Learning How To Be Leaders
In three neighboring houses in a residential suburb of Salt Lake City, Eva Carlston girls are learning how – through the process of communication and interaction–to take charge. Not only of others, but also of themselves.
Despite all the advances women have obtained in recent decades, many obstacles still remain. Although women hold almost 52 percent of all management- and professional-level jobs, American women lag substantially behind men in terms of their representation in leadership positions and wages. Eva Carlston wants to ensure that their graduates have the tools to succeed in all their future endeavors and feel comfortable wielding them effectively.
To this end, each student is asked to step out of their role as an Eva Carlston student to become a manager and help fellow students make good decisions. In the process, they go through a transformative experience.
Each week one of the girls is assigned the role of house manager and each of her peers are given a chore assignment for that week. The manager is responsible for ensuring that all the cleaning, organizing, cooking, planning of evening activities, weekend outings and shopping are done by their fellow residents. The manager has to learn how to work with her peers to ensure everything gets done and to their satisfaction.
When you’re as young as 13, or even older, that kind of responsibility is a challenge. It’s physically and emotionally demanding, but also extremely rewarding. Milieu Manager (aka house mother), Katie Talbot, proudly explains,
“Time and time again, we have seen the girls step up to the challenge and embrace it. They emerge empowered with leadership skills and, we believe, ready to forge their place in our culture and workplace while bringing about constructive changes that will benefit our communities”
Talbot helps her students develop their individual leadership skills and style based on their personal strengths. “The girls learn what their personal leadership style is by interacting with their fellow housemates and by figuring out how to best give and receive constructive criticism.” Katie says. “As a team they learn to work together to support each other’s strengths.”
Since all responsibilities for the smooth running of the home fall on the manager’s shoulders, they learn how to self-govern, negotiate with house mates and communicate clearly their requirements and goals. These are all fundamental strengths of all good leaders.
“Many of the girls are really nervous the first time they are given all these responsibilities,” Katie says. “It makes the students learn how to best work closely with their teachers, therapists and house staff to direct and negotiate with their fellow residents.”
When one of their peers seems to be struggling in this specific leadership role, a staff member is available to help the house manager express frustration in a positive way. It’s an opportunity for the manager to learn to ask for help and delegate when she feels overwhelmed, fundamental tools to manage when things don’t go as they would like.
Every evening the girls get together for a “family meeting” to discuss what happened during the day and to share advice with the house manager. The purpose of this exercise is to teach the crucial managerial skill of both giving and receiving constructive criticism and advice.
“Dealing with feedback is one of the most beneficial aspects of being a house manager,” Katie says. “One of my goals is to help the girls who are anxious about taking on such a responsibility and show them how capable they are,” she says. “They come in with preconceived ideas of what a leader is and then they realize that they can grow and learn from their peers’ feedback.”
It’s not about upsetting others but rather discussing what could have gone better and what worked well. It teaches the girls about empathy for their fellow peers and how to have difficult conversations without hurting someone’s feelings.
“Our girls are no strangers to pressure—it’s stressful situations that have led them to be with us. The stress that comes from being a house manager is primarily educational. Through managing their peers, they employ tools they are already developing at Eva Carlston and in the process learn important leadership skills that demonstrate their maturity and self-awareness”. – Katie
Address: 4943 S Wasatch Boulevard, Salt Lake City, Utah 84124