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How to Spot and Empower Up and Coming Leaders

In my interview series with leaders making an impact, I had the opportunity to interview Shanna Hocking. She is the Associate Vice President, Individual Giving at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and owner of Be Yourself Boldly. Shanna frequently speaks and writes on leadership, fundraising and career development. She has been published on Fast Company, The Huffington Post, Career Contessa, Forbes, and Motherly.  Tell us about your […]

Shanna Hocking
Shanna Hocking

In my interview series with leaders making an impact, I had the opportunity to interview Shanna Hocking. She is the Associate Vice President, Individual Giving at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and owner of Be Yourself Boldly.

Shanna frequently speaks and writes on leadership, fundraising and career development. She has been published on Fast Company, The Huffington Post, Career Contessa, Forbes, and Motherly. 


Tell us about your brand message, Be Yourself Boldly. 

Be Yourself Boldly started as advice that I was giving to others to help them understand their unique value and how they contribute to the world. It’s a reminder that you do need to be yourself and gives the encouragement to accomplish something that you never thought possible. In speaking and writing and hopefully modeling it for myself, it’s been really empowering for people to remember the value that they have and then share that voice with the world. 

How do you show gratitude to your employees and why is it important?  

I love talking about gratitude! I think the way that you show authentic gratitude to a staff member is by telling them what they uniquely did to make something successful at work. So, it’s not about thanks for helping me, it’s you have the ability to think ahead and predict what was going to happen in that situation. Your planning and insight allowed the event to be successful.

People thrive when they hear positive feedback from their managers. It’s important to show that you paid attention to what they were doing and recognized their strengths. I try to find as many opportunities as I can to give praise in person. One of my favorite ways to show gratitude is writing a handwritten note. It shows intention and effort and then it’s something that people can refer to during those tough days. 

How have you as a manager had conversations with people about learning opportunities specific to the direction that they want to go in their career? 

If someone says to me, I want to get better at public speaking because I see myself being more external in my next role, I try to identify those opportunities. This includes presenting in front of the team and then coaching them afterward.

I try to tailor the learning opportunities to them and there are ways to do that, that don’t require significant numbers of resources. We just need to be creative with bringing people to the table and letting them shine in the way that’s meaningful for them. 

How can someone identify the talent and strengths of others?

I aspire to be what I would call a “Talent Spotter.” I have been in multiple interviews where someone says she’s interested in a certain job and there’s something else that she’s saying that’s leading me to believe that there’s more there. I start asking questions and getting curious and saying, “well why are you not considering this other role?” 

Sometimes it comes out that they are really interested in that other role and I want to be able to put them into a place where they can be successful before they even start.  Then once they’re there, finding opportunities to interact with them formally and informally to ask them about what they’re working on, what they love learning about, and what ideas they have.

It’s important to listen for what’s not being said. Ask more open-ended questions to understand and help the other person to see their strengths. Sometimes I have found that they weren’t even willing to admit to themselves what I feel like I’m hearing. The more open-ended questions that you can ask someone, the more you can really learn about motivations, interests and goals. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your “Attagirl Folder?”

One of my beloved mentors when I was an intern working in development in college gave me an empty folder and she that I should put all of my accolades, accomplishments and notes in it. She said that it will remind me of why I’m doing what I’m doing on the great days and be a resource when I feel like things are just not going as I planned. It’s a reminder to cheer myself on and that other people are cheering me on too.

I now give all my staff members a folder for them to keep for themselves. I also keep an electronic folder for every team member- not just my direct reports. I reflect on them during our one-on-ones and at performance evaluation time. 

Have you ever seen other people use contents of the folder to support their ask for a promotion ask for a raise? 

Yes, and that’s a great value add! When employees have that folder it’s much easier to go back and say, hey look at all these wonderful things that I did.

What advice would you give someone to be yourself boldly?

I think it’s so important to remember to advocate for yourself. Whether it’s a promotion, getting an intro meeting with someone or it’s just volunteering for side projects; we need to advocate for ourselves. If you do this in the right way it will open many doors. Stop waiting for other people to tap you on the shoulder and find ways to create those opportunities for yourself.

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