As the Director of People Operations at Credly, I am a female leader in my company. It is my commitment and responsibility that in times of uncertainty, I lead our team with ingenuity. I am also new to my company. Establishing credibility in any new environment can be challenging, as it so often takes time to build trust. When I joined Credly I knew that before I could influence change or lead effectively, I first needed to focus on building relationships with my colleagues and modeling character by example.
In addition to my full-time role at Credly, I’m also a single mother to a nine-year-old daughter. I have always put additional pressure on myself to overachieve - both at work and at home. With that also comes the recurring interpersonal monologue for why I thought I wouldn’t be given credibility by my colleagues and peers. Thoughts like, “I’m too young,” or “I didn’t finish my college degree,” “I’m a single working mom,” “I haven’t done enough,” “I’m the only woman at the table,” “If I say “no” I will appear weak.” That self-afflicting negative rhetoric quickly led to burnout and career fatigue, and a pattern of over-promising and under-delivering. No one was benefiting from my impossible standards, and no one was experiencing the best version of my authentic self - either professionally or personally.
Like so many others, my world has flipped upside down in the face of COVID-19. I began to feel my inner criticism creep back up again. “To be a successful leader in this crisis you must do A, B, C... To be a successful mom navigating remote learning, you must journal and document this entire experience - also, this is a great time to learn to make homemade pasta! You’ve been wanting more time to exercise, this is your chance!” After two weeks of this unattainable new standard, the foundation started to crack. After a series of stressful meetings, I went to check in on my daughter’s progress and found her with tears welling in her eyes. She was trying to download a PDF document from her Google Classroom and had discovered it wasn’t fillable.“Mommy, it’s just… so hard. Everything is new and I don’t know how to do it.” She needed help, and she needed reassurance that everything would be okay.
Just as I would never expect my young daughter to achieve perfection in our new remote learning setup (let’s be honest - many adults don’t know how to convert a PDF), I cannot expect perfection out of myself or out of our team. What we can focus on are clear attainable priorities, direct communication, and the commitment to acknowledge if we need to readjust our approach. The fear of admitting when you don’t have all of the answers or when you are struggling can be terrifying, especially at work, and we can encourage team members by providing a safe space to acknowledge what isn’t working while focusing on what skills and contributions they can bring to the table.
I know that what we are experiencing will not last forever. I also now know that effective leadership does not come from modeling perfection, but rather, it comes from the ability to admit that you do not have all of the answers. Let’s use this as an opportunity to model the commitment to adapt when faced with a challenge.
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