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The New Portrait Of Leadership: Liza Provenzano Of SparkWorks Leadership and Coaching On Strategies…

The New Portrait Of Leadership: Liza Provenzano Of SparkWorks Leadership and Coaching On Strategies to Shape Yourself Into A Modern Masterpiece

An Interview with Karen Mangia

… Self-leadership — This one is often overlooked however it’s critical. This requires a leader to be aware of one’s own strengths and limitations, values, and personal motivations. It requires a leader to self-regulate in moments of being triggered, or emotional. One example of how I learned this lesson is earlier in my career I was unaware of how uncomfortable I was with conflict. It caused me to avoid uncomfortable discussions. Fortunately, now that I have that awareness, I developed skills that now help me through these situations.

We are living in the Renaissance of Work. Just like great artists know that an empty canvas can become anything, great leaders know that an entire organization — and the people inside it — can become anything, too. Master Artists and Mastering the Art of Leadership draw from the same source: creation. In this series, we’ll meet masters who are creating the future of work and painting a portrait of lasting leadership. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Liza Provenzano, SparkWorks Leadership & Coaching.

Liza is a leadership development consultant and coach who works with leaders at all levels to help them get results, strengthen relationships and be successful. With extensive experience in working with leaders and teams, she helps leaders build the confidence they need for challenging discussions with peers, team members and bosses so they can focus on the contribution they want to make and experience greater satisfaction in their work. She’s certified in several frameworks and assessments and uses these tools to help leaders integrate practical insights and create meaningful change.

Thank you for joining us. Our readers would enjoy discovering something interesting about you. What are you in the middle of right now that you’re excited about personally or professionally?

We are doing some great work that helps leaders have more productive discussions with their teams. Here’s why that is exciting. In this work, leaders improve their ability to have day-to-day discussions that actually build commitment and transform culture. Often, leaders aren’t sure where to start when it comes to creating healthy cultures, and we help them take actionable steps they can apply daily that builds relationships and helps them get results.

We all get by with a little help from our friends. Who is the leader that has influenced you the most, and how?

I couldn’t agree more. For me, it’s not so much that one leader has influenced me the most but that I’ve been influenced in different ways be several leaders. For example, one leader believed in me early in my career and encouraged me. From another leader, I saw an example of being guided by your purpose and values. There’s another leader who was excellent at prioritizing the most important work. This taught me the importance of focus and being able to say no.

Sometimes our biggest mistakes lead to our biggest discoveries. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a leader, and what did you discover as a result?

The biggest mistake I’ve made is thinking that leadership is only an “outside” job. I’ve since come to understand that leadership starts inside first. Looking back, the times when I was most challenged in leading effectively, were also the times where I had the greatest internal struggles. That isn’t to say everything must be figured out to lead well. Far from it. Instead, my point is that to be effective, leaders must be self-aware and committed to their own development. To sum up, leading others effectively, means I am effective at leading myself first.

How has your definition of leadership changed or evolved over time? What does it mean to be a leader now?

I quite like the definition we use in our work with the Leadership Circle© solutions which describes leadership as work that creates outcomes that matter. That resonates with me because of my belief that we are here to contribute. People want to make a difference. Being a leader now means that we bring people along on this journey in doing work that matters.

Success is as often as much about what we stop as what we start. What is one legacy leadership behavior you stopped because you discovered it was no longer valuable or relevant?

The one I’ll mention is the idea that being successful was tied to how much I achieve. Simply put, it was about volume. That idea wasn’t productive on several levels and has been replaced by an approach that I’ll describe as “less is more.” It is about asking the questions, “What is the contribution I want to make? How do I best focus on that?”

I still fall into the trap of spreading myself too thin, but I watch for that now and am more likely to say no to things that, while they might be interesting ideas, don’t line up with the contribution I want to make.

What is one lasting leadership behavior you started or are cultivating because you believe it is valuable or relevant?

Most recently, I’ve focused on relationship-building skills. Earlier in my career, I took many of these skills for granted, however, they are critical to leadership effectiveness. Relationship skills start with curiosity, and an ability to be present. They come to life with conversational skills such as, inquiry and listening. My goal is that by developing and applying these skills more extensively, others will feel understood and respected when they interact with me.

What advice would you offer to other leaders who are stuck in past playbooks and patterns and may be having a hard time letting go of what made them successful in the past?

My advice has four parts. First, don’t ignore it. Feeling stuck is unpleasant but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a signal that something must change.

Second, become curious. Curiosity is an antidote to the fear that arises when something isn’t working. Consider what might be possible if you make a change.

Third, find something, or someone, that will help you shift your perspective such as a trusted colleague, a friend or a coach or spend some time writing about what you are experiencing and see what emerges.

Lastly, take a step, even if it is a small one. Action is necessary to becoming unstuck. So, take that step and see what happens.

Many of our readers can relate to the challenge of leading people for the first time. What advice would you offer to new and emerging leaders?

I’ll offer the same advice that I’d give to my younger self when I took on my first leadership position at age 29.

  • Ensure you are clear on what is most important. Workloads can feel particularly overwhelming when in a new job. Take one thing at a time and do your best to stay present with each task, and with each person.
  • Pay attention to the quality of your relationships. Be present for others and let others know they matter to you. We don’t get anything done alone and part of the joy of work is the experience of working with others.
  • Keep your eye on the long game. Don’t get distracted by the challenges and setbacks. They will happen. Avoid reacting and choose your responses instead.
  • Take care of yourself and cultivate life outside of work too. You can’t “pour from an empty cup”.

Based on your experience or research, what are the top five traits effective leaders exemplify now? Please share a story or an example for each.

The top five traits that are particularly important now are:

  1. People skills — We know that a leader’s ability to communicate effectively, build trust and creating connections with others is a key differentiator in leadership effectiveness. These skills help leaders get others to do what must be done not because they have but because they want to.
  2. Teamwork effectiveness –This involves collaborating, being inclusive, and managing multiple, and dissenting, points of views. It’s necessary not only in leading a team but in a team member too.
  3. Navigating change — So many leaders are dealing with new issues where the solutions are not evident. Being able to facilitate change is a constant in a leader’s life. I recall working with one leader who was new to his team and decided to take his team into a different direction. He patiently, and consistently, got input from his team at each step of the process and dealt with their reservations and resistance. Gradually, his team became engaged in implementing the changes they needed to make.
  4. Creating Clarity — Leaders can’t provide certainty, but they must provide clarity. Clarity of vision, objectives or decisions are examples. So are clarity in feedback and clarity of purpose. Clarity is necessary for teams to focus on the right work.
  5. Self-leadership — This one is often overlooked however it’s critical. This requires a leader to be aware of one’s own strengths and limitations, values, and personal motivations. It requires a leader to self-regulate in moments of being triggered, or emotional. One example of how I learned this lesson is earlier in my career I was unaware of how uncomfortable I was with conflict. It caused me to avoid uncomfortable discussions. Fortunately, now that I have that awareness, I developed skills that now help me through these situations.

American Basketball Coach John Wooden said, “Make each day your masterpiece.” How do you embody that quote? We welcome a story or example.

I haven’t heard this quote from John Wooden before so thanks for sharing it. Mindfulness is a practice that helps me to embody this quote. What I have learned from this practice is that a great deal of the joy, satisfaction, insight, and meaning come from seemingly small moments in the day. I used to spend so much time rushing through my days, (and sometimes still do), that I’d miss a lot of what was happening around me.

What is the legacy you aspire to leave as a leader?

We spend about 100,000 hours of our lives in our work. That’s a significant part life. So, I want to make work life a more satisfying part of life overall.

How can our readers connect with you to continue the conversation?

There are a few ways. I welcome folks to reach out on LinkedIn at INSERT LINKEDIN LINK. I also invite readers to visit our website at www.sparkworksleadership.ca and sign up for our newsletter where they’ll receive practical tools and insights a couple of times a month. As well, I can be contacted directly at [email protected]

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!

About The Interviewer: Karen Mangia is one of the most sought-after keynote speakers in the world, sharing her thought leadership with over 10,000 organizations during the course of her career. As Vice President of Customer and Market Insights at Salesforce, she helps individuals and organizations define, design and deliver the future. Discover her proven strategies to access your own success in her fourth book Success from Anywhere and by connecting with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.


The New Portrait Of Leadership: Liza Provenzano Of SparkWorks Leadership and Coaching On Strategies… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.