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

The Leadership Chronicles: “If They Don’t Get It, Maybe It’s You?”

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Apr 18, 2019 9:29:21 AM

 

We’ve heard it so many times – employees don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad managers. Leaders have an enormous influence on employee engagement and morale, but they also have a critical responsibility to make certain team members understand their jobs and how to be successful in their roles. For many companies, training and onboarding is largely conducted by a professional training staff, so often managers feel they can take a back seat for encouraging and overseeing learning and skill development. In this edition of Leadership Chronicles, we offer a real-life example relating to this topic:

“One of my first jobs out of college was in retail management for a major chain clothing store in Princeton, New Jersey. Merchandising and operations were dictated to us at the store level in great detail, and it was our job as managers to hold the staff accountable for meeting the strict standards. The job and the hours were brutal, but what I learned in my two years there has continued to serve me better than almost any professional experience I've had since.

“Our district manager was a no-nonsense man named Lon who had grown up and lived most of his life in Brooklyn, New York. While Lon didn't have much in the way of soft skills, he DID understand retail. Ultimately, his no-nonsense approach taught me a valuable leadership lesson.   

“Most of the staff in our store were high school and college students whose concern for how denim was folded took a back seat to the rest of their lives. One day I groaned to Lon on his monthly visit to our store that I thought we were going to have to fire several people because they struggled to meet our standards. The conversation that followed went something like this:

Lon:     “Have you trained them?”

Me:      “Well, they all went through our orientation.” 

Lon:     “But nothing since then?”

Me:      “I guess not. We shouldn't have to show people more than once how to do                                something.” 

Long pause. 

Lon:     “If you don't think people are meeting the expectations, you first have to make                      sure they know what the expectations are. It's your job to develop them to meet                    the expectations. If you don't like the way the staff is performing, then as the                          manager, it's your fault.” 

“He then went on to explain why it's more costly to hire new people than to develop current staff. Of course, he was right

“This lesson has come back to me in every role I've ever had. As a leader it's my job to train, develop, and work alongside my staff so they can meet the expectations of their roles, and beyond that, so they can grow into other roles outside of the organization or company. If I'm frustrated with someone, then the first questions to ask myself are, ‘What is MY role in this person's performance? Where have I faltered in my leadership?’

-Angie Albright, Executive Director, Clinton House Museum

Research tells us that information gained from training on its own without direct application and reinforcement in reality is quickly lost. What team members learn in a classroom setting or through online training is a mere starting point. When leaders identify ways to take ownership in actively reinforcing training on the job, skills begin to really take hold.

At Milestone Leadership, we understand that managers possess great deal of influence over how team members feel about their ability to perform well. Leaders worth following take the time to develop a strategy for each employee that involves regular one-on-one conversations, coaching, opportunities to apply new skills, and a plan for future learning and development.  The message to direct reports is clear: they have a leader partner who is vested in their success–and they see firsthand that their skills, knowledge and capabilities both present and future are important to the organization.

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Topics: Professional Development, Storytelling, Productivity, Growth, Candor, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Honesty, Tone at the Top, Advice, Management, Empowerment, Effectiveness, Values, Feedback, Coaching, Boss, Organization, Company Culture, Tips, Success, Intentionality, Experience, Workplace, Teams, Milestone, Team Health, Top Down Leadership, Stories, High Performance, High Performing Teams, Criticism, Learning, Powerful Influencers, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Employee Development, Personal Development, Creating Culture, clarity, Leader Worth Following, Communication

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

Reflections of Famous Failures

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Feb 7, 2019 4:39:41 PM

 

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Topics: Leadership, Reflection, Failure, Heart, Bravery, Role Models, Criticism, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Personal Development, Deepak Chopra, Leader Worth Following, Suze Orman, Kevin O’Leary

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