Honesty and maturity with Jody Thornburg

Name: Jody Thornburg
Role:  Director of Humans
Company: Sparkbox
SNYAM cohort: 05 – Dayton 2018

Why do folks resist moving into management?

I’m sure there are numerous reasons, but I’d guess the repeat inhibitor is fear. We feel like we’re not smart enough or dynamic enough or [fill in the blank] enough. The truth is, all of us have deficiencies. It’s human. It’s why we need one another—every one of us can flex a unique muscle of our personality to benefit the group as a whole. We have so much more to contribute than we often dare to acknowledge.

What do you miss most about being an Individual Contributor?

Definitive checklists. My to-do list is now much more centered around strategic thinking and relationship building. While those endeavors provide a great deal of satisfaction for me, I can’t cross them off a list—they’re never finished.

Tell us a story about a recent challenge in management.

Not long ago, a coworker and I had a disagreement about a work detail. The two of us talked and hit an impasse, struggling to detach from the emotions of our individual perspectives. When the conversation reached its stormiest point, I encouraged us both to take a step back and remember a few things:

  • We care about each other—our history working together has proven that.
  • We might not agree, but neither of us has malicious intent toward the other.
  • We can disagree but still find ways to move forward respectfully.

It was like inhaling fresh air—to peel back the layers of conflict in order to remember the human underneath. From that point on, we were able to move forward—in as much unity as was possible, even if not in full agreement. And I’m convinced that our working relationship is stronger because we took those few moments to honor the humanness in one another.

As a leader, what do you need most from your team? From your peers? From your own manager?

Honesty served with kindness and respect for one another. None of us benefits in an environment where honesty is used as a weapon. But we can’t grow if we’re not straightforward with one another. I believe maturity provides the needed balance.

Getting better at managing has caused me to also get better at:

Navigating different perspectives and opinions. I had no idea how many complex discussions and hard conversations were in store for me in this role. At first, I had a hard time not feeling defensive when someone challenged my ideas—like I needed to prove that I deserved my seat at the directors’ table. But gosh, I’m so glad that mindset has subsided. I don’t feel as married to “my way” anymore but am sincerely interested in understanding others’ perspectives. I no longer aim for perfect agreement but rather deliberate unity—decidedly moving forward together.

How do you leave work at work? What practical actions do you take to set these boundaries?

I can easily gravitate toward swirling thoughts and internal problem-solving during intense work seasons. Debriefing helps. I’ve found on those days, in order to leave work at work, I need to verbally process with someone else—which might be another director or work leader or coach (looking at you, Jen Dary!)—and then shut that part of my brain off. I have to audibly say to myself, “I’ll pick that back up tomorrow.”

I often listen to sermons on my drive home to engage my mind and spirit. That helps me disconnect from work.

Also, staying present with the people I love is so important to me, so that means my phone and laptop are rarely opened for work use in the evenings. That’s been a firm boundary that keeps my mind (and relationships) in a healthy place.

Want to attend a manager training where you’ll learn how to manage with maturity and honesty? Join us at an upcoming event… details here.