Chapter 01: An Interest in Moments of Turbulence Feeds an Approach to Leadership

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Chapter 01: An Interest in Moments of Turbulence Feeds an Approach to Leadership

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Description

Ms. Yadiny begins by explaining that she is in the midst of writing a new job description for herself so she can begin to focus more exclusively on her major interest, leadership development. She mentions author Linda Hill's description of the transition into leadership positions as the equivalent of a big life transition. She goes on to reflect on her own qualities as a leader and an individual who has had to make many transitions, leading her to be "interested in moments of turbulence."

Identifier

YadinyJA_01_20160222_C01

Publication Date

2-22-2016

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The Interview Subject's Story - Character and Personal Philosophy; Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents; Personal Background; Professional Path; Influences from People and Life Experiences; MD Anderson Culture; Working Environment; Funny Stories; On Research and Researchers

Transcript

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

We are recording. Yes I think it’s going. Okay, so let me just put the identifier on again. Tacey Ann Rosolowski, and today I am on the seventh floor of Pickens Academic Tower, in a satellite room, and I’m speaking with

Janis Apted Yadiny:

--MLS is your degree. This is for the Making Cancer History Voices Oral History Project, run by the Historical Resources Center at the Research Medical Library at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Ms. Yadiny came to MD Anderson in 1999, to establish and direct the Faculty Development program, and today she serves as the Associate Vice President of Faculty and Academic Development. I did get that right?

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Yes.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Okay, cool. A role she has occupied since 2008. Today is February 22, 2016 and the time is about fourteen minutes after one. So thanks, a lot.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

You’re welcome.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Sorry we had to repeat that little exercise. So you said you wanted to start today, new job description, to focus on creativity.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

In writing this job description, I’ve taken a deeper dive into some of the leadership development literature, which I seem to be swamped with, but I find it fascinating. One of the things that I’m reading is by Linda Hill, who’s at Harvard. She wrote a fabulous booked called, Becoming a Manager, and another one, Becoming a Boss. And in there, she describes the transition into management and leadership as fraught, as the transition of people, young people who leave the house and live on their own for the first time, or who get married or who have children or who retire. So she’s emphasizing that these transitional moments have a huge emotional and intellectual impact on the individual. And so I’m in a lot of transitional moments all at once, and writing this job description has been really tough, because what I’m trying to do is tease out a part of the work of that department for myself, and leave all the rest of it, and the management of it, to Bob Tillman, who is excellent. But I found myself saying to my boss, I went out to dinner with him, my husband and I went out to dinner with him and his wife on Saturday night. I said, “I feel like I’m in Pamplona, running with the bulls,” and he laughed he said, “Why is that?” I said well, I have two bulls right behind me, Bob Tillman and Chris Taylor, in my department, and they’re really good, but they are around 40 years old and I’m 68 and what I want out of my life now is not to run so hard like this and so competitively. I want to enjoy the scenery, right?

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

It’s also true that, because you mentioned, you wanted the opportunity to be more creative.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Yes.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And that takes some leisure, I mean not—

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Time to think.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Time to think, reflection, integration.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Yes, right, right. I have developed this job description that focuses on leadership development of the faculty, although there’s a need to bring faculty and staff together and integrate them. So as you can see from my CV, I don’t find myself—I’m not very good at tooting my own horn or even keeping track of all the things I’ve done, which is a pity because I’ve done so much. I’ve lost sight of many of the things I’ve accomplished because I just keep running to the next thing that I’m interested in or I’m doing. I think the department has been very adaptive and successful, because frankly, I was able to see things, like needs. Okay, so we really need to do something on this, and we need to focus on this, and so as a creative person, that’s the way I think. The thing I have done, I think best of all, is hiring the right talent to look after those things, so I have a team that I’m very proud of and they do some tremendous things. They do things I can’t possibly do and you know, they always say there’s the adage, you should always hire people who are smarter than yourself, but you also need the ego strength to manage them, because you find out very quickly, yes they are smarter than you in many areas and they can add tremendously to what you’re doing, but you have to be able to stand there and manage them and help them develop their careers. So it’s challenging, but it’s one of the reason that I love faculty development. I find, although I have very good relationships with my colleagues in human resources and I work closely with them on some projects and development issues, dealing with staff is very different from dealing with faculty.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

How so?

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Faculty have—they have a different set of values. They have invested an enormous amount in their careers generally. They have spent a long time studying to become either a physician or a research scientist. Some of them haven’t even started practicing until their later thirties, you know, they’re brilliant, their minds move very fast. They want to be intellectually challenged. The other thing is, they’re not emotionally, sometimes as mature as one would think they would be at the ages they are, and this is because they’ve been in these very difficult training programs, for years and years and years, and so sometimes the social part of their personality or the emotional maturity is a little lacking. But, when you put them down to teach them something or to put them in a program, a leadership program or something like that, you have to pitch it at the right level or they’ll just turn off, it will be boring. So, for my colleagues on the HR side, they have 18,000 people they need to train. I have about 6,000, now that we’ve added in the trainees, so let’s say there are 20- or 21,000 people here, so they have about 13,000 and I have about 6,000. But they’re dealing with a different kind of clientele for the most part, and it’s very telling, when you try to plan programs together, because they’ll have ideas for a program that they think will really work and I’ll have to say time out, no way, I’m not putting that in front of the faculty, it won’t work, I can tell you it will not work. So, it’s astonishing, not being faculty myself, but dealing with them as a customer is kind of walking inside their minds, you know, all day long, and trying to figure out what is really of importance to them. And also, having the chance to just sit down and listen to them as they grapple with some of these transitions, and they go through this intellectual, emotional turmoil that’s involved with suddenly becoming a manager.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

What are some of the reference points of that, or you know, what are the themes that come up in making that transition to leadership?

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Well, you mean how is it they become leaders or what is it they’re doing?

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

No, I guess you know, once—because you mentioned that this coming to leadership, it plunges you into this enormous life transition. How do you know you’re in it, you know, like what comes up?

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Because you feel so uncomfortable and you feel like you don’t know what to do, or you try things and they backfire or you create a problem for yourself, because you didn’t have an appropriate conversation with someone, you mishandled it, so now you’ve got a problem on your hands. Or, you don’t know how to develop the team, you just want to sit in your office and be the chair, but also just go to your lab and do the work you’ve always done, but you know your assistant, your department administrator to divvy up the budget or whatever. That’s not leadership. Then suddenly, you have people on your doorstep, if you’re in a chair position for instance, who want your help and they want your guidance and they also want to politically maneuver you. So there are all the power dynamics that become enlivened once you take that position. You, not knowing exactly which levers to pull, what should I do first, not even knowing sometimes, how to run an effective meeting or how to manage people or how to get performance feedback, all of that.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

I have to say that over the course of the interviews that I have done, there have been many moments when people have said this was how I learned to be a leader or these were the mistakes I made, that I had to come back from to learn how to be a leader, I mean it’s, it’s huge.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Yeah, yeah, it is huge. So, hopefully, some of what we do is help them learn things pretty quickly, that will help them avoid these mistakes. But really, I think what I’m interested in, because this is the sixth country I’ve worked in and lived in, so I’ve made a lot of transitions in my life and I’ve adapted fairly well to new circumstances, fairly well. I find myself not feeling quite as nimble as I used to feel, but transitions all have a similar element, which is they disorient you. They put you in the land of not knowing and of being scared and anxious and doubting yourself sometimes.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

I was going to ask you, you know as I was—you mentioned your CV, and I was reading over your CV it was kind of interesting, because suddenly, you come to MD Anderson to work with Faculty Development, and there was sort of no indication before there.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

That I had done it.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

That you had ever done it or were interested. You know, obviously, that had to be there.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

No, not necessarily.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, but the interest was there.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Interest was there.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And I mean, you’ve just mapped out how you’ve gone through all these intercultural experiences, moving, demanded a kind of flexibility emotionally, intellectually, practically, maybe spiritually, you know a lot of dimensions of that. So I can see where you’re interested in these sort of crisis moments or transitional moments for other folks and you know, as we talk, I’m going to be interested in what were the key points for you, in the course of your development, that made you say yeah, this is there I want to focus, this is important.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Can I tell you something very funny?

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Sure.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

And I don’t know if I’ll allow you to use this, but it is interesting.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

That’s fine.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

I stepped into this transition myself a couple of years ago, three years ago, when I remarried. I hadn’t been married for 16 years, and so I remarried the man that—or the boy I met in Paris in 1975, and we were together three years and then we split up and then he found me again, and so I took this giant leap and got remarried. Let me tell you, that was really—that has been a major transition. But I got so concerned about what I was doing with my life and how I felt, that in talking to a very good friend that I have here, who’s an executive development consultant and whom I consult frequently on issues with programs and so on, he’s done some work for me, he had told me for quite some time, “Oh, I have an energy person I work with, a shaman I talk to in New Mexico.” So I thought you know what? I need some information that’s not research oriented, that’s not validated by a gazillion tests. I need that outside perspective that comes from somewhere else. So I talked to this guy for an hour and it was fascinating. He said, “You’re a rolling stone, you’ve had a very dynamic life.” I said, “Yes.” He knew nothing about me, all he saw was a picture that I sent him. And he went on from there, he said, “You’ve had a lot of changes, you’ve done a lot of stuff, you’ve probably lived in a lot of different places.” Mm-hmm. He said, “You have chosen to have a complex life.” I said, “Well that’s interesting, why would I choose that?” Because that’s how you learn, you learn from complexity. I thought well, you know, maybe you say that to a lot of people but for me it went, “Bingo!” because a lot of these things that I had done and transitions I had made were not easy, they were painful, and they caused a lot of turbulence inside me. So I think more than anything, I’m interested in those moments in a life, when you feel like you’re in the crosshairs a little bit, or you’re not really sure of what’s going on and how you feel. And it either causes tremendous growth and insight, or it destabilizes you, or sometimes it does both for a while, until you figure it out, what’s going on.

Chapter 01: An Interest in Moments of Turbulence Feeds an Approach to Leadership

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