NGC Experience: Lisa Conicelli
Managing people is more than moving your name above others in an org chart. Lisa Conicelli discovered that firsthand as she stepped in to her first team management role. She wanted to serve them as effectively as possible.
“I realized I really liked the idea of people management, but also felt I needed some more formal training and skills -- I owed that to the people I was managing.”
How do emerging leaders get these skills? Often it’s by being managed and then observing other managers. But Lisa wasn’t finding what she needed.
“I saw other first-time managers who weren’t focused on their people,” she said. But as a manager, part of the responsibility is to help your direct reports grow and develop. “I didn’t know how to have the conversations -- how to find out what people want to do. How can I advocate for them if I don’t have that information?”
When Lisa heard about the Foundation for Effective Leadership program through NextGen Center, she saw her opportunity to learn. The Founder, Brian Alvo, had been in a leadership role for Lisa at a previous job. She trusted him to create an environment where she could gain the skill set she needed.
Brian had also worked with Lisa in a business coaching capacity, which is not the type of engagement that results in directives or instructions. Rather, Brian’s facilitation helped Lisa to solve the challenges herself.
“I feel like I actually came up with the solutions,” she shared. “But he was motivating me through the process, not telling me what to do. It gave me confidence and made me feel empowered. the answers are within me, I know these things I just haven’t had the right guide to help me.”
The first time Lisa had to let an employee go, her experience with Brian helped her think it through. “It had been a behavioral issue and culture fit rather than performance issue. He helped me with my guilt about being “fair,” and giving people a chance to fix things. I felt like I needed to give the right feedback and let people have the time to figure it out. I didn’t know how to bridge that, and Brian was integral in helping me with that.”
With her coaching experience, Lisa came into the program with certain expectations.
“I expected a pretty conversation-based learning environment -- which I got. But I was not expecting the people,” she noted. “I know Brian and knew what he was capable of. But the other people in the course taught me just as much as the facilitators.
In her cohort of 18 emerging leaders, Lisa found that each person brought a unique perspective and experience to the group. No two people had the same challenges. But rather than splinter and isolate them, that helped to bring the group closer together. And Lisa felt her own particular experience was valuable to them as well.
“One participant is very big on hiring temporary contractors. He wants a perfect fit, so temp contractors are the way to go. I had a hard time with that,” she said. As a contractor for a long while herself, Lisa felt her employer was willing to hand her responsibility, but not willing to trust her as a hire. That lack of trust undermined her own dedication to the role.
“I shared that with him in our one on one. We shared our own experiences, which helped me understand where my company was coming from and he got my perspective, too.”
Also unexpected was the addition of coaching to her own skill set. Having been coached, Lisa realized she took to it quickly and easily.
“I think that’s a testament to Brian throwing us into it. At the end of the day, this is a coaching program. That was so valuable. I wouldn’t have tried it otherwise.”
The course had massive impact on Lisa’s professional growth. Right after it ended, she left her contracting role. “I had built skills that made me a better manager. I’d invested my own time and money in a program that should have benefited my employer, but they didn’t value it. It was the best thing I could have done.”
For anyone who isn’t familiar with NextGen Center founder Brian Alvo, or the program, Lisa has this advice: “You can learn things that you thought were unteachable. Soft skills are not unteachable. In fact, they are 100% teachable and we should never stop learning them.”
Lisa’s journey continued after the Foundation program, as she enrolled in the Next Level Leadership Program.
Next Level Leadership is about deepening the knowledge gained in the Foundation. “I recommend it for someone who thinks about development and culture on a regular basis, and is willing to do the work. There is a lot of homework!” she laughed.
But for anybody considering the Foundation for Effective Leadership, Lisa wants you know that your title is irrelevant. All you need is the desire to be better.
“You don’t have to be the CEO. You don’t even have to be a manager, per se. Everyone is a leader in some fashion, even if they don’t have a team. This program is geared toward leadership. It’s beneficial for anybody who’s thinking about it.”