MDS 301 – Prior Learning for Case Studies in Leadership
As we live through this pandemic and global shared experience, leadership case studies are shaping in real time. Every aspect of our lives – family, school, work, community, country and world – is impacted by leadership competencies and decisions. I am certain the leadership we are seeing today will be studied for years, given some decisions are so far reaching. I am seeing Kouzes and Posner’s Five Leadership Practices in action and at an accelerated level in my company. I am privileged to contribute to the way my company is challenging processes through experimentation and innovation in working from home to drive business goals. Given lengthy experience working remotely, in a former job, I have been proud to model the way with remote best practices and guidance on leading distributed teams. Communication is different in a remote environment, and I have been able to recommend and implement effective and respectful communication such as how to use our new technologies to enure an inclusive meeting experience. We encourage the heart of our team members through video connections, allowing us to peer into the “natural habitats” of one another’s home lives of pets and kids, in addition to the incredible amount of volunteering and fundraising we have done for COVID-19 related efforts. Our CEO has demonstrated vulnerability and transparency through this challenging time, driving our organizational culture and demonstrating how our company value of “People” comes alive.
This educational statement is for my portfolio challenging the Case Studies in Leadership course toward my Bachelor of Arts degree in Multidisciplinary Studies. Achieving a B.A. degree has been a decades’ long dream, and one that will be a stepping stone to my next chapter of graduate school studying International Relations and Diplomacy. My next chapter is shaping up as my two children are soon to be grown and flown.
I have been studying leadership for many years through my roles in school, work and community. As a lifelong learner, and current university student pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Multidisciplinary Studies, I study the academic aspects of leadership in coursework ranging from Energy for Society to Globalization. In Foundations of Leadership I have studied the ethics and values and emotional intelligence in leadership, in addition to culture and effective leadership in organizations. As a team member in a multinational organization, I observe and live these factors daily. Continuous learning, and assessments, allows me to identify areas to improve and practice. I seek feedback in 360° assessments and other mechanisms to understand my personal leadership practice inventory. As an Individual Contributor, my current role requires me to influence without authority. I am seen as a subject matter expert for many leadership areas, including “Leading Through Change” and “Inclusive Leadership” as a curriculum creator and facilitator. To be a credible creator and facilitator of this content, I utilize research mechanisms to understand and articulate the leadership behaviors required to be successful. Data analysis and storytelling are additional competencies I use to build the leadership acumen in myself and others. I am able to strengthen my own leadership skills daily as a lead of numerous teams, including an Organizational Change Center of Excellence, professional development and grassroots feedback teams.
My career has spanned three decades in three disparate industries. I have also taken college courses, in addition to formal trainings, and personal enrichment development, while relocating and raising a family during that time. I am proud that almost every role I have taken on personally, and professionally, has been deliberate. If I were to chart my career, the line would be more zig zag than linear. Although I’ve had progressively responsible positions, I have sought many lateral roles to expand the depth and breadth of my skills and leadership competencies.
Currently, I work as an Organizational Change Manager at Micron Technology. As Change Manager, I facilitate the change process at the individual and organizational level. True organizational change IS the culmination of every individual person changing. I am a leader, although I do not currently manage people I do influence without authority. Influencing without authority requires emotional intelligence and agility, in addition to other leadership skills, to effect change with all levels of the organization. A typical day includes coaching an executive sponsor, writing a communication plan, training a “Leading Through Change” course, conducting impact assessments, and facilitating a focus group.
To become an Organizational Change Manager, I received a professional certification from Prosci®, a research organization that combines the words “professional” and “science.” A Prosci® certification is the most widely recognized and accepted change management certification. I keep my skills fresh through continuing education in change management methodology, such as conferences, classes and webinars. I also am a member of the Association of Change Management Professional s (ACMP) trade organization and regularly attend and present at ACMP conferences. In the past three years at Micron, I have taken various leadership classes such as Journey to Higher Performance, Leadership Conductor, and Core Management. I was selected for the highly competitive Leadership Accelerator program. In addition to courses I have taken, I have developed and delivered courses such as “Blind Spots” (Understanding Unconscious Bias), “Inclusive Leadership Experience”, “Leading Through Change,” and “Leadership in a Multigenerational Organization.” Currently, I am developing curriculum for Resilience, given the unprecedented time we are going through. Before joining Micron, I worked remotely for eight years, so as Micron sent 78% of their workforce home to work due to COVID-19, I stepped up to provide guidance and best practices for leading remote work. At Micron, I have successfully led change adoption of many high visibility projects.
Prior to joining Micron, my other professional experiences included many years with Progressive Insurance as a leader in individual contributor and people management roles. Many of my people management roles involved creating teams, or taking on teams of great complexity. The complexity was often beyond my technical expertise, but I was placed in these roles because of my proven leadership competencies. For example, I joined Progressive in an entry level capacity after choosing to leave another industry as a manager, account coordinator and trainer. After a brief time, I was invited to apply for a manager role for a very technical Quality department. The Quality department was full of incredibly talented, and tenured, employees who took great pride in their processes and expertise. I was tasked with creating new quality processes and tools. To be successful, through emotional intelligence, I focused on building the trust of my team. My team was initially skeptical of my skills and abilities because they had little insight into my prior leadership experience. I enabled them to act by demonstrating my leadership ability, while allowing them to demonstrate their technical expertise to shape the new procedures. This was one of the most challenging, and rewarding, teams I ever had the honor to work with. Another rewarding role I had at Progressive Insurance was creating a new process and team. Progressive decided to adopt Organizational Change Management as a core competency, and I was asked to lead the efforts to choose a methodology (I vetted many and recommended Prosci®), and build a team. To build the team, I researched, benchmarked and consulted with companies to understand best practices. My proposals were accepted and I built a team of Implementation Specialists throughout the country that still exists today. To succeed, it was critical that I create and articulate an exciting shared vision of change management and implementation for my team and the company. In both of these examples, building a collective team vision and culture of trust were key factors in my leadership success. I ended my career at Progressive in one of my favorite positions, as a Leadership Development Consultant. In this role I worked with advisory committees to develop experiential leadership development offerings for individual contributors and senior leaders.
Ending my career at Progressive was a difficult choice in that I respected the company leadership, and the continuous learning and opportunities I chose. Instead of continuing at Progressive, I took a two year “career pause” to travel and learn with my family. We sold our home and most of our possessions, resigned our careers, and started traveling in an RV around the USA while “road schooling” our middle school aged sons. During this time we learned together, and I seized the opportunity to volunteer as a docent at a 1890-1915 era German-Texan Living History Farm. The farm, the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm at Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site in Stonewall, Texas , was run by park rangers and volunteers. Typically volunteers would assist with back office items, but my quick learning and enthusiasm garnered me a costumed docent position leading tours for school groups, travelers and local families. During our travels I also worked a temporary, holiday position in an Amazon warehouse “picking” items. This position was challenging, and humbling given the physical and productivity demands. During my two month tenure, I did share my observations and leadership insight with the site director, which led them to invite me to attend a regional site director call to share my observations. Although my position was entry level and temporary, I jumped on the opportunity to improve teamwork and leadership through actionable and constructive recommendations. There were plenty of team leadership and management gaps I could have ignored, given my position, but that was not ethically responsible given my experiences over the years.
Over the years I did manage many teams. My first team management role was not an immediate success, but is an experience I will never regret. After dropping out of university for financial reasons, I returned to my hometown to care for my ailing grandparents. I accepted a fulltime position with Estee Lauder Cosmetics to support myself and grandparents. A year later, I was somewhat thrust into a business manager role (managing the team, budget and inventory of a department store cosmetics counter) when my manager was terminated for theft. I was only 20 years old and had never managed people before. There was no leadership development offered, so I learned through trial and error (more error than trial at first), reading and acquiring mentors. For example, initially I believed being friends with my direct reports was a sensible way to gain cooperation. Unfortunately, I lost the respect of my team quickly and I quickly had to earn trust and respect back. I earned their trust by evaluating my actions, and communicating what I was doing wrong. I respectfully met individually with each team member and communicated my errors and what I planned to do to earn their trust. I requested feedback and learned to simply say “thank you for providing that feedback. That was likely not easy.” As a team, we practiced respectful communication in providing feedback to each other. Our team soared and we drove business up by 18% year over year.
In the many years since, I have had the benefit of excellent leadership development in the form of classes, research, mentoring and insight. I have participated in many leadership competency inventories such as Emergenetics, Strengths Finder, Myers Briggs and 360° assessments. I value insight to increase my leadership effectiveness as a leader at home, work and in the community.
In the community, I add value to others through volunteering as a mentor with Girl Scouts, and the refugee community, in addition to being a Citizen Moderator with Better Angels to facilitate communication and reduce polarization in our communities. I spend time at Assisted Living Facilities interviewing and collecting the stories of our elders. This was a passion I found through travel.
My family travels extensively to expand our worldviews and learn from others. Travel has been such an important part of our family’s personal development, my husband and I took two years out of the professional workforce to travel fulltime with our then middle school aged boys, for example. We spent the two years traveling primarily the United States in an RV, while learning and volunteering. We have since used every opportunity to visit new places and cultures.
My personal guiding principle is to “improve myself and add value to others.” Continuous improvement involves increasing the depth and breadth of my experience by saying “yes” to challenges with a growth mindset and reflecting on those experiences. I build my credibility through honesty, and transparency of those experiences and inspiring others to achieve their best.