Jennifer Sproul is President of the Maryland Center for Construction Education and Innovation (MCCEI). Jennifer sees women as the answer to the construction industry’s need for talent and connects the industry with educational, governmental, and nonprofit agencies. Jennifer’s vision is to create an abundant pipeline of diverse people eager to work in the construction industry.
You Are Your Best Teacher
Jennifer didn’t envision the construction industry as a career. The degree in marketing did not land well-paying jobs right out of school, but slowly over time, dissatisfaction became an indicator of when it was time to pivot. That tension between the career Jennifer envisioned and the current circumstances became the impetus for change.
Answering “Why not?” with actionable steps opened her life to more significant and fulfilling experiences, and it moved her way beyond what she could even imagine.
However, traditional career development programs did not evoke these transformational concepts – coaching and sponsorship did.
Coaching revealed that Jennifer already had what it takes to lead the construction industry for growth, collaboration, and excellence.
What is coaching?
Coaching is different than training.
Coaching elicits the knowledge and desires that someone has within themself. The coached client already knows what will make the most significant change, and that person’s unique perspective enables them to apply specific actions for their particular needs.
Coaching grows curiosity by taking specific action steps for exponential and unlimited growth. It brings about a total transformation of people, companies, and industries.
On the other hand, training is a repeated, one-to-one transfer of skills or knowledge. It is about receiving information. When the trainee demonstrates mastery of a particular skill or knowledge set, they pass that information to others on the team or workforce.
Coaching is so transformative that there is no limit to what coaching opens up.
Jennifer discovered how to lead board meetings more effectively through coaching. Others remarked that Jennifer’s poise and precision helped them get more done faster, and the ability to navigate the board meeting stemmed from goalsetting and practice during Ambition Theory coaching sessions.
“Someone helps you discover answers that are already within you, but it takes an outside person to probe more deeply into a challenge to find out what will be most effective for growth. . . . I’ve never been more confident in my life as I am right now. Coaching with Ambition Theory brought the confidence I have within myself to the surface.”
Coaching helps transcend barriers because after significant growth, or in senior leadership positions, people must create their futures. There is no clear-cut path.
“I didn’t have a boss to tell me what direction to take, and I felt like something was missing. Coaching helped me find my own direction. It required me to accept discomfort, though, and I had to stay with the discomfort to work through the challenges.”
Working through challenges involves answering questions beyond what you have already envisioned. The secret of exponential growth is leaning into the discomfort, or the wall, to illuminate the path.
“Now I feel great!” she said, “The hard work paid off. There is an excellent kind of exhaustion that comes from seeing a vision unfold.”
Being a part of the creation process, when a vision becomes reality, is what it means to be fully alive, and that is the goal of coaching.
Coaching Creates Transformational Leaders
Leaders who only think about deadlines, end-of-year reviews, and looming decisions are motivated by pressure.
Transformational leaders, however, use opportunities as internal motivators. Positive internal motivation nurtures and changes people and companies from the inside and creates measurable exponential growth outside of just themselves. As a result, entire companies and communities benefit from the internal shift of one single leader.
When women take jobs in the construction industry, the industry benefits. As Jennifer found satisfaction in her new roles, she created opportunities for others.
When women offer to lead, others will follow and benefit. Jennifer realized that helping one company enabled other women and girls to pursue more careers, and Jennifer sees that the job market is open and ready for women in construction. Finding new ways to promote others in construction is transformational leadership.
Sometimes Others’ Advice is Worth Taking
Sometimes how we see ourselves, and what we tell ourselves on the inside isn’t the full picture. People who see our excellence and have our best in mind can speak the truth that we may miss in the nitty-gritty of every day. That’s why we need networks of colleagues and trustworthy people who can add insight to small and big matters, both casually and formally.
The challenge for leaders is that when they rise to the top of an organization, they do not always have folks above them in their particular company who can add insight. Networks like the NAWIC, MCCEI, and Ambition Theory can add valuable conversations within short bits of time to expand vision and possibility.
Listen to Your Own Advice Too
Using our inner dialogue as a source of information can steer us to truer paths when we’re honest enough to lean into it truthfully.
Notice the inner dialogue’s “if I could . . . I would . . . ” statements. Feel the fear, and then think beyond the present. Pushing through resistance is the exact pathway to growth and more satisfying opportunities.
“Terror is not bad,” Jennifer chuckled, “It indicates something new is around the corner. New can be hard yet good simultaneously. Take the job! Do the scary thing. It will pay off. People will see you as a natural leader and ask you to do more. Then you establish trust, and as a result, natural partnerships develop between agencies and companies. One company can’t make the same impact that partnerships can provide.
“So, whether or not you get the first opportunity you want, do the work as if it will happen.”
Transformational leaders link people with industries because teamwork is most rewarding, personally and professionally. It increases revenue and production capacity. Transformational leaders ask:
- What is broken?
- Where are there silos?
- What systems are connected?
- Where can we streamline processes?
The secret sauce of leadership is holding people accountable to a higher standard so that they continually deliver.
“If I’m spending this time and energy to make it this far, we’re not going to settle for mediocre. It’s going to be the best it can be.”
Jennifer is the kind of person who brings life and opportunity to priorities.
You can connect with Jennifer at the Maryland Center for Construction Education & Innovation, LinkedIn, and the National Association for Women in Construction.