As the second installation of our Q&A with studio leads Sonja Ellicott (University of Oregon) and Zonghe Chua (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Sonja and Zonghe give advice on how to address challenges that arise. Check out there first post here!

– What did you learn most about effective leadership during your time as studio lead?

Zonghe: I think I learned how to design a studio experience that provides both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to all its members. Intrinsic motivations come from listening to the needs of the studio’s members and making sure that you try your best to meet their expectations for personal and professional development.

Sonja Ellicott learning through experience and coaching
Sonja Ellicott learning through experience and coaching

Sonja: Being an effective leader means adapting how you lead to whatever situation and environment you find yourself in. To be an effective leader, know your organization, know where it stands, know what it needs to go forward, and identify your next steps. 98% of the time you will need help. Leaders are the best at finding people to be a part of something – that’s what makes you a leader. Feel lucky that your job is challenging you – many people don’t get to do new things.

– What were some unexpected challenges?

Zonghe Chua collaborates with other members
Zonghe Chua collaborates with other members.

Zonghe: An unexpected challenge was maintaining cohesion in the different groups when things got stressful or tense. DFA brings together diverse groups of people and I think sometimes personalities and values clash.

Sonja: UO DFA had a sort of turning point Summer 2014 and lost all members and leaders but 3. I was one of the three remaining. I saw this turning point approaching from a long way out, but I didn’t know the challenge would be quite so big.

– How did you address these challenges?

Zonghe: I attempted to use something that DFA’ers know very well! Empathy! Empathy is not just something we use in the design process. It’s something we should use in daily life and especially in conflict resolution. Everybody is unique in his or her experience of the world. I tried to get the parties involved to empathize and not treat each other as objects, but as people. Leadership and the Art of Self Deception by the Arbinger Institute was where I learned this particular method of conflict resolution.

Sonja: What surprised me was how easily people immediately loved DFA when I described it to them, asking how they could be a part of it. So this problem was partly solved by sharing with others about the hard work and passion I had for this project that was rebuilding UODFA. Talking about it all the time meant people were informed about it and – while I asked many people to lead and got a lot of No’s – when the crisis happened someone stepped up.