Reflections on Becoming Dr. Karavedas – No. 9

It’s been an incredibly busy six months. My days and weeks have been filled with reading, writing and more reading, more writing. But, I’ve also finished all my coursework, written the first three chapters of my dissertation, defended my study proposal, passed both quality review and IRB, secured and confirmed several interviews for my research, and will conduct my first interviews next week. I have to tell you, it’s exhilarating!

I’m not a doctor yet, but I am well on my way.

Most days I march forward and approach each aspect of this doctoral journey with eager anticipation, but I freely admit there are other days I am scared to death. During the days full of fear, I ask myself “what am I afraid of; who am I afraid of.” The truth is I’m afraid of a lot of things. I am afraid I won’t be able to gather the data, people won’t want to be interviewed, I won’t interview well, I won’t get the data I need, I’ll write a bad dissertation, won’t finish on time, and I won’t graduate. My greatest fear…that I will spend my time and money on earning a degree that I wouldn’t be able to use – it will all be wasted.

Brene’ Brown (one of my favorite authors) writes “daring greatly is being brave and afraid every minute of the day at the exact same time.” To be great, we must dare greatly. Greatness doesn’t happen without facing the mountain and climbing it. On this doctoral journey, I see my doubts and fears, but I don’t let them stop me. I don’t let the voices of others – or the ones inside my head – stop me. Each day, I commit to doing one thing that moves me toward my goal – one more thing each day. Step by step, the dream WILL become reality. In the words of another one of my favorite authors, Jo Saxton,

“I’m just a girl who decided to go for it!”


Books I Recommend:
Daring Greatly by Brene’ Brown
The Dream of You by Jo Saxton

It’s All Been Said Before

I mentioned several weeks ago that I was planning to revamp the format of the Dr. Karavedas blog. Some time ago, it became clear to me that much of what I want to say feels as if it’s already been said … because it has! There are many, many great leaders in the world – most of whom have had much to say about leadership. Covey, Maxwell, Welch, Collins – they’ve all written amazing insights into leadership. Bass, Greenleaf, Kouzes and Posner have expanded entire theoretical frameworks on leadership.  What is this doctoral student going to write about leadership that hasn’t been said already? This is the place I found myself. It isn’t writer’s block. It isn’t imposter syndrome. It is simply the realization that it’s all been said before.

Then it came to me – say it again. You see, I love a good quote. I don’t even mind a cliché or two. I am the person who stands in line at Pieology and reads the wall – all of it. There’s a reason that quotes are quotable. If there wasn’t truth in the words, they wouldn’t be repeated. It doesn’t matter that it’s been said before; some truth is worth repeating. That’s what I’m going to do.

For each new blog, I will choose one of my favorite leadership quotes and explain what it means to me. I encourage you to leave comments providing your interpretation as well. A lot can be learned from other leaders, and we will learn together from these leaders – in their own words. Together, we can take this journey toward developing our own leadership style and becoming great leaders to those we lead.

Reflections on Becoming Dr. Karavedas – No. 7

The doctoral program through the School of Education at Brandman University provides a great combination of convenient online class access plus the support of a cohort group to travel this journey with you. My cohort is made up of six women –

yes, by some crazy coincidence, we’re all women on the road to becoming doctors.

This diverse mix of women of various ages and stages has come together to learn, grow, and support one another. For the most part, this cohort has been a positive experience. We have our own personalities, but we’ve handled these differences and made it work.   A recent team project, however, exposed a struggle within the group that may never be resolved.

Patrick Lencioni wrote a book called The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. If you work with or lead others, this book is indispensible. Lencioni describes five areas that prevent teams from being successful –

  • Absence of Trust
  • Fear of Conflict
  • Lack of Commitment
  • Avoidance of Accountability
  • Inattention to Results

Our team project revealed that after more than a year in this doctoral program together, our cohort is still dysfunctional. A result was achieved, be we struggled hard to get there. I could clearly identify four out of the five of Lencioni’s team dysfunctions within our cohort. We lack trust, we avoid accountability, we fear conflict, and we did not provide enough attention to the results.

It is evident that this previously high functioning team still has plenty of work to do. It is also clear that without attention, things can fall apart quickly.

Competition reveals the true characteristics of a team.

The truth is, we are six leaders thrown together and told to excel. We choose how excellence will look. There must be agreement on this vision of excellence, as well as the necessary steps to achieve it. Different standards are revealed when the stakes are higher.

How do we change? After all, this is a transformational leadership program. We should be a team of leaders that excel at leading. Transformation begins within – with the leader. Each of us can be transformed through this program, but we must be open to this transformation. It will be interesting to see the direction of the cohort from this point forward. How will we address trust and conflict? What about accountability and results? Time will tell. I only know that if I am to become a transformational leader, I must transform myself.


Reflections on Becoming Dr. Karavedas – No. 5

Year One is in the books. All coursework is finished, signature assignments completed, and articles read. I am officially a second-year doctoral student. I have to admit – I’ve loved every minute of it. In fact, I wonder why I waited so long to get started. Of course, there are several practical reasons why it took me over six years to send in that admission application – time and money to just name two. But, that’s in the past now, just like year one.

As I reflect back on year one, I see growth and it makes me smile.

First, I am finding my professional voice.  I’m learning to speak as the expert.  As students, we are all being challenged to find our voice as the expert in the field.  There might have been an attitude of “fake it until you make it” when I began this program.  However, it is becoming clear, I don’t have to fake it.

I AM the expert!

My examination of literature and experiences allowed me to grow as a leader in my field.  My understanding of leadership, mentoring, higher education, and talent management has surpassed my expectations.

I can’t examine my growth as a professional without evaluating my personal growth as well. This is a doctoral program in Organizational Leadership with an emphasis in Transformational Change. I am finding that the transformational change isn’t only professional. I am personally changing as well. I am becoming more self-aware. I am aware of the way my actions affect those around me, including those I lead. I am also learning to listen – and listen well. Listening well is critical to good decision-making (look for a blog on that soon).

Year one is done. It’s been an amazing year of growth and learning. Bring on Year Two!

I Can See Clearly Now

I am a woman of a certain age – an age that requires glasses for close work.  It’s interesting to realize you need a little assistance with something you’ve been doing quite well for years.  Humbling, yes.  Essential, also yes. Fortunately, I have accepted the fact that I’d rather see than not see and now own several pairs of very stylish eyewear.

The information about my eyesight is pertinent to another recent revelation.  I found that when I put on my glasses and look in the mirror, I am able to see my flaws much more clearly.  There they are – big as life itself.  Once I recovered from the shock of seeing myself much more clearly, I immediately thought, “how long has that been there?”  The imperfections I see so clearly may have been evident to others for quite some time.

As leaders, we can be blind to our leadership flaws because our eyesight has grown tired over the years.  We no longer see as sharply as we once had.  We can grow complacent within the daily routine.  We aren’t doing anything wrong, but we aren’t doing a lot of things right either.  We spend a little more time in our offices than we should.  Our conversations are a little less constructive than they once were.  And, most important, we haven’t invested the time developing those followers as we once did.  We aren’t seeing clearly.

Our leadership glasses sharpen our vision and bring the picture into focus. Look closely now.  You may see opportunities to…

  • Motivate your team to hang in there with a difficult project
  • Encourage a junior employee to step forward into leadership
  • Collaborate with others to find new ways to be innovative
  • Inspire your team to move from mediocrity to greatness

Put on your leadership glasses and take a closer look.  What do you see?

Leadership Strategies that Work

Although I now work in Higher Education, my background is in K-12 education. As the Dean of Student Life and as a Principal, I often spoke with teachers about engaging students. We focused on support for the student beyond the classroom or academic assessment. Many of the strategies I would discuss with teachers easily transfer to leadership.

Be Visible. Every leader must make a point to get out of the office and be visible to those he leads. Management by Walking Around (MBWA) is an old tactic but still a good one. It allows a leader to get to know the organization, but more important, it allows the leader to get to know the team. As a K-12 administrator, I received more real information when walking through the quad than I did in formal meetings. Casual hallway conversations with faculty allowed me to understand the most important matters to them. Similarly, casual interactions and greetings with your team set the tone for a culture that is open and welcome to shared ideas. Leaders must be intentional about their visibility.

Take Interest. There is a strategy in education called “2-in-10.” It is used to engage difficult students who had behavioral issues in the classroom. The strategy asks a teacher to spend two minutes every day engaged in getting to really know the particular student. After ten consecutive days, the change in behavior is usually noticeably better. Students flourish when they know their teacher cares about them as people first and students second. The people we lead are no different. They want to know you are interested in them as people first. Take time do discover your team’s interests, their talents, their passions. You may be surprised.

Listen. When a student was sent to my office for discipline, my first question was always “tell me your story.” The response was often far beyond what I had asked. Employees are the same. They each have a story. As leaders, our job is to listen – really listen – to those stories. Often this means we must listen to what is not said as well as what is said. Most people want to know they are heard and their viewpoint is valued.

None of these tactics are new or difficult. Most of them are common sense. Leaders must be intentional about including each of them into their leadership style.

Reflections on Becoming Dr. Karavedas – No. 2

As promised, this journey has been transformative. I’ve quickly learned a secret – one they failed to mention when I was admitted. In order to become a transformational leader, you will be transformed personally. It is becoming increasingly clear that this program will require me to look inside and truly evaluate what I see.

Much of the beginning work of this program has focused on evaluation and assessment of my skills as a leader.  I’ve evaluated myself, those I supervise have evaluated me, those who supervise me have evaluated me, those I worked with before and those I work with now – all have evaluated me. This process isn’t for the faint of heart.   It’s easy to say you want feedback, but do we really? Do we REALLY want to know what others think about us? I think we do.

Have you ever watched those remodel shows on HGTV? What’s the first thing they do when renovating – DEMO!

You have to be willing to tear down the old in order to replace it with something new.

I’ve been learning to identify old ways of thinking that need to be demolished because they don’t reflect current practice. I’ve identified old habits that must be removed to provide room for a new set of habits that focus on serving others. I am destroying bias that has hidden in the walls of my leadership style without detection. Leaving it there is toxic. Tearing down is necessary. It provides the freedom and space to rebuild. That’s exciting.

Like many people starting down this road my focus was squarely on the goal – becoming Dr. Karavedas. Truth is, I hadn’t given much thought to the change within me that would occur along the journey. Each step along the pathway I become more aware of the changes taking place within me.

Strengthening the infrastructure isn’t always pretty. Sometimes it isn’t even visible. But, it is absolutely necessary. A strong inside allows the outside appearance to not only look beautiful, but to actually be beautiful.

Executive Function for Executives

Recently, I’ve been reading a lot about the concept of executive function as a means of helping students achieve more in school. Executive function is the idea that students can be taught to handle the daily tasks needed to be successful in school – paying attention, organizing work, planning for the future, controlling impulses, etc. Training students in methods designed to assist with executing the functions of school will provide opportunities for their minds to learn, understand and demonstrate competency in the academic concepts being taught.   Executive function employs activities to train the brain, which benefit students regardless of academic ability or level. Is there an executive function to leadership?

Leadership development typically prefers to focus on areas of inspiration, vision, collaboration, team building, and all the topics that make us feel great about leading. Every leader understands, however, there are many other areas of leadership that – while absolutely necessary – may not be quite as exciting.

It isn’t enough to cast the vision; leaders must lead the work to achieve it.

Leadership requires sustained attention to details, self-monitoring and awareness, flexibility to move from one idea to another, and the ability to organize and plan well. These executive functions are absolutely required for successful leadership. The behind-the-scenes hard work necessary to achieve success is not always evident to those we are developing to lead with us. As leaders, it is our responsibility to teach others all the skills necessary for successful leadership. To do less will only create frustrated leaders who have a vision and desire to lead well, but have not developed the skills to take themselves there.

Excellence is a habit (Aristotle)

Let us develop habits of excellence in those we lead. Excellence in all areas of leadership.