Leadership in the Public Sector: A #SuiteSpot Interview with CA Economic Dev’t Director Kelly Kline

Kelly_Kline_clean_tech_open_blog_postOn career evolution:

 
“I fall solidly in the middle of Generation X, and like many of my peers, I have been more affected by the grey ceiling than the glass ceiling. The grey ceiling refers to Baby Boomers who have yet to relinquish their posts and send the clear message, “this is our ground.” One of the fundamental questions I struggled with early on in my career was where could I find a place for my particular vision and drive. In my chosen field of local government there is low tolerance for risk, and because any new changes are subject to intensive public review, it can be a challenge to foster innovation, entrepreneurism, and creativity.”

 
On negotiation:

 
“The art of negotiating is actually more methodical than people tend to think, and if you believe you are not great at it, it can feel risky. I think people who have a high level of influence tend to be good at it. If you are too conciliatory and want everyone to get along, negotiating can be challenging.

 
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I went to a three week executive course at Harvard’s Kennedy School where  we engaged in several exercises to overcome common mis-perceptions about negotiation skills. There, I discovered that negotiation is not a zero sum game and that it is very much about observing behavior patterns, parlaying information and resources and leveraging our communities. Realizing that I did not have to be perfect really helped free me in my approach to negotiations. I learned to force myself to be confident with my own transparency and found power in that process—the ability to say, “I don’t know the right answer here, but let’s work together to find the best solution for all of us”.”

 
On risk taking:

 
“I had never thought of myself as a risk taker at my workplace, until a 360 degree feedback process informed me than many of my colleagues perceived me to be one. This was so freeing for me because, prior to this acknowledgement, I had always thought it was something I was not great at, and thus, I did not work to expand or even practice it. Understanding that this was a trait my co-workers did in fact think I was particularly skilled with, resulted in me feeling more encouraged to be creative, innovative and expansive. There are very few public leaders who have created safe spaces for their employees to make mistakes. This is something we need to do more of and work to create this kind of thinking environment since we all know we can’t continue to do things the old way, no matter what industry we call home.”

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