Strategies & Tactics

Taya Jarman on Inspiring Collaboration

March 4, 2019

Taya Jarman, APR, Highlights

  • Current job title: Population Health Communications Director, Virginia Department of Health.
  • Previous executive roles: Chief Executive Officer and Lead Designer, Celebration Connections; Communications Consultant, Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.


What leadership tenets have guided you?

Have the foundational training, education and knowledge to help build credibility and become a trusted influence [on others]. Hire the right people and trust them to do their jobs. Nurture your team and allow them to make mistakes. Bring them along for strategy and planning sessions. By giving my team trust and freedom, they go above and beyond.


Did rising to leadership positions early on pose any challenges for you?

One of my biggest challenges has been instilling confidence in my employees to trust my decisions when managing multiple generations. For previous generations, leadership was a position given after years of experience — regardless of effectiveness. In today’s market, there is no golden rule that age automatically equals or rules out effectiveness.

I work to prove myself not only to my leadership but to build my team’s trust in me. I’ve built trust with my team by giving them what I wanted for myself as I worked through my own career: the chance to learn new things and opportunities to lead projects.


What was your biggest leadership misstep, and how did you rectify it?

When I first became a manager, I focused on individual leadership instead of cultivating a team. I would hold weekly one-on-ones with each team member. At the time, I was managing eight people and these weekly meetings became a huge time-suck and took away from my ability to lead effectively.

After a few months, I pivoted my focus to my team as a whole. To build collaboration and better manage my time, I started holding weekly team meetings, monthly one-on-ones, quarterly outings and other team-building activities.

This collaborative approach allowed my team to expand their view and decision-making among the group, and allowed me to reclaim time and to focus more on business and communication strategies. It built trust and support among co-workers, greater collaboration in problem-solving and brainstorming creative decisions, and enhanced performance. Their collective decisions are usually 10 times better than anything I could decide.


When did you first realize you’re not just a manager, but a leader?

It was at my previous position, and certainly before I was given the responsibility of managing people or the title.

I developed an overall social media plan for a state agency. In this environment, I was one of the few who understood social media strategy. I had to be accurate and logical in my planning, especially in an environment that was leery of social media.

This gave me the chance to lead from behind. Despite not having a leadership title, I led the agency by establishing its strategic social media framework.


How can practitioner-managers cultivate the skills to become leaders?

A few years ago, during an event for ColorComm [a business community for women of color in the communications field], one of the speakers said it’s important for communications professionals to become the Swiss Army knives of their industry. I completely agree.

The great thing about today’s job market is that you can research those in the industry who have held the positions you desire. Invite them to connect on LinkedIn. Review their profiles and observe their credentials, experiences and training.

If there are positions you want to attain, then look at the qualifications and skills of those who currently hold those positions. Target those you don’t have and make it your goal for the next year to learn those skills.

Ken Jacobs

Ken Jacobs is principal of Jacobs Consulting & Executive Coaching. Visit his website ( and contact him by email ( or Twitter (@KensViews).


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