When Sonia met Alida, she was a program manager for the Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Business Program at ICIC, where she was managing a team of four. Despite her deep desire to be a strong leader, she felt uncertain and insecure.
It was my first time being a manager and I just felt stuck. I needed more skills and more tools to really be comfortable in my role. I was struggling with how to manage a team with my personality type. I was just being a boss, but I really wanted to be a leader.
She had gathered a lot of information about management by reading books and blogs and talking to other veteran managers, but hadn’t yet made the real transformation of stepping into her leadership in a way that felt both effective and authentic. She found it difficult to have the hard conversations with team members who weren’t performing up to par. On top of her own self-doubt, she sensed that both her team members and her superiors doubted her capabilities.
I knew they were unsure if I could lead them into the future. They never voiced it, but of course you can tell. I also had a hunch that my leadership team didn’t see me as a leader. I’m a good manager, but was I a leader who could really drive the direction of the organization and not just manage a program?
Since Sonia’s all-female team were mostly in their first or second jobs, she felt pressured to set a powerful example of a female leader. These women were just starting out, so she wanted to carve a path for them that could serve as a launchpad for their careers. She wanted to be someone who inspired them, a role model. But, she lacked the confidence and clarity to step into that role. While she loved her boss, she wasn’t comfortable going to him with her fears and insecurities, which left her feeling alone in her struggles.
I think I felt that additional pressure of being a super female leader who is empathetic but also strong, and who can navigate the world as it is today. I felt it was such a big duty of mine to set them up for success going forward. The cost to me was this internal turmoil that I was going through. That inner question of, “Am I being a good leader for my team?
Reaching out to work with Alida marked a turning point. Sonia decided to prioritize her own development as a leader. She put a stake in the ground to conquer the self-doubt once and for all, so she could live up to being the role model and leader she wanted to be.
In addition to concrete tools, Alida provided the safe space Sonia needed to be herself and talk about the things that were troubling her. With awareness and practice, she replaced old disempowering thought patterns and behaviors that had been holding her back with ones that helped her step into her leadership in a new way.
I notice the moments when I go into a meeting and automatically assume how the conversation is going to go. I’ve become aware of my own negative predictions and how that impacts things. I’ve been able to shift my internal dialogue, and because of that, where I am today is I have such a fantastic team, a strong team.
Once Sonia started feeling the difference for herself, she won over the confidence of her team. In an organization where staff positions are seen as a launching point for their careers, Sonia noticed a shift in the way people viewed their work with her — evidence that the changes she was able to make were beginning to create the legacy she had envisioned.
I have had a few team members transition over the years. What they shared in their goodbye notes was so different from the notes I had received two years ago. That’s the best validation I’ve received — that I have become a better manager and leader.
Beyond the greater influence on her staff, Sonia also improved her reputation with senior leadership, and earned a major promotion, to become the Senior Director at the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City. She manages two entrepreneurship programs that support the scaling of small businesses across the United States.
Working with the whole person resulted in positive ripple effects in other areas of Sonia’s world, outside of work.
The transformation hasn’t just been about work. It’s also in my personal life. I feel that security and confidence everywhere. People see me now and they can see the change as well. I’ve been able to use so many of Alida’s tools in my personal life. That’s something I wasn’t expecting. I just thought it was all about my professional life, but at the end of the day, you are who you are in both worlds and you have to build that bridge. I think that’s what Alida did for me — helped me build that bridge.
Beyond the immediate impact on her career and her ability to lead and influence her colleagues, Sonia has gained tools and skills that will serve her in the long-term.
With Alida’s support, I came away with lessons learned and tools that I can continue using for as long as I work.