by PAULLETTE JAMES-LECOQ
When I completed RLF in 2019, I never imagined a situation where the things I learned throughout the program could have more meaning than where we are today – in the midst of a pandemic.
As a director in the care delivery technology area, currently my team and I are working days, evenings and weekends to respond to clear and present needs … for our employees in the field, for administrators, for the CDC, for members and for the community at large. At the same time, we are all simultaneously grappling with the impact upon our own lives and loved ones.
I also find myself grateful for – and continually tapping – these things that I learned during RLF:
So I truly thank my RLF classmates and facilitators for accompanying me on my leadership development journey which helped me gain the toolkit to address the pandemic crisis head-on; with courage in the face of the uncertain times – a courage I’m able to share with my team as a leader.
Finally, for those of you who are not in healthcare and want to help, I have one request. Please pick up the phone and call someone. Anyone. Reach out to friends, elderly people in your community, acquaintances or people you work with. Just check in with them. Let them tell you how they feel and listen. This small act of kindness can have a huge impact on mental health during isolation and confusion for everyone.
Take care and stay safe.
Paullette James-Lecoq is Director of API management and Data Services in the healthcare industry.
Editor’s Note: Bart Bolton recently retired after more than two decades as an RLF Facilitator. As Bart transitions to his new chapter in life, he agreed to share some parting observations and “lessons learned” during his longtime service to RLF and to countless RLF graduates.
"WHAT HAS BECOME CLEAR TO ME AFTER 26 YEARS IN RLF ...
by Bart Bolton
Like many RLF participants sitting in the classroom on their first day, I, too, wasn’t quite sure just what I had volunteered to do when I first began to facilitate RLF. In many ways, I was one book ahead of the class.
Today, I have the advantage and the benefit of more than 1,000 discussions, hundreds of personal life stories, the counsel of some 360 guest speakers, and countless exercises and topic discussions germane to leadership development.
Here are perhaps the “top ten” of what I have learned over the years, which I now gratefully share with all RLF grads and constituents:
1. The only person you can change in life is YOU. …..You can influence others but you cannot change them. They must change themselves. Yes, you can “command” someone to do something because you have the “power” over them (e.g. military model or parent), but the more effective way is to inspire them to change by introducing new personal values. Covey’s 7 Habits is worth considering.
2. Self-awareness is key to real leadership. Knowing who you really are, what you believe in, how you set your priorities, and what and why your personal values are builds your self-confidence. People follow leaders who display and act in a confident manner.
3. Leading and Learning go hand in hand. Effective leaders are consummate learners. They are always open to new ideas and are willing to take risks. First, they learn … next, they learn to personally accept change … and then they lead change to the organization usually through some type of vision brought on through their learning.
4. Given the time constraints of today, one must learn to read differently. The demands on everyone’s time continue to grow and we need to provide for personal learning, which includes the reading of some great non-fiction books. I believe you must find a way to get the key messages from a book in one hour – without reading all 400 pages. You’ll find that most books are actually structured so this can be accomplished. That means you can cover 12 books a year. You might even revisit How To Read a Book.
5. When you’ve stopped learning in the job you’re in, move on. This idea is the counterpart of point #3 above. Once you’ve stopped learning in the job you’re in, the result means you are no longer leading and, thus, not contributing to the organization…no value added. In some ways, you are just marking time and at some point, your position will be judged as unnecessary. It’s better that you move on to another position first where you can begin to learn again.
6. Leading is more complex than managing and is more difficult to measure. There are systems to measure management performance found in John Kotter’s “Planning & Budgeting,” “Organizing & Staffing,” and “Controlling and Problem Solving” … the red, yellow and green flags. However, when you try to measure Kotter’s view of “Leadership…Establishing Direction, Aligning People, and Motivating & Inspiring” … it is very difficult to do. One can be trained in or taught management and must discover or develop one’s own leadership style. These are actually very different learning experiences.
7. Real listening is a critical skill for an effective leader. It seems to require all five senses to listen well, be it in both our professional and personal lives. Listening clearly is the basis for all our communications and especially the verbal ones. “Seek first to understand to then be understood” is good advice from Covey. Being in the other guy’s movie is the advice from The Zen of Listening … easy to say and yet tough to do! Step back sometime in a meeting and watch how many people talk over others in the meeting. Do they really hear the other people or are they more interested in speaking instead of listening?
8. Synchronicity has played a significant role in my life. This concept of Synchronicity underscores the need to constantly develop one’s personal network. If I had not known people in SIM, I would never have become involved in RLF. I would not have known the people in SIM if I had not gone to work at Digital where I was connected with someone back in Detroit, etc. etc. None of all that was part of my career plan. Little did I know when we moved to the Boston area in 1976 that I would end up in RLF. One of the advantages of age is the ability to more clearly observe past history, be it professional or personal.
9. Pursuing a dream/vision usually produces a passionate leader, e.g. disruptive leaders. When you look at the Bill Gates,, Steve Jobs, and Jeff Bezos of the world and understand the visions or dreams they have had, you can understand their passion. They are examples of disruptive leaders whom many people thought were kind of “different.” Working for them meant you had to share in those passions as their leadership styles seem to have been difficult to deal with. So, what kind of leader do you want to follow? What kind of leader do you want to be?
10. Trust is THE significant success factor in relationships, be they professional or personal. Trust is part of authenticity, transparency, honesty, and integrity and probably other values. All of these contribute to the level of the relationships. Credibility (brought on by Trust) is 80% relationships and 20% Expertise per Jim Kinney, former CIO of Kraft Foods. Trust definitely operates or exists at different levels, e.g. individuals vs. organizations.
And, finally, I’ll throw in one more extra thought, for good measure …
11. Technology is easy. It’s people that count. Your success depends on them. You have to truly get to know people, be they professional or personal. In our Forums, I’ve been amazed at the impact that the collection of session-ending poems has had over the years … from “The Paradoxical Commandments” to “The Dash” to “Friend Around the Corner” to “The Man in the Glass.” They deal with the human emotions and to be successful, a Leader must be able to do so as well.
I shared each of these “what has become clearer” points with the Northeast-Boston RLF class in our final 2019 session, and they seemed to appreciate them. I hope they resonate with you as well. Best wishes!
Bart Bolton has been a longtime RLF Facilitator and an instrumental force in making RLF a tremendously successful program of SIM. He can be reached at email@example.com.
by Brian Madden
Like every RLF graduate, after completing the program I received a one-year free membership in my local SIM chapter. There, I struggled at first to fit in, but eventually I came to find a new home and a great new network. You can too!
More than 10 years ago, I came to RLF in my third year of managing a seven-person IT department. At work I felt I had an “impostor syndrome” due to my lack of experience managing people and all of human nature’s quirks. Hungry for advice on how to better lead and manage people, I listened to RLF graduates who described the program as “transformative,” “eye opening,” “emotional” and “incredibly useful.” They recommended RLF without hesitation, so I enrolled in the Boston RLF.
The RLF sessions were heavy on active participation from the students which opened the door to even more sharing, trust-building, and bonding. Together, we learned a new language to communicate and connect with others who not long ago were complete strangers.
After we graduated from RLF, we promised to stay in touch and to hold class reunions, but life goes on. Aside from one or two meetups and calls we mostly all went our separate ways. So, I looked to SIM Boston as the potential thread that could keep us connected. But sadly, I came to learn that most RLF grads don’t renew their SIM membership after the free year or if they do renew, they don’t stay engaged in SIM for long.
I believe one explanation for why “RLFers” don’t stick around is that most SIM events do not engage grads in the exact same way as RLF. But I would argue that this is an unreasonable expectation. RLF immerses you in an experiential learning context where you are out of the office for two days, away from work, and where you’re surrounded by people who share the goal of becoming better versions of themselves. Contrast this with a typical SIM event that is held at the beginning / end of a regular working day, leaving little to no buffer between the ‘real world’ and the event itself. In my opinion, we RLF grads may expect too much of an RLF-type experience at SIM and therefore our engagement with our local chapters begins to wane for reasons more of our own making.
So, what did I do differently? After RLF, in order to build my network, I started attending the quarterly Boston CIO roundtable, a really wonderful networking sub-group. Being an introvert, those meetings were hell for me. Everyone seemed to already know each other, sharing warm hearty handshakes and hugs, having collegial conversations amid a whole scene that conveyed a sense of deep familiarity among the participants. And there I was, an introvert still wrestling with imposter syndrome in a room full of accomplished CIOs who all appeared to be good friends. Was this awkward and uncomfortable feeling the price I had to pay to build my network? I was determined to find out.
I challenged myself to continue attending these meetings on and off for a couple of years before I realized that the problem wasn’t the people in those rooms: the problem was me! I was too wrapped up in my own self-defeating story about how I didn’t really belong there, how these wonderful CIOs were all better than me and how I needed to find a way to impress them. The problem with this logic was that it was completely wrong. Nobody – not a single person – ever attended a CIO roundtable with the goal to be impressed by me. Duh! What was I thinking? Were we back in high school? In retrospect it's painfully obvious just how ridiculous my internal story was.
Once I realized this, from then on at every event I’d look around a room and remind myself that a lot of people there were feeling just like me. I didn’t need to impress anyone, I just needed to be myself and to have a real, genuine conversation with someone – anyone. It didn’t even matter what the topic was, as long as the conversation was authentic. Networking happens one person, one conversation at a time.
This epiphany completely changed my approach to, and my expectations for, attending SIM events (and all networking events.) And I encourage every RLF grad to similarly look at their SIM participation from a fresh new vantage point.
Today, I see each SIM event as a great opportunity to possibly meet somebody, to learn something new and to reconnect with those who I’ve come to know over the years. By changing the story I told myself about networking within SIM, I was able to completely change my experience and level of engagement.
And you can too.
So new RLF grads, I hope you learn from what I experienced and you truly make the most of your year of free SIM membership. Or, if it’s been a while since your year of SIM membership, I heartily encourage you to give SIM another try. Because SIM is a phenomenal opportunity to get involved, meet new colleagues in our technology industry and, most of all, continue the process of “stretching” yourself and your capabilities that began in RLF.
See you at an upcoming SIM event!
Brian Madden is a 2008 graduate of the Northeast-Boston RLF program and is COO / EVP of Lexington Solutions, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Boston Capital. He also currently co-chairs the CIO Roundtable committee of the SIM Boston chapter.