At the lake…

lake michigan“If we connect with nature, we can reconstruct our soul, spirit and strength.” – Lailah Gifty Akita

This month we will be taking a brief break from our blog. August is exceptionally busy for leaders in higher education. Most are trying to squeeze in the last days of summer vacation and get ready for fall semester.

I can relate. It seems work has been non-stop since spring. So, I’m really ready for some time away to recharge my batteries. Next week, I’ll be spending some time camping on Lake Michigan with my family. I love camping because it helps me connect with nature and refuels me in a way that nothing else can.

Please look for us in September, when we will focus on our next leadership competency in Minnesota State: Demonstrates Good Stewardship.

Until then, I hope that you are able to take a little time for rest and renewal before the fall semester begins!  As for me, I’m hoping for warm sunny days and cool, star-filled nights along the shores of Lake Michigan.

Anita Rios

The dreaded review!

h-WOMAN-TALKING-OFFICE-628x314A leader at one of our schools remarked that when done right, performance reviews can be energizing and uplifting but when done wrong they are demoralizing. It appears that the latter is what is happening in most organizations. David Ulrich, the Rensis Likert Professor of Business at the University of Michigan and the “Godfather of HR” just published an article in the  latest issue of Talent Quarterly titled “Resolving the Performance Management Paradox.” He cites that 90% of HR professionals are unhappy with their review system, only 14% of CEOs believe that the review system is working and only 8% of HR executives believe that performance management makes a contribution to the success of the organization. Yet, he also cites a long history of studies that clearly indicate that accountability makes a difference. In fact one study identified that just the presence of a performance review system is the greatest predictor of success for hospitals. What can a leader do?

Ulrich recommends that regardless of the process or forms used, leaders embrace conversations:  conversations focused on what he calls “positive accountability,” conversations emphasizing learning and improvement opportunities rather than evaluating what went wrong, and conversations primarily focused on the future rather than the past. He suggests that leaders look for opportunities to engage in “real time” conversations that are ongoing and revolve around work events (projects, semester start or finish, work cycle periods, annual milestones, etc.) Leaders should focus on asking questions to discover how employees can sustain success and prepare for the future and help their people look forward to apply what they have learned and address new opportunities or challenges that arise.

A simple conversational model for leaders to use with their performance review process includes the following three steps:

  • Know Yourself – ask about and discuss each person’s strengths, weaknesses, passions and interests.
  • Action for Growth – ideas and concrete action to leverage individual strengths and interests to support success and on-going development.
  • My Value – dialogue focused on the value that each employee provides to the work unit, institution, students, stakeholders or overall organization.

By focusing less on the process and more on the conversation we can make performance reviews a more uplifting experience.

Todd Thorsgaard

 

Being an effective mentor

mentorA few years ago I had the chance to interview some of our Minnesota State leaders about mentoring and executive development. Almost without exception, they believed that being an effective mentor was an essential skill for leaders in higher education. Whether it’s a high-potential employee, a new colleague, or a student, we often find ourselves in a position to provide advice and expertise to encourage another’s growth and development.

The role of a mentor is to ask good questions of mentees – then listen actively to what they have to say. You may be able to share your experiences and insights to help them see new perspectives. Other times, you can act as a sounding board.

Here are some good tips on building and sustaining a mentoring relationship.

  1. Set aside time for regular meetings. Even in informal situations, treat the relationship professionally by giving it the time and attention it deserves.
  2. Be honest and open. Agree on your mutual expectations for the relationship, and create a climate where you can discuss mistakes as well as success.
  3. Provide feedback in a way that will be helpful and welcome, and offer advice only when it is requested.
  4. Provide opportunities for learning, not quick fixes.
  5. Take a genuine interest in the other person.

I’ve learned that mentors learn as much from the experience as the mentees. Developing strong mentoring relationships can be rewarding both personally and professionally.

What tips do you have for effective mentoring?

Dee Anne Bonebright

Resources:

MindTools: Mentoring Skills

Blue Sky Coaching: 10 Ways to Be a Good Mentor

Hub Spot: How to be an Amazing Mentor

 

 

 

Aligning expectations

aligning expectationsMy team and I just wrapped up our year-end report in June and are launching ahead to FY17 with a new annual work plan. In my talent management team, we work on goals that support “attracting, retaining, and developing a workforce that is diverse and able to meet current and educational needs.” That may sound like an ambiguous and somewhat lofty sound mission, yet our team work plan contains many concrete action strategies that support this mission. It contains clear timelines and quantifiable measures to ensure that we are making progress.

As the leader of this team, part of my work is to have good conversations with each of my team members to ensure that their individual development goals and the performance expectations we agree upon align with our work plan. Those conversations are critical to accomplishing our goals and building organizational talent. It helps each team member clearly understand how they are part of accomplishing our team goals and it helps us refine strategies as we review them.

While it can be time consuming having those individual 1:1 meetings with each staff member, skipping those individual conversations can prove costly. It would invite too many opportunities for disconnects and misalignment, like the picture above of the train tracks that don’t quite meet.

Here are some of the things I discuss with my team members to make sure expectations are aligned:

  1. What are your 1-3 big goals for the year?
  2. How do your goals support our mission?
  3. What is the timeline for that action strategy/effort/project?
  4. What will you need to learn in order to accomplish this goal?
  5. What additional resources or support will be needed?
  6. How are you measuring progress?
  7. What obstacles or barriers do you face?
  8. What milestones are you setting?
  9. What will constitute success?

Of course, through the year, some unexpected things may pop up that displace one or two action strategies for one of my team members. But through good conversations and check-ins, we can re-align to make sure we are working together well and building organizational talent while accomplishing our goals.

How do you make sure that expectations are well aligned within your unit?

Anita Rios

 

Four Cs of onboarding

handshake3In many ways, the first week of employment is one of the most critical times for building organizational talent. That’s when you provide an orientation to the new employee’s role, the institution, and the wider context of the work.

An effective onboarding program carries on throughout the first year, Research has shown that onboarding heightens a new employee’s confidence, increases understanding of their role and expectations, and helps them integrate into social networks.

The Society for Human Resource Management suggests that an onboarding program needs to focus on four key areas:

  1. Compliance: the basic legal and policy requirements of their role.
  2. Clarification: the roles and expectations for the new positions.
  3. Culture: introduction to formal and informal organizational norms
  4. Connection: integrating new employees into the work group.

At Minnesota State, we have an orientation and onboarding toolkit with tips and suggestions for each of the four Cs. You can view it through the Office 365 SharePoint site.  Whether or not you’re part of Minnesota State, check out the article below for a useful overview.

Which of the four Cs have you been focusing on? We’d love to hear some of your tips and suggestions for effective onboarding.

Dee Anne Bonebright

Adapted from:   Bauer, Tayla N. (2010). Onboarding New Employees: Maximizing Success. Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Talking talent

“Talk to me, please!”

The Gallup Q12 poll highlights the fact that people need to know that their manager actively supports their development. Yet research by Gallup indicates that less than 20% of employees get regular feedback from their boss. In fact, over 50% meet less than once a month. That is not enough talking about development!

Roland Smith and Michael Campbell from the Center for Creative Leadership suggest that leaders have an opportunity to turn this around quickly by talking talent with their people – in their words start having regular talent conversations. Sincere and direct dialogue with your people focused on their interests, their job, the work that needs to be done and what support or development they need to be successful.

What I like best about talent conversations is that they are for everyone. Not just people who “need” development and not just under-performers. Talking about what is needed to maintain current and future success demonstrates that you are supporting your people.

At Minnesota State we will be working this year to help our supervisors have talent conversations with their people. The first step is to identify the goal for the conversation for each team member based on their current job-related competency and their own personal development needs or interest in growth. In general you will discover that each person on your team will be interested in one of the following four goals:

  1. Develop full competence. Focus on acquiring the skills and developing the competences needed to become a solid performer in their current role.
  2. Explore growth while developing competence. Similar to the first group but also include conversations about future opportunities and how current develop will support growth.
  3. Maintaining their expertise and staying successful in the future. This group will be interested in deepening their skills, sharing their expertise and staying up-to-date in their current role.
  4. Accelerating their development. These folks are competent and want to learn new skills and develop competencies needed for bigger roles.

Having a simple and clear goal for your talent conversations will make it easier to dive in and start talking talent!

Todd Thorsgaard

Building relationships builds organizational talent

building relationshipsLast Friday, after one of our year-long leadership development programs was wrapping up, I joined a group of the participants for lunch. The program they had completed included two intensive week-long sessions in residence (one year apart), combined with journaling, mentoring, coaching, and an action learning team project spanning the entire year.

At lunch, I asked them: “What was the highlight of the program for you?” Then I listened. For the next 10 minutes, each person at the table shared stories about how much they appreciated and learned from the other participants in the program. They talked about strong relationships that they built with people from other colleges and universities in our system. And they shared how much they respected each other.

I asked what made it possible for them to build these relationships in the program and listened again. They talked about the ground rule of “no rank in the room” that made it possible to respect everyone and what they had to say whether they were a staff member, faculty, or administrator. They learned that they all had something to share and to learn from each other. One person shared that this last week especially, there were more breaks built in so that participants could connect with each other and get to know each other. There were also social activities in the evenings that encouraged them to build relationship with each other.

On my drive home from the program Friday afternoon I reflected on what they had to say and how it affirmed the 70:20:10 model of learning and development. If you recall from my earlier blog,  20% of development should come through relationship building, whether it is through mentoring, coaching, or working with your peers. Each graduate in this program now has a trusted group of colleagues to contact when they are looking to build collaborative partnerships across institutions or are navigating a new challenge, or struggling with a tough issue. That’s pretty powerful.

It made me think: “How can leaders make sure their people are building strong relationships and learning from others in their organization, even when they are not in a cohort-based program like this?”

Here are a few ideas I’ll offer up:

  1. Assign your staff to cross-functional teams on projects where they have to build expertise or stretch their skills
  2. Ensure the teams are setting ground rules that respect differences
  3. Encourage team members to create safe spaces within their work to question the project and the process and conduct regular debriefs to reflect on their work
  4. Include team-building activities into your team’s agenda

What has worked for you to build organizational talent through encouraging good working relationships?

Anita Rios