Starting the conversation…

What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?

Host: Jessica Dewell
Panelists: Debbi Sluys, Kyle M. Brown

What You Will Hear:

Focus on the biggest objective, and know it well.

When in leadership, people look at you differently. Own that.

Ways to practice objectiveness.

Combine our humanness with the primary goal.

Be curious.

Two stories about aligning personal values to business values.

Our default behavior comes from our training and conditioning – and it is changeable.

Crystal clear communication is necessary because of how quickly things change.

We agree to what we are working toward.

There can be disconnection between how to achieve the objective: training vs excuse vs accountability.

Biggest leadership lesson.

Communication matters, and the ways we communicate strengthen or weaken our position as a leader.

It’s BOLD to reflect on our own leadership.

Notable and Quotable:


Kyle Brown: When you’re a leader you have to focus on getting to the objective, and all of the things that you need to do to get there. Some may be technical, some may be people related and have nothing to do with the actual product or service or the technology.

Kyle Brown: Becoming in more objective oriented person, that trying to focus on that would be probably the biggest piece of advice that I would give someone moving into a leadership role.

Jess Dewell: Wherever we are along our leadership path, in organization we’re in, on our career path, we are going to continuously be working on our objectiveness.

Kyle Brown: Everybody has their own leadership style.

Kyle Brown: Machines don’t tend to ask you a lot of questions, they just tend to do what you ask them to do. Most of the time.

Kyle Brown: Everyone has to have the eye on the prize.

Kyle Brown: Getting to know the people you work with, I think that helps you figure out how you’re going to meet the objective as a team.


Kyle Brown: If you don’t agree with how we’re going about it, then offer some suggestions, but in the end we have to all agree to march towards the same thing.

Kyle Brown: Conversations, communications with people in getting clarity around things, usually gets everyone on the same page.

Debbi Sluys: It’s not necessarily about me.

Debbi Sluys: If someone’s coming with the complaint or they’re really unhappy about what appears to be their job, it may not actually be about the job and most often it is something entirely different.

Debbi Sluys: To support change is to support people through change, and that occurs through habits of excellence.

Jess Dewell: We’re joining somebody else’s party when we go to work everyday.

Jess Dewell: We know what we value to be able to understand what other people value, to be able to understand how that aligns with the vision and the mission of the organization that were apart of.

Kyle Brown: Objectives, provided that very clear, always give you a light to march toward.

Kyle Brown: There generally is always a way to get to where you’re trying to go without having to necessarily compromise your own values .
Jess Dewell: Sometimes all we have in common is the objective.

Jess Dewell: Our conditioning of our family of origin, our conditioning of the work experience and life experience that we have, will reflect how we do what we do, and the reasons behind we do what we do, whether they’re conscious or not.

Jess Dewell: As a leader our personal awareness is necessary to be able to know what somebody else needs. We can never know what anybody else needs until we know what we need.


Jess Dewell: When we respond to something, when something is on fire, we’re going to have a default first response. And the awareness piece is to then go, okay, I know my behavior in this default initial response, when whatever happened sends me into autopilot, or reaction mode. And the awareness piece comes in, because then we can choose to see. I want a different initial reaction.

Kyle Brown: Frequent communications is a key.

Kyle Brown: It’s one thing to just reiterate the goals on a regular basis, even if they aren’t changing. People still forget. People’s lives don’t necessarily revolve around whatever the goal or objective is.

Debbi Sluys: By using visuals. By using metaphors. That’s a great way to communicate the vision.

Debbi Sluys: It’s great when it’s not just a singular voice. So it’s not just the leaders voice, but that the colleagues are encouraging each other.

Debbi Sluys: I think the voice has to be authentic. And when is authentic, what is truthful, then people are going to follow what that vision is all about.

Kyle Brown: In the civilian world, I find there are a tremendous number of excuses made as to why things aren’t getting done.

Debbi Sluys: That was a big lesson for me, was to look at each new person that came on my team as individual. To get to know them, understand what they’re bringing to the team. Some of their strengths. How do they want to be valued? How do they want to be appreciated? It’s not like one blanket, where you say everybody stands up and gets clapped for at a staff meeting. No no no. Some people hate that, right? They’d just like a pat on the back in privacy and say, good job.

Debbi Sluys: As a mom, you tell your children the way that it’s going to be. But you do it in love. And that’s how I do it with my educators and with staff that I work with is that I let them know but it’s for their own good.

Kyle Brown: You have to be able to look in the mirror at yourself, and look for your own shortcomings if you’re going to be leading somebody else. You need to be able to call yourself out when you’re wrong. You need to be able to accept that someone else might have the answer, even if they’re not the leader.

Kyle Brown: Almost always, if you put questions to a group of people who all understand what the work is for, almost always you’re going to get somebody to say something or make a recommendation that you never even thought about. And it might even be the best way to actually go about doing it.

Debbi Sluys: A leader will burn out if they don’t do self-care and self-reflection, and become self aware.

Debbi Sluys: It’s so important to discover what’s your inner genius, and focus on that. And bring that inner genius out. And take time to reflect on that, and maybe delegate some of the other more menial tasks to others so that you can harness that energy and the focus of your vision.

Debbi Sluys: A leader needs to self reflective, or they may not be leaving for very much longer.


mindset, focus, objective, agreement, change, boundaries, values, achievement, awareness

What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?

Strategic thinking includes the ability to reflect on what’s happened in the past and determine what learning can be applied to one’s current situation. Our reflections allow us to explore weaknesses and blind spots. Our reflections also allow us to remember and feel our successes. Jess Dewell hosts panelists Debbi Sluys and Kyle M. Brown to explore leadership reflection.

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