In January of 2019, I was asked by my boss to decommission a product and manage the fallout to the team who had built the product from scratch. What I was asked to do was to turn off one service and reallocate these “resources” to a new project. What I found myself doing was holding space for 27 men who felt a deep sense of loss at having their product turned off and helping them see that their future was big and challenging, instead of defined by what felt like failure. The leadership team I worked did not seem interested in the teams’ feelings. They cared about time, productivity, and not having to hire new engineers. But I found myself deeply embedded in the hearts of this talented group of gentlemen and wanting to ease their way through this change.
This experience was life-changing. It changed how I viewed my role as a leader by giving me an even stronger focus on using my skills as an empathic nurturer to create space for others to use their skills to the fullest to create a bright future. It also helped me to see the kind of leaders I did not want to work for in the future and begin to put a plan in place for the rest of my career.
I am excellent in a crisis. I care deeply about people. I am energized by big challenges and am exceedingly ambitious. And these characteristics are often missing in organizations during times of change, which is why I decided to focus my ORGL coursework on Change Leadership.
ORGL 515: Leadership and Human Potential
This course could have been titled “Tools and toolkits for creativity and growth.” This is ultimately what this course meant for me as we spent a great deal of time getting a deeper understanding of various methodologies for reframing problems and unlocking creativity. As an Agile Development practitioner, some of these tools were known to me (Design Thinking and Sprints) and others were not (Open Space Technology and Appreciative Inquiry). I enjoyed learning the various tools and applying them to teaching Product Mindset within my organization.
ORGL 516: Relational Dynamics and Organizational Development
Prior to this course, I believed myself to be human centered in my approach to leadership and organizational design. But there was so much theory and ability to apply this knowledge missing in my approach. Through the study of the field of Organizational Development, I was able to build a real framework for how to practice human centered leadership. Most importantly I was able to build a change agent strategy that was based in the reality of both my strengths and weaknesses in order to better develop my team and organization towards effective and inclusive design.
ORGL 517: Organizational Change and Transformation
One fact has never changed throughout this concentration coursework – Change is hard! Yet despite how difficult change can be for individuals, teams, and organization, leaders must have foundational frameworks for driving change in a way that is adoptable by all parties. ORGL 517 was one of my favorite classes in the Organizational Leadership program because it was so impactful to my day-to-day work as an executive trying to move a travel startup through real change during a global pandemic crisis. In retrospect, some of my strategies for change within my teams were short-sighted, but despite this we were able to make the necessary structural changes to get through a tough season and move back into a growth phase. I am grateful for the lessons taught in this course regarding using different approaches to change while using common foundations.