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Gardian of the Month: Cynthia Mills

Apr, 12 2024

Our Gardian of the Month is Cynthia Mills, Founder, President & CEO of The Leaders’ Haven.

EG: What strategies have you found most effective when faced with learning a new subject or skill?

CM: First and foremost, get excited about the possibilities to enhance my approach, abilities, perspective, and my career. Quiet the voice in my head about my to do list and how long it might take me to change from how I’ve been doing things (even when learning a new way will ultimately save time or provide a better result.) Set aside dedicated time consistently to focus on what I’m learning. If it’s a significant gap, break it down into manageable chunks to address any sense of overwhelm and expectations of myself. Celebrate the progress along the way. Apply and implement as quickly as possible to preserve the learning, make it practical, and keep challenging myself to learn more. Share liberally with everyone to shortcut their learning and encourage others to do the same to continuously elevate the team.

EG: Who are the people in your life that have served as mentors and what have they taught you?

CM: I have been fortunate to have so many people invest in me throughout my life from my parents who grounded me in my values, faith, and family to teachers, who put me on an advanced academic path and taught me that early and consistent endeavors result in magnificent experiences, to higher education administrators who became lifelong friends and taught me the blessings of loyalty and nurturing long-term relationships for life to the first association CEO, who hired me and gave me way more responsibility than my track record and demonstrated how belief in someone can result in them rising to the occasion. I have also been blessed with association peers, the Fellows, and clients who show me how humility, giving back, pouring into others, and creating a life that helps others leverage legacy in strong organizations can change many people’s lives and leave footprints that matter. My mentors ultimately taught me to care about others, make sure they know you care, keep learning, keep trying, and leave it all on the table. Make it all count!

EG: What is something you most enjoy teaching others?

CM: It’s often referred to as finding your voice, and I would recharacterize that as a component of “don’t make yourself small.” We all carry that voice in our heads that wants to fuel imposter syndrome. How loud we allow it to speak is our responsibility. Being confident but not arrogant is the sweet spot. Recognizing when we are still a learner vs. an expert is also essential. Too many people hold back instead of stepping into conversations – mostly because they haven’t taken the time to design conversations in advance and think about the impact they bring into a dynamic or how to finesse the outcomes they desire from an interaction. Practice creates competence and therefore confidence, which allows each of us to step fully into all we are meant to be and can contribute. The world needs leaders, and our community is full of developing professionals, who can fill that void. The best never stop learning, keep practicing, listen well first, and then enter into the conversations. Step up and out into the light - you just might change the world or someone’s life. 

EG: If you could have dinner with anyone, real or fictional, who would it be and what would you ask them?

CM: I wrote the first dissertation on the stained glass in York Minster’s Chapter House, part of the largest gothic cathedral in northern Europe located in York, England. I would love to dine with the glazier and ask what it was like for him and the stone masons to create the art and the storytelling in a building that would influence people for millennia, while knowing they would never get to see their completed work or its full impact. They were creating legacy in the 13th century that carries out a vision and mission into the 21st century. So are those of us in association leadership now – and I’d love to know if they felt anything like we do and what lessons they could teach us about believing in and committing to our long-term impacts, even if we don’t get to see them come to fruition.

EG: What is a resource that has been valuable to you in your work, and what makes you appreciate it?

Click the video below to see Cynthia's response! 

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