What’s My Superpower?

What’s My Superpower?

An Introspection

Please meet Jamie Frogale, SHRM-SCP, who authored the excellent mid-October OE Communiqué 2.0 Blog guest blog post, “What’s My Superpower?” that you are about to read. She calls it an ‘introspection’, but after reading it, it has turned into more of a meditation for us. It has launched a number of mental journeys, searches really, as to the nature of ‘superpowers’ and what about them is so intriguing. Thanks for that, Jamie.

Jamie is the Director of Learning and Development at Arlington Community Federal Credit Union, where she manages and leads talent development, training, and internal communication.  Prior to joining Arlington Community FCU, Jamie held roles including Learning & Development Manager, Training & Quality Manager, Educational Program Manager, and Area Operations Manager at companies ranging in size from about 50 employees up to and including multi-divisional Fortune 500 companies. 

She has worked in credit unions, banking, member associations, and retail industries during her 25-year career.  Jamie’s expertise in staff development, organizational culture, instructional design, and facilitation has served her well

Jamie has a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from the University of Phoenix, and a Master of Arts in Education and Human Development from George Washington University.  She also holds the Senior Certified Professional in Human Resources (SHRM-SCP) designation from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Certified Professional in Learning and Performance  (CPLP) from the Association for Talent Development (ATD)…and oh, by the way, she is the daughter of Kay Powers, graduate of the U.S. Army Organizational Effectiveness School (Class #1-81), and “OESO Extraordinaire”! Good job, Kay!

Ladies, and Gentlemen…Jamie Frogale.

What’s My Superpower?

An Introspection

By Jamie Frogale

“What makes you effective in your role”, a CEO once asked me? I was arrested by the question. Mentally stunned, I stood there with wide eyes and not a sensible answer in sight. What I did think about however, were the possible reasons she might ask such a question:

  • Does she think I am not effective?
  • Does she not know what my skill set?
  • Is she disappointed with me?

Once the rush of anxiety passed and my logical brain kicked in, I asked her what she meant. She said she was asking about what I considered to be my “superpower?” Whew…a bit of relief…I wasn’t in trouble…

After a few anxious heartbeats, I answered with, “I recognize patterns and identify solutions quickly.”

Give me a bent or broken team or process and I am on it. I thrive in these situations…up to the point I have the root causes of a problem identified, a solution set being applied, or a team or department in good working order. Once I’m there, I run the risk of getting bored absent other problems to solve. Luckily, I have not had too many droughts in my career. You’ll know what I mean.

The next question up was, “How does that ‘superpower’ help you as a learning and development (L&D) professional? Where does it show up and translate into success for you and the organization?”

In graduate school, I took a learning theory class. It wasn’t my favorite given that I prefer practice to theory, so I struggled with many of the theories the professor covered that didn’t translate and connect in my mind with real world applications. I don’t care much if a tree falling in the forest makes a sound or doesn’t.

I did well in the class, and until I found myself in the conversation I related above, I never felt like I had internalized and integrated much of the content of the class. The conversation provided the moment for something to ‘click’ for me, and it helped motivate me to do a deeper dive into the patterning and problem solving ‘superpower’ I’d identified to the CEO.

I started to think about the full scope of my role as a manager of my team and my accountability to manage learning programs for my company. My team and I manage typical tasks associated with subjects related to things like: compliance training, new employee onboarding, writing and updating procedures, and overseeing administration for classroom training. We also participate in project teams so we stay current with the latest thinking, programs, and innovations.

Much of this seemed like, and in fact is, ‘routine-no-superpower-required’ kind of work…until, that is, I folded-in the context in which this work is done. Many of the decisions I make in my role inform and influence the entire organization. I help set and drive direction. This is huge and important…the realm of ‘superpowers’ even.

Wow! I now if felt some pressure. How can I be sure that I am making the right decisions? It’s funny how the mind works, how we humans learn things and when. Sometimes learning is delayed, separated in time from the situation and circumstances in which the lessons were taught. Such was the case for me.

One of the theories I was taught in graduate school was organizational systems theory. It postulates that an organization is a system just like the human body and what happens in one-part impacts other parts. Makes sense doesn’t it? Inputs and outputs also get into the act and have implications. My mental image of how a system works is that it’s like a balloon…if you squeeze one end, the balloon is going to bulge somewhere else. I realized that I have been unconsciously using systems theory in my work and applying it in my day-to-day decision-making.

An example: When I participate in a project team I help to make decisions about business rules, business processes and workflows, who does what, and how best to train the staff on new initiatives. I’m able to do these things because in my role I am fully immersed in the operations of the entire organization. I know the business strategy, structure, and current processes and procedures. I know how we communicate. I know what our customers want, and I know the business rules we have in place. In short, I know, and so do the members of my team.

We are not SMEs in every area. We have pockets of expertise, but our general knowledge runs at a level higher than the intricacies of each of our specific roles. We understand organizational context…there’s that word again. We know where the connections are, and where the disconnects are as well. We have a view of the whole and know how work flows from one area to another.

Having this deep knowledge and context of the whole of the organization permits us to see patterns, interdependencies, and also see that sometimes causes and effects get turned around…meaning the things that might be considered causes are actually the effects of some other action. When you squeeze in one spot, there’s going to be a bulge somewhere else.

I’ve discovered a number of takeaways from my short introspection:

  1. We all have a ‘superpower’ or two, and it’s vitally important to know what it/they are and be able to talk cogently about how they relate to the work we do or aspire to do.
  • Theory is important especially when it can be explained in terms of practice and is integrated into our work.
  • Work in organizations with lots of moving parts can be vastly more effective if are able to take a systems perspective.
  • Taking action without context is likely to send us and others off on fools’ errands, do irreparable damage our credibility, and engender mistrust.
  • Quiet introspection every so often is a worthwhile activity.

So, now that I’ve told you my story, a question: “What are your superpowers”? It’s worth the time it takes to think about it…

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