Justine Evarts works for Larimer County in the Clerk and Recorder Department for Vehicle Licensing. Together, she and her four colleagues supervise 40+ employees. A participant in Crafted Leadership’s Lead by Design program for Larimer County leaders, Justine shared how conscious leadership is improving professional and personal contexts.
I’ve been in my job for five years. There are a lot of different personalities in our department, and a large team underneath the other coordinators and me. A big challenge for us is, if a team member doesn’t agree with something that one supervisor is doing, that person will tend to go to a different supervisor and gossip or vent. The situations can turn into a he said/she said situation, with anger and aggression. As a group, we supervisors haven’t addressed this. In a sense, we are a broken team because of this.
Using Conscious Leadership Tools to Address Job Challenges
Our manager called a meeting, sat us all down and asked us two things: 1) what we thought was working and what we thought wasn’t, and 2) what was going on with us, what was happening.
I brought out [Crafted Leadership’s] Collaborative Approach to Conflict worksheet and said, “I have this example from this leadership training program I’m taking that I’d like to share,” and I went through the sheet exactly as it was written. How I felt, what my story was, my own culpability, and then a suggestion on what we could do going forward.
Sharing [the information on the worksheet] was kind of mind-blowing. Everyone took in what I shared instead of being defensive. I believe your conflict tool helps people not get defensive. Others can hear you because you are taking responsibility. You’re not blaming. And I was always big on blaming.
This class has really opened up my mind to the fact that I have responsibility. I tend to be either quiet and get mad, or I make up a story in my head. I never thought about my 100% responsibility at all. Knowing that now and going into that meeting with the worksheet and claiming my responsibility changed everything. Everybody started bringing up new ideas.
Using the Collaborative Approach to Conflict in Team Meetings
I brought up the solution that the five of us — coordinators and training analyst — get together once a week to discuss our issues using Crafted Leadership’s Collaborative Approach to Conflict worksheet as a speaking structure. This tool can help up clear up issues in the moment as a team. My manager and my manager’s manager loved the idea, it’s being implemented and I’m very happy about that.
I like Crafted Leadership’s tools as a way to guide our conversations in a productive way to build trust between the five of us. Trust gets broken with gossip and for other reasons, so as we start this new conflict process as a team, we’ll build back trust.
Practical Applications of Above/Below the Line
We're very short-staffed in my department. It has been so for a couple of months, and it's very stressful for me and my team. Since learning about Above/Below the Line, I've stopped myself — even in the conversations I'm having with my supervisor or my team member or other coordinators or training analyst — and ask myself, “Where am I? Am I above the line or below the line when I'm having this discussion about being short-staffed? Am I being constructive?”
This framework has helped me pause. I love being able to stop myself and choose to have the conversation how I really want to have it, instead of just being angry and then regretting what I've said. This has been a big help for me because I'm very protective of my team, and sometimes I get angry because of the way that things are going.
The Impact of Conscious Leadership on Personal Relationships
The conscious leadership tools you teach have helped me with my relationship with my daughter (who is 17) and her father. Her father and I have not gotten along over the years. It has been very difficult to communicate. We usually have very angry conversations over the phone, which end up with one of us hanging up.
In the last month, since my taking Lead by Design, we’ve had actual conversation — “adult conversation” I call it — and resolved an issue and actually said, "Have a great day," at the end of that conversation. This has never happened.
I attribute that to my taking 100% responsibility for situations and owning what I've done to create it or help it along, and presenting my feelings. I present issues in a way that he doesn't get defensive, because I'm not attacking him. My coming at issues in a completely different way, even down to the inflections in my voice, has helped. He’s starting to change his conversation to almost match mine, which is great.