This month, I chatted with client @Jamey Thom, an Operations Program Manager at Microsoft whose role requires significant collaboration across organizational boundaries. As those of you who have had similar roles know, one of the most significant challenges with this type of role is influencing others when you don’t have authority. In our conversation, Jamey shared with me how our work helped her move from self-doubt to confidence. She also shared some of the improved business results she is already seeing. Here’s our conversation:
Kore: What were your main goals for participating in a leadership development program at this time?
Jamey: I wanted to feel more comfortable in my own skin. As a young woman in business, I felt that I needed help understanding first, that I deserve a seat at the table; second, how to show up in a way that drives impact & influence once at the table; and third, how to best navigate the intricacies of effective business relationships.
Kore: Did you achieve those goals?
Kore: What happened for you?
Jamey: I have noticed a big difference in my ability to take a stand. Now, when solving problems, I feel more confident to bring my ideas to the table and to make recommendations. I can do that, and advocate for my ideas with conviction, but not in a way that is rigid and off-putting. Instead, now I am more open to different perspectives. I don’t feel threatened by them, and I can show up in a way that orients toward finding what’s best for the business. I also have better self-awareness now and a toolset I know how to use to be more impactful. I didn’t have this before. Because of our work, I feel more secure in who I am. I feel more confident in my abilities. I’ve noticed positive differences in how I am received by my peers and leadership, which makes it so much easier to have the impact I want to have at work. When you bring the best version of yourself to the table, people want you to be at other tables. You get asked to be a part of bigger and higher-level initiatives and conversations. It’s been just great for me.
When you bring the best version of yourself to the table, people want you to be at other tables. You get asked to be a part of bigger and higher-level initiatives and conversations.
Kore: Wow, Jamey. I am so happy for you. So that our readers understand how you became more confident, can you share a few of the specific techniques you are working with?
Jamey: While there are many, many useful takeaways from the training program I did with you, I’ll keep it to my top three I use regularly:
When I am stressed or the pressure goes up, I use the techniques I learned to reverse amygdala hijack: I love the simple formula here – pause>breathe>zoom out> make a choice. It’s been instrumental in helping me avoid kneejerk reactions by reflecting and contextualizing.
In complex collaborative efforts, I focus on creating clarity for the group. The way you unpacked the three primary types of conversation we have in business life was incredibly powerful for me. It allowed me to see that often conflict and frustration are simply by-products of people engaging in different types of conversations, and that the work is bringing everyone into the same type of conversation so that we can move forward. I loved the tools here to help create structure, intent, and clarity around conversations and I’m seeing how that helps me drive successful outcomes.
A third tool I love using is making powerful requests. The program has helped me better understand how important it is to make quality requests in shaping outcomes. It forced me to look hard at HOW I am asking for things, WHAT I am asking for, and whether my requests were coming off as DEMANDS. It was a good reflective exercise that illustrated that what you put in (request) dictates what you get in return (outcome). Garbage in, Garbage Out.
Kore: Tell me about a significant win you’ve had using the skills you gained in the Challengers Circle leadership program?
Jamey: I recently was responsible for identifying trends and themes across our +300-person org in order to develop an action plan to address our opportunity areas. Equipped with my new skills, I was able to effectively communicate our strategy in a way that felt natural and efficient, and that generated org buy-in more easily than I have experienced in the past. As I reflect on this experience, the skills that were key to my success included working with the Ladder of Inference to untangle facts from beliefs and use that to identify the real root cause of what I was seeing. I was also able to move through conflict in a way that leveraged the friction to engage my collaborators rather than let things become negative. I’m also really appreciating the content you shared with us about how we need to take responsibility for helping our audience listen by being aware of all the things pulling their attention away from us. I feel more empowered knowing how to work with the challenging dynamics at work now that I have these tools.
What I have realized is often many people have the same questions; the sooner we call it out and generate that needed clarity the more efficient and impactful we can be.
Kore: You have talked about how the program helped you gain a deep focus on business outcomes. Can you tell me more about what you mean?
Jamey: Through the Challenger’s Circle I realized that there is a very real risk that our projects and engagements can become routine, or just check-the-box activities. I am no longer afraid to push for clarity. I now orient from a place of identifying and clarifying the big picture topics: why are we here, what is our goal, who is accountable and so on. What I have realized is often many people have the same questions; the sooner we call it out and generate that needed clarity the more efficient and impactful we can be.
Kore: How often are you able to use what you learned in the Challengers’ Circle program?
Jamey: Everyday! Perhaps this is a function of the role I am in, but I truly have been able to employ the tools and techniques on a daily basis. They have been really instrumental in helping avoid “spinning” which is common when you are facing something new or unknown. These tools keep me grounded and able to keep my eye on the objective facts about what’s happening rather than getting bogged down in distorted beliefs that aren’t that helpful in terms of creating business outcomes.
Jamey participated in a 2023 cohort of the Challengers Circle, a multi-month, multi-mode leadership development program built for results and scale. You can read more about it here: The Challenger’s Circle – The Essential Group (the-essential-group.com)