Good Lurks in Shadowing
By: Amy Donovan, CFO
Alameda County Community Food Bank
Editor’s note: I’ve had the true privilege of working with Amy for about 9 months now, so when she decided to write up her experiences, I was honored she wanted them to be shared widely with others. She shares so much great learning that many others can benefit from.
When my leadership coach, Jo Ilfeld, PhD, first recommended I shadow senior management peers, I was skeptical. I worried that team members wouldn’t want me hanging around, listening to conversations, and seeing how they worked.
While my relationships with my teammates were productive, I knew they could be even richer, more open and supportive. So, I put my worries aside and asked my peers to let me into their world for a half day. I let them choose which part of their day: team meetings, external meetings, or just observing them in action in their offices.
Here’s what happened:
Not everyone accepted my request to shadow for four hours and that was OK.
We went to lunch or had just one meeting instead; we continue to have lunch and meet. Our working relationships continue to grow perhaps partly because I expressed an interest in their work.
One teammate eagerly accepted the full four hours.
Seeing her in action was valuable. We broke down some of the walls between our departments. I learned how my team can work with and appreciate her and her staff better. I saw her doing some of what she does best, what she was hired to do. I witnessed how she works with her staff at a high level.
Everyone appreciated my efforts.
Shadowing one colleague, I went to an external meeting with a group focused on poverty issues. I was introduced by my colleague and was welcomed with “That’s so cool your CFO would come to something like this!” My effort helped our organization look even more engaged. At internal meetings, I was similarly welcomed and eagerly included in fun meeting activities including team-building exercises.
In all cases, shadowing helped me renew my efforts to nurture working relationships, lend support to peers, appreciate their contributions, learn new activities and skills to try with my team, and even have more fun on the job.
Find the good that lurks in shadowing!