Lessons in Leadership: What My First Year at SEI Taught Me

As I’ve often written and spoken about, leadership is a verb, not a noun.  It is about experiences, not titles.  And there is no age minimum or maximum when it comes to learning and leadership.  Recently, a younger colleague on my team, Kyle Lindeman, approached me about contributing a blog post on what his first year at SEI taught him about leadership.  This is Kyle’s first job out of school and I have watched him immerse himself proactively in so many areas of our business. I was thrilled to have him contribute to the blog. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. 

 Kyle, thank you for taking the time to share your perspectives and for all you do to support our team, our business and our clients. You may only be at the beginning, but I see a great career in learning and leadership ahead of you!

A little over a year ago, I packed up everything I owned and said “see you later” to my friends and family in Florida to start the next chapter of my life. Next Stop – Pennsylvania and SEI. It started off with quite a bang – between taking part in two client implementations and supporting many others in various endeavors, I’ve been lucky to experience a lot. Here’s what I’ve learned along the way.

Leadership is hands on

I need to start by giving a shout out to SEI’s leadership, especially in the Private Banking Unit for setting a strong example of what a leadership team should look like. I’ve observed a recurring theme among these leaders:  leadership is a job done with your hands. Leadership isn’t about making decrees from the top to be carried out by the bottom. Rather, it’s about taking actions from the bottom and letting that display an example of how things should be done all the way at the top.

Be the student, but teach the teacher

My first year in the workforce has sometimes felt like my freshman year of college. I’ve spent countless hours learning the foundational knowledge I need to be successful in my role, started relationships with coworkers and clients that will hopefully extend a long time into the future, and expanded my horizons to things I didn’t know previously existed in the world. I’ve learned that teaching is a two-way street that can build trust among peers and that if you have the ability to share knowledge – you should.

Opportunities to lead are everywhere

I have always strived to be a leader in any organization that I’ve been a part of, from high school through college – and SEI was no exception. When I first started here, I looked at many leadership roles, including things like project manager or team lead. I made the assumption I would have to bide my time before I was considered for a role like that. I quickly learned that I had to change my mindset and look for leadership roles in places I never would have before.

This led to a great learning experience working with a team called Responsive Connectivity. It’s tasked with evolving our culture through employee-led growth, grass-roots initiatives and increased interconnectedness with each other and our clients. Our team is experiencing a lot of growth, which is exciting. We looked at expanding our physical workspace to accommodate that growth, but through our Responsive Connectivity team, we’ve found that we won’t need to do so in 2017. Instead, we’re moving into hoteling our workspace, where desks and other space is shared among co-workers based on their schedules. This new set up required a lot of research, testing and implementation of new technologies, and change management among the organization. I discovered I was able to become a leadership resource in driving this change. Leadership is everywhere when you look for it, and the opportunities are endless.

Even if you aren’t making the decisions, it pays to be in the conversation

Believe it or not, SEI isn’t quite ready to let me make all of the decisions around here yet… and for good reason! Developing a strategic vision for a company isn’t as easy as drawing some growth charts and forecasting numbers. When I started, I was really interested to see how it all comes together.  I found that there are a ton of learning opportunities if I choose to seek them out.  By joining the responsive connectivity project team, I got to learn about our long-term goals through our short-term actions. The experience has been more valuable than I ever could have imagined, and has allowed me learn where I can add my own input.

Clients want your best and expect your honesty 

By far the best experience I received in my first year here was through my interactions with our clients. Within a month of joining the team, I was on the road. It was a common theme to be working with very experienced individuals in the industry. However, I quickly saw that my inexperience didn’t matter to them. I learned that the client not only wants answers to their questions, they also want your honesty and transparency. If you don’t have the answer, “I don’t know” is a correct response, as long as it was followed by “but I’ll get you the answer.”  Client relationships truly are partnerships. Honest communication goes a long way in building critical trust in the relationship.

Investment in your employees is key

Reflecting on my first year here brings one word to my head over and over: Learning. I’ve learned a lot from many sources both inside and outside of SEI. The reason I’ve been able to do this is that our leaders have invested in me and others around me. I’ve learned that the investment of money and time in your employees brings a higher level of ability and commitment to you and the people around you.

Overall, I’m thankful most for the people above me and next to me that spent many hours over the past year giving up what could be productive time for them to invest in me for the benefit of the years to come.