Weekend Wisdom

Kate Swayne Wilson ’99

Do the thing that scares you.”
“I manage a team of technical consultants who develop strategies and solutions for both private- and public-sector clients to address the challenges of climate change.

“After annual reviews with eight bosses in nine years, I was frustrated that I wasn’t getting clear feedback, so I hired a leadership coach to help me assess my values and leadership style, and to better align them. I asked 17 people for feedback on my leadership style: peers, bosses, direct reports, friends, even my husband — an exercise in vulnerability and humility. I then used what they said to focus on what I could improve. My coach taught me how to make little shifts in the ways I asked my team questions and when to speak up rather than let them brainstorm solutions. The results were that the team felt elevated and I became a leader aligned with my values.

“This experience brought three important lessons. First, always look for an opportunity to grow: Be willing to be brave and vulnerable. I realized that getting feedback from 17 people was an enormous gift — each took the time to help me. Second, for honest answers, ask specific questions: What are two things I could improve on in the next meeting? brings a more helpful response than does How can I improve? Third, in a professional setting, do the thing that scares you: Do whatever puts you outside your comfort zone; you’ll learn amazing things about yourself and have the chance to grow.

“After the coaching, I was promoted. My team now works cohesively, each member’s strengths are put to their best use, and the culture of honest feedback and constant improvement is driving us all to grow.”

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Kent Place School is an all-girls K through 12 independent college preparatory day school with a coeducational Preschool, located in Summit, NJ.