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My Leadership Journey...

My journey in leadership started as a self-conscious high school student who was perceived as much more confident than I was at the time. I didn't really have an idea of what it meant to be a leader but I knew that it felt good to have people look to me for guidance when I was captain of a sports team or a peer leader. 

Through college, I had the opportunity to spread my wings and I developed more of a sense of myself. I recognized that having people look to me for guidance was a big responsibility - one that I didn't always want or take seriously at the time. Shortly after college, I wanted to discover what it was that made others look to me as a leader, confidante, and mentor. I dove into developing my personal leadership style in earnest by working with one of the most well-known and respected adventure education organizations on the country - Project Adventure. I was lucky enough to assist some of the most incredible facilitators of my career and I studied everything about them - their tone, mannerisms, pace, confidence, knowledge, influences etc. I was housed in a dorm on the grounds of a convent so I had plenty of time to reflect on what I was learning. Because I was still working on my confidence, I emulated the people that I admired until my own strengths, preferences, and style emerged and took shape in full. It didn't happen overnight but one day a few years later, I realized that my style had become my own and I was pleased because people responded well to it. It wasn't all sunshine and roses though. It took making mistakes, receiving critical (often accurate, but frequently poorly delivered) feedback, and trying things in different ways until I found what worked for me and resonated well with others.

Over the next several years I continued to develop my leadership and coaching practice by running high ropes courses, team-building, and adventure education programs in various parts of the country during which I learned as much or more from my colleagues and students as I had learned from my mentors at Project Adventure. By facilitating the high ropes course at a camp for children with severe burns, I learned that everyone has the skills, drive, knowledge, and determination to define and achieve their own success. Many of the campers were missing limbs or had limited vision or other physical differences  - differences that I had previously thought to be essential for success in such a physically demanding activity. But they were so determined to achieve their personally-set level of success that I simply had to make no assumptions and support them in any way that I could. Through that experience I learned that I could help them reach their goals simply by listening carefully, asking questions, paying attention to cues, and creating the environment where they could address real or imagined, mental or physical obstacles.

After branching away from the world of adventure education, I embarked on a path that led me to my role as the Director of Field Programs for the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps. During the longest interview of my life (14 hours - no, that's not a typo), I realized that this program was about so much more than building trails and running state parks; it really was a leadership development program whose mission was to teach people to take personal responsibility for their actions. I spent the next several years infusing my leadership style into the program while honing my coaching style, reflecting on my training abilities, and developing the sense of self and a growth mindset that turned me from cringing when feedback was coming my way to craving feedback so I could continue to grow. In those years, I learned an incredible amount about myself, my leadership practice, and my deep commitment to empowerment, self-reflection, and constant growth and development of myself and others. I also learned the value of accepting that it's okay not to be perfect. It's okay to be wrong or make a mistake. What IS important is to own it, learn from it and try again or move forward. That revelation was an essential element of who I would become as a leader.

Life brought me from the mountains of Vermont to the shores of Cape Cod where I continued to add to my leadership and coaching toolkit. When I learned about an innovative program with Southern New Hampshire University called College for America, I knew it was time to get uncomfortable again and broaden my professional horizons once again. I was at a critical point in my career where I deeply desired to put my training, development, and leadership skills to work in a form that would have a broader impact. I became a Student Success Learning Coach where, on a daily basis, I honed my formal coaching practice by coaching adult learners in a brand new competency-based higher education degree program.

As a Learning Coach, not only did I get to share the student experience with my incredibly resilient, inspiring students but I also helped develop an innovative model of student support from the ground up. I soon became one of the first Learning Coach Team Leads delving into complex issues of remote team culture, management of remote teams, remote team development, and strategic growth while remaining true to our roots of believing that each student is capable of earning his/her degree. Soon I was promoted to the Manager of Team Lead Development which allowed me to work with a dozen Learning Coach Team Leads to support as many as 120 Learning Coaches as well as to coach other department leads on management, leadership and supervision issues.

In this role, I hit the stride that I had been craving and found what resonated with my values personally and lit me up inside professionally. I was able to dive deeply into the essence of what leadership and "managing like a coach" means and how honing our own practice takes commitment, time, and constant attention combined with an open mind and a growth mindset. I had found what I heard others refer to as "my calling" in the field of coaching. 

During my tenure as the Manager of Team Lead Development, I was given free license to identify training needs, develop training sessions, work closely with developing managers to give deliberate, timely, growth-oriented feedback, create a sense of culture on the team that I dubbed "synergistic engagement", and grow a team of diverse members who were values-aligned, committed, and exceptional at implementing everything they learned to effectively and enthusiastically manage their teams. To hear the managers say, "When I'm in the middle of tough situation, I think, 'What would Polly do?' and I can work my way through it" (and variations of that sentiment) told me everything I needed to know about my leadership and management skills - THIS is the thing that I excel at without question. THIS is what I am MEANT to do! I had reached my goal of broadening my reach as I was able to teach and guide over a dozen managers who in turn led over 120 coaches who in turn positively impacted the lives of several thousand students.

It was time for the next big challenge in my life and therefore, I decided to go into private practice coaching and see where this adventure might take me. I had realized during my time at the university that I had been coaching for many years, I just hadn't realized that's what it was. I innately believed that all people have the power, insight, skills and abilities to identify and remove their own obstacles and that my job was to help hold the flash light for them while on their discovery journey.

In my private practice, I've gone on to get formal training as a coach through the Gestalt International Study Center (GISC) which happens to be in my backyard on Cape Cod. Through this training I learned so much about the process of coaching from a Gestalt perspective. I had previously been loosely trained with the principles of the Coach Training Institute and welcomed the additional layers that the in-depth training at GISC, which is also an accredited coach training program.

I am grateful for the opportunities that learning and collaboration with other coaches at varied levels have afforded me in my continuous journey to become a better coach. Once you enter this field officially, it's clear to see that there is no end to the learning and that is welcome news to me!

Please get in touch to see how I can help!

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