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Professional Learning Leaders Series - Peggy Page

Tuesday, April 26, 2016 11:21 AM | Anonymous

Maine ATD and Our Mission

At its core, the Maine Chapter of the Association for Talent Development promotes work-related learning. This is the second in a series of profiles featuring leaders who, acting out of their core values, make positive professional change happen.

- Bill Maxwell


Brief Bio

Peggy Page’s professional title is Learning Design and Delivery Manager at Goodwill Industries of Northern New England. She manages the design and delivery of employee training. Currently, her team’s focus “is on rolling out a comprehensive suite of management development programs.” Prior to this position, Peggy served as L&D Manager Program Evaluation and Measurement at TD Bank. Earlier at TD Bank, she managed a team of talented instructional designers. Her team built classroom, virtual classroom and online learning opportunities for employees in all roles. Before moving to Maine, she worked in California as a Call Center Manager in Global Customer Service for Applied Materials. Peggy is also a past President of Maine ATD.


A Brief Conversation

In the days when California condors were on the brink of extinction, Peggy Page “almost drove off the Pacific Coast Highway” after spotting one flying high above the cliffs. Birds are a passion, as is living the life of an authentic leader. And birds, in no small way, also led her to Maine.

“Birds, yes.”

Our talk is in a coffee shop, and hers is the most engaged, expressive voice in the room.

“I have been a manager all my career. In 2001, even though I loved my work, I was growing tired of California. My family was back east, so I decided it was time – and Maine had a lot of birds I hadn’t seen, so this is what I picked.”

Well then, I thought, that’s trusting the universe. She shared that she had gotten a financial package from Applied Materials, the California corporation she had left. I asked about how she had found work here in Maine.

“I saw a notice about a Maine ASTD meeting and showed up. Really. Sounds like I’m making it up, but I’m not.”

At the meeting, she sat with Susan Butler who matched her up with a master’s program at USM. She also met Carol McCoy, a “job coach.” Carol suggested that Peggy look through Monster.com and find positions that looked interesting to her – and not to worry about qualifications.  Peggy found a listing that was for a manager position at Banknorth (later TD Bank).

Carol: “You’re qualified for this position right now.”

Peggy: “Really?”

Carol: “Yes, and I know the hiring manager.”

Peggy: “Really?”

Little wonder that Peggy believes in serendipity and being open to possibilities. She worked at the bank for over 13 years. In part, her love of birds had led to a professional adventure in Maine.

I asked about some experiences that have helped shape her as a leader. She talked about a time she was hired to turn around an organization where the local manager in a corporation had hired friends and family. In order to be successful, she had to coach them to get better or manage them out of the company. Not an easy task, ever. The people she had to let go were out of synch with what their jobs were all about. Peggy took the time to help them understand that their lives would be better in other positions better matching their strengths.

Peggy, as a teacher and a coach, believes in having real conversations.

“Stop thinking you’re going to fix people and focus instead on finding strengths to build on. Marcus Buckingham [author of Now, Discover Your Strengths] is like my god. You’re doing them a favor if you manage out those who are miserable at work because of a bad fit. You simply can’t motivate without having real conversations.”

I asked her to elaborate.                 

“In the leadership learning program we are doing at Goodwill, we talk about who you are and what you do.  Who you are as a person is inseparable to what you do as a manager. I like analogies so I bring in pennies to illustrate this. One side of the coin is who you are, and the other side is what you do.”

“OK, I said. “Let’s open it up then to who you are and what you do. I’m going to ask for experiences and ideas. Tell me about tipping points. Any aha moments for you?”

“When I was managing the call center, I thought I was a smart person. I was great at processes and measurement and all that. Productivity. There was no talk of EI back in those days. Being smart, I used to think that the way was my way. Until I got a 360 feedback on my performance. Found out that I wasn’t a good people manager.”

“Painful?”

“Yes. So I had a co-manager friend I adored as a person but didn’t respect because I thought she was a pushover. She was a textbook F and I was a textbook T. I asked for her help, and we became best friends. She gave me a gift. The gift was the chance to turn things around.”

What impressed me is that Peggy asked for help. I thought about many people in positions of power who can’t bring themselves to do that.

“I learned that the manager’s number one responsibility is to develop people. You’re good if your people are good. There’s a big divide if you think the success is because of you. Hopefully a lightbulb will go off.”

“Like it did for you.”

“Like it did for me.”

I asked her about how her current position at Goodwill came to be. Her professional life continues to be a bit unanticipated.

“Melissa Suey called and asked me if I would consider taking the position. I said yes.”

“Tell me about what makes things great there.”

“I love the job. New purpose and motivation. Like Dan Pink says, most of us want to have autonomy, mastery and purpose in our work. The purpose at Goodwill is built in. One challenge is to educate people, employees included, that Goodwill is far more than a used clothing place. We assist people in neuro-rehab, residences for people with mental disabilities.”

As she speaks about Goodwill, Peggy becomes more animated. She loves that Goodwill’s goal is about creating sustainable communities, with a goal of moving 10,000 households into stability in the next ten years. She talks about new opportunities for redesigning employee learning. Recently, her team created a new employee orientation based on telling the stories of ten employees. The stories are posted to their intranet and give people a deeper understanding of what Goodwill in the real world of felt experiences.

I asked about suggestions she might have for leaders.

“Be open - the stumble can really open up the new opportunity. And get people excited about their professional learning. You can read all the books, but being who you are keys leadership. Also, Will Callendar at USM gave me some great advice: live the question. The question helps move you forward. There are always new questions. We don’t live in a static world. As I said, be real in your conversations.”

I asked for an example.

“Well, for instance, ask someone What keeps you here at Goodwill? or What would make you leave Goodwill? The answers you get will help you understand what motivates people on your team. People say, ‘But what if they tell me it’s the money?’ and I say, well, then you know. And it might be OK that it’s the money. You don’t know the background story. The process helps you understand the motivations and then you can appeal to those as you manage the team. Have some courage.”

Peggy credits fellow MATD member Fran Liautaud with helping her with how to ask questions well. One good question to develop a person’s thinking is to ask, “What evidence do you have for that?”

Authenticity is a theme that comes up again and again when you talk with Peggy. She makes the analogy that as a liar struggles remembering his or her lies so a manager struggles speaking prescribed lines that they have been told are the right ones to use. And Peggy has no use for those memorized simple messages sometimes used to put people in the wrong box.

“There is no I in team? Of course there is an I – and more than one. Individuals make up the team. They don’t put the pitcher in left field, do they?”

I asked for some final thoughts aimed at younger leaders.

“Get connected then people will think of you when there’s an opening. It’s why MATD is so important. Being open and visible is better than just being on one track. If you work on things you feel passionate about, without realizing it at a conscious level, you make the right decisions. There’s no one right answer.”

OK, there may indeed be no one right answer; however, Peggy Page has found one unique path to leadership. It’s a journey we can also take in our own unique stories. If you follow what brings you joy in your work, you put yourself on a track that has been there all the time, waiting for you. The professional life you ought to be living is then the one you are living. You begin to meet helpers who feel that authenticity at a deep level, and doors can open in unexpected ways.

Following birds is optional. 


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