We sat down with RevJen’s Chief Revenue Officer, Elizabeth Super, who completed a week-long professional development training through the Women’s Leadership Program at Yale University. Below is a discussion our co-CEO Matthew Joseph had with Elizabeth about her experience and her reflections on the importance of investing in professional development.
Tell us about the program you participated in.
I attended the Yale School of Management’s Women’s Leadership Program through their Executive Education Program. We were the proud members of the 24th cohort of women leaders. Their goal is all about professional development– to strengthen our leadership skills and strategic vision to manage teams, drive growth through innovation, and make sharper decisions.
Who was in the room with you? What were their backgrounds?
I had the privilege of meeting women leaders from around the world, with roughly 50 of us joining from different sectors. Only a few of us were from the nonprofit or philanthropic sectors, with the vast majority from the corporate, healthcare, education, and private sectors. And yet, we joined together to tackle some practical problems facing women in the workplace, supported each other in our respective journeys, and committed to staying in touch to hold each other accountable. We’re creating mini-communities outside of the cohort, checking in frequently, sending each other articles to comment on, asking each other about how the transition “home” has gone for each of us. It was a deeply moving experience, and one I’ll cherish for a long time.
What tools/skills did you walk away with?
It was amazing to be back in the classroom: appreciating the feel of the university setting, learning from peers, and absorbing the most recent research on leadership, management, and building teams. The focus on the sessions were practical in their application such as exercises in decision-making styles, assessing your listening styles, leaning hard into negotiation and persuasion skills as our superpowers, and addressing barriers to public speaking. We focused our time on innovation, made the case for building cross-functional teams, and articulated the need for obsessive documentation to track progress (the latter being one of my favorite topics!).
The sessions were also aspirational in that they forced us to remain curious about how we show up as leaders: we often focus on how we fail as leaders, but we had exercises that really challenged us to view our leadership strengths. One such exercise was the Reflected Best Self Exercise™ (RBSE). The idea behind this is to strengthen the way we view our leadership in positive examples – instead of what we always do in performance reviews, which often focuses on where we’ve failed. The stories I asked my current/former colleagues and friends to provide offered moments of deep reflection, gratitude, and appreciation. I encourage you to try this exercise as I will reflect on this for years to come.
We also had breakouts and small group work to focus on peer coaching and creating psychological safety in our workplaces. The need to focus on your individual work as a leader, and then focusing on the community (your workplace, your constituents, your stakeholders) was a solid reminder of our responsibility to lead while still figuring things out. It’s ok to still be learning. It’s ok to struggle. It’s ok to celebrate when you win.
What advice do you have about investing in your professional development?
Do it. The time, energy, and financial investment to commit to this is hard (trust me, it was what put this off for me for so long). But the reality is that this commitment you can make for yourself – in large and small ways – to your professional development will reinvigorate your commitment to your work. It forces you to get out of your own way. It forces you to celebrate your own success and the unique things that you bring with your individual leadership style. And the peer aspect of professional development is not to be understated. Having a group of peers to learn alongside challenges you to create a safe space to learn, grow, and be present. And please let us not forget the laughter. Because at the end of it all, taking joy in the work we do is what this is all about.
Elizabeth Super, MPA, is RevJen’s Chief Revenue Officer. She just celebrated her one-year anniversary with RevJen, overseeing our philanthropic partnerships and nonprofit enrollment efforts. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.