MAXIMUS‘ Stephanie Crawford is a Pinnacle Awards finalist in the EA of the Year (Public Company) category. Here, she shares advice for aspiring leaders, what she learned from failure and what sets her apart from the competition and more.
What has made you successful in your current role?
Crawford: I deliberately listen to others without introducing any of my own biases, judgments, or perceptions. I do this by trying to take the perspective of the person speaking with me. This allows me to listen, understand and accept others for who they truly are, rather than who I perceive them to be. This approach can be applied to any situation, including your clients.
How do you help shape the next-generation GovCon leaders?
Crawford: By creating an environment for them to thrive! The perfect environment for each next-generation leader will vary from individual to individual, but what is consistent is that each of those individuals will need an environment that is balanced between empowerment and accountability.
I strive for them to feel empowered by giving them the opportunity to make decisions —recognizing that there will be some good ones and few mistakes. The accountability of owning and learning from both the good ones and the bad ones is an important part of their empowerment. While it’s a tricky balancing act, it’s worth it when you see a person making giant strides towards becoming a strong leader.
What’s your best advice for aspiring leaders who want to follow in your footsteps?
Crawford: Believe that change is inevitable. In the world. In your life. Even at work. So embrace it and prepare for it. How? With the right mindset.
Become aware of your own thoughts and ideas around change as it affects you. What can you change about yourself in regards to the change. What can you change about yourself to help others with adapting to change? Take time to think through all of it until you have a 360-degree perspective of the change. Then, develop your thoughts on how to best approach the change — fine tune them, challenge them and embrace them again.
The power of this habit will allow you to be deliberate in how you act or react to the change and you will be better prepared for it. “Be the change that you wish to see in the world,” as Mahatma Gandhi said.
What’s one key thing you learned from a failure you had?
Crawford: To me, failure doesn’t exist if I am a using it as an opportunity for self-improvement and as part of my ongoing career development. I believe that failure is the stepping stone for self-reflection and self-examination… which leads to better understanding… which turns into a learning opportunity… which results in personal growth. If I am achieving growth, then I am succeeding at continuous self-improvement — a deeply held core value — and I will become a more successful person.
What specifically makes you stand out from your industry counterparts?
Crawford: My individuality! While EA job descriptions vary slightly in the tactical, it is our strategy as individuals that sets us apart. My daily focus and desire is to deliberately identify, clarify and support the needs of others, irrespective of title or position. This has made me a valued and respected resource across the entire company.