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Professional Learning Leaders Series - Sally Wilson

Monday, January 11, 2016 1:36 PM | 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 first in a series of profiles featuring leaders who, acting out of their core values, make positive professional change happen.

- Bill Maxwell

We thought, “Why not start with our President”? Despite Sally’s protests (and her suggested list of more worthy MATD members), we eventually agreed on having a brief conversation. But before we get to that, let’s review some of the facts.

Brief Bio

Sally Wilson is the Learning & Development Manager and Innovation Team Leader at Androscoggin Bank. She is also in a Board advisory role for Literacy Volunteer Androscoggin. She is an instructor with Northern New England for Financial Training Center, a non-profit organization. Her business experience includes a career at LL Bean as an Operational Manager, Project Manager and Corporate Senior Learning Specialist.

A Brief Conversation

Sally started on the board at Maine ATD after she responded to a flyer advertising a volunteer opportunity.

“I saw the flyer asking for someone for helping out with finance.  I knew some of the people on the Board, and I wanted to get involved – so I volunteered.”

In her finance role, Sally accomplished an operating budget and developed a close working relationship with the board – a board she calls “welcoming.” Two of the people she worked with became mentors, Peggy Page and Katie Vaillancourt. Peggy was the President at the time Sally first volunteered, and Katie became President later on.

I asked her about the most satisfying part of being Maine ATD President.

“It’s very rewarding getting work done through volunteers. It requires different strategies compared to working with organizations with employees. Motivation is different. The Maine ATD board is a team of people who have diverse reasons for doing the work. Success comes when you are genuine, and you treat people with respect. The people on the board embrace that thinking; there’s no need to pretend you’re something you’re not.”

Mostly, Sally says, “It’s the people on the board who make it rewarding.” Sally agrees with Jim Collins’s line: “Great vision without great people is irrelevant…” She suggests that “People need to associate authentically. It’s all about finding the truths that feel right to you and living out those truths the best you can.”

Sally believes one of those truths involves taking care of yourself in order to be of more help to others. She knows firsthand the difficulties of balancing time as you navigate a professional life. Along these lines, I asked her to respond to a Brené Brown quotation.

“Crazy-busy is a great armor, it's a great way for numbing. What a lot of us do is that we stay so busy, and so out in front of our life, that the truth of how we're feeling and what we really need can't catch up with us.”

Sally’s reaction was honest and quick.

“I completely lost my balance one time in my work life. I kept saying ‘yes’ – and I really don’t know the reason why I kept accepting responsibilities. I’m not sure what I thought I had to prove. I know though that getting through this loss of balance made me stronger. After that I became more focused – with a purpose. I don’t want to repeat that experience. Of course I still can have tough times, but I really learned from the episode. I have compassion as a leader in part because of my going through all of that.”

Quoting Brown again: “Showing some vulnerability makes you a stronger leader.” I am thinking she would applaud Sally’s story, a story emphasizing authenticity and collaboration rather than command and control. Sally believes that talent development depends on “a time for reflection with colleagues.”  She also believes that “Leadership involves creating an environment where you take time for learning moments.”

I asked her if she had ever experienced this sort of learning environment. Her first thought was of a manager who supervised her at LL Bean.

“She was open to different ways of thinking,” Sally said. “When we had one to ones, it was a safe place. She listened – and I remember her asking one question at every meeting: What have you learned since we last met?”

Sally’s manager always had the time to listen and to give appropriate feedback. “One of her strengths was her self-awareness. And her inquisitive listening was at the right level, not too much and not too little. Comfortable, but focused on the job at hand.”

Sally, it seems to us, mirrors those same traits in her role as Maine ATD President:collaborative, authentic, outcome focused. Sally believes “Each leadership story is unique.” To this we say true enough. As evidence, we offer up what can happen after you respond to a Maine ATD flyer.


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