Jess Lilly is THE Heart-Centered Leader, which is why we are so thrilled to feature her words and wisdom in this week's issue of Sprouting Forward. Enjoy our Q+A with Jess below, and be sure to check out her piece in this latest issue of En Root!
This month's theme is all about heart-centered leadership. Tell us about how you interpret this theme, and how it has played a role in your personal or professional life.
To me, Heart-Centered Leadership is a style of leadership that prioritizes healthy relationships and empowerment. These leaders are self-aware and grounded enough to embrace the unknown and be vulnerable rather than hiding behind status or seniority. My interpretation is that being a Heart-Centered Leader means using a coaching mindset - viewing people as whole and capable and holding yourself responsible for developing others rather than extracting productivity from others. The thing I love the most about Heart-Centered Leadership is that it centers treating people (including yourself) with compassion. There is a mindset built in of “we’re all in this together” that invites honesty, laughter, empowerment, and accountability from a place of support rather than punishment. I think more people would be interested in stepping into leadership if they had the appropriate support to come from this way of being. That’s why it’s one of my passions to advocate for workplaces to offer Heart-Centered Leadership Coaching as a form of professional development to leaders of all levels (not just the C-Suite).
One of the most fulfilling aspects of being a Heart-Centered Leadership Coach is seeing how people blossom once they stop trying to fit into a leadership box that doesn’t work for them. People spend A LOT of energy trying to pretend, perform, and force themselves to be something that they’re not. Letting go of people pleasing and grinding can be hard - particularly for people who have gotten a lot of gold from that approach (I’m one of them!); however, it’s worthwhile to break patterns and choose things on purpose rather than “the way I’ve always done it." The energy that people get from being real and pursuing what truly matters to them is inspiring. In my own life, the shift from fear based leadership to Heart-Centered Leadership made all the difference. Although it’s still a work in progress, I’m proud of how much I’ve transformed my relationship to myself. I used to take a very judgmental, harsh approach to my own growth, which made the burnout so much more intense in my previous career in education. Taking a more loving and playful approach to my own growth made it possible for me to start my business and support others in their transformation. My trust in myself has skyrocketed and I’m able to offer support to others from a place of generosity and excitement.
At OutGrowth, we believe in designing the space and time to reimagine the path forward. How do you believe embracing heart-centered leadership can impact our perspective and influence our future decisions?
The space and time for self-reflection in service of Heart-Centered Leadership makes ALL the difference. One of the biggest ways it can impact our decision making is by slowing things down and looking at what drives our decisions. It’s all about alignment and intentionality. It’s the difference between shooting a bow and arrow frantically with your eyes closed versus standing in a solid, grounded position, aiming at the target, and confidently releasing the arrow with intention. It’s all about getting support so that your intentions, choices, and actions are all putting you on a path toward your future vision. There’s so much power and fulfillment that comes with that approach. Another benefit from taking the time and space for Heart-Centered Leadership coaching is that it gives you a birds-eye view and helps you take things less personally. We’re all human beings doing the best we can and that approach allows us to be less reactive in tough circumstances. This is another way to slow things down so that your actions are reflective of who you are and what you believe in rather than just avoiding pain or following a familiar, comfortable path.
Tell us about your most significant professional moment since the start of the pandemic.
The most significant professional moment for me since the start of the pandemic was earning my Professional Certified Coach credential from the International Coach Federation (ICF) in the summer of 2020. Earning this credential was the culmination of years of training and practice to get my coaching up to a high level of mastery that I’m really proud of. Not everyone chooses to go the route of getting formally trained and certified, but for me it was totally in alignment with my commitment to become a Master Coach (my next step!) and advocate for the coaching industry. I’m proud to be a part of the ICF community!
How did this experience change the course of your life, your career or your outlook from pre-pandemic times.
This changed the course of my life because it made possible some really important upgrades in my beliefs about myself. The process of becoming a PCC helped me truly embody the role of “coach” and own my power in a way I hadn’t before. The level of partnership, vulnerability, courage, empathy, and honesty that I bring to my coaching now, on the other side of that process, is on the next level. I stopped seeing myself as purely a student of coaching and more of an ambassador of coaching; someone equipped to pay it forward through Heart-Centered Leadership coaching and by training and supporting coaches-in-training. This went beyond a stamp of approval - I saw it as a really big breakthrough in my leadership and the ownership of my greatness.
What is one competency or skill you hope to develop/are developing in 2022/3?
Public speaking! I love speaking in an informal “off the cuff” way about the things I care about; BUT I hope to develop some serious storytelling and speaking talents in the year to come for more formal speaking opportunities. I’m developing a podcast that will be a playground for me to practice interviewing others and being interviewed - coming soon: Playing Heartball: A podcast for hopeful Heart-Centered Leaders. I also hope to line up some keynotes as well. Send me good vibes on the road to vulnerability city!
What inspires you these days?
I am inspired by my clients. My clients are extraordinary leaders who are stepping up to leadership challenges at work and at home. It blows my mind to think about the level of courage and intention they bring to their parenting (holy moly pandemic parenting), mission driven projects, and developing the members of their teams. I’m also super inspired by my Goddaughter who is traversing the challenges of being a pre-teen in the midst of Covid times. Middle school was tough enough without a pandemic! Kids don’t often get enough credit for adjusting to the crazy circumstances and uncertainty that seems to be the new status quo.
At OutGrowth, we believe in preparing the next generation of leaders. What is one resource (book, podcast, article, anything!) you'd recommend to those looking to carve out the time for growth in the next year?
I’ve got two answers (that will not shock you) to what I think is the most effective way to prepare the next generation of leaders. First, hire a coach! I highly recommend hiring someone who has been formally trained and has earned their credential from the International Coaching Federation (ICF). The ICF is setting the worldwide standard in excellence and ethics in the coaching industry. Many coaches will do an initial coaching session with you to see if you would make a good fit for a longer coaching engagement. Go wild! Get some coaching!
Secondly, get trained as a coach! Yes, I am a mega coaching enthusiast. I genuinely stand by coach training as a phenomenal way to transform your leadership even if you don’t plan on working professionally as a coach. If I had it my way, all leadership training would include coach training! Coaching skills are essential in bringing out the best in others (and ourselves!). Consider me a resource on both topics. I’m a big coaching and coach training nerd and I’m always down to talk about it!
What's next? What are your next steps toward growth in 2022-3?
What’s next for me is that I’m going to work on attaining my Master Certified Coach credential in the next two years (working on that Yoda level coaching). What I love about being a coach is that continuously working on who I am as a coach and a leader is an important part of the job description! I’m a part of quite a few support structures - I have my own 1-1 coach, I’m apart of a group coaching program, and I participate in ongoing coaching supervision. In these structures I’m getting support around my business projects and my personal projects (including my upcoming breakthrough in public speaking!) I also plan on joining some dance classes! I’m always in favor of joining programs and structures that help hold me accountable to do the things that I love and that matter to me in a consistent way.
Jess is a Heart-Centered Leadership Coach and founder of Jess Lilly Coaching LLC.
Jess works with empathetic leaders who want to harness their superpowers and overcome burnout. Her clients practice new skills and embody new ways of being to gain access to more personal power, creativity, compassion, and authenticity. Jess’ bold and playful coaching style make her an effective partner for transformation. Unconditional love, joy, connection, integrity, and trust are values that guide her leadership.
Jess offers 90-minute Leadership Roadmap Sessions for people interested in trying Heart-Centered Leadership Coaching.
The Leadership Roadmap Session is a powerful way to "dip a toe" in the coaching waters. In this 90-minute session, leaders get real about who they want to be one year from today and what it will take to get there.
To learn more and request a Leadership Roadmap Session with Jess, visit her website.