We had an opportunity to catch up with keynote speaker and founder of the award-winning e-learning firm Reify Media, Sarah Glova.
Do you have a favorite quote? The Dale Carnegie quote: “People support a world they helped create.” We often put a lot of pressure on ourselves to speak effectively, to manage effectively, to teach effectively -- we think, "What do I have to say to make this happen?" But in the end, it's often more important that we listen to what others have to say rather than trying to say the right thing ourselves. I used to put a lot of pressure on myself and my performance -- What am I saying and doing, and how well am I saying it and doing it? Now, I focus much more on how I'm creating space for others to say and do things, versus putting that pressure on myself. In the end, the people I work with are much more engaged and are learning more because they're involved in the process. It's an important strategy for communication, but it's also just a more inclusive way to operate.
What is the most meaningful part of your job? As a keynote speaker, I focus on communication skills -- how people can communicate better at work. And again and again, I've seen this open doors for people. When we struggle to communicate our ideas and use our voice, we're held back; but when we can speak up, share our ideas, facilitate conversations, and lead collaborations -- that's when doors open and important, impactful work can get done. I love helping professionals unlock their communication skills and open more doors.
What advice would you give to your younger self? Don't wait to be invited or wait to be asked. Think hard about what you want and -- if you're sure it aligns with your goals, skills, and values -- then go and get it for yourself. It's not enough to do good work and wait to get noticed. Raise your hand! Ask to join the platform! And if you have trouble getting in somewhere -- that doesn't mean you aren't doing good work. Maybe it isn't the space for you (or maybe you need to go build your own space). Either way -- don't wait to be asked, or to be given permission. Go. Do!
How did you help your community this year? My hometown of Raleigh, NC is experiencing exponential growth, and there are a lot of strong opinions about what we should do—whether that's focusing more on development and housing availability or focusing more on gentrification and protecting existing neighborhoods. I saw this conflict come to a crisis point when our City Council voted to defund Citizen Action Committees (CACs) that had existed across our city's neighborhoods since the 1970s. In the end, I didn't necessarily have an opinion about whether those CACs should or shouldn't exist -- but I saw how divisive the voices were in our community. So when the City announced an inaugural Community Engagement Board that would be focused on understanding how the city engages with citizens and that would advise the City Council on community engagement -- I knew I wanted to contribute. I applied to serve on the board, was selected appointed by my District's City Councilman, and was then elected as Chair of the 16-person board. I take this work very seriously, am very proud to be involved, and am passionate about helping to drive policies in our city that will lead to radical inclusion.
What is one thing that a student taught you? Earlier this fall, I did presentation training for a group of students. Afterward, one student came up and half-whispered a question. “Any extra advice for someone with stage fright?” My heart broke. Immediately, my reaction was to help—to share every lesson I had about stage fright. Then, I PAUSED. Lately, I’ve been really careful about giving advice—even if asked. (Research has shown that the act of asking for advice lowers a person's confidence. Not helpful, no matter how good the advice!) I'm trying to ask questions instead—to invite the person's expertise. So I asked, “Well, have you tried anything that’s worked for you?” The student suddenly BEAMED. Gone was the whisper. Excitedly, this student told me they'd joined a local professional Toastmasters club to practice their speaking. What?! I was so impressed—and SO glad I'd asked. My instinct had been to give advice. Instead, I asked a question—inviting in their expertise. What would've been a one-way advice-dump turned into a meaningful, two-way conversation. We talked about breathing techniques, mistakes we've made, things they were working on—it was fantastic. I walked away feeling SO GRATEFUL for the lesson that the student taught me—how important it is to pause when our reaction is to give advice, and the value of questioning that reaction (wait—is there another way I want to handle this?). That student taught me a lesson I've learned before but could always use a refresher on -- our students have deep, meaningful experiences that we should invite them to bring into our classrooms, and part of our role as instructors (rather than always assuming the role of the expert) is to create space for our students to share those experiences and connect those experiences to what they're learning.
1000 Spotlights: Why We Give reflects our mission of giving back, to mentor and to inspire those around us.
Through a series of interview questions, we explore academic inclinations and intrinsic motivations behind why we give, and talk with those inclined to make a difference in the lives of students. If you are involved in charitable activities, volunteer and paid academic engagements or in community service, we want to talk to you.
Write to us to nominate yourself or someone else who fits the bill.