From Woody to Buzz Lightyear: Leadership Development in Action
Yup, that’s me. You’re probably wondering how it’s possible that a young maverick like that ended up as a biomedical engineer working for a Fortune 500 company. Well, let me rewind the clock a bit to 2009, my last year of high school. I thought I had my life all figured out. I liked to think of myself as a modern-day Renaissance Man; I played 3 sports, acted in the school musical, and volunteered as a LINK leader (an on-campus group dedicated to the integration of incoming freshmen to high school). I was a jack-of-all-trades that thought all I needed was to broaden my resume for my college applications. Then, my counselor persuaded me to attend a summer camp called Leadership Academy. Little did my 17-year-old self know that I was going to have the most eye-opening summer of my life.
That August, I walked in not knowing what to expect and walked out with what came to be indispensable career skills. I can proudly say that I would not be where I am today without them. These skills expanded my ability to work with others through high school, college, and in my career. At my current job with Medtronic, I work on a team of engineers that is diverse in culture, age, and expertise. This is what makes us a very strong and effective team. Though it is these same strengths that could be our weaknesses if we lack teamwork and collaboration. Being the only “millennial” of the bunch, it was very advantageous for me to be able to jump right into a group of established engineers and integrate myself seamlessly. I owe this all to what I learned at camp and as I look back over the past eight years, I can see how the following things have significantly impacted my life. I hope you can use them too!
Learn About Your Personality!
Personally, getting along with random strangers has always been relatively easy for me; however, this did not transition to group work with different types of people (since I have a very “overwhelming” personality). In some ways, it hindered my ability to be productive with certain people. On the first day of camp, each student completes a personal assessment about their personality. This allows individuals to explore their strengths, their weaknesses, and how they affect the group dynamic. The assessment identified me as a full blown “orange”; generally defined as a natural adapter, troubleshooter, and a skillful performer. It was a spot-on description of my personality. I was proud and passionate to be an “orange,” and related strongly to the ‘troubleshooter’ (I may have been obsessed with puzzles and sudokus…. but these are unconfirmed rumors…obviously). The ability to explore my own personality opened my eyes to new ways of “troubleshooting” myself. I learned how to take an objective look at who I was, identify my weaknesses, and turn them into strengths. This was the start of my own personal refinement process. The more I learned about different personalities, the better I became at working with diverse groups of people. Collaborating slowly became my strength. And who doesn’t like collaboration?!
Toward the end of camp, we learned how to give and receive feedback. I know…I know… feedback is feedback. How difficult is it really? Just say how you feel and the situation will be fixed, right? Nope. Apparently, feedback is more complicated than that. I learned this the hard way when I would give ‘constructive’ feedback to friends and family about everyday things and cause problem after problem with that individual. That’s not how feedback is supposed to work. It was at this camp that I learned the significance of not just giving effective and meaningful feedback, but also about how to receive and respond to feedback. It was this knowledge that taught me how to work well with different types of people in a group and how to address problems within that group more quickly and effectively.
Once I started to learn about my personality and practice good feedback, I was hooked! I was determined to become the “Swiss Army Knife” of any group I worked with, having the ability to identify which tools and skills are needed at the right time. I learned how to identify my weaknesses and how to work with them instead of against them, maintaining the sharper and more resilient ‘tools’, and working to sharpen or delegate the dull ones. I make annual goals to target these weaknesses and have worked through different ways of refocusing them so they become strengths. I was, and continue to be, an endless self-improvement project; a Michelangelo chipping away the imperfect stone of my personal to-be-masterpiece. With patience and persistence, I have redefined myself and am becoming the person I aspire to be. All I needed were the right tools.
Check out our blog post “Real People. Real Reviews. Creating a Culture of Positive Feedback” to learn more about how to give and receive effective feedback.