Charting Your Own Course

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Everyone has the ability to become a leader. You just need to chart your own course – as CSD board member and communication advocate, Mark Seeger shared with #TeamCSD. Mark presented on the final day of CSD’s November Employee Summit to share his personal journey of leadership. His remarks addressed the things that both worked and didn’t work for him, what he wished he had done, and next steps for summit participants.

As he assumed more positions of leadership, he took note of what would become his best practices as a leader. He found that creating his own personal set of values was one of them. Being able to understand and communicate those values helped him to develop a real authenticity and honesty that, he says, is important to have when working with others. By listening to people instead of talking at them, it becomes easier to have authentic and honest conversations with others.

The ability to embrace diversity and change is another skillset that proved effective. A variety of people and perspectives adds value everywhere, although sometimes it can be challenging for everyone to be on the same page. That’s why Mark believed that awareness of his, his boss’, and his team’s strengths and weaknesses helped him build better working relationships.

As a man who has admitted to being a perfectionist with a real fear of failure, one of the biggest challenges Mark had to overcome was giving himself permission to fail. There are times when things do not go according to plan, and he reminds us that it’s ok not to be ok with the results.

Leadership takes practice and oftentimes there are things that don’t work well. Mark learned that communicating goals without explaining “the why” is one of the most common oversights by leaders. Employees today are no longer just worker bees that process directives that come down the pipeline, they are often invested in the future and outcomes of their organizations which means that the more they understand the direction of the leadership, the more valuable contributions they can make to the company.

Sometimes leaders – like Mark – have a habit of expecting others to work in a particular way, oftentimes they expect others to work exactly the way they do. Yet people have their own systems and processes that work best for them. Mark learned that he needed to let his employees do their job. That meant taking over and doing things himself turned out to be counterproductive and caused employees to lose morale. Letting go required him to build a level of trust developed through authentic and honest conversations. 

The last thing Mark realized was ineffectual for him was working in a world of urgency. Not everything is urgent. Using Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix, Mark showed us that there are things that are urgent that are important, there are things that are urgent but not as important, there are things that are not urgent that are important and there are things that are not urgent and not as important. Learning how to categorize his work helped him to shape his priorities which in turn allowed him to create a workable environment for his team.

Towards the end of the session, Mark reflected on the things he wished he had done earlier on in his career and challenged us to reflect on ourselves:

  1. What are some of the personal values we live by?
  2. What is the most important thing we do at work or at home and how much time do we spend on it?
  3. What are our strengths and weaknesses?
  4. What can we do differently to become better leaders?

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