My Leadership Story

Recently I was asked to share my leadership story since graduating from Cornell MOR Associates ITELP. I was honored to be invited last week to share this story at the 2016 Cornell MOR Associates ITELP graduation. Below is my story.

Last year I stood on this stage as a current graduate and shared a personal story of how I helped my daughter navigate a difficult conversation. I shared this story as an example of the impact this program has not just on our professional lives, but our personal lives as well. Recently I attended my daughter’s end of year crew banquette. As a graduating senior each of the girls in her boat shared a story about her. As I listened to each of these young women share their story, I recalled the conversations my daughter and I had had about these situations. They shared stories of how she had motivated them; really listened to what they had to say; been inclusive; and helped them to build relationships of trust. They spoke of how she had led a somewhat fractured team to a gold medal in the state championship and the influence she had had on their belief in their ability to be successful. It was at that moment I realized just how wide our circle of influence really is.

The program impacted every aspect of how I view myself as a leader and my ability to develop relationships and get things done. The opportunity to have the time, space and coaching to work on myself has impacted every aspect of how I interact with others. The results of this can be supported by the feedback I received for my performance review. The MOR program is the best leadership development program I’ve ever participated in and I continue to meet with my peer triad and open my MOR book up at least once a week. If everyone could go through this program we would have an organization built on trust with an entirely re-imagined way of doing business. By working on myself I am better able to lead, coach those around me and understand how to develop relationships built on trust. I truly believe I can have an impact and lead from where I am.

Thanks to the competencies I gained in this program I was able to successfully lead a project that required me to reach across multiple units at Cornell and develop new relationships. It was the things I learned about myself; how to build relationships; and understanding how to delegate and run meetings that enabled me to successfully build a high functioning team where everyone had a voice, felt empowered, and worked collaboratively. This project had a number of setbacks and unexpected issues but thanks to the competencies and confidence I gained from ELP I was able to successfully lead this project and team.

While the above professional examples are important measurements of the outcomes and outputs of this program, I shared a personal story as an example of the human impact this program has on the lives of everyone here, our families, and the community. There are lots of different ways to be a leader and leadership transcends our professional lives. I believe there is no one, quantitative way of measuring it, that would provide evidence of success. Rather, each of our voices and our stories is evidence of greater trust, enhanced relationships and the ability to re-imagine the way we do business.

Thank you to MOR associates for shaping the narrative of our lives.

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#OLCinnovate Reflections

As I was leaving for #OLCinnovate I was feeling a bit overwhelmed as I looked at my calendar. It felt more like my work week than a conference. Almost every hour was booked and in several cases double booked.  As I reflect back on the week however, rather than feeling drained, I feel “filled up”.

The themes for me were feminism and space. As a member of the first ever SDS (solution design summit) we (Laura Pasquini, Mike Goudzwaard, Kyle Johnson, Adam Croom, Michael Atkisson) created a space for interdisciplinary teams of people to brainstorm with stakeholders  and work through the process of defining their problem and ideating a solution. The energy, engagement and enthusiasm in the room exceeded any conference space I’ve been. Beyond the SDS I attended and participated in three days of thoughtful and meaningful conversations. Finally a conference where we practiced what we preach-rather than talking at us, presenters were our guides. Why is it we can’t create that time and space in our offices? Stay tuned for the announcement of the winning #OLCinnovateSDS winning team!

I was invited to speak at the Women Leaders in Ed-tech dinner and share my story of a challenge or barrier I faced. I spent a great deal of time reflecting on what story to share. The question was not really about the story, rather how vulnerable was I willing to be? How much of myself should I share? Whenever I’m having a difficult time, when it just seems too hard and I begin to have that suffocating feeling, the story I go back to is my dissertation journey. I thought if those words inspire me and get me through a difficult time then let me share that piece of me. The reaction I received was and continues to be overwhelming. Person after person thanked me for sharing my story and letting them know they are not alone; that I restored their belief in their ability to overcome a challenge they were currently facing. Women I’ve known for years-told me that I had been their inspiration.  We frequently don’t realize the impact our actions and words can have on another and the importance of allowing ourselves to be vulnerable.

olcinnovate

The next day in our “Women Who Innovate” session (Tanya Joosten, Amy Collier, Laura Pasquini, Jess Knott, Nori Barajas-Murphy) several women shared stories of the impact words of encouragement had had on them. Similar to my story, a person had “planted the seed of an idea” by suggesting they go back for their PhD. There was no pressure just every so often a hint was dropped. I spoke of how my brother was the tipping point for me. While so many people had encouraged me to go back to school I just didn’t believe I could be successful. It was his words that were the tipping point for me. Who will you be the tipping point for?

Here’s my story:

It is hard for me to comprehend that I am at this place already and that the end of my journey is actually here (little did I know it had only begun). In the Spring of 2007 I unexpectedly found myself in a position where I was about to be a single mother of 3 children. During the next several months numerous co-workers encouraged me to get started on my PhD, yet I was not ready to make that commitment. I had heard so many stories about people not finishing and I did not want to be one of them. I questioned how I would ever be able to find the time to do my school work, whether the added pressure and time spent away would have a negative impact on my family and whether I had the intellectual capacity to be successful (I now know this is Imposter Syndrome). My children and I spent that Thanksgiving with my brother and his family. While at his house I mentioned to him I was thinking about going back to school and tried to justify why I was holding back. His response was “Just do it. I will support you and help you with whatever you need. Just take the plunge and register for classes”. This statement was the tipping point for me. I went home that night and began the process.

This was not a journey traveled alone. Without the immense encouragement and support of my children Nicholas, Anjelica and Rosalina I would not be sitting here writing this today (without the immense support of so many of you I would not be standing in front of this room today). They were and continue to be my inspiration and, on the days when it all seemed too much, what drove me to not give up. Thank you to my bother Jim, my sister-in-law Jean, my parents and my closest and dearest friends who told me “just breathe” and helped to lighten my load when I needed it the most.  

Notyetness at #et4online

As I fly home from #et4online I am full of #notyetness. There was something special that took place at the conference that I haven’t felt before. The presentations, and the whole experience, was full of #awesomeness. I think we need to replace the term “presentation”, as these were really intimate discussions rather than presentations. There was so much intentional and thoughtful conversation this year. #et4online gave us that safe space to get out of our comfort zones, struggle together with concepts and ideas and realize it is ok to fail even in front of a room full of people. Someone described the feeling of attending ed tech conferences as being in an echo chamber. A place where we hear people talking to us about similar struggles to our own, yet leave without learning anything new. #et4online was a space where people listened with intention, took risks, and brought interaction to the sessions. There were less power points and more crayons; less talking at us and more listening; less structure and more messiness; less learning objectives and more learning subjectives.

Maha Bali and Rebecca Hogue demonstrated the power of inexpensive, simple technology to increase accessibility and create meaningful conversations and relationships across the globe. Maha participated in several sessions and numerous #et4buddy chats from Cario, Egypt through Rebecca’s iphone, Twitter and YouTube. Maha ran the virtual #unet4conference where collaboration between virtual participants and those at the conference took place in Canvas and Google Docs. I participated 20,000 feet in the air as I flew back to Ithaca! #et4buddy is a great model for a global classroom and cross university collaborations.

I felt for the first time we were finally brining into our conferences what we’ve been discussing bringing into our classrooms. I believe most of us left with a deep desire to not just continue the relationships that were formed, but the work we began. Rather than leaving with “a few good ideas”, we left with the beginnings of working groups, started projects, and launched plans. Thank you to the conference planners and presenters who created a space where we could have meaningful conversations, reflect and work together.

#et4online Anticipation

As I head to #ET4Online I am traveling with a different feeling than ever before. I’ve been to numerous OLC conferences where I’ve built relationships on the ground that have been nurtured and maintained via Twitter and Google Hangouts. Each time I go to a conference I look forward to seeing colleagues, sharing what is happening at our universities and learning from one another. Prior to this conference, a group of women was brought together by a blog post written by Rebecca Hogue after last year’s conference,”Does Ed Tech have a ‘man problem’ too?“. This led to Michelle Bronsky submitting a Women in Ed Tech panel proposal. How did she gather the women? Via an invitation on Twitter of course. Some of these women (Amy Collier-Stanford University, Tracy Clark-EdTech Women ATX, Maha Bali-AUC, Cario, Egypt and Keesa Muhammad-MSU) I knew from interactions on Twitter, some I had relationships with from prior conferences and others I never met. We chatted via e-mail, Twitter and Google Docs to plan our presentation. What grew out of this is what is meaningful to me. Through our planning we found several common interests and things we were passionate about. This led to further discussions, deeper thinking and new projects. I am now working on a chapter in a book that is being collaborated on via Google Docs with several women across the globe. They say relationships are currency and I couldn’t agree more. As I travel to Dallas I am meeting Keesa at the airport so we can share a taxi to the hotel. We have chatted a bit and gotten to know each and I can’t wait to meet her. It reminds me of my online students and how I’ve used “icebreaker” discussions to build relationships in asynchronous interactions. I’ve talked about how this give students the opportunity to get to know one another and builds excitement for when they “meet” during a synchronous sessions. This is the first time I am getting to experience that.

I first met Maha Bali at an OLC conference last year. She was participating virtually and we “met” on Twitter. I felt an immediate connection with her and, as I followed her on Twitter after the conference, I was amazed, not just at how active she was in the “online” world, but at her thoughts and ideas. She was someone I wanted to get to know better and collaborate with. Although Maha and I developed our relationship asynchronously, we were still able to create a sense of trust.  Getting out of my comfort zone I reached out to Maha and asked her if she wanted to collaborate on an article. I’ve been wanting to submit something for awhile now and this was the push I needed. Collaborating made it feel safer-someone else to think through the ideas with and how we want to present them. A partner in crime. Although I’ve never met Maha in person (and hope to someday) I feel like I know her better than most of my colleagues. The online space has given us a place to find meaning together. (This post was written on the plane as I was traveling to et4online but I am only posting it now.)

Gratitude

The MOR Associates Tuesday Reading for Nov. 25 was about Gratitude. While I’ve always thought of gratitude as saying thank you and showing appreciation, I haven’t thought of it from a perspective changing lens. We are encouraged not only think about how we can change our own perspective but how can we help others. Each of our colleagues has work frustrations, but they also have personal frustrations. Whether these are related to money, health or something else how can we help them see the “positive”, to be grateful for what they do have. This is not always easy as we don’t always know the personal circumstances of those we work with. This may be a lead by example situation. If we always try to see the positive, to show gratitude for what we do have, and not complain maybe we can help those around us do the same. Although it is well past Thanksgiving it is always the right time of year to show gratitude!

How can I change my perspective and look at the positive? Instead of “complaining” or looking at something as a limitation, how can I instead look at it as an opportunity? We all have processes and procedures and best practices. We all are experts in our field. Rather than approach someone who isn’t doing things the way we think they should be done with a negative thought look at it as an opportunity to build a new relationship. Through the act of building a relationship you will naturally look at the situation from their perspective, see things the way they do and understand where they are coming from. Rather than just jumping in and telling them how things should be done, take the time to ask questions, and get to know them. Before the meeting think about what image you want to portray, how should you approach the situation? How do we do this? The 4 I’s are a great way to start! Initiate, Inquire, show interest and influence.