My Leadership Sweet Spot

Leaders must be learners and last week I completed the Healthcare Leadership Development Program. It was great program focused on each of us as individual leaders, the healthcare environment we operate in and leadership in crisis. 

As a wrap-up, each participant was asked to share a three minute success story.  Not quite Ignite style (wouldn't that have been fun) but engaging nonetheless.

Credit: iStockphoto

Credit: iStockphoto

Here's what I shared:

I jumped out of a perfectly good aircraft. It was an amazing moment falling through the air looking over to watch the airplane that brought me up there - fly away without me in it. Come back!  

I didn't really know how fast I was falling until I began to see the tops of the trees. At that point, I did what you may think would be the last thing you would do as you were falling to the  ground - I closed my eyes. I didn't close my eyes because I though it would magically suspend me in mid-air or stop the inevitable from happening.

I closed my eyes because I didn't want to over think my landing. I closed my eyes to let my body do what it was trained to do. And it did. Five points of contact later, I got up and walked off the drop zone.

My personal leadership challenge is to not to not over think this stuff, to get out of my head, get out of my own way and do what I do best. 

I've been in formal leadership roles since 1985-ish. Every day, I wake up and step into a leadership lab and even after doing this for so long, some of the best insights still come to me at times when I least expect it.

In an impromptu debrief of week one, we we were asked to find someone we hadn't spoken with yet and discuss something that happened since the last time we had met. I found Betty (a medical center director), or she found me, and she zeroed right in on an approach to a missed expectations issue I shared. Turns out, we were both women, in the military and the military communication style did not translate well to everyone in the workplace.

Who knew?! 

I now make it a point to let my staff and those I mentor know that they are not responsible for my communication skills but they are responsible for leaving a conversation with complete information. If they don't get what they need, they need to ask for it.

When others take this on, I see expectations being met and hear clarifying questions being asked. I see confidence, awareness, ownership and strength where it was not visible before.

And that's the leadership sweet spot for me. It's not a position, a title or a grade. It's not my name in lights. It's creating possibility where none existed before. 

This experience reminded me that as a leader, I am much bigger than any role I may fill. So, although I leave the program not knowing what's next for me (think 5 year plan, friends) I leave knowing that whatever my next step is, I got this.  

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Taking the Gloves Off: Leaders and HR

Human resources can be complex, confusing and exasperating. Communications between leaders and their human resources department don't have to be.

Unfortunately, they are.  

Photo credit: iStock

Photo credit: iStock

It's time to step out of the ring and start working together.

When human resources professionals live and breathe human resources everyday, they forget what it's like outside the bubble. It's easy for them to judge non-HR leaders harshly. "Don't."  Instead, help them help you. 

  • Proactively anticipate needs, develop training resources, analyze data and ask leader what you can do for them.
  • Serve as strategic advisers to leaders. Lead effectively, help leaders with workforce planning and creatively work within business constraints to improve how they do business.
  • Give leaders a chance, you will be pleased with the results.  

When leaders stay as far away from the human resources bubble as they can, it's easy for some to abdicate their leadership responsibility and to judge human resources staff harshly. "Don't."  Instead, help them to help you.

  • Proactively identify needs, ask for the HR training and resources you need.
  • Listen to the options, advice and consequences. It is your responsibility to ensure your decisions are informed ones. Ask the tough questions and expect researched responses.
  • Give HR a chance, you will be pleased with the results

Ensuring people come to work under the best conditions and are able to perform job they were hired to do is a joint venture between leadership and human resources. Respect goes  a long way to helping each other find ways to get the results the organization needs.

This is not personal. It's business and you each have a job to do.

If you are a leader or human resource professional uncomfortable or bothered by this, no worries, your discomfort or unease will be short-lived. Organizations staffed with leader and human resources staff unwilling or unable to do this will find ones who can.

Now go out there and make me proud.

Taking the Gloves Off: Leaders and HR first appeared on