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How to Get "Unstuck" In Your Professional Life: Q&A with Leadership Academy Keynote Speaker Valorie Burton

September 26, 2017

Valorie BurtonIn advance of her closing keynote presentation at the 2017 Leadership Academy, Valorie Burton took some time to answer a few questions about leadership and lessons that she plans to share in Cincinnati on Oct. 14.

To learn more about Valorie and the Leadership Academy, brought to you by the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy, click here.

What, in your mind, is coaching, and how do you help transform people?

My company trains personal and executive coaches and this is such an important question because coaching is still a fairly new profession, and therefore, often misunderstood. At Coaching and Positive Psychology (CaPP Institute), we define coaching as a thought-provoking process that empowers a person to close the gap between where they are and where they want to be. That includes navigating challenges, building self-awareness, clarifying vision and learning a systematic process of thought management to boost resilience and psychological capital.

Once you make a change or are transformed, what are some habits to keep positive and reinforce that change?

  • Identify milestones on your journey, then celebrate your milestones as you reach them.
  • Have an accountability partner, someone who knows your goals and encourages you. Set up regular times to chat about your goals. You can do this for each other. It doesn’t have to be a one-way exchange. If you can get a coach, even better!

You talk about helping people get unstuck. Where do they typically get “stuck” in their lives? Are there a few areas where people often get stuck?

People typically get stuck in any area where they allow fear to keep them from doing what needs to be done. The most common ways? Speaking up, selling yourself short, burying a dream and doing so much that you don’t have time for what really matters.

What are some ways to help keep from being stuck?

  • Acknowledge when you feel stuck, be honest with yourself.
  • Learn to self-coach, the process of asking yourself powerful questions that move you forward.
  • Break your actions into very small pieces so that you can build momentum.

Are there any particular lessons for the fundraising profession or those working in philanthropy, especially those who work with people at risk or see a lot of needs?

  • Articulate your life purpose and keep it in front of you visually, whether at your desk, on your mirror, as a screen saver on your computer. Purpose fuels perseverance. When you understand why you are doing what you do, it becomes much easier to keep going when it gets difficult.
  • Take your self-care very seriously. Schedule days off and totally unplug, take your vacation and don’t work while you’re on vacation, create boundaries to preserve your mental health.

You have a book Successful Women Think Differently. Are there different ways that men and women should go about approaching challenges and issues? How should women begin to think differently?

Research shows that in some ways, we process events differently.

  • Women actually have higher highs and lower lows than men. Therefore, we feel happier when we are happy, but we also feel sadder when we are sad.
  • Women are also more likely to underestimate their abilities than men. As a result, women are less likely to apply for opportunities unless they know they meet every qualification, whereas men, have something psychologists call “honest overconfidence.” I talk about this in Successful Women Speak Differently. A lack of confidence can derail the career of a highly capable person.
  • Because women tend to be more collaborative, their presence in management positions has shown to increase the bottom line of companies who have more women in leadership.

What are some common themes you’ve found for leaders? What types of strategies have they employed? What are some challenges that leaders struggle with?

Highly effective leaders tend to:

  • Be more optimistic, which is necessary for getting others to see a vision and commit to it.
  • Pursue personal growth and self-awareness. They are open and flexible to change.
  • They care deeply about people, which in turn creates loyalty among those they lead and leads to stronger results due to higher connectedness and commitment of the team.

Some challenges leaders struggle with are exhaustion, burnout, and self-care.

Many leaders are self-aware enough to know they need to make a change. What often gets in the way?

The most common obstacle is a fear of change. Perfectionism, which is rooted in fear, can lead them to delay change until they can “get it right.” It is tempting to underestimate the power of small shifts over time. A willingness to take small steps in the face of fear is extremely important.

To hear Valorie in person at the Leadership Academy, click here.

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