Monthly Archives: July 2013

Building organizational talent fast

Over the last week, I’ve had the privilege to work with participants in our Luoma Leadership Academy and help them form action learning teams. In their teams, participants work together to solve real problems for our colleges, universities, and system.

action learningAccording to author Michael Marquardt, “Action learning is a powerful problem-solving tool that has the capacity to simultaneously build successful leaders, teams, and organizations.” After implementing action learning over the last 7 years, I am convinced that it has great value in building talent fast, because people learn best by doing and then reflecting on what they’ve learned.

Action learning can be used by any leader who wants to develop people and solve complex organizational problems. It differs from typical task forces and work groups in two important ways: teams are encouraged to practice reflective inquiry and focus on continuous learning. They ask questions first, rather than quickly identifying solutions, in order to:

  • Gain a common understanding of the problem
  • Identify potential strategies
  • Achieve innovative and breakthrough solutions

During action learning, leaders are stretched in multiple ways. They are often tasked with projects that are outside their area of expertise. They must learn how to work effectively together and bridge differences in institution type, location, background, position and personality preferences. Action learning coaches are designated for each team to facilitate the group’s learning and reinforce the practice of reflective inquiry.

As they work throughout the year, teams are not only challenged in new content areas, but in important leadership competencies, such as self-awareness, managing emotions, self-motivation, and empathy. Developing these competencies is critical for leaders in our system and beneficial as we work toward greater collaboration across our institutions.

Joan Bloementhal, Chief Academic Officer for Pine Technical College, noted: “The action team seemed to identify and utilize the strengths of the various team members; when we met with the team, I observed strong collaboration and commitment to the issue.”

In referring to an Instructional Cost Management Study project, Jeffery Thomas of Northland College, remarked, “our project assisted in the development of tools that other MnSCU institutions can use.”

No matter what the project, applying the practice of action learning can help you both solve complex organizational problems and build talent fast.

Anita Rios

Leading with a development mindset

As I’m writing this, I’m getting ready to spend a morning conducting interviews for a vacant position in our office.  One of the things that our team will want to know is how the candidates approach professional development – for themselves and for the people that report to them.

I’ll be asking whether the candidates do any of the following:

  • Participate in activities sponsored by professional organizations in the field – conferences, interest groups, or even the periodic free webinars that are so common these days
  • Identify and follow up on professional development goals each year to be sure they maintain technical and leadership skills
  • Demonstrate interest in learning by reading books, attending development events, etc.
  • Show commitment to support the same kind of behaviors in their staff

As we’ve been considering the leadership competency of “builds organizational talent,” I have been reminded of how important this is within our higher education culture.  Leaders who pays attention to development, both for themselves and for their staff, are more qualified in the short term and more likely to maintain those skills over the long run.

If you were in a job interview, how would you show your commitment to professional development?

Dee Anne Bonebright

Hiring the best talent

people assetIn building organizational talent, one of the most important jobs we have as leaders is to hire the right people. Here is helpful hiring advice from Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric:

“Before you even think about assessing people for a job, they have to pass through three screens. The first test is for integrity. People with integrity tell the truth, and they keep their word. The second test is for intelligence. The candidate has a strong dose of intellectual curiosity, with a breadth of knowledge to work with or lead other smart people in today’s complex world. The third ticket to the game is maturity—the ability to handle stress and setbacks, and enjoy success with equal parts of joy and humility.

I then apply the “4E (And 1P) Framework” for hiring that I’ve found consistently effective, year after year, across businesses and borders. The first E is positive energy. It means the ability to go go go—to thrive on action and relish change. The second E is the ability to energize others, and inspire them to take on the impossible. The third is edge, the courage to make tough yes-or-no decisions. The fourth E is execute—the ability to get the job done. Then I look for that final P, passion—a heartfelt, deep and authentic excitement about work.”

–Jack Welch

What do you think about Jack’s three screens and framework for hiring? What have you done in the past that has resulted in a successful hire? Please share your comments below.

Anita Rios

Taking time to learn

prof devA very important, and often neglected, activity for us as leaders is to pay attention to our own professional development.  I was reminded of this fact last week when I had the opportunity to attend the Luoma Leadership Academy.

One of the highlights of the week was a visit by Chancellor Steven Rosenstone.  He talked about the recently released draft report on Charting the Future of MnSCU.  We were challenged to read the report and provide thoughtful feedback. In addition, he challenged us to think carefully about our development goals. As a leader, the Chancellor said that he is intentional about his own continued learning.  I know from discussions with our Vice President of Human Resources that he also holds his direct reports accountable for their ongoing development.

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day necessities of our jobs. My time at Luoma reminded me that it is equally important to focus on broader issues that influence my ability to contribute as a leader in our system. Every participant left with a development plan for the year. This focused effort will help us all to be stronger leaders.

One of my development goals for this summer is to read the Charting the Future report and inform myself about the issues it discusses. Spending an hour or two on this activity will help me create training that focuses on important issues for our future.

How could you spend a few hours in the next month to support your professional development?

Dee Anne Bonebright

Summer reading and building talent?

summer readingYes, it is still blistering hot here in Minnesota and finding a shaded spot for some summer reading is compelling! However, the work of leaders building talent never stops, even your own professional development. You are a key piece of your organization’s talent, yet finding time for building your own talent can be a challenge. I have some good news for you. A recent podcast by Professor James Badaracco, a Harvard Business School professor, suggests that you can develop your leadership talent while enjoying that summer reading in the shade.

Badaracco encourages leaders to embrace reading fiction, fiction that engages you, to become a better leader. Classic novels, short stories and contemporary literature all offer compelling stories that are actually “case studies” of people making decisions, working with other people, solving problems, managing conflict, building relationships, and communicating with groups large and small. All aspects of leadership. A novel I read a decade ago, The Dive From Clausen’s Pier, showed me the role perceptions play when working with people. I have developed a better understanding that each person on my team will have a different perception of my behavior, and thus of my intent.

In his podcast, Badaracco lists the following questions to ask yourself while you are reading:

  • Did they get the decisions right? 
  • Did they think about them in the right way?
  • Would you have handled them differently?
  • Why did they do what they did?

·        Overall, think about the characters as people making decisions and taking action in an organization and what can I learn from them.

Grabbing a new novel or a classic piece of literature, a cool drink and your beach towel can give you a respite from the heat and some powerful professional development on a hot summer day.

Please share with us and our followers what you have read lately and what lessons you learned.

Todd Thorsgaard

Do you have two minutes?

heat_20120607142627_640_480It is over 90 degrees and humid in Minnesota this week. When you step outside it is important to stay focused on your goal and minimize wasted effort, otherwise the oppressive heat can overwhelm you. The same thing can happen when coaching the poor performance of a member of your team.  You feel the heat of the upcoming interaction and avoid taking action or you get overwhelmed and distracted while trying to coach. Either way, you end up drained and the oppressive issue is still hovering “outside” waiting for you.

When you know you have to face the heat and take action I have found that a simple process that helps leaders stay focused and dive in. It’s called the Two Minute Challenge based on The Practical Coach training program. There are only five steps:

  1. State what you’ve observed – what happened.
  2. Wait for their response.
  3. Remind them of the desired behavior, expected performance or goal.
  4. Ask for their specific solutions.
  5. Agree on a solution.

No more, no less! The magic of having a short “script” keeps the coaching focused on the behavior and a solution. It is a roadmap that can provide confidence to start the conversation and the clarity needed to stay on track during the heat of the interaction.

A short time ago I received a call from a leader who told me that he had been dreading meeting with one of his team members. There was a performance issue and he was worried about how the person would react when he addressed it. After learning The Two Minute Challenge he decided to jot down the five steps on his note pad and have the meeting the next day. He stuck to his plan, followed the steps and the meeting did not spiral out of control. It wasn’t fun, but they stayed on track and came up with a realistic plan for improvement. He shared that the meeting ended up being less stressful than the anxiety he experienced worrying about it. He was also confident that the team member understood the importance of the issue and his responsibility for taking action. The five clear steps kept him from getting distracted and able to keep the focus on the employee’s behavior and accountability for improvement.

When you are facing the heat of needing to coach a poor performer take a cool two minute break, review the five steps and then dive in!

Todd Thorsgaard

One girl among many

MalalaIf I ever wondered about why I work in education, Friday’s speech by Malala Yousafzai was an inspirational reminder. As you probably remember, she is the young woman who was shot in the head by the Taliban for speaking out about the right of education for girls. She has recovered, and on her 16th birthday she gave a powerful speech before the United Nations, arguing for the right of every child to live in peace, free of poverty and illiteracy.

Here are some of my favorite quotes.

So here I stand, one girl among many, to speak up for the right of education for every child… even the sons and daughters of the Taliban.

We realized the importance of pens and books when we saw the guns… Let us empower ourselves with the weapon of knowledge and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.

One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world.

When we go to work in the morning, surrounded by teachers, students, books, and pens, let’s remember what a gift we are being given. We have a chance to make a difference in ways that many people can only dream about. Or like Malala Yousafzai, they risk everything to claim rights that we in higher education often take for granted.

Malala, I wish you well in your new life. I can’t wait to see what you, and your young brothers and sisters at the United Nations event, will bring to the world in the years to come. Thanks for reminding me about the importance of education and its potential to change the world.

Dee Anne Bonebright