Mold Me

August 2, 2011 at 7:31 am | Posted in Career Moves | Leave a comment
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This past week, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting with the leadership team members of my company, and the President of a major bank.  This was the first of many times I will be sitting in for my boss while she is out on maternity leave.

There was no way to really prep for this meeting, since they wouldn’t give us an agenda, but we tried to prepare.  The thought was that the meeting might be about branding, which is a conversation that couldn’t be had without me (or my boss, if she was available), so we prepared a bunch of documents around this.  All of this was a piece of cake for me, since I had developed these strategies and have been implementing them for the past year and a half.

The thing with funders is that there is always the desire to please them, even if whatever it is that they want is not in line with what the organization’s strategic goals are.  Simply put — the corporate world is different than the non-profit world in many ways.  And more than that, it’s hard to really get to know how an organization operates unless you work for it. So with this in mind, my strategy was to be a good listener, and if any bullets were thrown in my direction, I would let my senior colleagues take them on my behalf.

But that wasn’t necessary.  This man put our team through a very thoughtful exercise in being true to who we are, who we serve, and what we are all about, at the core.  The thing with non-profits, which is in line with trying to make funders happy, is that non-profits have a tendency to try to be everything to everyone.  This issue truly dilutes the message and brand of an organization.

So this lesson in branding wasn’t so much about the promotional aspects of branding, but more about getting the organization’s staff on the same page, speaking the same voice.

It is opportunities like this, when a President of a major company gives you 4 hours of undivided attention, that I think I’ll enjoy the most with the absence of my boss.  These opportunities to be among the thought leaders challenge me to think big picture, think differently, and develop new strategies.   Spending time with these folk will help to mold me into a leader.

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Taking Ownership

July 19, 2011 at 9:26 am | Posted in Career Moves | 2 Comments
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Things have been chaotic to say the least these past few days.  Aside from attempting to adjust to the time difference, there have been some serious challenges that have truly tested me.

On a daily basis, I do not typically manage events, but I have somehow been thrown into that role during this work trip.  The hardest part is that my boss, nearly 9 months pregnant, is not here to serve as my shield – I am literally in the line of fire trying to make things work seamlessly so that our audience doesn’t know the chaos that is going on behind the scenes.

I’ve been hearing the same phrase a bunch over the past few days – if you want something done, give it to a busy person.  This 5 day-long event is jam-packed with logistical details that require somebody to take the reins.

So why didn’t we have this all figured out before we touched down?  Lots of complications and too many moving parts, mainly.  But rather than dwell on the why, we need to just keep things moving.  We can reflect later.  Right now, it’s all about taking ownership and getting things done.  I know my efforts will not go unnoticed as there have been a few gems able to support the work.

But this idea of taking ownership has been a major lesson for me in my career in general.  When you take ownership of a project, you are caring for it and if you are one of these busy people, you will likely give the project the love and care it needs to thrive, even when you are thrown into it last minute.

I think that taking ownership is really a lesson in leadership.  When you assume responsibility, you can recognize faults, learn, and grow.

I think my boss would be proud.

Want to be a leader? Get thrown in the fire

May 24, 2011 at 7:31 am | Posted in Career Moves | 2 Comments
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In about two months I will be entering into uncharted territory in my career.  At the command of her unborn child, my boss will be out on maternity leave, leaving me alone without the support and guidance I have grown used to.

Working in a department of one, and then one and a half, plus my boss, who also oversees two other departments, I often turn to my boss as a sounding board, as a partner, as a second set of eyes, as the person making the final big decisions.  I’m still feeling out what decisions I can make and the processes I should follow to get things approved.  It’s complicated and every situation is different.  I also count on my boss to be my ears with the rest of leadership, who often don’t share all the information they have with the minions.  My boss shares a lot of this with me, because it does effect my work.

So I’m losing my crutch.  That’s the part that I have to get used to. And that’s where the opportunity lies.  This is my chance to flex my leadership muscles, to step up to the plate and make decisions when I should and turn to higher ups when appropriate.

This is kind of a big deal, and definitely interesting timing.  My boss is missing our annual conference, and the conference planner just quit.  This is definitely going to be interesting.

So I’m definitely worried, but I know I’ll be ok.  At my last job, my supervisor called me over the Christmas break to tell me she shattered her ankle falling off a scooter.  She was out for 3 months on disability and I had no warning, so I’ve been without a leader before, but somehow this seems different, probably because I feel like I have a lot of opportunity for growth this time around.  My organization is very innovative and good at recognizing hard work, and everyone knows how much I rely on my boss, so hopefully people will be kind to me.

So this is going to be interesting.  I hope I learn a lot from this experience and I hope my colleagues take notice.  I am a leader, I know I am.  And this is my opportunity.

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