Emerging Leaders Journal: The Tiger or the Teacup

Liz Henderson, winner of Strategic Link’s Emerging Leaders Scholarship Contest, keeps us updated on what she learns throughout the 2015 Emerging Leaders Program.

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” – Neale Donald Walsh 

Emerging Leaders participants play “the blindfold game,” which helps build verbal communication skills and teamwork.

I would be lying if I told you Emerging Leaders is a comfortable, familiar program where you go to network and learn some basic tools. It is a go-all-in transformational leadership program. It will push you out of your mental and emotional safe place and force you to really look at the person and the leader you are and want to be. 

In this program, it important to make the commitment to trust the process — and the phenomenal leadership of the DDJ Myers team. 

A single ray of sunlight can start a fire. 

I had a discussion one evening with Susan Geear from DDJ Myers about a recent conversation I had with a colleague. I told her that someone had referred to me as a “ray of sunshine,” and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. I know I have a sunny disposition, but it isn’t necessarily the standard description of what a leader looks like.  

Susan then said it is all about perception – a single ray of sunlight can also start a fire. There is a lot of power there.  

You do not have to change who you are as a person to be a powerful, dynamic leader. It is about learning to effectively use all of the tools that already exist in your toolbox. How do you do that? Practice.  

The practice itself can become the teacher. 

So often, I come back from a conference or training ready to conquer the world. My head is full of great ideas and I am ready to attack my job with a new tenacity.  

How quickly day to day items can catch up with you! Before you know it, that training is a distant memory. I learned quickly that if I want to actually implement what I learn and grow from an experience, I have to take it back to my credit union and practice on a daily basis.  

No one starts kicking a soccer ball in the morning and becomes a pro by the afternoon. It takes practice, and continually pushing yourself beyond what you think you can do.  

Commit to (and celebrate) success.

One of the most valuable tools I learned at Emerging Leaders was how to establish Conditions of Success as part of the Mutual Commitment to Success model. Conditions of success are the clear criteria for determining success. It includes the who, what, where, when, why, and possibly how.   

This turns an abstract idea or project into something with measurable, with clearly understood outcomes. There is a time element to the Conditions of Success as well, to create a sense of urgency. 

By establishing conditions of success, you are setting clear expectations and building trust among your team. When there is a breakdown, you can refer back to the conditions set, to see where the breakdown occurred and open the door for conversation.

You can be the tiger or the teacup. 

Tim Tolliver, one of the team members from DDJ Myers, shared this saying. After letting us mull it over for a few seconds, he went on to explain.  

In your career and life, you can be the teacup, always waiting to be filled up by someone else. Or you can be the tiger, keenly aware of your surroundings and actively pursuing what you want.  

You can’t expect opportunity to come knocking at your door – sometimes you have to go after it yourself.

Honest feedback is a gift. 

I always thought that I was terrible at giving “constructive criticism.” I didn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or make them feel bad. I learned in this session of Emerging Leaders that honest feedback — feedback that will help that person — is one of the best gifts you can give another person.  

To do that successfully, you have to learn about the person, ask them questions, find out what matters to them and what their goals are. From there, you can provide them feedback that is relevant, constructive, and will ultimately help propel them toward their goal. What better gift can you give than that?

The first session of Emerging Leaders began our path of self-awareness and learning who we are as a leader. This second session turned toward action, implementation and practice. I have already started practicing what I learned, and I am committed to continuing to push myself out of my comfort zone and further developing as a leader.  

Questions about this story? Contact James Pearson: 206.340.4790, jpearson@nwcua.org.



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