Monthly Archives: November 2012

Starting off right

Last January I left my previous job to join the Talent Management team at MnSCU.  One book was recommended to me multiple times  – Michael Watkins’ excellent primer on management transition, (Watkins, Michael & Daly, Peter H. The First 90 Days in Government. Harvard Business School Publishing. 2006.)

While the book is particularly useful for new leaders, I think it has many insights that are valuable no matter how long you have been in your position. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day work and not be intentional about longer-term strategies that can increase your value to the organization and enhance your career. I particularly like the five important conversations that Watkins recommends employees should have with their leaders. They are summarized How to Succeed with Your New Boss.

  1. Situational diagnosis conversation – What are the key challenges facing your leader and the organization?
  2. Expectations conversation – What are your leader’s top priorities?  What will success look like?
  3. Style conversation – What is your leader’s communication style? How can you align it with your own style?
  4. Resources conversation – What resources of time, information, and funding do you need in order to be successful?  How can your leader help you acquire them?
  5. The professional development conversation – How does your current position relate to your career goals?  Are there special projects or assignments that would be interesting to you?

These conversations, along with the strategies outlined in Watkins’ book, were valuable to me as a new employee. I think they will continue to help me be successful moving forward.

Dee Anne Bonebright


Endings and beginnings

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

The lyrics from Semisonic’s song “Closing Time”( video link ) vividly describe the emotions of change and provide direction for each of us, as leaders, as we respond to the challenges we face in higher education. Yesterday I was working with a group of our campus leaders on the topic Leading Teams during Change. We used William Bridge’s work on transitions as our framework. (Bridges, William. Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change. Da Capo Press. 2009.) Bridges defines transition as the internal or personal adjustment we all go through in response to change, any change! It is a predictable and natural response that all people have and understanding it can help you, as a leader, support your people during the changes required to succeed in the new landscape.

As Semisonic’s lyrics remind us, the internal reaction to change, or transition, starts with an ending. Some other beginning’s ending to be specific! When we, as leaders, are talking about new opportunities or the most effective way to move forward the rest of our team is reacting to what is ending or what they will be losing because of the change. In fact, they likely feel pride in what they have been doing and the change can feel like a threat to all their hard work and past success.

Bridges encourages us to start with those endings and to acknowledge that our team members are facing a loss or a need to let go of something. As a leader being clear about what is ending will help you and your team move forward more effectively.

Ask yourself and your team, what is ending for us? What will we need to let go of? And, what isn’t ending? What will stay the same for us after the change? Being clear about “some other beginning’s end” will get you to the next “new beginning”!

Todd Thorsgaard

A community of leaders

Welcome to Higher EDge! I am excited to begin this blog with my learning and development colleagues in support of leaders in higher education.

As we work with leaders throughout the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU), we continually learn from their perspectives, challenges, successes, and insights. To better share this learning, we thought we would pilot a blog site that would support leaders in MnSCU by:

1)      Sharing resources (books, ideas, articles) with leaders
2)      Providing a platform for a two-way dialogue with leaders

My colleagues and I will be posting something to this blog site on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays each week. Please bookmark this site and come back often to help us build a community of leaders focused on transforming higher education into the future.

To help us get the dialogue started, tell us about a book or article that has influenced your leadership.

Anita Rios

Coming soon!

As we look forward to the Thanksgiving holidays we are grateful for the opportunity to work with the many talented and insighful people that make up the higher education community within Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and beyond. We are excited to begin a conversation about leadership in higher education. Visit on November 26 to help get things started!