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7 Questions with Brandi P Sheffield
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7 Questions with Brandi P Sheffield
Name: Brandi P. Sheffield
Current title: CEO
Current organisation: Learning Associates, LLC
Brandi P. Sheffield, CEO, has served as a senior-level district administrator, principal supervisor, co-principal, university professor and teacher. In her 20+ years in education, she produced significant student gains for disenfranchised youth, low-income students, English learners, migrant students, and foster youth.
By designing coherent processes and structures for adult learning, leadership development and efficacy to ownership, Brandi has consistently impacted the lives of students she has served. As an avid implementer of systems thinking models & processes, Mrs. Sheffield has realized legacy impact gains for communities and instituted systems for the districts she served, in which those systems are still in operation to date.
Mrs. Sheffield is also a certified expert facilitator.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
As a CEO, I have found that executing my expectations throughout the org is challenging. You don't want to micromanage your leaders, they need space to lead with confidence. Yet, when they are not executing at the level of expectation, it can be difficult to balance expectations to capacity.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I became the CEO because I started the company, Learning Associates. I worked for public school districts for many years as an executive leader. The lack of systems and dense bureaucracy led me to lead in a non-profit organization that supported schools. Unfortunately, the same gaps existed. I lead from a place of excellence for adults and kids to achieve and thrive. I knew I could make a systemic impact, so I decided to start my own organization.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I begin the day with love and cuddles with my children at 7am. Once I send them off to get ready for school, my husband and I spend the next 15 - 20 minutes with cuddles , meditation and breathing exercises. Next, I conduct a short morning yoga stretch routine. Preparing my mind, body and spirit are crucial to a good foundation of work-life balance. I have learned the hard way that a leader must prioritize a healthy balance of work and home. We are not superhuman. While most leaders can hold a greater position of capacity, it does not come without a cost to health, relationships, or leadership development.
On the weekends I calendar my week with a color-coded system, to which I execute my schedule. My schedule includes planning and prep time for upcoming meetings, capacity coaching sessions with leaders and strategic planning. This is another crucial component of leading at a high level and having a work-life balance.
At the conclusion of my scheduled daily work activities, I fully commit myself to my family. My husband and I alternate weeks of cooking and share the responsibilities of chauffeuring our children to their multiple extra-curricular activities.
At the conclusion of our full-day, we all get personal time to decompress the day and do whatever we want until 7:30pm. At 7:30pm, we begin to prepare for bed, slow down our minds from the busy day, and everyone is in bed by 8:30pm.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
The most recent leadership lesson I learned was learning from my staff. My staff is much younger and more intuned with the new social structures and influence in technology. By setting vision and allowing them to lead, I learned a deeper value in how to build leadership capacity in staff.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
Currently I am reading "Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice" by Dennis Kimbro. This book has the same principles as "Think and Grow Rich'' by Napoleon Hill. The only difference is that it uses examples of Black Entrepreneurs . As a leader, or in any capacity, it is important to always be a learner. Equally, it is important to be able to draw from mentorship and leadership examples that add value and relevance to your practice. As an Afro-Indigenous female leader, there are a unique set of challenges and obstacles that we face as minorities across many groups. This book has impacted my leadership by helping me to reflect on some of the challenges I face in my business for growing and scaling the model. I have been able to dissect related obstacles to strategically think through alternative approaches.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
I build leadership capacity through professional learning experiences and coaching. As a certified master facilitator, I deeply understand the principles of andragogy. In application of those principles, I design transferable actions and ownership of outcomes. This is followed up by coaching and having my leaders present their action plans, then coaching them through inquiry to make improvements or adjustments towards the outcomes.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
My learning of this meaningful story is a phrase I have coined, "Context is King." Practices that work in one organization or department, may not be transferable based on context. A meaningful story that comes to mind as an executive leader is one that deals with impacting systems in an organization of low capacity, low skill, and low will to change from the staff (teachers and principals). Amidst very strong unionization, staff who did not represent the community they served, and a lack of systems, I had to set a vision and a pathway that influenced a change in systems, actions from staff, built staff capacity, and would show evidenced based results in the customers we served (students). In short, I orchestrated and architecture a process to gain ownership of change for entry level mathematics curriculum, content and assessment for all secondary schools, built the ownership of the union to champion the work with me, built the capacity and skill of the staff, and incentives the will of the staff with clear onboarding or off-ramping system for any staff member who did not adopt the new math system. The work took 2 years, and was just plain hard and exhausting, yet worth the investment in the product for student achievement and staff capacity. By the end of 2 years, we had increased student achievement across all bands by a minimum of 30%, with many increasing by 45%, moving their rates to 70-80% proficiency of mathematics. In a similar manner, staff reported "enjoying work again" because they felt valued, supported, and connected to the outcomes of students.