Aligned Leadership with Alicia A.M. Morgan


ALIGNED LEADERSHIP- PowerBanking Podcast Episode with guest Alicia A.M. Morgan

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Aligned Leadership with Alicia A.M. Morgan - Transcript from the Podcast


Jacqueline Twillie:

Hello, powerbaking fam. Today, we are joined by a fantastic woman in tech, Alicia. Alicia, thanks so much for coming to the power banking family to talk about your leadership journey and a little bit more.

Alicia Morgan:

Thank you for having me. I’m glad to be here.

Jacqueline Twillie:

Awesome. So beyond your LinkedIn profile, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Alicia Morgan:

Well, I am an introvert, which surprises a lot of people. The reason why it surprises people I think that leaders are typically extroverted people. One of the ways that I get through that is that I am an engineer who's a processed person. So I’m probably planning what I’m going to say researching as much as I can and I also took some improv classes. So while I’m very technical, I’m very creative and that allows me to think on my feet. In your book, you mentioned a very important thing that I learned to do as a leader is ask the probing questions. So the reason why I’m successful as a leader is I’m always asking questions and see what's going on and see how the team is working together. So that and being a very active listener has helped me. People are surprised that I’m an introvert. I’m also an only child. I’m from New Orleans, and I don't have the accent, so people always say, wait, you are introvert, I don't believe that you're from New Orleans, say baby or something to prove that you’re from there. So that's what you won't find on my profile.

Jacqueline Twillie:

I totally relate Alicia, because when I tell people I’m from New Orleans, they're like, you don't sound like it, and I’m like, Yes, please do not stereotype us all because people don't have to sound like anything to be whoever they are. So I totally relate it on that. Tell me more about this improv class that you took, what was the impetus for you to take an improv class?

Alicia Morgan:

Well, I took a Toastmasters training, and they tell you about table topics. So we know as a leader, we wanted to be the leader on the perfect day where everything's going well, but on the day when there's something that happened, something very challenging, how do you think through that. So improv, teach you to think on your feet and I have a friend who's an engineer and is also an actor, she taught me a improv technique over the Yes. So when you're in a difficult and having a courageous conversation, you're under fire and pressure leader, how do you say yes, this happened, and we are doing these things to move forward. So it really taught me how to work collaboratively and to really have a conversation that is inclusive, so that was very beneficial for me to take improv, and it was fun. So it wasn't like your typical is I’m an engineer, step one, step two. It was teaching you how to be spontaneous. Whether you are an individual contributor, you are leaders, or you’re an organization, you're an entrepreneur, or whatever you are, you really have to think on your feet.

Jacqueline Twillie:

I love it. That's the perfect segue. So what's your definition of leadership?

Alicia Morgan:

My definition, so we think about a leader, you have a directed common goal you're trying to achieve for your team and organization. Also, you have to be confident, align with competence. You're in the book, don't leave money on the table, you talk a lot about inspired action. So in order to get to inspire action, the people have to believe you're competent and you're also very transparent and you lead them in the right direction. So you're always checking in asking those probing questions. At the end of the day, you're still a servant leader.

You're working with the people understanding their needs that I tell people if you're trying to build a connections or community, three important questions, and is what do you see? What do you see Doesn't mean as a surface level, like from a worldview and take into account if you have implicit biases, what do you see that's really going on? The next question you have to ask yourself is, what do I hear from the people? The feedback is not always negative. Everybody's not always a hater. There's something that is leading these people who have these concerns. Maybe the leader before never listened to them.

And then, as you ask yourself, what do you see? What do you hear? And what are the people feeling? If I’m not being valued or appreciated, I don't care how much money you give me, how much compensation you give me, if I don't feel like I’m valued and appreciated and I’m not buying into this common goal and if I am a leader and not empowering you, at the end of the day, leaders uplift empowers people to something greater, to be a leader somewhere. So those are the things that I think about as leadership is not just your own individual successes, how you're empowering the team to achieve a common goal and if you will find that then the people will come to you and say, Hey, I see this going on, why don't we work on this? You want to inspire people to action, based on what you have proven that you can help empower them to do.

Jacqueline Twillie:

Oh, yes, I couldn't agree more. I love that you went deep on that because there were so many gems in that in already have taken a page of notes just from you sharing that. So when you think about leaders, who comes to mind when you think about the word leadership?

Alicia Morgan:

When you put this question, this is a very hard one. I don't think of one person in particular, I think about thought leadership. I’ve studied successful people and what I’ve found is they've had a mentor, when people say sponsor that help advocate Oh, recently, I’ll use one leader example. Recently, I was in Phoenix and I went to Thurgood Marshall speak education firm and I was the keynote speaker. So when you think about Thurgood Marshall, you think Supreme Court dresses as African American leaders great, etc. And when you pull back and you discover that his parents were actively involved, his father was the first African American Supreme Court, he was the first one the grand jury in Baltimore, used to bring Thurgood and his brother into your court cases and debate back with him. His mother was an educator.

So when I think about leadership, there's countless years you can think of you can think of Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, you can think of yourself, myself. What you see is that the individuals are lifting other people as their climb and they have thoughtful leadership in action. I think about my own success. I had success in corporate in and I switched into the nonprofit sector. I think that for me, I feel that, I have been more successful because I’m more in line with what my value is. You talk about in your book, in the Latin magnetic, talk about your walk away point and Early in my career, I would think my walk away point you had to just do with money, but it has to do with a total compensation, can I develop myself as a leader? Can I always have professional development? Can I have a flexible schedule? So you when you think about the total package of the total value of a leader, is that, okay, I also allow my direct reports to have professional development as well.

So I think about the total package, the total presence. You think about people who truly have executive presence is not just about saying a title or a position or accolades, they drive people by what they do consistently. You have to consistently do it. At the end of the day, when there's no cameras, there's no articles and no press, who are you consistently. So when I think of a leader, like who they are consistently, and not just when the cameras are flashing or somebody’s interviewing.

Jacqueline Twillie:

Oh my goodness, the definition of integrity, what you do when no one is watching? When we look at those leaders who have a lasting positive impact? Yes, they at the core, they're pulling people out as they rise. And I think of that Netflix as special about Clarence a buzz.

Alicia Morgan:

That black godfather. Another thing of the center part of that is across generations and cultures. He had amazing social capital. I’ve never seen that. And he was unapologetically himself, but he had an influence across generations. That's the total.

Jacqueline Twillie:

I’m so glad they told his story while he is still here and alive because what a powerful example for us all to follow, as we define our own mission in lives and pursue meaningful work.

Alicia Morgan:

So one thing about clarity. So I was watching, I think he was getting a Beatty award and it is another example of leadership. He was thanking people, but he said something very profound. He said, I don't give speeches, I make deals. We're talking about when the cameras are not flashing, you like that's what I do.

Jacqueline Twillie:

Yes. So for those of you who haven't, go to Netflix, find the black godfather Clarence Avon, because that's what we're talking about. I watch that three times and the third time that I watched it, I had my laptop up, and I literally took notes. So if you are in the power banking Facebook group, I’m going to share with you my notes that I took watching that documentary. Alicia, I want to get more into your leadership journey. You’ve given us some tidbits, but tell us what's your leadership story?

Alicia Morgan:

Well, interestingly enough, I don't have the story, like I always knew I was going to be a leader and I had a wrote it down. So I was pretty much behind the scenes a very dynamic people. I remember getting challenged constantly, like great organizational skills and communication skills, you should be a leader. At first, I was causing the title of the leader, I was like, No, I don't really want to do that. So, few years ago and Doyle in 2009, I was still working in corporate and I was doing fairly well in process and capital asset management and I felt in my spirit, there's something greater I should do, but I didn't know what that was. I was doing a lot of film outreach, etc. It got really difficult, I was promoted, got raises, and then all of a sudden, my performance became an issue. I got a bad performance review, try to work through that, and I still knew like something greater I should be doing.

So long story short, I was laid off and I said, I don't really want to go back and corporate in the traditional sense. So what should I do? It was I like education, want to use my background and figure out how to do this. So I went to the Center for nonprofit management and got nonprofit management certification. From there, I thought it would be great. Nonprofits were very entrepreneurial and spontaneous, very different from my process oriented step by step, state of mind. So my first nonprofit job, it wasn't the right place, right fit, didn't survive 90 days. I talked about in my TED talk, and you mentioned in your book and I’ve listened to some of your podcast about standing into your power is, it was a failure, right? I one year I’m getting laid off and next year, in 90 days, I’m getting fired. So what am I doing wrong?

Then, I took a step back and I said, eventually, I want to get into leadership. So I had gotten nonprofit board and I was working with a team, developing their own conference and I get into a chairperson on the advisory board. And then I realized, I didn't have a lot of mentors. I know you mentioned that a lot in your podcast about why women leave corporate America or companies. They don't have a lot of mentors and sponsors and I know people talk about getting mentors and sponsors, but there is a process of results. For women, we feel like I can't fail. I was having a discussion recently, it was some senior leadership individuals and one of them was a male, and he was talking about his journey, how he failed his way to the top. I said, well, quite frankly, women don't have that feel they have that much liberty to fail. You have to have results. Like where your results, you can put we very rarely get promoted on potential. It's your track record in histories of results.

So I decided I needed to have a personal board of directors, so I had one for speaking, communicating. When I decided that I wanted to pursue executive leadership, I knew in the area of STEM I needed an executive mentor. So I eventually found an executive mentor that became a part of it. One of the challenges that he gave to me was to take a look at my biggest successes and failures, five of them and see would they all have in common. Well, they all have in common that it was always process oriented or program oriented. That's my skill set. They kind of lend themselves to each other, you create a process, you can create programs. So I discover what my individual skill set was, that's my secret sauce.

So to further align with that, I did a lot of things. So after I get fired from that nonprofit, I made a relationship with social capital. I really didn't understand what I mean, we hear networking, but social capital is a value exchange, right you figure out how you add value to this person, what's your unique value proposition. So once I understood that I took a shift in the way I do things. And strategically I was doing things more of a transaction. When you get to more of a transformational in your leadership journey, you understand that. So I had met someone when I was taking the training at the Center for nonprofit management that had became an executive director at an after school program. I say my key into working well across generations and cultures was a part of that because it was an after school program in a Dallas called hard house, those refugee and immigrant children from around the world.

So you talk about going beyond your own communities, and then you become aware of your own unconscious biases, you were working with. I was working with Katie second at the time, and they are the most honest individuals I’ve ever met. They can sense when you're lying or not telling the truth or Yeah, that day. You really have to come and be present in the moment and that was very critical for me.

After doing that, and discovering that I’m process and program oriented, I started to do things that are directly aligned with that, being very focused and intentional. That's my skill set, and as much as I can I keep building on that. So I joined professional organizations, and hey, what can I do to make sure it's process a program oriented? So my role right now at the front of the flight museum is vice president of education programs. So you can see a common theme process. Very early on, my parents did something very important me so they were leading me and they said, Okay, we have this goal. I’m not going to tell you how to do it. I want you to go research, research and find all the information you can about it, and then, make sure that you see what people are doing, but then find your own unique value.

So very early on, my first job was at a Burger King – if you ever work at fast food, they teach you to do everything, the cashier the drive thru. At Burger King, there's a whopper board and especially, where they had the chicken sandwiches. So you learn how to do all the rows, you may not do the well. But why that's important is because one day, the person that was the front cashier, and then the drive, it was a point of the night when they make the front cashier and the drive to person the same. They put them on the one microphone, and this person decided to go and break and not come back.

So what happens you pick up their work. And if you think about your career, you don't have to do everything well. But one day, somebody may not show up or be sick or something and you need to have at-least awareness of what's going on. So my leadership journey is full of you know, figuring out the process and then figuring out process improvement, you can always improve. So I really hone in on the way, this is my skill and then from there, just different branches of it, and you keep building and leveraging that.

Jacqueline Twillie:

One of the things that I’m picking up from you Alicia, is how intentional, you are about alignment. Thank you for being so transparent and talking about being fired because so many people, they don't want to talk about this stuff, but it's real life and it happens. So what would you say is one thing you wish you would have known, before you said your first official leadership position?

Alicia Morgan:

Well, you are coaching employee, that is a daily process. So you have your daily tasks and party. But when something happens, and if you see the team is not performing well, it’s a coach at the moment, it doesn't matter if you're in the middle of whatever, if you want this team to be productive that day, you're going to have to have an open door policy. You have to figure out what's going on. The speed of the leaders of the team. So the team’s not Moving along well, the leaders not in tune with what the team is doing. So the fact that you have priorities, yes, but you are a servant leader, and you have to dress needs immediately, you have to have those courageous conversations when you don't even have all the words to formulate, you may be upset, you may have to take two seconds, a little walk. But you have to dress things immediately, and coach employees to success constantly, even when you're in the middle of priority. I hear that from a lot of leaders, like wow, you didn't tell me that I have my list today, I spent half a day trying to be a psychologist and trying to figure out what's going on.

Jacqueline Twillie:

Yeah, right. You wear those hats, but it all comes down to people first, whether it's your clients or your employees, and it's one big circle, I often think like, it's the chicken or the egg, but at the end of the day, it comes down to the people. So I would love to know, what book are you reading right now? I know you've mentioned my book a few times, and we're going to get to that in a second, but what are you reading right now?

Alicia Morgan:

Book that I’m reading right now, it has to you mentioned about being very focused. So there's a book called Deep work rules for focus excessive, distracted world by Cal Newport. I’m reading that and is totally is like telling you when you need to shut down for the day. When I know that I’ve been more successful in the recent years is that I’ve been more focused and intentional. And I know that I need to focus on the processes and systems, that is my gift. So there's no need for me to write curriculum, there's somebody in my department that does it fairly well. And I don't need to be just trying to micromanage people. So I’m really getting more intentional about deeper work. So if I want to make a larger impact, and we're growing our programs and system and building and I am also a connector so people work in connecting, so we can The resources and skills needed to be more intentional and focus on what I actually do well, instead of trying to do everything. So this book is very eye opening to me like, Oh, I’m just doing busy working a lot of areas that I didn’t.

Jacqueline Twillie:

Cal Newport is so amazing. So I’m going to link up to the book for those of you, so you can check it out as well.  Side note, the podcast that I listened to last night, the title of the episode was deep work, and it's the Eric Thomas secrets of success podcast. I feel like their team just read the calendar work.

Alicia Morgan:

Right, there's a common theme. Yeah, you, you you're not doing your most impactful work if you're not focused and intentional, and yeah, it's going to be it's going to be I’m the master of everything. No, you are not, just be honest with yourself.

Jacqueline Twillie:

So good. So what's your favorite podcast?

Alicia Morgan:

Of course, I listened to yours and as Linda has the memo, but I will say, because I was in transition, and I told you that I was mid-career and I was laid off and I was fired, but then I used that failure to talk about my TEDx talk. So there's a podcast called Gen X amplified by Adrian Porter, and it focuses on Gen X and how there's life after in the mid-career and how to be successful and I was very appreciative of being on that podcast and having a podcast of different people across cultures who are killing it as Gen X, because we are always highlighted in the media, you hear about all the other generations and then the middle child. For a person who's an only child, I struggled like okay, now I’m the middle child. All right. How does this work?

Jacqueline Twillie:

Okay. So I’ll check that out, and we'll link up to the show notes for that as well. So you are such an intentional leader and you really put it the effort to make a big impact. What advice would you give to a leader who's navigating a change in their professional or personal life right now?

Alicia Morgan:

So quite often in education circles are different, people mentioned Carol Dweck in the growth mindset. We are taught when you're in school, you're given a syllabus or curriculum to follow. Even if you pick up a tray, you've given a curriculum to follow. But once you get into action, so there's a theoretical the way it works, but when you get into practical application, so you have to embrace change, because even your perfect plan, even a business plan is subject to change. You really have to get to the point of listen to you, you talked about a book that I enjoy, but one of the best books I’ve ever read was by Eleanor Roosevelt. It says you learn by living. I had to really sit with that as a person who loves to plan and love to have the perfect path and find all the resources need, is that, you know what, I’m just going to learn by living.

Once you sit with that you want to lead in your whatever direction in life you're going. And he's like, you know, what, what did I learn from here? How can I adjust and then failure? And realizing that there are things that you did well, in that process, even though you felt, you don't want to change the things you want to do. Well, do you want to really take a step back in? I think you mentioned having a day or something to think about failure. But just what did I do well, and what can I improve upon? Because you don't want to scratch everything, because there's things that you -- like I said, I know that I’m very proud that I could just because one day I felt that a process doesn't mean that I’m still not a process person. So just realizing that embrace it, and you want to learn by living every day. That's the ultimate you know, you want to be a lifelong learner.

So just do it and work through it and have your personal board of directors are people you can call. It's important in those moments, we feel like everything’s falling apart. I can recall a few years ago, I say, you know, I tried this new direction, maybe I should just go back to traditional engineering and I was talking to someone, they're like, just calm down, you're having a moment, you will regret going backwards. So allow yourself to have a moment sit with whatever's going on.

Jacqueline Twillie:

Such a good point too, because sometimes we think progress is linear, especially in our visually driven social media society. We see people winning, winning, winning. I don't fault people for not sharing the downs when they go through it, because we also know the internet is not very forgiving. But it's important for us all to have that level of awareness to say that life is a journey, it's not about the destination and having that the attitude and the mindset to say, even though I may face different things in life, what can I control here? I might not be able to control what just happened, but I can control my reaction. Even if I’m very emotional, I still have control to decide how I act.  The day reflecting on failure, I say that a lot in some people, you can disagree or agree, but I find that self-reflection is so key to saying what can I learn from whatever just happened and move forward, whether it's a success or failure.

But I do want to transition a tad bit and talk about, don't leave money on the table. It came out in August. I really appreciate you for supporting the book from the time that it was released. It just means so much to me, as you shared some of the quotes that resonated with you on Twitter. I really want to hear your perspective of what you got from Don’t leave money on the table.

Alicia Morgan:

When I graduated from college, my first job, I did not negotiate. And I learned a few years later, like three years later, the danger, and I had interned, I had no idea, I was just happy to get a job. I worked in a male dominated field of engineering. I remember having a conversation with one of my male co-workers, and we probably shouldn't have talked about the percentage of race, but anyway, it was very eye opening to me. So I said at the time I had, it was an 8% raise, and he said, do you think you deserve that race? Well, it turns out Jacqueline, that the 8% put me in the middle of the bell curve, he was already still ahead of me. I had no idea because I didn't negotiate in the beginning how far behind I was.

So the last time the negotiation checklist really resonated with me, because in the part of it, so look at the details, anticipate the challenge, talk through evaluate options, I’m pretty okay with that, but that think about the walk away point is something that I’m really thinking about. We can talk about salary, but overall compensation, and I remember, I had interviewed for several jobs before this one, and I walked away from a job that, first of all, I was booked below market value, then it had me working 10 hours a day and it was going to be a director of the center and everybody knows even when the day cuts off, if your director somebody there, you don't have to say. So I knew it was going to be on the 10 hours a day, they were saying, well, you have Friday off, then it wouldn't going to work. It wasn't going to have opportunities for professional development and growth, and it went on and on and on.

Once I evaluate everything, even things that I’m volunteering for is like at the end of the day, how much time this is going to take for my personal time? And is it really going to expand my growth area? So throughout the book, I just was thinking about, your value, when you should walk away. Even if it seems like a really good deal, and you evaluate it further, like no, that doesn't align with whatever I want to do. So being very intentional, understanding your value when to walk away is something that I’m still thinking about, as I would think about the book, executive presence and how you present yourself values also, overall theme is like knowing your value is what I kept. For me, it kept coming back to my eyes, like Oh, that's a value. A key point about understanding your value, I kept going back to that. And then being overall at the top earners are problem solver.

Jacqueline Twillie:

Yes, I know, this actually really resonated with that part that top earners are problem solvers, but knowing more about your leadership story, I can see how that connected to you, because you are a true leader at heart and you're always looking for ways to enhance and make impact. So thank you so much for sharing that and alluding to the latte method. I’m so glad that you're able to like reference. Well it is and break down that acronym because that's definitely the point, making it easy to remember when you go in negotiations. So what would you say is one actionable thing that you're going to do as a result of reading the book?

Alicia Morgan:

So I want to say this, and this is a reinforcement. I have friends with have different background, I have a lot of friends that are creative in one thing, that creative, creative mindset as well they create the portfolio of work. So you say don't leave money to Table No, and I always say, keep your receipt. So keeping up a folio of your work and not waiting for a performance review or waiting for an accolade, but always having this repository of information, where you want to accomplish and what you've done, well done well and even job that I had that I may have left and it wasn't that way, I still have my own receipt from that. So keeping a record of your own accomplishments. So when you get into negotiation, you have that to leverage at all times and multiple times a year, updating that not just your resume, this is your portfolio of your work, your, your accomplishments, your outcomes and measures and how you've been transformational and what you've what you do. So that's what I’m going to do at all times.

Jacqueline Twillie:

Thank you so much for sharing that. Alicia, how can people get in touch with you?  And where can they find your TED talk?

Alicia Morgan:

So I was TEDx Plano and it's called Get over it and get on with it. So it's about overcoming failure in my own personal story. It goes in more detailed about the challenges of switching careers and being fired and laid off and what that looks like and building your social capital. So if you look at TEDx Plano, Alicia Morgan and get over it and get on with it. I love hashtags, so my favorite hashtag on most social media platforms if you go on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, if you go hashtag AM organ on LinkedIn, you can find me LinkedIn, I am Alicia Morgan. I also have a personal website and morgan.net. So you can find me.

Jacqueline Twillie:

Yes, we will link up to those links in the show notes as well. Alicia, I am so deeply grateful that you and I connected and that you agreed to come on the podcast, you shared so many amazing gems with us. My hope for you power bakers listening to this is that one you definitely connect with Alicia because she's a leader that you want to be connected with, and also check out her TED talk. My second hope is that you listen to this twice. What I want you to do is listen to it all the way through and then grab a notebook and go back to this, this we could really call this a masterclass Felicia is so thorough is so phenomenal. So again, Alicia, thanks for coming to the podcast. Until next time, y'all continue to emulate excellence and eliminate excuses.  Bye.

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