Monthly Archives: September 2017

Becoming a strategic leader

Our HR community at Minnesota State is in the midst of a lot of change, both at the system level and at our individual campuses. We’ve been together this week at our fall conference and have been thinking about how we can all be strategic leaders to help ourselves and our clients navigate the changes successfully.

I was able to enjoying the beautiful scenery in Brainerd and have time for some personal reflection, which always refreshes my personal leadership.  Here are a few other things I took away:

Everyone has a role to play. Our group included several people with over 30 years of service, and someone with 3 days. It was great to experience the sense of collaboration as we talked about ways to work together and support each other. I appreciated how our HR leadership team showed that we all need to be leaders in our own areas.

Change is hard. The conference included operational issues and technical problems that need to be addressed as new technology is introduced. It also included discussions of how to help people deal with personal implications of changing job roles. It was clear that any major change includes a lot of moving pieces and it takes a whole community to manage them.

People are in different places.  In one of the breakout sessions, Todd reminded us about the “marathon effect” of change. Some of us are leaders who have been working with our new organization structure for quite some time, others of us were further back from the starting line and are just now getting involved day-to-day. We all need to recognize each other’s viewpoint and perspective.

It’s been valuable to be together as a community to learn together and recognize that we’re not alone in what we’re thinking and feeling. As leaders, providing opportunities for our team members to spend time focusing on our shared work creates long-term benefits for everyone.

Dee Anne Bonebright

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You mean I have to talk (and listen) to people!

As a confirmed and proud introvert it is hard for me to reach out and ask for help. Others of you may be confident extroverts and struggle to truly listen to others. Either way, when you transition into a new leadership role it is crucial to take the time to initiate conversations and to spend time listening to what others have to say.

Peter Daly and Michael Watson, authors of The First 90 Days in Government: Critical Success Strategies for New Public Managers at all Levels,   describe five crucial subjects or themes that  new leaders need to understand as they move into a new role or take on a new project. This requires having the following “the five conversations” with your leader or colleagues.

  1. The Situation Conversation – discover how your boss and others perceive the current standing or status of the overall organization and your unit. Your goal is to ensure a shared understanding of the challenges and opportunities you face.
  2. The Expectations Conversation – define, clarify, and perhaps, negotiate what success looks like for you in your new job.
  3. The Style Conversation – discuss and determine how the relationship with your new boss and colleagues or stakeholders will work. How do you each prefer to communicate, what boundaries exist, how are decisions made, and how frequent do you need to interact to ensure trust and success.
  4. The Resources Conversation – determine what resources are available, what you believe you need, confirm how resources are allocated and begin negotiating to ensure access to critical resources.
  5. The Personal Development Conversation – mutually identify opportunities and expectations for continual development to ensure success in your current and future roles in the organization.

In reality these will not be distinct one-time conversations but they are a framework to help leaders strategically approach the transition to a new role.

Todd Thorsgaard

Leadership adaptations

New beginnings often come with the need for adaptations. I’m learning that is very much the case for me after sustaining a traumatic brain injury in a bicycle crash a year ago. Strengths and strategies that used to work for me no longer do.

For instance, my ability to focus for long periods of time on a task and power through to completion, now can be a liability. If I try to work too long on my computer without a break, I can end up with crushing head pain that lasts for a couple of days and is incapacitating. So, with help from my doctor and therapists, I’m learning to take breaks when I need. And I’m learning to apply other strategies to adapt while my brain is still healing and overly sensitive to noise, light, and other stimulation.

For leaders taking on new roles the same can be true. Adaptations may be needed. In their book, The Leadership Pipeline, authors Charan, Drotter, and Noel explain that as leaders are promoted from one level to another in an organization, what used to work for them may not work in their new role. They may need to let go of the very strengths or skills that made them successful in their last role and adapt by learning new strategies.

For instance, one of the most obvious shifts in the leadership pipeline is when someone moves into a managerial role and moves from getting work done themselves to getting work done through others. It can be tough to adapt and give up things that you were good at and had pride in, to focus on what is needed in a new role.

Another shift that requires adaptation is when a leader moves from managing others in a functional area to managing people in areas of the organization where they have little expertise. Leaders may have a steep learning curve to understand other functions. It is also necessary to make adaptations when leaders begin reporting to a new leader, who may have a different communication style or set of expectations.

If you are experiencing a new beginning in your role, it may be helpful to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What am I doing that is no longer working or producing the results I desire?
  • Who can give me helpful feedback to examine practices and approaches that I may need to adapt? (a peer? boss? coach?)
  • What strategies might I employ to adapt to this new beginning?
  • How can I implement and sustain these new strategies to ensure I’m successful?

Most important, remember that any adaptation in practice or behavior takes time and repetition to make it a new habit. I’m still having trouble disciplining myself to take breaks as needed, especially when I’m really excited about what I’m working on. As my doctor kindly said to me last week, “Be patient with yourself.” I’d encourage you to do the same.

Anita Rios

 

 

Choices and new beginnings

Sometimes leaders know they need to make a new beginning, either personally or for the organization, but they can’t figure out how to start.  There may be many options, and sometimes these options are complete opposites.

We’ve written several times before about managing polarities – the kind of decision making that needs to happen when there are two opposing options, both of which have positive benefits.

A natural tendency is to look for some sort of compromise. But sometimes the compromise results in an outcome that doesn’t satisfy anyone. In their new book, Creating Great Choices: A Leader’s Guide to Integrative Thinking, Jennifer Riel and Roger Martin talk about ways to get out of the trap of either/or thinking and come up with new solutions.

So what does that have to do with Legos? As Riel describes in this interview with Harvard Business Review, the executives at Lego had to make a difficult choice related to the movie. Should they hold on to creative control and protect the brand, or should they give creative control to skilled professionals who would create an exciting movie but might not serve the brand well?

The executives came up with a new solution that resulted in a blockbuster hit. It was a win for Lego and for the creators of the movie. (Check out the interview to find out what that solution was.)

Is there an area where you are feeling stuck in either/or thinking? How can you look at the problem in new ways?

Dee Anne Bonebright

“If you don’t fall, you aren’t learning”

Paul falling 2Last week this photo of my brother crashing showed up in my Facebook feed. Ouch. Having biked with my brother often, I know he got up, checked himself for injuries, and then tried to get over that boulder again – and made it! He took a risk, tried an unknown, fell, figured something out and succeeded. Leaders have to do the same thing. Take risks, be prepared to crash, learn from it and try again.

A recent article in the Telegraph Connect, an online community for leaders, highlighted that successful leaders “will take carefully calculated risks, while accepting that failure is a byproduct of success and innovation.” The key point being that they are calculated risks and a part of a leadership strategy having four parts.

  1. Calculated risks mean predicted success. Assess if your goal is important enough to take a chance. Do your preparation and planning and don’t rush in blindly. And, purposely accept and have a plan for how you will learn from each and every misstep, mistake, blunder or crash!
  2. Failure is a part of experimenting. This requires trust and actually accepting the fact that failure WILL be a part of your career.
  3. Change requires growth. You will operate out of your comfort zone during times of important growth.
  4. Accept failure and build rapport. You can create a culture that takes risks, and then acknowledges, accepts and learns from the failures that inevitably follow.

Growing up my family always shared the phrase I used in the title, “If you aren’t falling, you aren’t trying something new and learning.” Are you encouraging your team to “go for it?”

Todd Thorsgaard

Supporting your new hire’s success

Approaches to onboarding and training for new hires have come a long way since I first started in higher education. At the time, it was pretty common to be shown your desk, handed your keys and left on your own to figure things out. If you don’t believe me, talk to a few folks who are older than 50 and you’ll find its true.

That old “sink or swim” method of letting new employees just figure things out never worked out particularly well. Thankfully, most human resources departments nowadays will help leaders with resources to put together a good onboarding plan for their new employees to increase their chance of success in a new role.

Considering the statistics below from the  Harvard Business Review  it’s critical to invest time and energy into a good onboarding plan if you want your new employee to feel welcome and stay in your organization.

  • Almost 33% of new hires look for a new job within their first six months on the job
  • Twenty-three percent of new hires turn over before their first anniversary
  • Organizational costs of employee turnover are estimated to range between 100% and 300% of a replaced employee’s salary
  • Newly hired employees typically take up to eight months to reach full productivity

Next week I have a new staff member joining our team. In anticipation, I’ve been busy putting together an onboarding and training plan and have enlisted my team members to assist. I’ve also been availing myself of every resource from our IT department, human resources, and our Talent Management online onboarding toolkit. Here’s one very helpful resource I recommend called: Ten Ways to Make a New Hire Feel Welcome

Our new team member will be working in a critical role with a large client group. The stakes are high to get him up-to-speed quickly and to make his introduction to our workplace a good one. As a leader, it’s my job to see that he has all the tools he needs to ensure his success.

Anita Rios

Making a reset

I have a confession. A few minutes ago I finished a task that I’ve been procrastinating about for several weeks. It took less than 15 minutes and I’m sure I’ve spent more time than that adding it to to-do lists and thinking about it. It feels great to finally check it off!

That step was part of some new habits that I’m working on. I decided I would start managing my time differently, and so far it’s working. I’ve been able to make significant progress on some big projects as well as get little things done.

To celebrate my “accomplishment,” I went into the break room for some tea and met a colleague who was excited about some new time management techniques her daughter learned from her piano teacher.  Not only was it making practice much easier, but mom had also started using the techniques in her work and home life.

Sometimes we can make our own new beginnings. Attending a class, reading a book, or a conversation with a piano teacher can create a spark that makes us want to make a change.  Whatever the reason, it helps to tell someone about your new goal. It keeps you accountable, and it means someone else will notice your success.

What new beginning would you like to make?  What’s one step you can take to get there?

Dee Anne Bonebright