For Audrey Turley, Weatherhead Executive Education’s Leadership Institute for Women in STEM and Manufacturing (LIW) reinforced a principle that she had always intuitively known: relationships are essential for development and flourishing.
Audrey is a senior biocompatibility expert at Nelson Labs.
“Because we work in a STEM industry, we tend to focus on the science, the intelligence; you know, those things which are critical for our job functions,” she said. “But success really comes when you can build relationships.”
As a leader, Audrey prioritizes creating a safe space for her team; an environment where all members are comfortable taking risks and sharing their ideas. Audrey knows that developing authentic relationships is crucial to establishing trust among team members. Research shows that the presence of trust and an atmosphere of psychological safety result in higher performing, more innovative teams.
At first, Audrey had trouble envisioning herself as a leader, partly because she has worked in a technical, male-dominated field for essentially her whole career. That viewpoint started to change when she was nominated by her manager to attend LIW.
In this leadership development program, she was exposed to a range of different personalities and leadership styles, modeled by the three faculty presenters: Dr. Diana Bilimoria, Dr. Ellen Burts-Cooper and Dr. Ellen Van Oosten.
“Diana is this very soft-spoken female, and she didn't ever have to show her aggression to show her leadership ability, and that came out in her teaching,” Audrey recalled. “It showed [our cohort] that there's room for your personality in these leadership roles.”
One of the benefits of mentorship, especially for women, is that it enables the mentee to actually see herself in a leadership position.
An integral part of the program is a 360° assessment and one-on-one coaching with an executive coach. The connection with her coach became another relationship Audrey relied on heavily during the program. Her coach, Jessica Worny Janicki, was able to understand and relate to Audrey in a way that she found invaluable.
“I imagine this is common for the class; we're all perfectionists, we're all over achievers… and so that feedback can be harsh,” she said.
Her coach helped Audrey process and make sense of the feedback, in a way that modulated the typical initial response – which was largely emotional – and allowed for deeper interpretation and insights to emerge.
Because Weatherhead’s coaching model is holistic and focuses on developing the whole person, Jessica was able to offer Audrey strategies for integrating her role as a leader with that of her role as a mother to her twins.
“I want to be the same authentic person in both places,” Audrey said. “I’m never not a mom, and I’m never not an employee, right? It all goes with me, no matter where I am physically.”
Jessica also helped Audrey with another of her goals of moving away from a task-oriented mindset to think more strategically.
“The coaching perspective is such a crucial part of making this [program] something that translates into transformation in your life,” she said.
This article was written by Laura Weber Smith, director of coaching services and business development, Weatherhead Executive Education.
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