Jessie Drew on emotional intelligence, leadership, conflict, teamwork, and human resources

Jessie Drew from Northern Lights College.

Change Leaders are EITC alumni, colleagues, and leaders who are living out and championing leadership in their professional lives and promoting emotional intelligence in the world. Jessie Drew is a change leader!

Jessie Drew is Associate Vice President of People & Institutional Strategy at Northern Lights College. Jessie is a Certified HR Professional and coach who is passionate about helping managers and leaders succeed. She has been mentoring and coaching in operations, finance and human resources since 1996. Jessie holds a C.H.R.P designation, and is licensed to administer the EQ-i 2.0 / EQ360. 

Which area of EQ is most important for you? 

Everything starts with self. I believe that you cannot begin to understand or lead others if you don’t know yourself. Being aware of emotions that are coming up for you in the moment, learning how to self regulate those emotions and understanding that although you cannot control another person’s motives or behavior, you can control how you react to it have been transformational for me. I don’t have to own another person’s behaviours, but I need to clearly understand that there is always an impact to mine, no matter what my intent was. Keeping emotions in check, reading the room, meeting people where they are at are all extremely important.

How has the EQ certification/training impacted your professional life? 

The training has completely transformed both my personal and professional life. Working in Human Resources and more specifically labour relations, I deal with conflict every day. This training has allowed me the ability to be more inquisitive and less positional. I’ve been successful in building and maintaining strong and trusting working relationships with managers, staff and union’s as a result of it. When you are able to calm your mind and emotions to truly listen, it’s amazing what you can learn. People are generally good. Good people make mistakes. The answers to the questions are embedded in each of us. It’s great to be able to hold space to tease those answers out.

Empathy for others is another very important part of EI that has impacted my personal and professional life profoundly. Meeting folks where they are at without trying to fix them is really a gift we can give anyone. Holding people capable of fixing themselves builds trust and deep respect between yourself and the other person, no matter what the issue. I don’t have to agree or even like it, but I can have empathy and understanding. This skillset has been exceptionally important in working with other leaders. Human beings carry trauma with them, building resentments and ‘stories’ as they go. Showing empathy for their feelings and experiences is important to break through and effect change.

What’s your definition of a leader? 

A great leader knows themselves. They are acutely aware of how they show up, and self regulate accordingly. 

A great leader understands that humility and vulnerability are extremely important and provides an opportunity for your people to really see you. When we can see each other as people rather than titles, that’s where the magic starts to happen.

A leader needs to be able to listen and truly hear what people are telling them. In my experience, an employee will come to you once or twice and if they were dismissed or unheard, they will never knock again. I have been in that seat myself and know how damaging it can be. Listen.

A leader will not live in their head and protect information. Great leaders will see the importance of communication and transparency. When times are as confusing as they are right now, transparent communication, even when its hard information to take in, is important in a leader.

Great leaders serve their people. They look for ways to remove obstacles that hold their people back from being their best selves and the best employee they can be. That can be as simple as an honest coaching conversation, providing feedback that will essentially help them get out of their own way! 

How are you living out what it means to be a leader? 

I work hard to bring the real me to every interaction with my staff. They know that I have challenges just like anyone else and it really helps them to ‘see’ and understand me. This has come up many times when my staff have remarked on my ‘realness’. I see that as a positive!

I listen and ask a lot of questions, want their opinions and have taught them to bring recommendations for every problem. They are generally almost always right! Asking for recommendations and providing feedback in the moment helps to build their capacity to make decisions, build critical thinking skills and builds confidence! 

I expect people to make mistakes and I want them to do it anyway. The best way to learn is to do. When you ‘do’ you don’t always get it right the first time. Do it anyway. I give my people that invitation to ‘do’. 

I provide recognition to my people in real time. Whether it’s a , “I like the way you handled that situation today” to , “You honestly keep me on the straight and narrow, thank you so much for helping me get through this”, I want people to understand and know they are valued. As my five year old granddaughter tells me, “Nana, teamwork is what makes the dream work!”

Who is your favourite leader and why?

This is always a hard question to answer because I have so many people I look up to as great leaders. I’ve been fortunate to have been led by good people and have experienced the gifts of great leadership.

I would say my grade three math teacher, Mr. Roy, would be one. As a dyslexic, numbers were my nemesis. Funny how I ended up in finance for a large portion of my career, isn’t it! Anyway, he demonstrated great leadership in how he dug in and worked with me to understand a math problem or concept. Walked beside me through the problem, coaching and inspiring me, holding me 100% capable the whole time. He was invested in my success. No question was out of bounds. He allowed me to be vulnerable because he couldn’t help me if he didn’t understand me. He listened for the things I was saying and not saying, to find the key to unlock the problem. I think I would walk through glass and fire to follow that man, even today. I believed him when he said he believed in me.

What’s your superpower or secret skill?

Communication I think. I have been able to communicate in a meaningful way with a very diverse group of people, from every walk of life, successfully. I seek to understand, figure out where the problem might be and reflect it back so they can see too. I build trust through listening and having empathy for the other person or side. This has enabled me to build trust with staff, leaders and the unions I work with.

I have learned empathy and compassion for others through an experience I hope many of you never have to experience. As a parent we wish and hope and dream for our children and what they will become. When they experience serious problems along their journey, parents feel the losses of those dreams and wishes. To recalibrate and accept the present situation is often extremely tough. I’ve learned that we all walk a very separate journey and empathy, compassion and humility have definitely strengthened the connections in my personal life and professional career.

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