Leadership Training!

I recently completed the four days of training in King County’s “Leadership Academy“, which was offered through the new Training and Development Institute. It’s free for County employees to attend, and open to “community partners.” So in addition to other County employees, I met people who work with local non-profits and other local government.

Leads and supervisors with King County were encouraged to take this class. I missed taking it with the rest of my co-workers earlier in the year. I hadn’t taken my special duty role as an lead until after people had been registered. So I offered to go when it came up again.

Yes, I did this to myself.

Broadly speaking, I felt like there were two main things I experienced over the course of four days.

First, there were tons of self-assessment worksheets to determine personality type, leadership style, ability to delegate, etc. I generally scored poorly on all of these. In cases when there wasn’t a clear spectrum of Good vs. Bad, I fell into the least flattering category. This may be a commentary on my own perception of myself. But it left me feeling pretty depressed and anxious.

When I’ve tried to convey this sensation to friends, many didn’t seem to understand why it affected my mood so much. And I don’t know how to adequately explain the “why?” behind it. How do you explain an irrational and deep-seated reaction to something? All I can say is: I took those tests, my heart began to race, and my eyes started to tear up.

I’m just really not comfortable with social situations. It is draining for me to be around people and interacting with them. I can fake it if I need to or want to. I have people I do genuinely like to see. But the thought of having to be more vocally social on a regular basis…? That’s a bit overwhelming.

Second were the things I found fascinating that actually touched on things I’m going through. Those touched on questions of “Who am I?” in a much broader sense than just “Who am I in terms of my ability to do my job?” Some of it is still daunting, as I don’t have good answers for those questions. But it brought up some resources I might not have otherwise looked at.

Day One opened with getting to know people. There was one of those party games where you have to find people with certain experiences as part of a “scavenger hunt.” And we also had a lot of small group discussions. The person who taught the class the first day focused a lot on group discussions. However, someone else taught the other three days so that element faded into the background a bit.

The lessons focused on some basics that came up over and over again throughout the training. The explained some ideas about what leadership is, talked about styles of leadership, emotional intelligence, and how to get people engaged. It included this video, which I really liked.

I liked it so much, I bought the book. It spoke to my situation and kinda blew my mind. Once the book started getting into “too good to be true” territory, I did a bit more research and got a broader picture for where it fits. But I still like the idea.

Day Two was a bit more about work culture and how it can fall apart. It talked about onboarding, which I sort of dislike as a word, ethics, the effect of having four generations in the work force at once. New buzzword learned? Triangulation!

The video we had for this day was The Values-Based Leader. I also liked the approach it had, which had a great focus on examining the sort of person you are. I don’t have all the answers about that, but it asked some good questions and had some concrete steps. Sadly, you have to pay $95 to get the DVD or streaming video of this talk.

Day Three opened with a guest lecturer, Dr. Caprice D. Hollins, Psy.D., of Cultures Connecting. It really appealed to me because I’ve been trying to understand and incorporate topics of equity and social justice into my life and my writing. She was a magnificent speaker. I felt like she was able to address some really thorny subjects without alienating people either. It’s also always interesting to see the difference between how these topics are handled differently between professional contexts and, well, the Internet.

The afternoon covered the life cycle of teams and how to handle employee harassment as a lead. We also watched a video called The Abilene Paradox, which was pretty entertaining even with dodgy production values. Sadly, for this one you have to pay $995 for the whole instructional kit. You can get the gist of it on Wikipedia, though.

The final day covered ways to coach (both positively and negatively) employees, the pros and cons of collaborative decision making, and change management (which touched on some of the Lean stuff we’ve already learned). And we watched a video called The Happiness Advantage, which is based on the books by Shawn Achor. Unfortunately, I can’t find the video online. The video was interesting on a lot of levels, even if the guy kind of creeped me out. Though I’ve learned from experience that the power of positive thinking doesn’t do as much against my depression, it was at least a useful thing to consider when dealing with other people.

So what did I come away from this with?

First, the amount companies charge for some of these videos is mind blowing. Seriously. I guess they reason that this is something HR will purchase and share with dozens and dozens of employees. But for some shmoe just trying to figure out how to do a better job? I’m not going to pay $1,000 for a low budget production of The Abilene Paradox, regardless of it also coming with work books.

Second, I really dislike being in charge of people. I kind of knew that before, but this class really emphasized it.

Third, bizarrely, the most applications I found for things I learned were related to gaming. Because it’s easier for me to look at how to run a regular game for friends than to imagine applying these skills at work. So I found value in having tools to deal with players that are being a problem, how to motivate players, etc.

Fourth, even more expected, I’ve decided to try and get more serious about my meditation. The videos from Shaun Achor and Harry Kraemer both emphasized taking time for reflection, meditation. I’ve tried to get back into the habit of meditating lately, though five-to-ten minutes of meditating while I’m still loopy from my evening medication isn’t really ideal.

Since rage quitting religion, I’ve not had an organization that I’ve liked. For a while I was enjoying Jodo Shinshu, which I started checking out while writing Kensei. But even that lost it’s allure pretty quickly. I’ve been curious about the Seattle Insight Meditation Society, since I get the impression that it has more of a secular Buddhist vibe. It has a introductory class for insight meditation, which is not a type that I’ve tried before. So I’m hoping to give it a shot.

The downside is that the locations for their events are nowhere near me. But I’m more motivated to put forth the effort than I was before.

1 thought on “Leadership Training!

  1. Podforge

    As a diehard introvert myself, I can completely relate to how draining social situations can be.

    I can see a number of ways in which society and human nature could conspire to create the reaction you had about how you scored on the assessments. If you want to sit down and talk it out and try and figure out the specifics of it, I’d be happy to listen and bring up possibilities.

    Something you might think about is what you see as the differences between, managing people and acting as a GM. From one perspective I could show you, they are equivalent. I can also construct perspectives where they appear very different. Figuring out why you see them as different may be useful for you.

    FYI, there is this concept I refer to as “The first rule of existence” which reads, “Know what you are and be it.” It is both simple and very complex, but has been very helpful in finding my way through life.

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