Q & A With Mary Jane Reed

hs_maryjaneThe Leader’s Edge/Leaders By Design is proud to introduce
November’s featured coach, Mary Jane Reed.
Throughout this month Mary Jane will be answering your career and leadership development questions. If you have a specific question you would like Mary Jane or one of our future feature coaches to answer please submit it to askthecoach@the-leaders-edge.com.

Question:  Eighteen months ago, I accepted a high-level position at a new firm. Overall, it has been a great experience and I feel as though I am making an impact. My boss seems pleased with my results but since I rarely see him, I would like to get some feedback on how others in the firm perceive me. How can I go about getting honest feedback?


Dear Connie,

Kudos on proactively seeking out and being open to feedback! There are 2 potential approaches you could use.

First, ask your HR Department or call us at TLE/LBD to identify an outside coach who could work with you and interview your key stakeholders, direct reports, peers, and most especially, your customers. I have found that people tend to be open and candid as long as they know that their comments will not be attributed to them. The coach can then prepare a non-attributed summary of the key themes heard during the interviews.

 If your budget does not enable you to hire a coach, then consider developing a simple 3 to 4 question form for distribution to colleagues in order to seek their feedback anonymously. Questions might include:

·         What am I doing well that I should KEEP on doing?

·         What am I not doing effectively and that I should STOP doing?

·         What am I not doing that I should START doing.?

No matter which road you are able to go down, you must be willing to listen to the feedback you will receive and be willing to make the necessary changes.

Good luck!

Mary Jane

 Question:  I’ve read about the importance of building a strong network of colleagues.  However, I am an introvert and feel uncomfortable meeting new people. “Networking” seems so contrived. How can I overcome this feeling and step out of my comfort zone?



Dear Anna,

You are correct. Networking is indeed an important career skill and should be built on authentic conversations and relationships.


One option is to start with a simple goal of meeting one or two new people a month. If it is an internal colleague, invite them for coffee to gain a better understanding of their work, career objectives and personal as well as work challenges. Have a few questions prepared in your mind. The key is to get them talking. Listen attentively and ask clarifying questions or seek their opinions on organizational issues. Often, the conversation may take a personal turn such as family, vacations, and children. Make notes after the meeting so you can remember these details when you meet again in the future. And, make and maintain eye contact.

If you are attending a professional or company meeting and there is a Networking reception, do not become overwhelmed by the “sea of faces”. Simply stand quietly by the entrance and notice if there is a person standing alone or with one other person.  Making sure to not interrupt a personal conversation, approach them by introducing yourself, and ask if they are enjoying the meeting or their favorite presenter from the day.


I have found it helpful to keep one’s hands free so delay picking up food or drink until later in the reception. Consider it a success if you were able to have a good conversation with 2 people. Ask for their business card and send a crafted email following the conference referencing points within your discussions.


Good luck!

Mary Jane

 Question:  As a unit leader, I am close to the people on my team but cannot seem to get through to others in the company.  Do you have any suggestions to help me breakthrough?


Dear Marcie,


It could be that you and your team are focused inwardly on your own work and team results. If this rings true, one approach might be to conduct interviews with your key stakeholders (those people who depend on your work and/or peers in your larger department). Develop a short interview and schedule mutually convenient times to meet with your key stakeholders individually.


Ask for feedback on what you and your team do well and areas for improvement. Ask them about their own unit’s objectives and challenges and ways your team can support them. These types of questions generally encourage people to open up and talk. Once you have established rapport you may then demonstrate a sincere interest in their career within the organization.  Sincerity is the key.


The biggest by-product of such interviews is the establishment of a working relationship upon which you can expand in the months ahead.  With their permission, take notes and thank them for their time and thoughts. Once you have completed 3 or 4 interviews analyze your feedback, look for common themes and develop appropriate action plans especially if they asked for your help.   It is essential that you follow up in detail based on this feedback.  To engage their input and to then do nothing.. .is deadly!


Good luck!
Mary Jane

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