Lisa DeAngelis, Director

Powerful lessons from the Emerging Leaders Program Project Team Presentation

Each year the fellows of the Emerging Leaders Program work within leaderless teams to address issues facing our region.  In my role as director of the Center for Collaborative Leadership, I have the pleasure to attend the Emerging Leaders Program Team Project Presentation at the culmination of the program where a representative from each team presents their findings. During this event, I see the progress made by our fellows in their leadership development and growth as they discuss what they learned about themselves, collaborative leadership, and the importance of civic engagement. I also have the honor to learn from our panelists who are invited to respond to the team project findings through their lens as civic leader, government official or business executive.

 

Here are key lessons from a few of our presenters and panelists:

“The biggest lesson I learned as a participant in the Emerging Leaders Program was about active listening. I learned it is ok to shut your mind off, take a step back and understand what people are talking about. I learned this with my team and I am working to transfer this skill to my work.” Kenechukwu Anadu, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Team 3 Presenter

 
Embrace what you learned during the team building process and maintain the relationships you have made through the program. Being able to call upon members of your cohort as resources is vitally important. We don’t know everything, and it is a major benefit to be able to call on your colleagues for help.” Josh Zakim, Boston City Councillor, Panelist

 
“The merging knowledge project really struck me. I used to be a part of an organization that worked to improve the lives of underserved girls. Without understanding their issues, we told them ‘here’s how to do this’ and that approach didn’t work. When we finally sat down with them, and asked them, and listened to them, we were able to help them.” Leslie Lewis, Brightcove, Panelist
 

“For Boston to be a global leading city, it needs to be built on a foundation of equity where every single Bostonian has an opportunity to excel. We can’t have equity without all the things we talked about this morning. We need transportation, adequate affordable housing, and workforce development that is free from discrimination. These are important goals of this administration. Boston needs to be a city where Kenechukwu Anadu can tell you to pronounce his whole name, and you do, as a show of respect.” Tim Sullivan, City of Boston, Office of the Mayor, Closing Speaker

 

For more information about the projects, please see our website http://www.leaders.umb.edu/index.php/leaders/2014_team_project_presentations/.

 

Let’s keep this important conversation going.  What additional advice or insights might you offer on active listening, embracing teamwork, maintaining relationships, or building a foundation of equity?

The Impact of a Person

In the past two months the world – my world – has lost two incredible men to cancer. This blog is not about the horrible disease that claimed their lives; this is about honoring how they chose to live their lives.

 

Both men were men of character, who held strong beliefs and values and who strove to live by them. Both were entrepreneurs but neither defined themselves by the work that they did. Rather, they used the work as a platform to express their unique gifts.

 

I have had the incredible honor of knowing individuals throughout my life who have had this strong sense of self – this deeper understanding of their life was connected to the lives of others. Each of these individuals has demonstrated the influence that one person – one authentic being – can have on another.

 

I am often asked why I do the work that I do. For me, this is my gift, to help others understand who they are as a leader – regardless of their title – and the incredible joy and impact that can come from fully living the life you are meant to live. As leaders, where we are able to unlock this potential in ourselves and other, there is the boundless opportunity to create change.

 

“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle,

and the life of the candle will not be shortened.

Happiness never decreases by being shared.” – Buddha

 

While those who knew these men would agree that their time on earth was not nearly long enough, I think that they would also agree with me when I say that the impact that they had – the thousands of candles that they lit – will remain strong.

Dedicated to Fernando Garcia and Jim Tupper

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

At this morning’s Cafecitos Breakfast, Jackie Palladino of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston opened her keynote address with this question. She then went on to share her response to this question, noting that, for her, “it is more about principles than positions.” Her list included things such as
• Taking on challenging assignments – stepping out of her comfort zone.
• Being part of intellectually stimulating teams – where ideas can be generated, shaped, executed and refined.
• Building strong relationships – where early warning signs of trouble are brought to her attention and where the people she needs to help fix an issue are already in her network.

During the networking after the event, many of the individuals I spoke with were pondering their response to this question. Some were focused clearly on organizations they wanted to work for, titles they aspired to hold, and the work they would be doing. While others were, like Jackie, thinking about how they wanted to feel about what they were doing and who they were working with. The lesson here is to be thinking about it, to be insightful and deliberate about the direction you want to be moving in. In this way, as opportunities arise, you are better able to make decisions as to whether these will propel you along this path, or create a detour. Detours aren’t necessarily bad, wonderful learning can come from them, and it’s always better when you choose to take the detour rather than suddenly find yourself there, don’t you think?

The Power of “No”

I feel as though I am just emerging from a long hibernation. This is my first blog in nearly 9 months. Why the hiatus? Was it that I had nothing to write about? Had I lost my desire to engage through this medium? Clearly not! And, yet, I had also reached an inflection point where I knew that I needed to create some space for my self amidst the ever-increasing priorities of life. Perhaps you can relate?

So, I chose to say, “no.” Arguably one of the most difficult words to articulate. Speaking for myself, I don’t want to disappoint others, and I certainly don’t want to miss out on what might turn out to be a fantastic opportunity. This begs the question, how do we know what to say, “no” to? As David Whyte shared so beautifully in The Heart Aroused, “One way to come to yes is to say no to everything that does not nourish and entice our secret inner life out into the world.”

What does this mean? It means understanding, truly, what you are meant to do with your unique talents; and having the courage to create the space to do it. This is no easy task, nor is it something you do once and then move along your merry way. Along your journey, you’ll invariably be faced with the traffic jam – the feeling that you are wading through all of this “work” that is slowing you down in your ability to have the impact, on your self and others, that you are meant to have.

The question becomes, how long does it take you before you realize that you’re stuck? And, once you realize it, what will you do about it? In my case, I chose to create time and space for my self. To say, “no” to things that I could in order to say, “yes” to opportunities that would get me back on track. That decision has led to some amazing opportunities – a teaching assistantship at HBS, two international speaking engagements this summer, the onboarding of a fantastic Executive-in-Residence who will help us take the Center to the next level – and those are only the professional opportunities!

I welcome hearing your stories of how saying “no” has led to an even better “yes.”

Wouldn’t You Rather Know?

The thing about feedback is that we say we want it, but we never really want to hear it. When it’s good, we dismiss it. When it’s bad, we reject it. Why is that?

Feedback is a gift. It is one person sharing with you, from their lens, how you are perceived by them. It takes a degree of trust and a desire to be in – or remain in – relationship for a person to reach out and give feedback. If I give you feedback, I am trusting that you will be able to take it in and handle it appropriately. And, if I didn’t care about the relationship, why would I bother to take the time and energy to give you feedback?

Think about the number of interactions we have with individuals throughout each day. Think about yesterday. Each interaction has an impact – either positively or negatively. The question is, did we have the impact we intended? And, truly, the only way to know is to receive the feedback.

For many, the first reaction we have when we’re told that our impact didn’t have the effect we intended is to blame the person giving us the feedback or to justify our actions. How likely do you think it is that we’ll continue to get feedback from that person?

Feedback is an opportunity for me to see if my actions and intentions are aligned. This requires two things. First that I am clear about my intentions; and, second, that I am able to objectively take in the persons perception.

I have learned, and continue to re-learn, that the power of feedback lies in what I choose to do with it.

Time to Disconnect and Reconnect

For those of you who have been following this blog, our website, and our other social media channels, you know that this has been an amazing, and eventful, year for the Center. We graduated the last January cohort, launched the first September cohort, celebrated the retirement of the founding director, announced the inaugural Building a Better Boston award and Leading the Way award recipients, piloted a webinar series, and much more. All while executing flawlessly on the core business operations.
On top of that, each of the three of us had our own unique opportunities both professionally and personally. The good news is that we work incredibly well together as a team. And, as you might expect, we’re all starting to get a bit “crispy.”
Fortunately, at the beginning of the summer we all plotted out our summer plans, setting our sights on long weekends and weeks away. As each of those has approached, we’ve reminded one another that this is their time away. Time to disconnect and recharge the battery. Time to reconnect with themselves, with their family and friends, with activities they enjoy.
Unfortunately, in our overconnected world, there is an expectation that being on vacation simply means that you won’t physically be in the office. You may even be given a bit more latitude in the amount of time it takes you to respond to an email. For years, I fed into this. I would constantly check and respond to emails, answer voicemails, and even participate in the occasional conference call while on vacation.
The reality is, when an employee truly takes a vacation – even a staycation – everybody wins. The person is able to relax and enjoy their time away. And, they return with renewed energy and, sometimes, even a fresh perspective on an issue they’ve been struggling with.
As a leader, I am reminded that it is important to set the tone through both words and actions. So, as I take my turn to be away next week, I will be disconnecting. I may peruse email once or twice per day but will not respond unless it’s urgent. If something comes up that requires my immediate attention, the team knows how to reach me.
Please don’t look for a blog next Friday as there won’t be one. I’ll be off spending time with my two favorite guys!

When opportunity knocks will you answer?

This week I’ve had two wonderful conversations with friends that I’ve known for many years. In both cases the individuals are in the midst of significant career transitions.

Earlier this week, as I was departing the train at South Station, I happened to cross paths with a gentleman that I had worked with several years ago. As we were catching up, he shared that he’d just been presented with an amazing opportunity on the West Coast. After discussing with his family, they decided that this would be a great experience for everyone. Shortly, he, his wife, and his two young girls, will be moving across the country.

The other person was in the midst of evaluating the long-term sustainability of the program she runs when she was offered an incredible opportunity to step into a significant role within the organization she works for. This new role will enable her to have broad impact while continuing to grow the program she is running.

These positions represent a significant departure from the routine that these individuals are accustomed to. Additionally, there is substantial risk associated with both opportunities. Moving across the country is a huge deal when there is a risk you will not like the new role, or that your family will not like the new living arrangement. And, while we all run the risk of failing when presented with a new opportunity, the second person above has the added pressure that her success or failure will be observed in a very public way. And yet, in both cases, they had the courage to embrace the change that was offered to them.

The interesting thing about opportunities is that they rarely come when you are looking for them, and they typically don’t resemble the career step that you envision being next. So, my question to you is, when opportunity knocks, will you answer?

You Never Gave Up on Me

These sage words came out of my twelve year-old son’s mouth shortly after his team clinched the Town Championship in Little League baseball.  He was speaking to his father who has coached my son in a number of sports over the years, and has spent countless hours at the field running drills and pitching batting practice for him.

 

There is a powerful leadership lesson in this.  Leaders should identify and encourage the potential in each of their team members.  They should take the time to know the dreams and aspirations of those they work with and create opportunities that allow them to work toward realizing those dreams.  And, in some cases, they need to see the potential in their employees even when the employee doesn’t recognize it in themselves.

 

I am so proud of my husband for the invaluable leadership lesson that he demonstrated for my son, and I am inspired by my son’s recognition of this gift.

Is anybody really out there?

A curious thing about a blog is that it can be difficult for the author to understand the impact, if any, that they are having.  While we have all sorts of fancy dashboards and metrics, the medium limits our ability to engage in a rich dialogue with our readers.

 

While I fully understand that one purpose for a blog is to gain wide visibility, I am choosing to approach this blog as intimate conversation with individuals interested in thoughts on leadership.  My hope is that as I co-create this with my readers, this audience will slowly reach others who share this interest.

 

This week I’d like to hear from you.  Is there a particular blog that you enjoyed?  If so, which one and why?  Are there things that I’ve written about that you’d like me to explore more deeply? Are there things that you wish I would write about?  If so, what?  Are there things that I’ve written about that just didn’t resonate for you?

 

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Next Chapters

Building off of last week’s blog, I’ve recently heard that the last hotel I worked in will be closing soon.  The Inn At Harvard, an institution in Harvard Square for the past 22 years, will be repurposed as living quarters for Harvard University students.

 

My experience at this hotel offered me my first exposure to both an authentic leader and to collaborative leadership.  The General Manager of the property expected each member of his executive team to contribute fully to the success of the hotel.  He modeled for us that the only way to do this was to take a broad view, rather than focusing on the best interests of our particular domain.  He welcomed our suggestions, ideas, and pushback.  He encouraged us to work through our differences through honest and constructive dialogue.  And he challenged us to live up to the potential that he saw in each of us.

 

Over the years I’ve lost track of some of the members of that team, but those that I have remained in contact with have all moved into significant leadership positions.  Each of us fondly recall the gentle guidance and tough love with which he mentored us, as we now mentor others.

 

Next week I will have the unique experience of being a guest at the hotel.  It is bittersweet to think that I was one of the employees early in the hotels history, and will now be one of its final guests.  In chatting with the GM the other day, we both remarked that, while it is sad that The Inn is closing, the memories we have are really about the amazing people and wonderful relationships that began there.

 

I hope that I will have an opportunity to see many of these friends while I am there, to thank them for our shared experience, and to wish them every happiness in their next chapter.