- Did I clearly describe our goals and vision?
- Did I provide enough resources for my team to accomplish their role?
- Did I provide enough training to help them, including soft skills?
Pick a moment when you’ve led, when the project didn’t work, when there was a failure. Tell us what happened and why it’s personal and why it’s not.
Over the last 9 months my team has shrunk from 4 FTE’s plus various intern staff to 2 FTE’s (including me!). Further, my #2 just left the organization after four plus years and his successor came aboard after his departure with no opportunity to cross train. My #2 had been a top performer in many ways. Confident, articulate and a self starter. He was able to work very independently in effectively managing the various aspects of his job. Too independently, as it was. His upward communication skills were one of his most pronounced weaknesses.
I was very much caught off guard by the sloppiness of his files and record keeping when he left. As a federally-regulated nonprofit lending organization these records are critical to the effective performance of our organization. When we began to downsize he did the absolute minimum possible to maintain and track this data both online and in our files.
I’m now going through a large scale effort to remedy this while at even a more restricted capacity due to the need for my to manage the hands on training of my new #2.
This failure was personal because I did not sufficiently monitor the situation and was too remote. Based on his past track record I had misplaced confidence in his ability and reliability to manage this task. I should have been more engaged to be able to identify the issue and intervene earlier. That was the personal part. The impersonal part was that it was also primarily his failure. He knew the job. He knew the importance. He failed to do it and failed to communicate any issues he had in completing the task. First and foremost it was his responsibility to communicate this.
(Borrowed liberally from other students; feel free to borrow liberally from me if you see anything you like)
When I bring mindfulness to my projects, I become more deliberate and focused. I feel less anxious. I am more aware of possibilities, options, and choices. I find greater enjoyment in my work.
The project is not the same as me. I don’t fully understand this point. I know panicking and getting upset are counter productive but I don’t understand how this specifically relates to not taking myself so seriously.
I forget this rule all the time. As a consequence I become stressed out and myopic.
I am following the vision originally developed by John Hamilton of creating a city-wide affordable housing trust in the District of Columbia. Being enrolled in this journey means to constantly stay true to this mission and to push to bring it to scale in a way that involves community stakeholders. I commit to investing my whole and true self into this effort. I will not compromise my integrity and will be a constant advocate for remaining focused on creating true impact in this sector.
In order for someone to want to follow me, they must care and be passionate about making DC a more inclusive and economically diverse city. I want them to feel satisfaction as we win our share of battles in this war. They should be seeking the same.
An example of a poor fit has been our CFO. We have employed part time consultants who do not share passion around our objective. Their focus has been on compliance and we have not had the benefit of an engaged CFO to help us think strategically about our financial position.
The story I am telling is the importance of fostering equitable development as the District of Columbia gentrifies. If current trends continue, only the very wealthy will be able to live in the city. Long term residents, primarily African American, will be disempowered and displaced. A more inclusionary and diverse city promotes a more sustainable and equitable future for the City’s citizens.
Last week, our organization made a pitch to funders on the need to support the formation of a community land trust in the Anacostia neighborhood of DC. This neighborhood is already seeing appreciation rates soar due to speculators moving further East across the City. The pending Bridge Park development is expected to further spur this trend. At the meeting were two prominent members of the community. The were outspoken in their support of the CLT model as a means to ensure long term affordability for the neighborhood’s residents.
It means affirming the organizational culture and defining boundaries for acceptable and non-acceptable behaviors. This positively reinforces the organization’s integrity and identity. It builds respect, credibility, and trust; both externally and internally. When shortcuts are taken these valuable traits are compromised and eroded.
The ends do not justify the means. In order to justify funding and support, our organization needs to produce significant impact at scale. What’s right is communicating honestly with stakeholders and being transparent. Acknowledge reality and don’t pretend the “sausage making” doesn’t exist. Credibility and integrity are too valuable to compromise. Not everyone draws the line in the same place. Ego-based concerns such as fears and desire for glory and admiration can lead to poor choices.
Giving up control means not being able to fully determine whether or not a goal is reached, how it is reached, and if it will be maintained or changed. This can be frightening.
My vision is to help mitigate the effects of DC’s housing affordability crisis by preserving affordable housing at scale. My thesis is that the majority of DC’s “market” affordable housing is rapidly disappearing as smaller buildings (less than 50 units) are being purchased by speculators who then reposition the properties as luxury condos or rentals rendering them unaffordable the previous residents. This is particularly important because it’s estimated that more than 80% of DC’s low and moderate income renters reside in these smaller buildings that contain no affordability restrictions except rent control laws.
I’m afraid that my leadership may fail for a number of reasons:
Does describing this chasm in front of me make it more likely that I’ll fall into it?
No. Being able to identify the pitfalls is empowering. It is much more insidious to have these threats and fears lurking below the surface. Naming them is liberating.