The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

RLF Recap: "The Art of Difficult Conversations"

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Nick Woo '20 and Roshni Dugar '20, Class of 2020 Rockefeller Leadership Fellows, engage with one another during Dr. Roshini Pinto-Powel's session. 

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Dr. Roshini Pinto-Powell is the Associate Dean of Admissions and the current course co-director for OnDoctoring and Geriatrics and Ambulatory Medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine. She is also a passionate teacher and mentor to students, residents, and junior faculty. 

Dr. Roshini Pinto-Powell led the RLF session entitled, "The Art of Difficult Conversations." The topic of difficult conversations was the core principle tackled in the Fellows' summer reading texts. She began her talk by coining the concept of the fine 'art' of communication as central to handling difficult conversations efficiently. She stressed that the skill of effective communication guides leaders to do and say the right things in the right way. Dr. Pinto-Powell also broached the following crucial traits of true leadership: integrity, authenticity, listening, and reflection. 

On a personal level, Dr. Pinto-Powell's session reinforced the importance of self-leadership, precisely, leading from within. One way of nurturing personal leadership is by practicing self-awareness by examining how we think and how our thought process influences what we say and do. For instance, a self-aware leader seeks to focus on practical ways that they can address anything that triggers them. The leader also looks deep within themselves to see which part of their inner being is triggered and why. Further, at the core of personal leadership, is learning to be empathetic, showing self-compassion, and embracing self-reflection. Regarding the practice of self-reflection, Dr. Pinto-Powell emphasized that the practice of self-reflection does not have to be a time-consuming exercise. For instance, she told us that she spends a few minutes during her drive to work to think through her day and the effective ways of accomplishing the tasks of the day.

Additionally, Dr. Pinto-Powell led us through the following Tuckman stages of group formation: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Adjourning. To localize the lessons on the process of group formation, the Fellows engaged in a simulation of teamwork optimization. Dr. Pinto-Powell gave us a scenario in which the fellows took different roles in tackling an Economic course capstone project. The members of the group were randomly selected by the Economic professor and instructed to work together. Each Fellow represented the likely character/personality trait in any group. We learned how to handle teamwork dynamics. Some strategies of establishing effective team management include: creating a psychologically safe environment, taking time to build shared goals for the group, exploring different ways of leveraging each other's strengths, and completing each other's weaknesses for the success of the group. 

The session with Dr. Pinto-Powell significantly boosted our understanding of how to form and manage group dynamics and conflicts through an effective communication strategy. 

-Written by Carolyne Musyoka, Class of 2020 Rockefeller Leadership Fellow

As Rockefeller Leadership Fellows, seniors gain a better understanding of the qualities and responsibilities expected of leaders. As Fellows take part in the workshops, dinner discussions, and team-building exercises, they examine their skills, qualities, and attributes as leaders and analyze how these influence teamwork and achieving goals. 

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