MMM: Linda F. Williams, CEO, Whose Apple Dynamic Coaching Services

Bio: Linda F. Williams, MSW CCLC CPLC is the founder of the Whose Apple Empowerment Center and creator of The Whose Apple Dynamic. She is a trained psychotherapist, behaviorist, Certified Life/Professional Life Coach, relationship expert, motivational speaker, and author of Whose Apple is it, Anyway: Empowering Purpose to Achieve Your God-Ordained Destiny.

Number of years in management: 5-10 years.

Degree/Institution: MSW, Western Michigan University.

Tell us about your path to management:
It began with my federal career in public administration and gradually progress into a leadership position in labor-management relations. That was a boot-camp for me. It gave me experience in developing partnerships with stakeholders and learning the balance of getting results without bridge-burning and ruining relationships.

As a result of writing a book that took me through a 7 year process of self-reflection, self-awareness, and learning to embrace a very traumatic past, I founded Whose Apple Empowerment Center to facilitate the vision and destiny of those with traumatic histories.

What leadership qualities do you find to be the most effective in reaching your organizational or career goals? 
It is important to recognize that authenticity must underlie management skills because it is “soft skills” that facilitate relationships. We have to move past the whole networking for the sake of networking. We have to take the time to develop relationships with stakeholders, team members, and staff.

We must develop competencies that go beyond emotional intelligence to address what is at the core of influencing human beings, not managing human resources. Focus on influence instead of control.

The difference between control and influence is that control is external, while influence is internal. Control involves any external means by which the organization attempts to forge change. It does not work long-term.

Influence, on the other hand, is relational. It emerges from within each individual within an environment. It is fostered through one-on-one interactions that are authentic and meaningful. Develop a focus on fostering authentic leadership competencies as opposed to management skills.

Finally, leaders of excellence recognize when it is time to step back and let others lead. In other words, leaders need to leverage the experience of staff and team members in areas where they might lack certain competencies. Nobody has it all in spades.
How do you motivate your team members?
There is no formula or boilerplate methodology for motivating team members. Motivational strategy is as diverse as the individuals we seek to motivate. People will show or reveal what motivates them, we only have to watch and hear it. Note that I said “hear it.” Communication training may teach active listening skills, however you have to hear in order to listen. There is power in the backstory of their lives.

I find that as I support and encourage team members or staff, they tend to feel empowered in the mission. This fosters an ownership of the project in which all the players take pride. I find that my taking a roll-up-your-sleeves servant leadership style is encouraging to others.

Is there a leader or mentor who has inspired or assisted you along your professional journey?
Tim English, Regional Administrator of the Midwest Regional Office of USDA – Food and Nutrition Service, has had an indelible personal and professional impact on me. As we fostered cultural change on opposite sides of the labor-management table, we both grew in our respect for one another that allowed us to disagree, agree to disagree, and call one another out as necessary to challenge on another’s perspectives. To this day we keep in touch, long after I stepped down from my position in labor leadership.

How has networking impacted your career?
Again, relationships. That one-on-one interaction goes far beyond the resume! Sometimes you just click with someone and that genuine interaction can result in some exciting and amazing opportunities. No doubt!

What are you reading and/or following now (e.g. book, blog, social media groups, etc.)?
Please! I am currently writing my dissertation so there is no reading for pleasure. My entire focus is on restorative justice and social reintegration of individuals formerly involved in the criminal justice system. I’m getting a headache thinking about this daunting task. I am following any research related to this topic.

What advice do you have for those beginning their professional journey or who are already in leadership positions? 
Know who YOU are. Recognize how your past has colored your perceptions. Acknowledge that these perceptions fully inform your decision making and act accordingly. Also, always remember that we don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.

Do you have an initiative or project you would like to tell our readers about?
Emergent Voices: Reintegration and Desistance from the Perspectives of Formerly Criminal Justice-Involved Individuals is my current research project. It looks at the implications of human agency and self-determination in reentry and examines turning points in ex-offender decisions to desist from criminal behavior.

If anyone out there is willing to volunteer to review my protocol questions and research instruments as experts, please contact me. I could use some expert eyes. Someone with a criminal justice background would be stellar!

What do you wish you had known before you started your career? 
I wish I had known what a personal challenge it would be. But, then, had I know this, I might have chosen a different direction. Leadership excellence emanates from within. It is not an external commodity. I appreciate the personal growth that has resulted from my leadership journey. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

Share a mistake or failure that provided the most growth in your career.
Huge mistake: jumping to conclusions without having the full story. Not a good idea. After a few times of this, I learned this important lesson. There are three sides to every story. Her side. His side, and the truth resides somewhere in between! I filed that one under my Rosanne Rosandanna files. Subtitle: Never mind!

To contact Linda F. Williams for any inquiries please email her at lfwilliams@whoseapple.org.

*The views expressed herein are those solely of the author and not necessarily endorsed by the Network for Social Work Management.

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The views expressed herein are those solely of the author and not necessarily endorsed by the Network for Social Work Management.

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