This interview is not of an association leader, but instead I wanted to chat with John Bobosh, Technology Coordinator at IQ Solutions, about the our topic of leadership and staff development because I know that at IQ Solutions, a web strategy firm focused on healthcare, they pay close attention to this topic. I’m happy that John was willing to share some of his thoughts on this with us.
How are you customizing leadership development internally?
My department at IQ Solutions has a really flat hierarchy. A lot of things are done through collaboration – in which someone comes up with an idea and then asks the group for their feedback so it can be improved, and experimentation – where we tinker with a concept and apply it in different ways to see if it works for us then share our experiences. This approach allows anyone to become a leader by encouraging the piloting of new ideas. We’ve had a lot of seemingly mundane ideas come out of this model that solved long-standing issues – from new approaches to tracking staff allocation across projects to using Slack to improve communication with offsite employees to developing a mentorship plan.
How do you support employees in taking ownership of their own leadership development?
I saw an article in Harvard Business Review about adopting a leadership philosophy, which I’ve taken to heart. My philosophy as a supervisor is to make sure my direct reports (and really, anyone who is looking for a hand) have the support they need to achieve their professional goals. I collaborate with them to figure out what they’d like to be doing professionally and then we identify ways to make this happen, whether it be finding trainings or partnering them up with someone who has the experience they are after. It is a shared responsibility which helps staff define their advancement.
Is part of leadership development learning about programs/departments OUTSIDE of an individual’s area? How are you doing that?
IQ Solution’s book club just read Originals by Adam Sandberg, in which it talks about innovation coming from being exposed to new ideas. And that is an example of how we’re doing just that – we have a professional book club in which we read about different concepts we can apply to our jobs. In my experience, having knowledge about one thing means there is the opportunity to “connect the dots” with a seeming disparate other thing you are working on. As a personal anecdote, part of my leadership philosophy was influenced by interest in art. Last year I was lucky enough to visit Bhutan. Prior to visiting, I learned this country was known for its beautifully-colored religious paintings known as “thangkas.” At the time, I was trying to figure out how I could be a better project manager. As I learned more about Bhutanese thangkas, I learned about the Buddhist goddess known as the Green Tara who abstractly represents the balance of influence, wisdom, and compassion. Something clicked for me – I realized these three concepts were what I was striving to create a balance of as a project manager. I now have a Green Tara thangka in my living room as a reminder to “rebalance” myself when I forget to apply all three of those things – influence, wisdom, and compassion – to the work I do. I’m still working on this balancing act (I’m only human), but I love my reminder. Had I not been learning about Bhutanese art, I might never have come across what I now consider my project management mantra.
How does culture and cultural fit play a role in leadership development?
I’ve had the experience of not being the right culture fit for the job. It’s a tough place to be in. Looking back, it was clear that a hierarchical system with more traditional workplace values where I was one of the youngest people on staff was definitely not a good fit for me. Finding a good fit has made me realize just how much this matters – for both my career and personal happiness.