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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

An Energizing Start to my Emerging Leaders Experience

I feel that I am at a crossroads in my career. I have performed well enough and have fulfilled the duties of my position, but I want to do more than just meet expectations. I want to add value and help my organization, and eventually the nonprofit field, grow and improve. It is all too common for me to feel as if I am constantly putting out fires and focused on “getting things done;” I rarely give myself the opportunity to take a step back and reflect on my performance at work. One can only assume that this is not in my best interest (or anybody else’s best interest for that matter), and that my professional performance will only suffer. I’ve found that just acknowledging this is not enough…even just after the first few months, Emerging Leaders has given me the time and the resources to do all of this and more:

1.       Working in the nonprofit sector I have found there is rarely an opportunity for cutting edge professional development, and Emerging Leaders has given me access to a structured program revolving around key topics designed to help young professionals develop themselves. We are given access to articles and reading materials that are crucial to any developing professional, and the day-long sessions are remarkably organized and adaptable to each person in the room.

2.       Before the first session we were asked to take the Myers-Briggs. I had never taken this before and, I have to admit, I wasn’t sure what impact the results might have on me professionally. Processing the results during the first session I found that understanding my tendencies, and learning about the tendencies of other personality types, is extremely important. Every person has their strengths/weaknesses; learning these things about myself has encouraged me to pay attention to them more explicitly, but I think the biggest value-add has been having the ability to be more aware of the people that I work with. I have been trying to apply this knowledge in every interaction, and it has definitely enhanced my relationships with my colleagues, and has made different processes and projects much smoother.

3.       It is pretty standard to expect that one will receive formal feedback from their supervisor, and maybe in some cases a few superiors, on an annual basis. The value of receiving feedback goes without saying…how could anyone expect to improve without it? We were asked to gather feedback from not only our superiors, but also our peers, direct reports and other colleagues that we work with, in the form of a 360 review. This process was totally new to me. At first the results were shocking but after processing the results and then following up with the colleagues who gave me feedback, the 360 review is definitely something that I will try to make a regular practice throughout my career. Yes, it is important to get feedback from your supervisor, but every interaction and professional relationship impacts the work that I do every day. My ultimate goal is be the best I can be for the entire organization, and receiving this feedback is a great way to do that.

These are just a few key things that have had a major impact on me and that I have tried to integrate into my everyday practice…but overall, I believe the most valuable piece of the Emerging Leaders program (so far) has been having the opportunity to develop connections and network with other professionals in the field. It goes without saying that networking is extremely important in today’s world…but we are spending an entire day together, bouncing ideas off one another and learning from each other. In addition to developing connections with my fellow participants, it was extremely exciting to take advantage of the new Emerging Leaders Adviser Network; this has given me an opportunity to meet with, and learn from someone who has been very successful in the nonprofit world. My adviser was a perfect fit for me and I learned so much from just one meeting…but it won’t be just one meeting, he will be a valuable, long-term mentor. These relationships have only just begun to develop but I have already learned so much. Being around other professionals in the field, who have the same desire to grow, has been extremely exciting and energizing and I am excited to see how the next six months unfold!

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