Getting on the balcony: Why Leadership Development programs are important

November 11, 2016

The leaders CRE is privileged to work with are often leading in challenging environments. In Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading, Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky suggest that in leading in these challenging environments, many managers are not able to find the space to step away and take stock of their team and programs. They explain this space as “getting off the dance floor and getting on the balcony” – a suggestion that conjures up the image of stepping back and examining what is going on in your environment. Effective leaders know when to get off the dance floor and on to the balcony and vice versa. One avenue for finding the tools and space to step away and view with perspective what’s happening on the dance floor is to seek professional development. This is where CRE comes in.

We are lucky enough to work with hundreds of leaders each year through our Leadership Development offerings. One of these leaders is Francillia Samuel, Program Director at Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation. Francillia took some time to share with us why she enrolled in the CRE High Performing Managers Initiative (HPMI), what she learnt, and how that has impacted her leadership style.

CRE: Thank you for taking the time to chat with us about your HPMI experience Francillia. Do you want to start by talking about why you chose to participate in the HPMI?
Francillia: I wanted to start the process of developing my staff to turn them into a self-sufficient team that can operate independently of my instruction and guidance. I have been lucky enough to have the same core staff for four years, but it was important for me to take a step onto the “balcony” and observe their work with our kids and how they implemented the program. By doing this I could observe who was growing and ready to grow, and who was staying stagnant in their development and work out a plan to help each individual move forward.

How would you say the HPMI helped you to be able to do this?
After I started attending the HPMI I implemented a few things back in the office immediately. I ensured that I held conferences (active and passive listening) with my staffers individually, and as a team, to ensure that they understood the program expectations and policies, but also understood the individual mission of our site and team. I realized I had to challenge some of my staff – based on the assets I saw them demonstrate – to take a hands-on approach to various programs, events and activities that we had running.

What are the biggest lessons you learned from the HPMI?
I learned the importance of analyzing the method and approach to our work, which also means taking into account the need to reflect and add changes that will produce an effective outcome. I am developing the skill of better delegating tasks to my staff based on their assets and still using situational leadership to manage their development, specifically those who show promise.

What were some of the highs and lows?
The most difficult part was the reflection at the end of our second quarter. We noted the positive practices and behaviors we wanted to continue into the next cycle, as well as those we needed to change. It was humbling to find out what part I played in properly (and improperly!) managing my team. The major highlight was being able to witness my team completely manage the site in my absence when I went on medical leave for three weeks. During this time, they successfully ran programs and held various trips and events without a hitch.

And one year on, where do you think you stand?
One year later, I am so excited to see my team become leaders in their own right, taking ownership of this site and the program, and growing outwards. I find myself focusing more on conflict resolution and coaching conversations from the sidelines and it makes me proud to see my staff doing it on their own. Overall, I saw such a change in my team and myself. This year was the most difficult for me, and yet, I find myself smiling at how proud I am of myself, my team and my kids.

CRE is privileged to be able to work with leaders like Francillia to give her the tools and space to cement her leadership and management style. This November, over 20 mid-level managers from DYCD organizations will come together to learn and grow in a new HPMI group. We wish them the best of luck as they begin their HPMI journey!

By Project Manager, Leadership and Professional Development, Yassi J. Tamdji

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