As I close out this week, I’m also turning the page after an amazing experience. For the past six months or so, I’ve been learning from and networking with some amazing women as a member of the inaugural class of the Alice Houston Women’s Leadership Program at the Leadership Louisville Center.
I first heard about this program last August at their annual luncheon. Hearing about who Alice Houston is and her life’s accomplishments was all the impetus I needed to say “sign me up.” I was honored to have been accepted into the program and, as a small business, received a partial scholarship to participate.
At its core, the program was about leading well. We started with a two-day retreat focused on being well-grounded. At that session, I learned a lot about how I inherently think about situations and make decisions. I learned I’m not the only one who was always told to “be quiet” in school. I also learned to better understand others I communicate with who have a different style than me…. colleagues, clients, family. It was an eye-opening experience and I came away from it feeing full of knowledge. Our next session focused on being well-voiced. We talked about storytelling, and I found that the lessons I brought away from this session impacted my business directly, as we are in the art of practicing storytelling. We also talked about negotiation and making sure both sides walk out feeling like they’ve won. Then we moved on to being well-connected. In this session we got pretty vulnerable and shared life experiences from our different points of view and through the lenses we each see the world everyday. It was eye-opening. And in it, we were reminded from speaker Lettie Johnson that “two things can be true.” It’s a good way to go through life… not being on one extreme or another. In the next session, focused on being well-accomplished, we focused on some great reminders we need in our day-to-day business… how to think strategically, how to have courageous communications, how to lead well. And we ended our program with a lesson on being well-fueled: remembering to set aside our own time, to create boundaries, to be present. As women, our challenges are different as we move up the leadership ladder. The conversations we had will carry us forward.
Content and lessons aside, the women I met in this group are the kind of women I’ve always wanted to know. Everyone is looking to better themselves, to be better leaders, better family members, better friends. We came together and got to know some people we’d otherwise never have met. My new friend Dana Johnson, as an example, is the Senior Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Greater Louisville Inc. I told her as we were wrapping up our discussion that if we were passing each other on the street I would never know how much we have in common. And through this program we found each other and agree that we are some level of twins (it kind of blew our minds). I’m so grateful to the program for now having Dana – and so many others – in my life.
I learned from Ashley Hadley not to be afraid to speak up for what I want. I learned from Leslie Dover to find the fun in every situation. I learned from Jasmine Wadkins how different our points of view can be because of different life experiences and upbringing. I learned from KK (Kristen Kaelin-Campbell) that there is always a funny joke in there somewhere. The list goes on. Wanda, Cassie, April, Sandra, Pamela, Michelle… I could go on and list every single woman in the group. Your comments and additions to conversations are stuck in my head. I’ve learned from you. And I’m better for it.
Our small group conversations will continue, as will my relationship with my mentor. This has a been a powerhouse of a six-month program. I’m genuinely sad it’s over.
Ladies, please don’t be strangers. Let’s keep this going and make sure the first class is always the best class. On we go!by