The Bold & Courageous Leader Podcast: Episode 18
Rhonda: Welcome to the Bold & Courageous Leader Podcast from rhondapeterson.com. This is Rhonda Peterson, your Bold & Courageous Leader coach, along with my co-host Andee Marks. Rosemary Losser joins us on the show today. Rosemary has a deep background in leadership, having served in leadership positions with government and non-profits for many years. She and her husband have been active in their church through their marriage. Currently, they serve in the marriage ministry for premarital couples and couples in conflict. The reason why she does that will be coming out as we talk more about what she does.
Rosemary has a master’s degree in leadership and personal development, as well as graduate certification and conflict resolution and peacemaking from Duquesne University. Along with these credentials, she has a life coaching certificate in coaching work teams from the Professional Christian Coaching Institute. She is founder and president of Together Leadership and Life Coaching, LLC.
Welcome Rosemary! We’re glad you’re with us.
Rosemary: Hi Rhonda. It’s so great to be here. Thanks for inviting me.
Rhonda: You’re so welcome. I’m excited about this conversation we’re going to have. You’ve been on quite a journey to this point. What were some of the struggles and challenges that have shape your journey?
Rosemary: Well Rhonda, I’m not going to keep it a secret that I’m nearly 65 years, so that’s quite a long lifespan to be thinking back upon. I was one of five children growing up, and my grandmother also lived with us. It was a pretty busy household. When I think about it, my mother was actively parenting for 35 years. That just blows my mind.
Rosemary: With her mother living with us, I think she spent a lot of her time trying to please her mother, and that caused some friction between her and her husband, my father. It seemed to me that they were always fighting and fought in front of us. Even as a young child, I would listen to this and I would think, “This seems to be the same argument over and over again. Why can’t they just settle it?” That started my observing of people interacting.
As I said, my mother trying to please her mother, she had a lot of anxiety. All those anxieties were passed on to me. I would express sometimes how I would be feeling about something and my mother would always say, “Well, don’t feel that way.” I think I just never learned to recognize my own feelings. Also, because my father was very short-tempered, I learned not to ask for much. I didn’t know how to identify my own needs. I think a lot of my childhood, I just felt invisible.
Rosemary: Yeah. I think most of my struggle has been a lack of confidence. Fast-forward and I guess I have a level of intelligence. I did fairly well at school. Of the five children, I was the fourth, but I was the first to go to college.
Rosemary: So I didn’t have any lead guidance or leadership about how to go about that, but I did manage to go to a four-year degree. Again, not having a lot of confidence and not really knowing where my strengths were, I choose to major in Home-Ec, merely because I sewed. It was a wonderful thing to major in and it was wonderful for me and my personality as well, because it was so broad. I have a hard time zeroing in on something. I love change. I love exploring different topics. Because it’s not all zeroed in on just one thing, it’s all about life and managing life. It was a wonderful thing. I also had a minor in sociology, and I didn’t want to teach. Sociology kind of got me into community services, so that’s how I ended up working in social services.
I was very fortunate and I got a job right out of college as an entry-level case worker for the Department of Aging. I dealt with the long-term care industry all of my life, starting with the aging services and then in my second career after I took some time off to be with my young children, I started working with adults with physical disabilities. It’s all been in the same industry, but the industry has changed so many times over the years and so many different twist and turns and emphasis that it’s never been dull for me. There’s always been changes. There’s always been policy and philosophy changes, so that has always appealed to me. Back to my lack of confidence though, I…
Rosemary: … was promoted several times, not seeking it. It would be people would see something in me and I’d get promoted to leadership positions, but I always felt like an impostor.
Rhonda: Ah, that infamous impostor syndrome.
Rosemary: Yes, yes.
Rhonda: Wow, yeah.
Rosemary: I would be in management, but it would be a struggle and it would be overwhelming. I always felt like I needed maybe to go back to school. I thought that would be the key.
Rosemary: I now know that it’s confidence that is the key. People who are confident don’t necessarily need the degree, but I felt that I needed that degree.
Rhonda: Okay, so would you say that the lack of confidence in the management roles that you were in were what brought you to the point of returning to school in midlife?
Rosemary: Right. Well, I always wanted to go back to school; it’s just that it was delayed.
Rosemary: I was pregnant with my third child and I applied to get a master’s in social work, and got accepted. I was thrilled and then reality set in and I thought, “This is impossible. I can’t work, have three children, and go back to school.” I put that on hold, and not only did I not go back to school, but I also ended up quitting my job and staying home with the three children, which I will never regret. It was wonderful. It was also a difficult time because we were used to two incomes. Being down to one income, that created a lot of conflict in our marriage and we will talk about.
Rhonda: Can you point to a turning point where things really changed for you?
Rosemary: As I said, before I stayed home with the children, I had been promoted already to a director position. That was my first time of being promoted, but I felt very overwhelmed. When I re-entered the workforce when my youngest one started to school, I decided, well that was nice. On my resume, I had been a manager, but that wasn’t something I wanted to go back into. I just started at another agency at an entry-level position. Again, somebody recognized my leadership potential and I was promoted. Again, I was overwhelmed.
Rhonda: Basically you can’t run from what people see in you.
Rosemary: I guess not. Anyway, when my oldest daughter was applying for college, I had been hearing an advertisement on the radio for a degree in leadership. Now this was shifting from social work to leadership.
Rosemary: I could do it on the weekends, so I could still be working full-time and go on the weekends. People would ask me, “Are you concerned about your daughter leaving and going off to college? How are you going to feel about that?” I said, “I don’t feel bad about it at all. I’m just going to follow her.”
Rhonda: What a great response!
Rosemary: I ended enrolling in the same college, Duquesne University. Of course, she was going to live on campus, but I was just going to be commuting. I applied in the same year and part of the application process was to have an interview. I remember very distinctly saying to the person I was interviewing with, “I’ve been in all these leadership positions, but I don’t know why and I don’t know what people see in me. I need to learn what it is to be a leader and to expand my confidence in that.” It was a wonderful, wonderful experience, and part of one of the required courses was conflict resolution. That was a game changer for me. Learning what causes it, how to resolve it, it made a lot of things in my life make sense.
Rhonda: Based on what you’ve told us of your growing up years, that makes perfect sense to me, that you’re saying that. The light bulb went on didn’t it?
Rosemary: It really did change my life, yes. It was a game changer for my own marriage, because again, understanding what causes conflict and how to resolve it. All the anxieties that I mentioned in my growing up years, I had just repeated those same patterns in my marriage.
Rhonda: Because you didn’t know any better.
Rosemary: Exactly, and that’s what happens to most people. Most people do not have good role models for resolving conflicts. It really is just a skill. It’s self-awareness, it’s becoming aware and learning and practicing. Sad to say, but most people who end up having divorces, really, if they had just been schooled in knowing how to resolve conflict, they probably wouldn’t have to get divorced. That’s another passion of mine. My husband and I have both learned how to do this better, and we don’t want to see so many people repeating our history, so we are also premarital counselors.
Rhonda: That is a great gift. That is absolutely wonderful.
Rosemary: We’ve actually had people decide not to get married as a result, which we have felt has been a success. Why have them enter into something that’s not going to end up working?
Rhonda: Exactly. That’s a lot of energy in your life poured into something that if they’ve made the decision not to get married, it’s clear that something was not going to work. The investment in that and I love the fact that you say that you also work with couples in conflict, so if they’ve gotten married and they’ve gotten to a point where things are just not going real smoothly, shall we say, that you help them learn the skills. In other words, you don’t have to learn the skills before you get married, that’d be nice. If you don’t, you can always pick them up later. Which also leads us to, you don’t have to learn the skills as a sixteen year old. You can learn the skills at any point in your life to manage conflict more effectively.
Rosemary: Right. My husband and I struggled for, he says twelve, I say twenty…
Rhonda: Basically, you have conflict on how many years that is too. Is that what you’re saying?
Rosemary: Well, he says twelve because of things that he changed and it became better for him, but he didn’t realize that I still had a lot of resentment about how bad the first twelve were, so it took me another eight or so to get over all of that.
Rhonda: Now that’s a fascinating insight, because it’s all about perspective. Whose eyes are you looking through at the issue that’s going on?
Rosemary: You’ve got that right, yes.
Rhonda: Wow, that’s really fascinating.
Rosemary: Yeah, we could talk an hour about that.
Rhonda: You’ve told me that you were in college, in your master’s degree program. You were in the conflict resolution course and you went in to the office one day and there was a little story there. Why don’t you tell our listeners about what happened and how that has played out, shall we say?
Rosemary: Yeah, I had to be very grateful for this young man that I worked with who said, “I understand that you're studying about conflict resolution, and I wondered if you could hook me up with someone who could come in and teach a class in this?” I said, "Well, what about me?" As I said that, that was quite a Bold & Courageous move for somebody who felt invisible, didn't do a lot of public speaking, and was still taking the course.
Rhonda: Well you've got to start somewhere.
Rosemary: Exactly. The best way to learn is to teach.
Rosemary: This class that he asked me to do was to a group of adults with physical disabilities. I had to think about what would be the best way to come up with a way to teach what I was learning. I did a lot of meditating about it and praying about it, and I just came up with the idea that really life is all about conflict and resolving one conflict after another, and that's how we develop. I came up with the acronym L.I.F.E. as an outline of the way to teach it, and that went pretty well, but it was a little bit of a crude outline. Over the years, I've still stuck to that idea of L.I.F.E., but every time I've given a training, I've kind of refined it a little bit.
Rhonda: Because it's a growing and organic thing.
Rosemary: Exactly, exactly.
Rosemary: Every time I've taught it, as I said, I've refined it a little bit and I've gotten it down to 45 words. 45 essential words that each word can be expanded upon to teach all the concepts that I want to teach. The 45 words are in the form of a poem.
Rosemary: I wondered if I could recite it for you.
Rhonda: I would love to have it recited for me, and I'm also going to ask you, could we include that in the show notes for our listeners so they don't have to madly scribble as we're listening to you say it?
Rosemary: Oh sure, absolutely. Okay, well thank you. Here it is; 'Learn new skills, limit what you say, listen all the way. Invite each other to invent solutions, interests are the key. Facts, not attacks, feelings matter, forgiveness sets you free. Empathize and recognize, elevate and respect, evaluate, don't hesitate. Now do it all before it's too late.'
Rhonda: That is amazing. Just for the record, you had that in our notes that you sent me, but hearing you say it, it comes to life so amazingly when you do that. I could hear the life, the L.I.F.E. in it much more effectively, which is amazing because I'm a visual learner, so that's pretty crazy. That is really amazing. Thank you for sharing that with us. I'm sure that our listeners will very much appreciate that and we definitely will include that in the show notes.
You've said that conflict is normal and it's a sign of growth. I just love that, that you say that, but that flies in the face of so many of us being conflict avoidant. Can you tell me more about that?
Rosemary: Well, you might be thinking that you're avoiding conflict, but if you're not bringing it out to the surface, then you're probably having it all internalled.
Rhonda: Ugh, do we have to discuss that? Seriously, talk more about that. That is a really powerful observation.
Rosemary: As I said, in my childhood, I'd express my feelings, but my mother would discount them. Then I just didn't know what to do with that. Okay, so I guess I don't have feelings. I guess I don't get to express them. I guess I don't even know what it feels like to feel. It's taken me most of my life to realize how I feel, and to be able to express that and to be able to express what I need from other people. There's basic needs for security and love and accomplishment. When we don't recognize those needs and know how to go ask for them, when we don't know how to clearly identify them and ask for them, then that's where manipulation comes in, depression, anxiety, and fighting for what we want instead of just asking for it.
Rhonda: Oh, that's an interesting observation. Fighting for what we want versus asking for what we want. That can happen both in your personal life and in your professional life. When I think about, oh my gosh, your personal life, your professional life, being a volunteer in the church, there are so many places where that particular observation can become a challenge that is destructive as opposed to an opportunity for growth. That's what I so love about the fact that you talk about conflict being normal and a sign of growth and if we step into the fact that we can define conflict as fighting, or we can define conflict as seeing things differently. Would that be a fair assessment?
Rosemary: Yes, perfect.
Rhonda: If we say that conflict is seeing things differently, that gives us permission to have a conversation about it, as opposed to conversation means the other person is wrong or stupid or incompetent or fill in the blank about the negative toward the other person if you don't see things in the same way, which goes back to that whole perspective thing that you said we could talk about for an hour.
Rhonda: In thinking about conflict as a sign of... if we go into a conversation with the other person under the assumption that this conflict or difference, being a potential for growth for both of us, that gives us a lot more opportunity. And that whole life acronym that you just recited the poem about, are all the ways that we approach that conflict so that we can use it as a place of growing for our self, and those around us.
I just think about in the workplace, in our professional life, the opportunity that we would have for more engagement, since that's the buzz word of this age in the workplace. If everyone could look at their conflict with the other person within the organization as being an opportunity for growth of both of those people, that the person who is seeing things that maybe need to be done differently or could be done differently, maybe not need to, that could be done differently if they would approach it from the standpoint of, "Hey, I have an idea here," as opposed to "Hey, you must be stupid because you haven't seen this yet."
Rosemary: You've got it all down, you've got it exactly.
Rhonda: Well, I don't know about that. How do we as Bold & Courageous Leaders take the fact that conflict is normal and a sign of growth and use it in our leadership? Can you help our listeners to think about this in a way that can free them so that conflict doesn't have to be a place where they have to either squelch their feelings or not acknowledge their feelings and then have it all be internal? Boy, I know what that looks like, to just swallow it and eight years later finally be at the point where you both see things from the same perspective. As you were talking about with your husband, I totally understand that feeling. Are there some tips you have for people from that standpoint?
Rosemary: I think the biggest thing is self-awareness and being educated, that everybody does see things from a different perspective. I think just educating people about that, so that people are not just always thinking, well I see it this way so I don't understand why you can't see it that way, and my way is the right way.
Rhonda: Which of course it is, but that's beside the point.
Rosemary: I guess maybe people think of leadership as well, I have to explain how things are and everybody else should just follow. I believe that the strongest quality of the leader is to be a listener and to listen for other people's points of view and to gather all of the points of view because they are all valid. If we were in the same room and I'm looking at you and I see what's behind you. You're looking at me and you see what's behind me. If you're trying to tell me that what is behind me and describe it to me and I can't see it, that doesn't mean that it's not true, it's there.
Rhonda: That's a great metaphor. That's a great metaphor.
Rosemary: Yes, it's absolutely there, but I can't see it. I need you to show it to me.
Rosemary: Why would we disagree that what you're seeing is for real? Let's just agree that what you're seeing is real and I need to hear about it. If our task is to describe the whole room, how can I describe the room if I can only see looking forward, and all you can see is looking behind me? We need both perspectives to describe the room.
Rhonda: That is a marvelous metaphor. It really underscores why we need to walk with others in this leadership journey and incorporate the perspectives of others into our leadership perspective into the vision of where we're going. Otherwise, we're really just dragging people along with us as opposed to having people who have the same vision and want to contribute their strengths and what they bring to the table to the vision that we as a leader are charged with. Wow, that is so fascinating to think about that. The whole L.I.F.E. acronym that you have and the poem, the 45 word poem that encapsulates that, all underscore exactly what we just talked about, don't they?
Rosemary: Yes. I have a secret desire that someday that poem will be well known, a lot like the Serenity Prayer.
Rhonda: Well, you know the first step of a long journey starts with just one step. Let's hope that this podcast, sharing your L.I.F.E. acronym poem, is the first step of that getting out to all these people. The fact that it's going to be in the show notes will be a second way that people can get a hold of this. That is a really awesome thinking process, because the serenity prayer has gone so many places, and it has deep meaning for many people.
Rosemary: Right. When I do present it, I have it on the back of my business card and I give everybody in the training my business card and I ask them to post it somewhere and to carry it in the wallet. Whenever they have a time of tension or some time when they need to problem solve, I suggest that they bring it out and just kind of use it as a checklist and say, "Am I listening?" Remind them to limit what they say. To remind them to not criticize or discount what other people say. It reminds them to be respectful. Reminds them, the answer to the problem doesn't have to be my way or your way, but let's create a way.
Rhonda: I love that! It doesn't have to be my way or your way, but let's create a way. That's just beautiful. Any Bold & Courageous Leader can use that thought process to take their leadership to the next level. Your resource, the gifts that God has given you, are so valuable for the world, and I'm so glad that you've been contributing them to this point in time with the different groups you've been able to share this message with. Clearly, you've been doing this for a while. I think you told me seventeen years that you've been actually doing these conflict resolution presentations, is that correct?
Rhonda: Wow. Well it's time for the world, more than just Pittsburgh to know about this. That's all I've got to say. I'm not saying that you haven't shared it in places more than just Pittsburgh, but I know that Pittsburgh is home base for you, so I'm going to guess that probably most of your trainings around that has been in Pittsburgh or the Pittsburgh area, shall we say.
Rosemary: Yes. It's been limited to Pittsburgh.
Rhonda: Well, we're going to fix that. We just need to fix that, that's all I've got to say with this.
Rosemary: Thank you Rhonda.
Rhonda: I mean seriously, the world needs to hear this. As we kind of move into the area of wrapping up for today, are there any resources that you can recommend to our listeners?
Rosemary: One of the books and one of the authors that has been influential in my life has been Ken Blanchard and Situational Leadership and also Marshal Rosenberg and his books. They all have nonviolent conversations in the title. He's been writing since 1960. His latest copy written book is 2003. A lot of my material is from him.
Rhonda: Okay, well that is good to know. If I remember right, you have a handbook that you've written for your trainings, is that correct?
Rosemary: Yes. I am in the midst of revising that because in seventeen years, I've learned a lot more. I have a lot more to say.
Rhonda: I bet you do. When you get that revised, I would love to have you come back on the podcast and share with us about the handbook itself and what you've learned in the process of revising the handbook. That would be really awesome.
Rosemary: Sure, I'd be happy to, Rhonda.
Rhonda: Awesome. You do presentations for companies on conflict resolution. What other ways could our listeners learn about conflict resolution and more peaceful relationships?
Rosemary: I am growing as a life coach, so in addition to doing trainings, I really appreciate the opportunity to work one-on-one with people to help them become more self-aware and grow. I've gotten some training in life coaching, and I have started my own company. It's called Together Leadership and Life Coaching. My website is rosemarylosser.com, that will lead you to that website. I have some blogs posted on there. I have more explanation of what I do and what I believe in, my philosophies.
I also have a Facebook group, it's a discussion page. It's a secret group. I'll describe it and then if you're interested you can just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or friend me. Look for me, Rosemary Losser and I could add you to my discussion page. There, I post something once a week that get people thinking about a particular topic involving conflict and hope that people respond, get some interaction going, either a question or saying how what I posted, what that brought up for them or an experience that they've had, so it's getting some discussion going.
Rhonda: They're very thought provoking things that you put on there. Your videos are really deep, they're thought provoking, it's really helpful.
Rosemary: Great, thank you very much. I invite anybody who would like to participate in that and from that I would like to grow a membership sight for people that are really invested in growing in this area and who will make commitments to things that they want to work on week to week. That would be an area of accountability, because we really need people to come alongside us in this journey. You can say, "That's a great idea," or "That's inspiring," and then just go off on your merry way and not really do anything about it.
Rhonda: Yes, because as we know, change to go in the direction we want to go doesn't happen unless we're intentional about it. Otherwise, we go in whatever direction the wind happens to blow us and that's not necessarily the change we would choose. You've mentioned your website and you mentioned your email address. We will put those things in the show notes, so that anyone who's interested in more information will be able to find you and get in touch with you. Rosemary, is there any final thought that you have for our listeners that you'd like to leave with them as we close today?
Rosemary: Well, I've been playing around with this mantra of mine is that, first of all, conflict, as I said, is growth. Growth is all about producing, so I've kind of summarized everything that to be truly productive anywhere in your life, you should be peaceful everywhere in your life. True productivity depends on peaceful relationships in all areas of your life.
Rhonda: The reality of a peaceful relationship is that there is going to be conflict.
Rosemary: Correct, yes. If you think about peacemaking in the world of politics, it's open and it’s discussion about differences and how to resolve them. It's not just the avoidance of conflict, that's not peace. Peace is pulling together and seeing how we can resolve our differences. When I say peace, it's not just no interaction or no differences, it's how do we bring our differences together to make things better? That's what I mean by peaceful.
Rhonda: Thank you. That's really a valuable definition and it's a critical definition that our world could definitely use more of today. Rosemary, it's been delightful to have a conversation with you today. I look forward to having you back when that handbook's done so that we can dig in and talk more about the whole concept of peaceful relationships.
Rosemary: It's been definitely my pleasure, Rhonda. Thank you so much.
To find out more about today’s topic, get downloads of our previous podcasts or to learn how you too can become a Bold & Courageous leader, visit rhondapeterson.com. Our ever-growing community is waiting for you. If you liked today’s show, there are three things you can do. You can subscribe to the podcasts on iTunes or Stitcher. You can give us a rating or a review on iTunes. The subscriptions and ratings help others to find us more easily. And you can help us get the word out by sharing the podcast with your friends. This is Rhonda Peterson, your Bold & Courageous Leader Coach. Thank you for listening. We’ll see you for the next Bold & Courageous Leader Podcast.