By Whitney Brionez, Business Intelligence Manager at Holland & Knight LLP
Every other year, AALL holds a Leadership Academy, a program developed to guide participants on being effective leaders. I was accepted into this year’s 2020 Academy which was originally scheduled for Chicago in March, but ended up becoming a virtual program in August. The three day agenda included interactive discussions, leadership assessments (and what they mean), group coaching, collaboration, and networking.
There was much uncertainty and many questions leading up to the Academy, especially after the program was postponed and then became virtual. I was apprehensive about having the program in this format, as the greatest potential benefits to me were networking with peers, meeting new people, and sharing stories, and I was unsure how this would work in a solely-online environment. Thankfully, while we did not have those impromptu, passing-in-the-hall-on-break conversations, we did all get to meet each other and share stories over multiple break-out sessions.
Before the Leadership Academy began, we had the opportunity to meet our fellow participants in an afternoon virtual chat – a perfect way to start getting to know our colleagues. The first official day of the Academy began on the afternoon of August 6, and started with introductions from our facilitators, Karyn Nishimura Sneath and MJ Tooey, and our coaches: Julie Pabarja, Halle Cox, and Jean Wenger.
The first order of business – understanding our DiSC assessments. Prior to the first day of the Academy, each of us was directed to complete a DiSC assessment to identify our leadership dimension; DiSC’s results center on four personality traits: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. Day One of the Academy was spent reviewing these types, as well as discussing other personality and behavioral assessments. Once we understood our primary dimension, we split into groups to discuss the strengths and weaknesses that we brought to a team. Then we regrouped and each subgroup shared a summary of our discussion with the members of the other leadership dimensions. This break-out and regroup process proved helpful in first understanding ourselves, and then understanding each other. To finish up day one, we had a virtual happy hour where we could relax and focus more on getting to know each other.
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” – Maya Angelou
We started the second day with discussing personal change styles. Before digging into the content, Karyn started us with a list of quotes about change. We spent time reviewing these, selecting those that spoke to us most, and then sharing with the group what those quotes mean to us. This was an excellent bridge into the morning’s agenda and started us all with opening up and getting a feel for how change speaks to us.
Everyone approaches and accepts change on different levels of a spectrum. The three main styles are Conservers, Pragmatists, and Originators. We reviewed each type to understand what they mean, and where we see ourselves fitting in these categories. We had a few breakout sessions to talk about times where we have done well with rolling out a change and also to discuss strengths and weaknesses of the three main change types.
In the afternoon, we delved into figuring out our personal brand identity. This was when we participated in another enlightening exercise. We started with a list of 101 values and had to narrow it to ten, writing those on individual slips of paper. From there, without knowing where this was heading, Karyn had us tear up the least important of our ten values, one by one, until we had only four left. This allowed us to understand what core values we saw within ourselves and what core values we wanted to work towards developing.
The next discussion was on building confrontation and conflict management skills. This topic allowed us to relate the most to each other. By sharing delicate situations that we have struggled with, we could connect with each other, realize we are not alone, and take from positive outcomes or opinions that others have had in similar situations. We also learned of conflict management techniques and discussed how we would all follow or modify the techniques to meet our needs. MJ Tooey closed the day with a presentation on pursuing and growing leadership.
Final Day and Next Steps
On the final day, we attended a moderated panel of our coaches, with Emily Florio joining as a guest panelist. We were able to ask any questions that we had and it was a nice way to finish off the Academy on an interactive level.
We are all now part of an online community where we can stay engaged and connected. We also each have a mentor assigned to us that will be there to bounce ideas off of and help to mold our career paths. At my firm, I was joined by another colleague that was accepted into the Academy and we are holding a round table meeting to share what we learned with the rest of our teams.
This was an excellent program that provided much value and content during the Academy days, and one that continues to provide continuous learning and guidance through the online community and mentor program.