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Jill Rowe’s leadership journey with Wings

Jill and Tom Rowe

Jill Rowe and her husband, Tom Rowe, also a Wings grad

Editor’s note: Jill Rowe from Bluefish Dental has attended almost every Wings Seminar, starting in 1988. Here she shares her thoughts about her leadership experience doing seminars with Wings, what she’s learned about herself, and how it’s made her a more impactful leader.

What had you do leadership development with Wings?

I was in a career where there wasn’t a lot of upward motion in my field so my next step was to become the director or stay where I was at. I had opportunity to do Authentic Leader (AL), so that seminar was the catalyst for my leadership journey. I was already doing a lot of public speaking, so that part wasn’t a challenge for me. What was important was that in AL we took a leadership test and made some goals from there. That was an eye-opening experience for me. I realized that I had one tool in my tool box and I was using it for everything. I thought I was doing win/win but I was actually playing win/lose. It was a huge aha moment for me. There was a place to look at expansion, and I could see the potential by adding more range in my style. So for me AL is really where the juice was.

There are lots of opportunities for leadership growth at Wings. How have you seen your leadership grow since you’ve attended Wings seminars?

Behavior specific feedback (BSF) is a game changer: giving it and receiving it. I used to stay away from conflict. BSF has helped me be soft on a person and hard on the issues. It provides that coaching piece. When you get information and feedback from a supervisor or an annual review and it’s not behavior specific, what do you do with it? It’s not very useful to understand how to improve.

Everyone in the group I work in has training in the Wings principles. We all operate from same playing field and hold each other accountable. It shows up in our reflective supervision process. We give people ongoing regular feedback every three months. New people think they are in trouble or will get fired or are afraid. Then they go through this process and they get to review their own performance, share great ideas, and feel super empowered. The next time they look forward to the feedback because the information back and forth means something and helps them develop. Over time, the authenticity of the communication shows up. There’s a consistency and a trust.

Now I’ve been doing it for a while, I’m way less defensive getting feedback and much more open. I know what questions to ask to help others give me the feedback that I need. The quality of my questions have gotten better. I’m supporting other people to give me the feedback that’s useful.

And I can look at patterns. If I’m getting that same feedback from everyone, is there a pattern that doesn’t work? I can make a change. It made me more curious. I found success as a leader, so these skills are very useful.

What was the impact of attending Women with Wings?

I didn’t think you could have that many women together and have that level of support. To have that many professionals sharing their successes and where they struggle and the support around it— I didn’t think that could happen in that large of a group of women. It was nice to be reminded that we can create what we want. If we can do that in that group, we can recreate it in our world.

The other thing I learned is that I don’t have to be super hard. Being soft on people and hard on issues came out of that training. I knew that I had a tendency to be hard on others when I was doing either/or thinking, so how could I develop skills to take care of that person? For example, not making that person wrong if they are in the wrong job. How do I support a young woman who realizes that our office isn’t the right fit for her or the job isn’t what she thought it would be? She can separate and feel supported.

What are the challenges you face as a woman leader?

My biggest challenge is with my relationship with authority. I answer to a boss. My default is that I always want to say yes and I tend to be a people pleaser. That’s not always in the best interests of my boss and can get me into trouble. Sometimes I need to do a take two. At first, I say “yes” when I mean “no.” So then I go back and do a take two, own it and share what’s really up for me. I’ve been on this team for six years. I see it creep up when I’m doing something new. I pay extra attention, being authentic and line up with my vision, mission, and values.

My leadership mission and vision keeps me grounded. It’s a great filter system. I didn’t grow up with a lot of boundaries, so this is really grounding, a solid piece that I layer on top of.

You’re now a Facilitator in Training (FIT) at Wings. Where is that taking you as a leader?

It’s kind of been mind blowing. I’m learning that I have a lot to learn. I love being the #2 person in the room, and I’m exploring that. My relationship with authority comes into play with that. I’m challenging my beliefs around authority and gender bias and what’s OK/not OK with what’s in the room. I’m cleaning up my relationship with authority.

Which other Wings seminars would you recommend to your fellow to expand their leadership skills?

I think I’ve done everything but Namaste. Each person’s journey can be so different. For me it was about being open to the possibilities. I had painted myself into the either/or box–A or B and I was missing the whole rest of the alphabet. In my leadership journey I made some specific goals for myself about being curious and open and taking risks. And I took big risks and really pushed myself, with real successes and bombs. The statement that “it’s not failure; it’s only feedback” became my mantra. When I had things that didn’t work out how I wanted—instead of making it good/bad or right/wrong—I looked at it as “I did it this way and this is what I got.”

Under stress, either/or is my default. I now know I can practice to do it different. You can create what you want. If you think “I can never do that”…well, guess what? You’re right. If you can create the mess, you can create the flip side. It’s all based on how I am thinking. When I’m not getting what I want, I need to change my thinking.

What else would you like to share on this topic?

What I realized is that when I develop myself as a leader, or help others develop their leadership skills, it’s truly a win-win for everyone. When people are leaders in their life – it shows up both at home and at work.

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