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Joan Riemer: How to Become a Leader [Podcast]

Posted December 06, 2022 by Joan Riemer

Listen to this episode of the Healthy Vitals Podcast.

In this episode, we will hear from Joan Riemer, System Director of organizational development and training HR employee development. She will lead an in-depth discussion on what she believes are the skills, practices, and values that make a good leader.

Featured Guest:

Joan Riemer
Joan Riemer is a Learning & Organizational Development Executive, recognized for award winning associate and leadership development program design. Joan lived in Chicago for 40 years; working as an executive L&OD professional at Jones Lang LaSalle, a global real estate consulting company and Oce / Netherland; a global copier company. Joan started her career in the Banking industry. Joan left Chicago in 2006 to move to Orlando Florida where she led the Learning & Development efforts for Wyndham Destinations, the largest vacation ownership company in the world. While at Wyndham, Joan was asked to lead a fully remote customer service operation with over 500 associates, helping her blend her OD & training knowledge with real business application. Coming back to her Midwestern roots, Joan joined Summa Health in February 2021 to lead the Enterprise Organizational Development & Training function. Joan has an undergraduate degree in Marketing and a Master of Business Administration; both degrees were from Lewis University in Romeoville, IL.

High energy, high passion, Joan thrives and adapts by leading teams through change; in local, national and international complex companies. Joan is a celebrated leader that has been chosen to be a keynote speaker on Organizational Development & Training at various Learning & Development Conferences.


Scott Webb: A leader is someone who inspires passion and motivation in followers. And on today's podcast, I'm joined by Joan Riemer, System Director, Organizational Development and Training. And she's here today to tell us how she leads her team and discuss the Emerging Leader Program at Summa Health, which is a program designed to identify and mentor future leaders today.

This is Healthy Vitals, a podcast from Summa Health. I'm Scott Webb. Joan, it's so great to have your time today. We've been on a little bit of a run here with Summa, talking to women at Summa in leadership roles, so it's great to have you on. Great to have your time. I just want to start here. Have you seen a shift in the sort of leader mindset during your time working your way up to becoming a leader? Have you seen a shift?

Joan Riemer: I have. I've seen a shift in how people learn, certainly. I have seen a shift on how people apply what they learn and the grace and the reflection of how they learn on the job. And certainly, there's a lot more tools that are around there for us, remote electronic tools. But I have not seen the best replacement for learning than by doing. Actually doing something and reflecting back on it, to me is still the best teacher.

Scott Webb: Yeah, I think you're right. I've been just sort of reflecting on myself and thinking about, "Well, how do I learn best?" I learn by doing. We learn by doing, by making mistakes. Try not to repeat those mistakes. And you mentioned some of the technology and the remote part of that, and we've all been through this over the last few years. So, you know, maybe considering the changing work culture and remote doing, if you will, how does an organization become proactive in creating leaders when maybe everybody's not in the same room at the same time all the time?

Joan Riemer:
I think two elements. One is I found that cohort learning is very effective. So, one of the things we're doing here at Summa is we've got this emerging leader program and the cohort goes through the learning process together. So, they have created great network. So that's one. The other is, I think, as an organization, we have identified what potential would look like. If you want to be a people leader or you want to think about doing that, what are some of the characteristics that I possessed today that would allow me to be successful? And things like how do you adapt to change? Do you embrace it? Do you try to understand it? Do you push it away? What's your interpersonal skills like? Do you relate to different people well? Do you think about relating to people that have different experience and different perspective? Do you have an interest in learning? Do you get involved in organizational groups and initiatives and support and the community? So getting involved. Are you honest about mistakes? Are you able to articulate when something didn't go well?

And then lastly, one of the factors that we're talking about is committing to do your absolute best, so that is the reflection piece. Are you reflecting on what's worked well, what hasn't worked well? Those factors of saying, even though you're not a people leader, these are things that'll tell you you have some of the characteristics that give you ahead of time something that, "Hmm, I like this. These are things that I'm really good at." Chances are you're going to enjoy the leader role, and you're going to have some natural strengths that you're going to bring to us.

Scott Webb: Yeah. And just staying with the Emerging Leader Program, let's talk a little bit more about that. How do you choose or select participants? How do you measure success maybe over the six to eight months of the program? You know, you talked about it being sort of a cohort and I can certainly understand that and the value of that. I did that like during my master's degree and I found it really helpful to kind of be with the same folks going through the same things, rolling up our sleeves. You know, it was really great. So, tell us more about the Emerging Leader program.

Joan Riemer: We've added a self-nomination part this time around. This is our second cohort. It premiered in February of 2022, a self-nomination this time around. So, we asked those factors that I just talked about of adapting to change and do you feel like you have a good handle on that, then this might be a good program for you. So, self-nomination, your leader then from there goes through the same set of questions that you would ask for self-nomination. And I believe this person would be a good candidate. And then, your senior leader will approve you for being in the program. And then, we have a committee that we have assembled that ensures that we have just a cross perspective of the organization, varying groups across Summa, so that, again, we've found that people learn as much from each other and their experiences in the program as they do some of the curriculum. So, making sure that we have a well-represented sections of the organization is important.

Scott Webb:
Well, it's great to hear more about the Emerging Leader Program and awesome to hear that folks can nominate themselves. But I'm wondering, Joan, I'm just thinking about that and thinking about myself over the years, do you find that there's some folks that you may feel would potentially be great leaders, are emerging leaders, if you will, but that if left to sort of self-nominate that they may not have the confidence in themselves or their skills, or they may not feel like they're ready, do you find that some folks with the self-nominating, now you're like, "Hey, how come you didn't nominate yourself?" And do you find that you need to encourage folks maybe a little bit to nominate themselves?

Joan Riemer: That is an interesting point because, in our very first group, we had a couple of people that commented on that and said, "If it was left up to me to self-nominate, I don't know that I see the same things that my leader may see in me." But when my leader brought it to my attention, the way they view me, one, it added some great confidence, but it also gave me a perspective that I don't see, right? Somebody else that sees me. So, the good part about our nomination process is this self-nomination. But we also have had a fair amount of leaders that have tapped people on the shoulder and said, "You know, that's out there, that email is out there to enroll. Maybe you should give it some consideration." It's "Hey, this might be something for you," but ultimately the person will want to be part of the process.

Scott Webb:
Wondering, when we think about the biggest challenges facing leaders today, you in your role and what you see in other leaders, what do you think some of them are? What are the biggest challenges?

Joan Riemer: Managing change. So, how you yourself manage through it and how you help others see it and manage through it. That's without doubt every day we come in, we're faced with some kind of an adjustment, either it's system or an approach to work. I think second is handling different perspectives, ensuring that in my craft, how I design, how I communicate, how I market elements, that I am reaching a variety of different backgrounds, people that have access to computers, people that don't. Not everybody in our system walks around with a phone, right? And so, ensuring that I'm reaching different perspectives and backgrounds.

I think other factors or challenges facing leaders is transparency, keeping everybody on the same page, right? With so much information, so much change going about how do you as a leader ensure that everybody is hearing the similar things and hearing the same why's of why we're doing certain things as an organization and ensuring that it's connected to the overall purpose of the organization. And then, I think last, team exhaustion is certainly a challenge that leaders face. How do I keep my team as exhausted as they are from the workday, from all the information that's coming at them? How do I keep them resilient?

Scott Webb: Yeah, that's such a good point. And we've all been employees, we've all worked for other people. And then, some of us get to a point where we're the one in charge. But almost always, there's somebody above you and maybe many people below you, and there's been sort of a common thread in what you said today about dealing with change, adapting to change, being flexible. Wondering maybe, can you think of some of the mistakes? You know, you don't have to call anybody out by name, of course, Joan, but some of the mistakes that some leaders make, is it just simply not being flexible enough, not adapting to change? What kinds of mistakes do you see or have you seen other leaders make?

Joan Riemer: Well, I'll certainly use myself as an example.

Scott Webb: Okay.

Joan Riemer: I think not asking and not listening, certainly for myself, but I see that in other leaders. You know, you could be analytical or you can be a social leader and more engaging leader, more relational. I see the commonalities on all spectrums of styles, right? But asking and listening, and sometimes we either get to our data and want to show the information or we want to build relationships and talk about ourselves, but I think that's important. I think little gestures really mean a lot as leaders, as we try to engage and keep in touch with our team. Little gestures like IMing or how's it going? We get so busy that we forget to recognize. And then, I think helping teams understand the purpose for change and just repeating it, repeating it, repeating it. You know, the more you say a message and the more people hear it, then perhaps you're getting through to, "Okay, I get it now. I understand it," and going back to that thing we've been talking about with changes. Why are we doing it? Why are we doing it? And so, helping people understand the purpose of how it relates to the bigger picture.

Scott Webb: I think you're so right. You know, just thinking about my life and all the jobs I've had and reflecting on that, listening to you, which is such a skill, and it's very helpful in what I do here behind the microphone to try to do more listening than talking, but thinking about that as an employee over the years. You know, folks want to know why we're doing things. And it's such a natural thing, such a human thing. How do you handle that when folks, when you can see the looks on their faces and you know they want to know why, how do you make the time and try to explain things to them?

Joan Riemer: I think people want to understand it in their work environment or how it applies to some of the things that they touch and they talk about and people that they talk to on a daily basis. So if putting it in the context of, "Okay, so you get x number of calls related to this thing. I know this is causing you pain right now. But if you think a couple of months down the road, how do you think this might adjust, how those calls or those interactions would be? Just give me a sense." And sometimes it's a little different how I'm thinking of it than how they might be thinking of it. They might think the pain is going to actually get a little worse, right? And we have to balance the way we view it and the positive nature that we view it and meet them at their reality too, because what they feel and what they experience is real. As leaders, we don't want to bypass that, just get on board and just think happy thoughts like I'm thinking, right?

Scott Webb: Right. "Just do it, because I told you I'm your boss. Just do it."

Joan Riemer: Right. But I think if you could say, "All right. Let's look at what you're doing and how that could make it better." And I always generally find that people, as they start to think about it in their specific scenarios, it helped them put it in context as it relates to them. They also feel like they're not being sold on something that doesn't have meaning to them. When they think about their own environment and their own work, you know, there's no promises that workload is going to get better, right? Or that it gets easier. Because, you know, there are always things changing and there's always hiccups and things as we implement things, but getting them to visualize. And then as a leader, as I hear their scenarios, I can help them think about ways that a change might impact them that they hadn't even thought of.

Scott Webb: Listening is such a skill. It's what I love about what I do here. What I love today about listening to you is, you know, listening to how you do it, right? How you lead, how you encourage future leaders and so on. So, this has been really great. Thank you so much. You stay well.

Joan Riemer:
Thank you.

Scott Webb:
And if you found this podcast to be helpful and informative, please share it on your social channels and be sure to check out the full podcast library for additional topics of interest. This is Healthy Vitals, a podcast from Summa Health. I'm Scott Webb. Stay well, and we'll talk again next time.

About the Author

Joan Riemer

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