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Women’s History Month: Growing as a Woman Leader

By Sharon Horkott, Vice President, Provider Services

Every March, we observe Women’s History Month as a time to commemorate the vital role of women in history, culture and society. This year’s theme designated by the National Women’s History Alliance is “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.” Today, Sharon Horkott, Vice President, Provider Services, is sharing her journey to finding self-awareness and becoming a better leader.

Know yourself before leading others

Self-awareness has long been a key item in my leadership toolbox. Being aware of my shortcomings and my strengths and playing to that awareness has been beneficial both personally and professionally.

Learning self-awareness often comes with the questions: “Am I warm and fuzzy?” or “Am I cool and distant?”

I was raised in a household where we did not get so much of a good morning greeting; there was no time for that. Just like a good set of bookends, we were not into goodbyes either, even on the telephone. We would say “Got it.” “Okay.” “Sounds good.” Click. Call over.

Finding middle ground

When I was a new manager, my boss stopped by to let me know that the team was grumbling. “You keep hanging up on them,” she said. Likely, the dumbfounded look on my face provoked feedback with a bit more precision, “You don’t say goodbye.” All I could think was, when I hang up, isn’t it implied that the call is over? I pondered some ways to end a call. “Goodbye” sounded artificial, likely only in my own world. “Bye” seemed nonchalant. I decided I would let the other person end the call.

Imagine my surprise when I quickly learned that many people prefer to take time for a greeting. Whether or not I wish people “good morning,” or cordially end a phone call was a serious matter. I made a commitment to be self-aware. I was chatting with a woman leader recently and we talked about increasing employee engagement in our remote environment. She paused, and almost apologetically, said something like, “I have to remind myself to do these things to promote employee engagement. I’m not a warm and fuzzy person.” Bam! There’s self-awareness right there! I replied that there were lots of warm and inviting leaders who cannot sit around and chat all day, we’ve got a business to run. And, good for you! You are self-aware. Someplace in the middle might be a great landing spot.

Continuous learning: Don’t be a committee of one

I am a continuous learner. When I was a kid, we had this old book titled Lincoln Library of Essential Information. When other kids were watching cartoons, I was devouring the book’s brittle, discolored pages. I grew up in a poor family – neighbors-sharing-their-surplus-food poor. Financially, college was not on my radar and no one in my family had gone to college or ever mentioned higher education.

One day, I arrived at work and to my good fortune, a caring and wise co-worker asked where I would be going to college. She did not ask me if I would be going, she asked me where I would be going. Before I knew it, I was sitting in a financial aid office at a local community college figuring out how to pay for school. I went on to earn a master’s degree in organizational management which allowed me to work my way up to operations management and to cross over to another functional area, human resources. I once held an HR Director role for a Fortune 500 company. I embraced the role and achieved an SPHR certification and learned a great deal beyond the classroom and beyond operations. Whether my learning comes from the classroom or on the job, I intentionally find ways to share and to build up others. Here at TeamHealth, whether it’s a credentialing specialist, an onboarding specialist, or an HR director or generalist, we have so many talented women sharing knowledge and experiences. Being a lifelong learner feels right at home.

Helping others to learn and to grow

My commitment to self-awareness is not only about recognizing my shortcomings, it’s also about recognizing my good qualities too. Inherently, I share knowledge with others. This may stem from my bent for learning and from my HR days or perhaps from my coworker who took an interest in my development. In either case, my desire to share knowledge has to be tempered with the right knowledge at the right time. Not everyone brings the same skill and ability to the job. The more we know, the more prepared to respond and take action. I once read that success does not require that everything go perfectly; it requires us to be ready when things go wrong.

Don’t forget to be a manager and a leader

Managing is getting the job done through other people, and leading is getting others to do what they normally would not do on their own. Thomas Paine coined “Lead, follow, or get out of my way.” I draw upon self-awareness to identify where I fit given the situation. Leaders come in all forms, from subject matter experts to the outstanding customer service team member to the popular go-to person. I have the privilege of serving others. I stay committed to self-awareness in order to better serve those that lead me and those that follow me. It is through self-awareness that I bring out my best for myself and for others, especially the women in my life.

Women’s History Month

This Women’s History Month, I am grateful for all of the women in history and in my network that paved the way for me to become the leader I am today. This month, we honor the leaders, activists and role models that fought for justice and equality. At TeamHealth, I am grateful for the Women in Leadership Resource Group that promotes the recruitment and retention of women at all associate levels. Because of this group, I am confident that women at TeamHealth will continue to excel in their careers.