Jan. 2, 2023

And My Word for 2023 is...Clarity! (Challenge #48)

And My Word for 2023 is...Clarity! (Challenge #48)

So I left you on a bit of a cliffhanger in episode 47, when I discussed my opinions about new year’s resolutions, and how I found it much more productive to instead pick a word of the year. I try to keep that word in mind for making all of my big decisions, and handling whatever opportunities the coming year may throw at me. Last week I shared some of my previous words of the year, but I made you wait until 2023 proper for this year’s word, which is…Clarity. In today’s episode I’m going to explain what I mean by clarity, how I determined clarity was the concept I want to focus on this year, and more specifically how I hope to bring more clarity to this podcast and the Kind Leadership Guild in 2023. 

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This episode was produced by Podcast Boutique .

Transcript

So I left you on a bit of a cliffhanger in episode 47, when I discussed my opinions about new year’s resolutions, and how I found it much more productive to instead pick a word of the year. I try to keep that word in mind for making all of my big decisions, and handling whatever opportunities the coming year may throw at me. Last week I shared some of my previous words of the year, but I made you wait until 2023 proper for this year’s word, which is…Clarity. In today’s episode I’m going to explain what I mean by clarity, how I determined clarity was the concept I want to focus on this year, and more specifically how I hope to bring more clarity to this podcast and the Kind Leadership Guild in 2023. 

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Welcome to the Kind Leadership Challenge, the podcast that empowers educational and library leaders to heal their organizations! I’m Dr. Sarah Clark, founder of the Kind Leadership Guild, where I use my PhD in Higher ed leadership and nearly 2 decades of experience in academic libraries to coach my fellow educational and library leaders who want to build a better world without burning out. 

Kind Leaders aren’t perfect. But we’re learning how to make the tough decisions without becoming jerks. We design processes that allow organizations to thrive without unsustainable workloads. And we’ve realized that when we stop controlling and start collaborating, the impossible becomes effortless. It all sounds pretty simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. So if you’re up for a challenge, stick around for the next 10 minutes as I teach you how your school or library can build a sustainable thriving legacy that makes your community a more educated and informed place to live, work, and thrive.


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What do I mean by clarity? For me, clarity boils down to knowing what’s going on in a situation, how you want to improve it, and why. If you’ve been listening for the past year, you’ve probably figured out I’m a very goal-oriented person. It’s one of my superpowers as a leader, which of course means it’s also the source of a lot of my leadership challenges. Goals are awesome, if they’re picked because they are what you want or will get you closer to what you want. They’re not so awesome if you pick them because you just need to fill some time, or worse because they’re what you think you “should” want to do.  

And that’s why I’ve picked Clarity as my word for 2023. For a lot of good and understandable reasons, my personal and professional life over the last 5 years has been spent running from one fire to another, and flitting from one project to another. A lot of busy-ness and productivity, with the occasional crisis to break up the routine. And when I look back, I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. I moved halfway across the country to a city I’d never visited just 3 months prior. I get to serve the library of the best university in a city filled with great universities. I’ve accomplished some cool personal and professional projects. I’ve led through a pandemic. I’ve lost almost 100 pounds. I’ve started the Kind Leadership Guild, and the Kind Leadership Challenge podcast. But what does all that add up to? When I look at it all, I’m not sure. And if I’m not sure, then how can you be sure if you want to come on this journey? 

And that realization was when I decided I needed some more clarity about what I’m doing now to move through the next steps of my journey as a leader and as a human. And when I looked at my life through that lens. I realized that the project where I most needed more clarity was the Kind Leadership Guild. I know what kind leadership is, and how it can transform organizations. But the methods by which I share that knowledge and develop other kind leaders? That’s been a lot fuzzier. But I think now, a little over 3 years since I started this project, I’m finally getting some clarity on the whole thing.

The Kind Leadership Guild was based on a simple premise, that You don’t have to be perfect to build a better world. That goes for me, for you, for the organizations we lead, and the communities we serve. The point is to grow humanely, manage effectively, and create collaboratively, and gradually we will all learn the best ways to heal our worlds. And so, in late 2019 I started the Kind Leadership Guild, and I gave myself permission to be imperfect and pivot as needed, because there was no rush to get it right. A blog and a facebook group evolved into monthly zoom workshops during lockdown. I tried group coaching for a while. I did—and still do—some public speaking. I created the Get Unstuck course on kind decision making. I developed a free guide to mastering challenging conversations. I got active on LinkedIn, and I started the kind leadership challenge podcast. 

Some of those things have been hits, some were flops, and most were somewhere in between. But as 2022 wound down I was growing more aware of a problem with my experimental approach. All of the things I’d tried to charge money for either were personally unsustainable or financially unsuccessful. The experimentation has been helpful and educational, but If I really want to help all of us to build a better world, then it’s time for some clarity. 

So, having defined my leadership, problem, I got curious about some questions. 

1.       What kind of support would help you become the kind leader you wish to become?

2.       How am I best equipped to help you grow as a kind leader, and what might that product look like? 

3.       How do I successfully encourage you to invest in that product without burning out, going broke, or coming across like a sleazy used car salesperson? 

So here’s the clarity plan for 2023, as of today. It’s going to change through the year, I’m sure. But it will change with the end goal of Kind Leadership in mind—to build a better world without burning out.   

The first two questions of what help you seem to need and what help I can provide, thankfully, seem to have the same answer. I’ve been lucky enough to have had some one-on-one conversations with several of you over the last few years. Some of them were more formal coaching sessions, others just conversations about some ongoing issue that shifted toward brainstorming and advice. Those have been some of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had since starting the Kind Leadership Guild, and many of you who I’ve talked with have found them valuable as well. I’m finding 1 on 1 leadership coaching to be a bit like a reference interview, but with less database searching and more soul searching. I like doing it, you report you get value from it, and it’s something I can do more or less of easily as other life commitments ebb and flow. 

So for 2023, I’m just going to try selling 1:1 leadership coaching. Number of slots? I don’t know yet. I’ll start adding clients today, and you can see the link in the comments to schedule a call to learn more. I’ll stop adding clients when I have at least enough to cover the Guild’s expenses with a little left over, while still having time to sleep, play, and breathe.

That leaves the third question: how do I connect with leaders willing and able to pay for kind leadership coaching without burning out or coming off like a sleazy salesperson? I’ve done an embarrassing amount of research on this one, and I think it’s just time for me to get over my sales anxiety and start asking for money. If nothing else, even if this is a flop it’ll make me a better advocate in my day job. But what does a Kind marketing plan look like?   

Well, the first thing I need to do is help more people learn that the Kind Leadership Guild exists. I’ve had some luck doing this by promoting the kind leadership challenge podcast on social media, most notably LinkedIn. If you don’t follow me there, you probably should. I’m also going to get more intentional about getting guest spots on other podcasts. I’ve enjoyed the guest appearances I’ve done this year, and they’ve introduced kind leadership to new leaders, some of whom have joined us here. Finally, tell your colleagues about the show! A personal recommendation carries more weight than a hundred social media clips.

So, once people are aware of the existence of the kind leadership challenge, and by extension the kind leadership guild, it’s time to educate you about what we’re all about. That’s what happens in the podcast itself, and through the Mastering Challenging Conversations checklist, as well as the emails you’ll get when you download the checklist. Every weekday you get a little email that’s essentially a scaled-down version of this podcast—a quick story with an actionable lesson to improve your leadership practice. 

And of course, it’s not much of a guild without a place to connect with your fellow leaders, which is where the kind leadership challenge facebook community comes in. A lot of you are there—in fact more people are members of the group than regularly listen to the podcast, but it could stand to be more active. I’ve got some ideas to breathe new life into the community, but I don’t yet quite have enough clarity on that point to announce the game plan today. I will soon, though, so go join the community at the link in the show notes if you haven’t already.

So let’s say a leader does all that. They become aware that the kind leadership challenge is a thing, and then they get educated through the podcast and other free resources, and connect with their fellow kind leaders in the facebook community. That’s all great, but they—YOU-- deserve more than just education and community. As a kind leader, you deserve the personal and professional transformation that will enable you to become the most effective, humane, and collaborative leader for your organization and the community it serves. And when you’re ready, you can schedule a call with me, talk about your own leadership challenges without judgment or shame, and we can work together to design a short or long-term coaching engagement that will empower you to meet those challenges at a price that works for both of us.

It took me 3 years, and I’m still working on it, but a focus on clarity is already starting to pay dividends for me in 2023, even though it’s only January 2! I’ll report back on Project Clarity in a few months, and let you know how it’s going. And between now and then, here’s your challenge. Whether or not it’s YOUR word of the year, what in your life could use some more clarity? Define the problem, identify some questions that could help you solve the problem, and then figure out a plan to get answers to those questions. Thanks for listening to me as I’ve worked through the same process, and feel free to use this episode as a template the next time you need some clarity on something.

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Thanks for listening and for taking action to become a kinder leader. If you found this week’s episode insightful, tell your fellow leaders!  Never doubt that day by day, you’re building a better world, even if you can't see it yet. So until next time, stay kind now.  

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