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Leadership in Action: Emily Humphrey

Leadership in Action is our ongoing series featuring inspiring leaders who are taking conscious leadership into their workplaces and lives.

Emily Humphrey is the Director of Criminal Justice Services (CJS) for Larimer County, CO. She attended Crafted Leadership’s Lead by Design course and subsequently engaged Nancy to train over 80 members of the CJS leadership team in conflict resolution. Nancy sat down with Emily to discuss the impact and benefit of the leadership training to Emily and her departments.


Why did you choose to engage us to train your leadership team?

I came into the Criminal Justice Services with a staff of 200. With that number of staff, individuals naturally have different opinions or positions.

I think people had built up walls over past issues and learned to keep to themselves. As a result, we lacked some cohesiveness. This kind of divide would only get bigger and needed to be addressed. Stories were being made up, and hurt feelings were happening. This was affecting the workplace and our being successful at our jobs.

I sought the training from you to help people feel comfortable coming to their superiors and saying, “I have an issue with you and here is why,” and to be able to address the issue in a professional manner, versus gossiping or letting the issue bottle up inside them.

What did you find useful about our conflict resolution process?

I was a prosecutor for 22 years. In that line of work, there is always conflict and confrontation that can feel like personal attacks. That’s just the nature of litigation.

Your conflict process is non-adversarial, even though it confronts the issue head-on. Learning your conflict process felt uncomfortable to me at first. It seemed too easy and too direct. That was the biggest eye-opener for me. It was a little shocking how being so direct could be so non-confrontational, when I thought it would be just the opposite.

I think a lot of people will tiptoe around an issue, but your process is addressing it head-on. And you soften it with “this is my story, this is what I believed.”

What is the impact, the result of the training investment?

The teams have a tool to walk through conflict that isn’t adversarial. It gives them time to think and recognize their own assumptions and to seek out if they’re correct. What I learned is we can be vulnerable, and that actually makes the tool work successfully.

We have staff for whom this is their first job. They may not know how to take complaints forward. Now they have a conflict resolution tool they can utilize, so instead of stewing or gossiping with co-workers, they can use the tool and nip the conflict in the bud.

Choosing Crafted Leadership to deliver conflict resolution training for over 80 staff was a substantial commitment on your part. Out of all your training choices, why choose ours?

You teach tools that people can use on their own. There’s an ease to them. They’re not so complex that you always have to have additional training. Above the line/ below the line, 100% responsibility, the 200% responsibility, and the drama triangle – once you learn the tools, you can easily reinforce them in 10 minutes in staff meetings.

Your principles are very simple yet complex at the same time. I believe everyone can use them. I believe a young individual in their first job could approach someone who has been here 15 years and use your conflict resolution tool and not feel intimidated by that, and vice-versa. What I have actually seen is staff not in leadership using the tool with leadership more than I’ve seen the opposite.

The impact of being able to express yourself with consistent tools means less stress, less tension for everyone.

What was the impact of Lead by Design on you personally as a leader?

Before your training, I would have said that I was a pretty effective and skilled leader. Then I took the Lead by Design course and thought, “Wow, there are a lot of things I could have done a lot better over the years.”

Asking myself, “Am I above the line right now?” or “Am I doing everything for everybody else and giving 200%, so I’m going to be feeling poorly about that later on because I’m doing too much?” “Am I taking 100% responsibility?” Those are all good questions that need to be reinforced. And it’s helped me as a leader to recognize them.

The language you teach in the course instills a positive culture and works in any department since the issues we face are similar because we are all human.

How can Crafted Leadership support government?

It sounds like you have done a lot of training in big corporations and in the private sector, but I think the government and that county sector are equally as important. The county government has the same type of conflict but in a different setting. I think your skill sets and your tools cross over all different types of jobs, sectors, and employment. Words cannot express my thanks and gratitude.

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