Taking Root

Early Lessons in Leadership

 It’s never too early to start developing your leadership potential.  Take, for example, my daughter’s Girl Scout Daisy Troop.  Recently, the twelve Daisies “bridged” to the next Girl Scout level and became Brownies.   As the Troop Leader for almost 2 years, I reflected on the experiences that brought us to this ceremony and realized that these first graders had not only earned badges, they also learned foundational skills critical to any leader’s success.

Learning Agility

Leaders should be in a constant learning loop, with an enthusiastic willingness to occasionally be a beginner versus always trying to be the expert.  They demonstrate a curiosity that overshadows any fear of the unknown and, in so doing, they encourage a learning culture within their teams.

Learning agile leaders proactively seek input from their team members and encourage others to learn from mistakes by modeling this behavior themselves.

For Girl Scouts, this looked like excitement and energy at all the new activities in which they were engaging –from coding robots to selling cookies.  The girls rose to every occasion, asking questions and striving to learn.

Collaborative

Collaborative leaders are inclusive and bring people together.  They willingly share information, expect others to do the same and are motivated by the idea of achieving the team’s goal.

A collaborative leadership style is one that makes the time to enroll others in the team’s mission, emphasizing the role that each member plays in the overall success.  And this leader is quick to recognize others for their contributions, creating a heightened team spirit that drives stronger results.

The Daisies regularly amazed me with their willingness to welcome new members and show them the Girl Scout Promise, songs, etc.  They helped each other by sharing supplies, ideas and, most importantly, sharing insight regarding themselves.  There was a sincere interest in getting to know each other, and in “being a sister to every Girl Scout.”

Resilient

We live in a VUCA environment and require leaders who won’t just survive the pace but who will thrive in it.  To do so, leaders must become pros at rebounding and not get stymied by setbacks or adversity.

Resilient leaders remain confident under pressure and maintain a positive outlook despite adversity.

Some may call it naiveté, but I believe the more accurate description is that our 1st grade girls are resilient.  Even when activities didn’t always go as planned, they persevered with positive attitudes.  During one meeting, the girls were building doodlebots and rushing to get them done so they could try them out before the meeting ended.  Some girls experienced faulty batteries, starter switches, etc.  and yet they never complained, they asked for help and new supplies so they could try again.  It was powerful to watch their patience, determination and resiliency! And, ultimately, to watch their joy as their robots doodled!

Authentic

Authentic leaders are aware of their strengths, limitations and their emotions.  They are bravely vulnerable and show their true selves at work.  Teams members value their straight-forward communication style and their “head, heart and guts” approach to leadership.

Our Girl Scouts are models of authenticity; they show up as they are!  Their hearts are always engaged and ready to connect.  They find joy in just “being” and aren’t worried about “becoming.”

Engaging and Inspiring

The most successful leaders create climates where people are motivated to give 100% to help the team achieve its goals.  They engage individuals by clarifying how their unique responsibilities support the greater good.  Inspiring leaders drive alignment and commitment to a shared vision.  People want to work for them, they are known as the “good bosses.”

The Daisies had a palpable team spirit!  When the Troop celebrated a successful cookie season, each girl received an individual certificate but that seemed of little importance to the girls.  Their focus was on the Build-a-Bear party they would be attending together.  They knew that party was the ultimate goal for everyone to enjoy.

The leadership skills outlined above are certainly not the only ones critical to success, but they do represent a strong foundation.  As you build your own development plan, be sure to add in what Harvard Business Review calls, “learning in the flow of work.”  “Learning in the flow of work is a new idea: it recognizes that for learning to really happen, it must fit around and align itself to working days and working lives.”

With that mindset, you’ll be able to establish an infinite learning loop that will enable you to continually enhance your strengths, learn new skills and address any gap areas.  While you may not receive any merit badges for the work you’ll be doing, you’ll reap the rewards from having a more positive leadership impact and that’s definitely better than Thin Mints!

 

Elizabeth De La Peña Veeser is the Principal of DLP Coaching, a firm dedicated to helping leaders and organizations achieve their greatest potential. Contact her today to explore how she can support your development.

Ready, Set, GROW

Growing pains, they’re as real for leaders as they are for children.  Unfortunately, as we age, we become more resistant to change and more content with maintaining the status quo.  It’s cozy there, we know how to perform there. We also know the results we’ll get, they’re pretty much the same we got last quarter, last year.  And that’s a problem. Merely maintaining the same level of results clearly won’t drive our business forward and it certainly won’t increase shareholder value.  

So, how do we get ourselves out of the rut?

Cultivating a growth mindset, one that embraces challenges and sees them as opportunities to develop, can get you unstuck.  The term “cultivating” is intentional here, because this mindset can’t be taught and learned through one workshop, one book or, alas, one blog post.   You have to want it. You have to continually work for it. But, as a growth mindset would say, “Bring on the challenge! I can learn how to do this! If I mess up, that’s okay, I’ll try again.”

According to Dr. Carol Dweck, who developed the growth mindset concept, and is the author of Mindset:  The New Psychology of Success, “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work – brains and talent are just the starting point.  This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”

Ready to GROW?

Practice (again and again!) these strategies to begin cultivating your growth mindset.  

  • Proactively and regularly seek feedback

Ask, “What could I have done better?”  Encourage not only positive but also critical feedback.  Listen and respond to the feedback with adjusted behaviors and approaches.  And then return to the provider and ask for feedback again. Ask, practice, repeat.

  • Identify and take on new and challenging assignments

Stretch your skills and get out of your comfort zone.  View this as a learning experience. Take time during the assignment to regularly review your development and see how you’ve grown your perspective and knowledge.  Identify hurdles you faced and lessons learned. Leverage those lessons as you complete the current assignment and get ready for the next.

  • Take on a new hobby or learn a new skill

Reinforce the growth mindset by adopting it in all aspects of your life.  Now’s the time to go from “couch potato to 5k,” to plant that vegetable garden you’ve always talked about or to learn another language.  Invest and commit your time. Practice the new activity with enthusiasm. And, when you’re panting at mile 1, breathe and remind yourself that it’s just growing pains and continuing to flex the muscles will make it easier tomorrow.

  • Create your own diverse cohort

Seek out peers who have different backgrounds and/or perspectives than you.  Invite them to share their ideas and to challenge you. When this happens, ask questions, listen and then ask more questions.  Use the debate team method and “argue” their side so you can fully explore the other perspective.

  • Break down silos

Build collaborative and cross-functional teams.  Invite colleagues from other parts of the business to join a project team, to present at a staff meeting, to provide their perspective on a key effort being worked by your group.  Drive alignment and commitment to the overarching organization goals.

  • Leverage the experts

Your openness in acknowledging that others may know better than you facilitates your own growth mindset while also setting the tone for others. The growth-minded individual leverages resources and seizes the opportunity to learn from others.

  • Develop others

Assign challenging responsibilities to your team members, perhaps delegating some components of your leadership role so that you can focus on your own stretch assignment.  Encourage your team to stretch and help them learn from both successes and hurdles. Share your own challenges and mistakes as a model for learning and resiliency. Teaching others will reinforce your own growth mindset.

Cultivate a growth mindset using these strategies.  Commit to practicing them and you’ll see the impact on your development and effectiveness.  There will be successes, there will be challenges. Remember, it’s an infinite learning loop, not a finite process.  Listen to your growth mindset, “You’re ready for this!  Get, ready, set, GROW!

Elizabeth De La Peña Veeser

Elizabeth De La Peña Veeser

Principal of DLP Coaching

Elizabeth De La Peña Veeser is the Principal of DLP Coaching, a firm dedicated to helping leaders and organizations achieve their greatest potential. Contact her today to explore how she can support your development.

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