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  • Writer's pictureLaura De Veau

Speaking the Dialect of Executive Leadership

As a middle manager, I found agency and voice as a leader. When I was elevated to an executive leadership post, I was surprised to find that my life as a leader was changing in areas that I had not anticipated. As a middle manager, I had a cohort, when I was the Vice President, I had colleagues. There is a difference, when you find yourself within a cohort you are part of a community of individuals with a shared language. When you are amongst colleagues, the language becomes impacted by dialect. It’s like when I moved from New York to Boston and ordered a milkshake and got what appeared to be chocolate milk with some sugar added. I was wondering where the ice cream was, and was informed that I should have ordered a “frappe”. I spoke the language, but not in the right dialect.

Learning how to engage with colleagues at the executive level meant I had to not only learn how and when to educate them on my dialect, but I also had to re-train myself in how to communicate with my own team. I was the same person, but I was no longer a manager, I was an executive. With that came more responsibility, more complexity and less Face-time with those who had been my cohort and my team. Aspects of relationships changed - I had to be purposeful about keeping lines open, while navigating politics and sentimentality.

The reality that my colleagues didn’t always speak my dialect, my relationship with my previous cohort and team were changing, and I had more on my plate meant that there were times where I felt isolated. I knew that some in my network had served as mentors, champions and trusted allies during my transition to executive leadership, and now, I had to engage these and others who could become my new cohort. My executive cohort developed to be richer and more diverse of experience and perspective than I had as a middle-manager. Executive cohorts can cross industry and speaking the same dialect, this is due largely to shared values in leadership. While someone in my cohort may work in a different vertical than I do, we can connect on how we use strategic thinking and planning, how we create ownership within our team, and what are traits we value in our management team.

Through professional development opportunities such as symposiums and think tanks it is possible to develop one’s own curated cohort. Finding a cohort can be advanced through professional development though the use of symposiums and think tanks. However, as an executive leader, you may find that time out of the office and away from home to attend such events is more difficult to arrange, regardless of the benefit. I have, myself, participated in events targeting executives, and found that one third or more of the attendees just simply couldn’t “get away”, and lost out on the experience to nurture their network, curate their own cohort and gain perspective in their own leadership potential.

Launching in February, Fortify Associates is proud to provide a service for Executive Leaders entitled, the “Fortify Executive Briefing”. Through the use of the Fortify Associates online learning platform and video webinars, this opportunity will provide intentional opportunities to engage with FEB Cohort at one’s desktop. To be added to the pre-enrollment list and receive all details on the Fortify Executive Briefing, click here and indicate “Fortify Executive Briefing” in the message.

We look forward to helping you curate a cohort that speaks your language in your dialect. Because no one wants sugary chocolate milk, when what you really crave is a milkshake.


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