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Conscient Leaders: Interview with Dana Pauley

by | Dec 1, 2020 | Interviews

In our latest Conscient Leaders interview, we talk with Dana Pauley, Interim Executive Director of Leadership Montgomery, about how she’s leading her organization through change—and making time for her family and herself.

Read the full transcipt below.

Hannah:
Good afternoon. This is Hannah Romick with Conscient Strategies, and this is another episode of our Conscient Leaders series. I’m joined today by my colleague, Dana Pauley , who is the interim CEO at Leadership Montgomery. And I am super excited to have a really fun conversation about all things leadership in the world today. Dana, I’d love for you to take a minute to just introduce a little bit about yourself and Leadership Montgomery.

Dana:
Yes. Thank you, Hannah, for this opportunity. I’m thrilled to be here, talking with you today. So I’ll start by talking about Leadership Montgomery. We are a community organization that was founded in the eighties in response to a need for more connected, civic minded leaders. We’re, we’re probably most well-known for our leadership programs. And we currently have three of those that kind of run the span of your adult life. So we have an emerging leaders program for mid-level professionals who are on the rise in their career. So those that are, you know, fast track for those C-suite positions. We have our core program, which is for established leaders. And then when we have our senior leadership program, which is the only program we currently have with age focus, and it’s for participants who are 55 and older, and it’s a mix of people who are working and retired. Outside of our leadership programs, we have a corporate volunteer council, which works with companies to either start or grow structured employee volunteer programs. And then we have our newest addition, our body of work in race equity. So we have a long-term program, the real inclusion program, which works with companies to start to think about making an action plan to change their organization so that they’re operating from a race equity lens. And then we have a suite of workshops that kind of meet a person no matter where they’re at in thinking about race and racism, and how they implement some of those changes into their life. Personally, outside of work, I don’t know what that means these days and times, but, I’m a wife, I’m a mom. I’m engaged in the community. I’m happily involved with the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County as their board chair. I try to volunteer as often as possible. I don’t make enough time to do things for myself, but when I do, I like to exercise and I like to be outside.

Hannah:
Here we are, it’s 2020, everybody is remarking about what a year it has been. There has been so much between the pandemic and George Floyd and the rise of Black Lives Matter, and the election campaign, not to mention so many other things. One of the great things that’s happened is you’ve just been named the interim director of Leadership Montgomery, and I’d love to talk a little bit and hear how you’re rising to this new position and how you’re taking your team through such turbulent times.

Dana:
Remembering that people, you know, whether they really like to, or not, they bring their whole selves into their work environment. And just checking in with everyone to make sure that they’re handling what’s going on in their personal life. And that they’re, you know, they feel comfortable with their workloads right now. They feel fulfilled in the jobs that they’re doing, because we’ve made a lot of changes this year in response to the pandemic and everybody was wonderful and “I’ll do whatever it takes to get it done.” But you always have to check in with anybody who says, “I’ll do whatever it takes,” because those are the people that might not take the time to take a breath. So I ask people to take a breath. I ask people to remember that the work that we do is wonderful, the community is behind us. But, but we can’t do it if you’re tired, or if you’re not, you know, feeling great about what you have going on in your personal life. So those constant check-ins are important.

Hannah:
That’s great. Do you do them one-on-ones or do you do them in a team setting?

Dana:
A mix of both. I check in with people one-on-one as often as I can, and then we do a weekly staff meeting on Mondays and try to make sure that it’s not just a, “this is what I have coming up this week,” but some of that higher level conversation of “these are the areas of opportunities that I see for us moving forward,” because you want people to understand that it’s a collaboration. Although you might be directly responsible for one thing, you have a greater role within the organization. So making sure that your colleagues understand your vision, because I think every employee should have a vision for their work. That helps speed the success of what’s going on. So if you’re able to communicate that vision, and check in with each other, it just makes it a lot better for collaboration.

Dana:
I like to say we’re all “successfully struggling” and I don’t know that that’s a bad thing right now. You know, we’ve all been dealt some raw hands. You know, part of what the leadership programs accomplish is they’re about stripping away who you have to be at work and allowing you to have a full day to think about yourself, to think about your impact in the community and to expand your network either on a personal level or a professional level. So when you provide an environment where people feel comfortable being vulnerable, they can talk through the challenges that they’re seeing. So we have been doing a great job of keeping people connected and keeping them comfortable talking about what they’re going through.

Hannah:
And would you recommend to leaders around the United States or even the world, that that becomes like the central element of their leadership?

Dana:
I think communication is key. I think that, you know, you want to try and stay as positive as possible, but it’s okay to say, “I’m concerned. These are the things that are weighing on me right now. I’m so glad that I have you here with me in this process, because you know, it makes it a little bit easier to get through things.” I actually just said that to somebody a couple of hours ago on a call with them. I said, “you know, I’m so grateful to have you during this transition period.”

Hannah:
And are you finding time? One of the things that you and I have talked about in the past is the “taking care of self.” Help me, help the world, understand what may or may not be getting in the way of you being able to do that.

Dana:
So I will say that one of the things that I did, not too long ago, was I went and I got a massage for the first time. And it was wonderful. I didn’t realize I had been clenching my teeth while I was sleeping. And, you know, I had my shoulders hunched, just because I had a lot on my mind. I try to make sure I have daily conversation with my husband, which most people don’t think that it’s difficult, but when you’re both really busy and you have children, you realize, “Oh, it’s been the entire day. And we haven’t had the chance to connect.” My motto and my rule for this year is, when I think of somebody, I reach out to them. So keeping those, yeah, thank you. Um, keeping those connections has been pretty important, um, for, for my care. And I think the biggest thing is allowing myself the opportunity to say, “no.””No, I’m not going to do that. And it’s okay that I’m not going to do that.”

Hannah:
One last question for you before we go to close. I’d love to know what’s something you’re doing different in the last few months. Aside from the fact that you have an expanded role, but as a result of COVID and just life in 2020, what’s something that you’ve just shifted and are doing completely different?

Dana:
Trying to make sure that I think about the future in two parts. And let me explain that. So there’s the future of what we would have expected to happen. Those things that we had some control over. And then there’s the future of complete unknown. So I have to constantly think about both paths so that I can plan accordingly. There was conversation of my kids going back to school at one point, and that has kind of quieted. So you have to, you have to wonder, are they ever going back to school? What does that look like? So constantly operating in two lanes, which I realize sounds exhausting, but I think it actually is a little bit more freeing for me because I think more broadly.

Hannah:
Yeah. I could see that. And the like, “okay, here are the things that I have control over and I can make plans accordingly. And here all the other things that I might be able to influence one way or the other, but I have no control over. And so therefore let’s just acknowledge that and move on.” Thank you. This has been really fun. I really appreciat it. There were some great nuggets of wisdom in there that I’m excited for the world to hear, and for us to socialize to the greater good about leadership.

Dana:
Thank you.

 

About Leadership Montgomery:

Leadership Montgomery is advancing Montgomery County through a network of more than 2,500 public, private and nonprofit leaders who share a commitment to making meaningful changes for a thriving community. Celebrating 30 years of excellence, Leadership Montgomery educates, inspires, convenes and connects leaders through programs supported by a hands-on learning curriculum and service-based programs. Our graduates emerge better connected to people, organizations, and volunteer opportunities through improved understanding, services and relationships. To learn more, please visit leadershipmontgomerymd.org.

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