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Phinia Landers on Leading the Way

I am Phinia Landers and I am not a born leader. But, as evaluators, we are often called upon to lead – whether it be a project, team, or discussion. After ten years, I believe that I have learned what does not come naturally and called upon my leadership skills more than any other skills I have in order to ensure successful completion of an evaluation and use of its results.

Lesson Learned: Leadership means listening – the adage that you have two ears and one mouth and thus should listen twice as much as you talk never appeared more true than in strong leaders. I strive to listen to stakeholders so as to be able to reflect their perspective, respond to their needs, and overcome challenges to change. Here are three questions that have proven essential to my practice:

  1. What would success look like? This old evaluation standby has served me well. Usually the first response is whatever is in a program’s mission statement. It is what I can learn from further probing that really matters. What would success look like for you personally? For the clients? For funders? Are these visions aligned?
  2. What concerns you most about this project? Whether we are talking about the evaluation itself or the evaluand, knowing someone’s worst fears allows me avoid landmines, identify solution alternatives, and frame problems as opportunities for learning and change.
  3. How do you anticipate that this would affect your work? Learning ahead of time barriers to use of evaluation results has allowed me to frame findings in ways that are more likely to be heard.

Lessons Learned: Leaders must instill confidence. They may not always have the right answer, but others have to be confident that they will follow-through and find the answer. Just as quality data is valid and reliable, so is quality leadership. Leaders must be dependable and they must represent the truth.

Rad Resource: The Center for Creative Leadership offers regular free podcasts and an archive or free recorded podcasts that may be found here http://www.ccl.org/leadership/podcast/index.aspx. Examples include: “Evaluation Mindset: A Quality of Good Leadership” “Coaching for Results” and “6 Ways to Make Conflict Productive.”

Rad Resource: The Leadership Learning Community has a blog that consistently connects me with resources and opportunities to improve my leadership skills, as well as the opinions and voices of thought leaders in leadership development. http://leadershiplearning.org/blog

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