some of their barriers to expose their own vulnerabilities. Many of the best life and work lessons are learned through mistakes and missteps, and when you can share your own fallibilities with honesty and humility, you inspire the kind of trust that allows others to feel they can be authentic with you.
  3. Offering guidance to another person based upon your own experience requires self-reflection. Leaders frequently find themselves pressing ever-forward without pausing to think subjectively about their own personal and career paths—where they went right or how they could have done things better for themselves or for others. As a mentor, imparting what you’ve learned through your own experiences allows you the opportunity to revisit your own past, an important step to securing a better future. Sharing your path with another person can actually reveal things you might not have otherwise considered about yourself, and offer you the chance to improve or even altogether change your future course.

At Milestone Leadership, we believe leaders worth following understand the impact of sharing their own past experiences with transparency and intention. By revealing ourselves to others, we come to understand our own behaviors and contributions in ways that help us to be stronger future leaders.

 

Kelly Hale Syer
Associate
Milestone Leadership

 

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Topics: Talent, Professional Development, Growth, Candor, Transferable Skills, Leadership, Honesty, Authenticity, Candidness, Advice, Empowerment, Reflection, Career Building, Values, Feedback, Company Culture, Success, Experience, Workplace, Milestone, Truth, Story telling, High Performance, Purpose, Mentorship, High Performing Teams, Transparency, Role Models, Criticism, Mentors, Learning, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Employee Development, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication, Affirmation, Service

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