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Alumni Reflections on valuing the gifts of others

| July 21, 2020

by David Sweetman

[Today’s Tuesday Reading is by Dr. David Sweetman, MOR Associates Leadership Coach and Consultant.  David may be reached at [email protected].]
Given the positive feedback we received from our Tuesday Reading a few weeks ago that featured the perspectives of multiple MOR alums, we plan to include that style as part of our ongoing program of readings, including in today’s reading related to valuing the gifts of others.  While the highlights of each reflection carry important lessons, the full essays linked have even greater richness and I encourage you to read each of them.
Last week we approached the topic of humble leadership.  We begin today’s reflections with Evelyn Griffith from Michigan State University, who provides an example of how to be a humble leader and the importance of relationships:
“There are so many valuable lessons that we gain from participating in MOR.  However, the most important by far is the relationships we are building with each other.  None is more important than the one we have with our cohorts.  My MOR cohort has been a lifesaver.
“Our team has individuals from several different disciplines in IT.  I can count on them to give me solid advice related to their areas of expertise.  But it also built our friendships.  I honestly don’t know what I would have done without this group during the COVID crisis.  They are always “dinging” me on Teams, letting me know there is still tons of humor in life.  They are the only group of people who I can talk to about how frustrating things are sometimes.  They share their life stories and make me feel like we are all in this together.  They are my peeps!
“What I have learned from the group:

  1. Building relationships takes time and effort.
  2. You never know when you are going to need someone.
  3. Don’t do it for the rewards.  Find people you genuinely like and want to get to know.
  4. Be vulnerable.  Open up and share.
  5. Nothing is better than walking into a meeting and seeing a cohort!  Instant support!

“Remember – Relationships are currency.  Ask yourself, how are you leveraging your MOR cohort!” (here is Evelyn’s full reflection)
Thank you Evelyn for that excellent reminder of the importance of healthy relationships.  We next turn to a skill that works best in the context of healthy relationships: giving and receiving feedback.  Dr. Julie Traxler from Rutgers University helps us go from our apprehension to success with feedback:
“I still find myself struggling with how to develop my own ability to effectively give and receive feedback.  The promise of real feedback feels both exciting and terrifying.  I’ve been trying to pinpoint who and when and how I can ask for feedback.
Stone and Heen do a really nice job breaking down some of the complexities of feedback. They divide feedback into three different types: appreciation, coaching, and evaluation. Appreciation is about human connection and gratitude. Coaching provides assistance and direction. Evaluation tells you where you stand. The definitions underscore that it is necessary to understand what type of feedback you are looking for, and what type you’re receiving – or offering. It rings true for me when I remember dissatisfaction at times when I’ve sought coaching (how should I do this?) but received appreciation (you do a good job) or sought appreciation and received evaluation (next time, you might want to do this).

“Additionally, Stone and Heen give me a language to solicit more useful feedback: “What’s the one thing you see me doing, or failing to do, that gets in my own way?” Mind blown.

“So, in the spirit of ‘feedback is a gift,’ I hope that you, like me, are working on getting better at soliciting, offering, and receiving feedback. Take – or make – an opportunity to ask a colleague for their feedback or ask them if they are open to receiving your feedback.  Then, listen thoroughly, appreciate the gift, and try not to cringe too much.” (here is Julie’s full reflection)

Thank you Julie for helping us think about our feedback giving and receiving.  And finally, building on the idea of appreciating the gift others provide, Vania McBean from the University of Maryland reminds us to gratefully pause and reflect:

“From time to time, as leaders we have to stop and press the pause button.  No matter your location, you can immediately improve your leadership presence. How?  We experience a bit of joy when we connect with nature, it helps to discharge anxiety and bring attention to something safe. We tend to experience something outside ourselves which helps us to accept certain situations and reassure us that we are part of something larger and immensely important.
“Gratitude helps us feel good because it inspires us to do good. A grateful spirit will make you more loving, more forgiving and empathetic.  Gratitude is the ability to experience life, not just as a test, but as a gift.  You will be in a much better position to make a real difference in the lives of others.
“Pause and reflect on what your hope is giving you. That positive energy will infuse your leadership presence. As soon as you finish this reading, give the digital world a break. Take a walk outside and perceive the goodness around you. You will find it easier to cope with the trials and the stresses of life.  We are never more than one grateful thought away from increased peace of mind and greater peace of heart.” (here is Vania’s full reflection)
Thank you Vania for that reminder to pause and reflect.  Relationships.  Feedback.  Gratitude.  Valuing the gifts of others.  Take some time this week to self-reflect on the valuable gifts of others in your life.  What can you do to show your gratitude for those gifts that others provide in your life?
Please make your day a leaderful one for you and your team,