Thank you to Amy Peters, Business Planning Manager, University of Michigan, Information & Technology Services, and Michael Warden, Sr. Director, Service Management, Health Information Technology & Services, University of Michigan, for sharing this perspective!
Our MOR experiences were transformational, and we hope it’s the same for each of you! Participation is a unique opportunity for you to learn skills, develop new perspectives on life and work, and build a network of talented colleagues. We envy the experience of growth and adaptation you are about to experience. Here are a few suggestions to get the most from the experience.
Lesson One: The Labrador
At the end of session one, many MOR folks enter that awkward self-awareness swamp of 360 evaluations, coaching sessions, and the beloved presence exercise. Our “a-ha” moment this time was the discovery that we had a spirit animal. We were labrador retrievers. We bounced into meetings with high energy and a desire to make everyone as excited about new ideas, changes, or big projects. This worked for the “dog people” who knew us well, understood our good intentions, and knew how our energy could be channeled. However, for those “cat people” who were less familiar with our leadership gifts, we may as well have jumped up and licked their face. It was overwhelming.
Some Advice: Embrace the Rituals
You’ll hear throughout the course about the formation of habits, the patterns that change your neurochemistry of your brain, and the practices that tap into your most effective self. You start by practicing this at the group sessions, using ‘I time’ before sharing with the group. We struggled with this initially, sneaking looks at phones rather than reflecting, but were coached back into the moment. When we returned to our teams, we started building in morning planning worksheets and 2-3 minute personal reflection before sharing and group work. The lessons were that the rituals worked, and that taking time for reflection often allows you to ask better questions and let others around you shine. Embrace these practices, these ways of structuring your day and meeting, and you will benefit greatly.
Our MOR colleagues all know the labrador story. Most of them laughed. Several of them realized, they too, had a spirit animal they were trying to tame. At our last session, Amy gifted labrador stickers to her favorite fellow dogs. Ours are on our laptops, as a subtle reminder to control our energy in meetings.
Lesson Two: The Answer is in the Room
A good labrador loves EVERYBODY, and assumes everybody loves them. We channeled that trait and risked sharing ourselves boldly with our MOR group. Don’t be afraid to admit your mess. Be honest with what frustrates you. Someone in this room has the answer to your biggest challenges. Someone in this room is fighting the same battles you are experiencing at work.
Some Advice: Choose to Be Present
The time you are taking away from home is challenging - work piles up, emails go unanswered, fires are burning. The homework for this course isn’t easy. You are likely already balancing what you have to do at work to be away and your personal life doesn’t stop. So when you are here - resist the temptation to only be ‘partially’ here. Be present. Be all in. Engage. Get curious about your new network of people in the room. When you have a break between sessions, choose to meet the folks that aren’t from your university. Through the facilitators and the coursework, you’ll develop those bonds. Our suggestion is to build them actively - intentionally - earlier. Choose to be early in getting coffee and breakfast, choose to participate in the social dinners, initiate conversations with the people you haven’t met yet, and put the phone and email away.
Lesson 3: Be More of Who You are
An “a-ha” from the final MOR session was we needed to embrace our labradors. We started the program under the misconception that becoming a better leader entailed being “less of who we were” or “more of what someone else was.” We came to the realization that we don’t need to become someone else to be a leader. Instead, we need to amplify the best of our labrador curiosity, energy, and fearlessness. We need to bring our intensity to heel based on the situation, but we can’t become someone else to be our best selves.
Some Advice: Pass On What You Learn
Use these five sessions to figure out who YOU are. The immersion for each session drives your growth, and you may be feeling like you are stepping outside of your day-to-day life into a very different world. This is critical to the success of the program, as you need to feel you are in a safe place to step outside of your comfort zone. To make it ‘stick’ when you come back to the real life though, it can’t stay there. We would recommend you make time on your calendar after each session to talk with your colleagues, your direct reports, or any mentors or advisors you have, about the things you learned. At the Medical School at Michigan, we talk to our medical students about ‘watch one, do one, teach one’. The ‘teach one’ step of anything you are learning is where the education really sinks in. So, throughout your program, share what you learn and it will make the content stick and help you activate that learning in your everyday. We found that we enjoyed talking to our kids about what we learned - it forced us to tell the lessons we learned in a relatable way, let us practice presenting and storytelling, and helped grow my connection with our family as they learned what we had been doing while away from home.
Based on our experience, which was profound and moving, if you choose to be present, if you embrace the habits and rituals, and pass on what you learn with those around - your likelihood of transformational change will increase. We wish you the best of luck, and encourage you to let this experience help take you wherever it is that you dream to go.