Life takes many twists and turns. Careers morph during the course of a lifetime. But certain skills and traits will serve you well in any career. Of course, serenity helps you to navigate change and flourish. As I was reflecting on some of the things I am learning about leadership and about some of the things that have served me well in the varied course of my career, I came up with a list.
I am a firm believer in creating a strategy map to design your career and your career goals and aspirations. Lately, I’ve been working on focus and intention. My new planner is helping me to more effectively use time-blocking and goal setting to have the discipline to work on what matters most.
There are certain life skills that I believe have served me well. I think these can be taught but are also ‘caught’ through the influence of significant people in your life.
What are the skills and traits you consider most important in a successful career?
I attended Homecoming at my alma mater last weekend. It was wonderful to be back on campus and see how much the college has grown. There was a vibrancy on campus – an excitement for all that God is doing in and through the college. There are many new buildings since I was there and the facilities are quite impressive. The college has kept up with education trends and the needs of the student population. At the same time, they have kept the natural beauty of the campus intact and there are beautiful places to walk both on the perimeter of the campus and in the heart of it. The sense of place and of mission is very strong on this college campus. Even the older buildings are filled with the energy of staff who are enthused about the direction and goals of the college.
We walked through the woods to the large pond and I remembered walking and cross-country skiing on these paths as well as canoeing and swimming in the pond. I saw a few old friends and met several new ones. The college motto is “Lives Worth Leading” and they are intentionally shaping students to be tomorrow’s leaders.
Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do
fascinating stuff about the impact of water on our mental and emotional lives
Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice and Leadership
and numerous research/stats books for my classes …
and if I ever have any spare time, a Lee Childs book I picked up at the Library book sale.
While I commend her for an insightful book on the world of women and work, I am not sure that I agree with everything in her book. I found her viewpoint to be very biased toward the importance of women having a career. Sheryl’s book is an important manifesto for women in leadership and the role of women in society today. She champions the cause of women in senior leadership and encourages and empowers women today. Although I think this is an important cause, it is not the only role for women in society. I believe that women can have it all and juggle family and career.
I realize that not all women have a choice and many must work; I was fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home mom for 13 years. Our family made choices to move to places with lower cost of living and to live a more modest lifestyle. After my girls reached middle school, I rejoined the workforce. I believe that different seasons can lead to different choices. I believe that those years at home with my children were an important contribution to society. It is my opinion that the shaping of the lives of the next generation and the fabric of family is too important a task to leave to others.
Although Sheryl might say that I “leaned out,” I would disagree. I leaned in – to different priorities. I would not trade those years for anything. They resulted in close relationships with my daughters who are now confident, happy, and productive young adults.
Tom Lake, a writer for Sports Illustrated and an alum of my alma mater, Gordon College says, “We’re seeing this hunger among readers for long stories that really dig into something to find answers rather than just sticking to the surface—and they’re reading them on their iPhones.” I for one love to read the alumni magazines of several institutions that I support including Wheaton College, Gordon, and Seattle Pacific University because they have well-written and interesting stories. And the articles are somewhat long. But I enjoy the intellectual stimulation. Good photography and graphics and visually interesting layout are important, but alone they do not provide enough to hold my attention. These magazines provide an opportunity for institutions of Christian Higher Education to tell their story, to celebrate their impact on students and the world at large, to promote their vision.
As I approach the final weeks of graduate school, we were given an assignment to reflect on our time and our growth. This is what I wrote.
The Advanced Strategic Management course seems like a point of convergence in that it is bringing together all we have learned within the framework of leadership. I am seeing in retrospect that my last boss was a collaborative leader practicing the tenets of appreciative inquiry; and I realize that I thrive under this leadership style. The papers for this course are designed to help us make a personal strategic plan for our own professional growth and I am enjoying that. I also appreciate the fact that this final course is more practical than theoretical.
My interactions with you, my cohort mates, have made me a more articulate speaker, a better listener, and a more open-minded person. You have expanded my understanding of nonprofits, of friendship, of faith, and of worldviews. Chavonne, you have taught me about caring enough to take action through your ministry with Young Charming Ladies. Megan, our resident grammar Nazi, you have showed me that there are many different perspectives and ways to view an issue. Huan, you have been steady and thoughtful and have taught me much about intellectual inquiry. Corwin, your absence is deeply felt – you taught each of us how to be better, more passionate speakers. Each of you has opened my horizons and collectively you have loved, supported, and encouraged me, and each other, on this journey. And I am thankful. I am proud of how hard we all have worked to achieve this goal. You have asked penetrating questions and not been afraid to wrestle with difficult issues and theoretical concepts, all while looking for a practical application in your lives and work. Together, we have become stronger advocates for the causes and ministries that we care about. I pray you will continue on the path of intellectual discovery and growth and that you will seek to use your unique gifts to love and serve others.
If I may share a bit of parenting wisdom. If you are a new parent, or not yet a parent, file this away for the future …
Everyone says that when your children are old enough, they will choose their own faith and the prevailing thought is that you have no control over whether they will choose your faith. I disagree. I think if you teach them the faith in their formative years, and disciple them in the 18+ years that you have with them, the choice will be obvious. The faith is compelling and the “world” does not have to win. Your children can have a relationship with God from the time that they are small. Don’t leave it to the church!
Our pastor, Mark Browne, shared this with me when my first was small and we were diligent to read the Bible as a family, to pray together and to incorporate faith into every aspect of life. Mine are now 19 and 22 and each has a vibrant faith. No rebellion to speak of. Don’t buy into the lie that every child will rebel!
Heritage Academy … home to my girls for their middle and high school years. a solid Christian education. Heritage encouraged them to think, to study, to articulate, to combine faith and learning. Heritage is unique: it is one of just a few “university model schools” in the country. Students have classes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; then are responsible for a heavy load of work at home on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
My girls were well prepared for college since they had learned how to work independently and diligently; they learned to take ownership of their assignments and their workload. The staff and faculty at the school are fabulous and all work very hard to provide an exceptional experience for the students. Electives, sports, mission trips, honor society, praise and worship, theatre … you name it, you can find it at Heritage.
Here’s a shout out to all the wonderful families at Heritage … thank you for the privilege of being part of this great community seeking to raise up the next generation to love and serve God faithfully!
My current grad school class is called Applied Research and Evaluation. I am really enjoying this term! I am a bit quirky in that I love spreadsheets and data – not sure why it took me almost 50 years to discover this about myself, but there you have it. I like data analysis – trying to see what story the data has to tell.
I’m currently working with our admissions department to survey about 50 colleges and universities about their events for prospective students. Having done the college visits with my two daughters in the last few years, the experience is fairly fresh in my mind. Some things stood out from those experiences.
In this culture of experience and adventure, what is that makes a great college visit and how can a school attract more students – what does it take to wow this generation? How can a college help prospective students determine the best fit?
These are the types of questions we are wrestling with – we seek to improve and I have chosen a Google survey as the instrument of my research.