International Women’s Day feature with Elizabeth Hefner, Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission

As a women-owned business, we are honored to highlight women who are incredible leaders in marketing and communications across a wide variety of industries. Each year on International Women’s Day we share an interview series celebrating these women and sharing their stories. 

This interview is with Elizabeth Hefner, Director of Advancement at Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission.

How do you define your leadership?

Collaboration, Empathy, and Measurement are three words that define my leadership. I believe that firmly grounding your work and your team in these three values ensures that everyone is valued, respected, and has the opportunity to work at their best.

I aim to become a trusted advisor to my team, which requires that I

  • speak with integrity and follow-through;
  • consistent respond and do not change my mode of response based on my own emotions;
  • foster a sense of safety and security;
  • have an open door for healthy discussion and debate;
  • collaboratively set goals with team members and consistently use them to measure success.

Leadership requires investing time in those we lead. It requires that I be open, honest, and willing to learn from those I lead. The only way to be an inclusive leader is to know my own biases and seek out other perspectives to inform my decision-making.

How has your leadership changed in the past year?

I have become far more flexible. In the past year, I, like so many, have spent time re-evaluating my leadership framework. I have shifted my leadership from being highly structured with a dash of collaboration to focusing on fostering the best outcomes for my organization while personally supporting the best results for my team. I shifted away from leading with KPIs first. I found that demonstrating empathy and understanding, as we have all faced tremendous challenges, created a sense of safety in a world of chaos. Through this shift, I have seen my team flourish and innovate. Their work has been outstanding, and our organization is growing as a result.

Can you share a story that demonstrates a key learning for you in your leadership journey?

As a leader, challenging conversations about performance are never easy, but they are a part of honest leadership. For example, I led a team where a team member was underperforming and disconnected from their work. At first, I was driving home their missed KPIs in every conversation and creating an improvement plan for them. A few days later, I saw them leaning over their desk with their head buried in their handing. I asked if they wanted to take a few minutes and talk. Their honesty blessed me as they shared that they were struggling to care for an ill parent, something I know myself too well. At this moment, we were able to talk through adjusting their schedule to give them the flexibility they needed. Within a couple of weeks, their work improved, and ultimately they became one of the team’s best members. Leading with trust and empathy can be transformative.

Check out the stories of other incredible women leaders in the marketing and communications industry. 

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