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Jolivette is known as a good listener. She listens to everybody, at every level of the organization. Prior to the pandemic, she held quarterly meetings with the staff in small groups without managers present so she could hear their concerns directly. Sometimes she'll show up to a campus to bring lunch to the crew, and once a year she hosts a luncheon that is just about fellowship, she says.
During the pandemic, it's been especially important to have everyone's voice heard and included in the response plan. Jolivette says "involving those who are down in the work, listening to their needs and concerns, and having them be our change agents to say this is what we're working on," has been critical. She says they are the voice and she is their support. Jolivette wants to provide her team whatever support they need so they can excel at the job she trusts they will do. She calls it maintaining her bench strength.
But don't think that rapport means she's going to let anything slide. Accountability is paramount for Jolivette, and she demands it of herself and everyone on her team. In fact, Jolivette has a team of "accountability partners" for herself, individuals from inside and outside HISD. Some would call them mentors, but Jolivette made them sign a contract formalizing the relationship, though there aren't formally scheduled meetings anymore. "It's important to take constructive criticism, digest it, make changes as needed, and move forward," she says.
Accountability for her team means sometimes she has to "fuss" at them, she says. "We have deadlines and I do have to fuss," she says. It starts out calmly. "Now, I'm going to fuss," she quotes herself. "It's not going to be nice, but in the end when I'm done fussing at you, then we're going to get through this together. Are y'all ready for the beating?" she says, with a smile in her voice.
It's never about a gotcha moment or a power play. Rather it's about identifying the sticking points in a process that are preventing the flow towards resolution.
In her new role as COO, it is inevitable that the challenges facing Jolivette will only grow more varied. When things get tough, two of her accountability partners remind Jolivette of something she said when addressing her graduating class in high school. "I'm going to handle every challenge that comes my way," she'd promised. To date, she has been a woman of her word.
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