Monthly Archives: September 2017

A fresh start!

back-to-school-300x199As a kid the start of a new school year was both exciting and a little unnerving. A chance to build on what you did last year and a chance to make a fresh start!

Similarly, when you are a new leader or an experienced leader each day is a new start. A chance to build on your experience and the opportunity to make a fresh leadership start.

Amy Jen Su, author and co-founder of the executive coaching and leadership development firm Paravis Partners, encourages leaders to “step back and think about your leadership presence and if you are thinking, saying, and showing up as you most hope to and intend.” In her Harvard Business review article she highlights four key fresh start actions for both new and experienced leaders.

  1. Set or update a leadership values-based goal. Your people pay great attention to what you do and how you do it. Having an aspirational other-directed goal to guide your daily decisions and actions will directly impact the perceptions your team has of you and will strengthen your relationships at work.
  2. Continue to develop and increase your emotional intelligence and situational awareness. Leaders get work done through others and everyone on your team is different and every situation is different. Different motivations, different perspectives, different backgrounds, different experiences, and on and on. You need to be agile and adaptive. A starting point is to ask yourself the following questions before important interactions:
    • Who is the other person or audience?
    • What might their (not yours) perspective on this topic be?
    • How are they best motivated or what is most important to them?
    • What is unique about this situation, what variables are important here and now?
    • What are the optimal outcomes in this situation, for these specific players, for our team, for our organization?
  3. Be clear and direct, with respect. Leadership is build on two-way dialogue and trust. Leaders need to be clear and open to other perspectives – at the same time.
    • Know what you think and what is important to you – what are your convictions.
    • Ask, listen and acknowledge – provide space and acceptance of other points of view.
    • Share the WHY – include context, connection to personal and organizational priorities, and alignment.
  4. Be a stable and grounded presence in the face of change, stress, or difficult news. People need to feel safe bringing you news, even bad news. Otherwise you will end up in a vacuum with no information and no ability to make a difference. In addition, your team will look to you and mimic how you react to stress and changes. It is important to be genuine but prepared to demonstrate your leadership presence, even in tough times.

Fresh starts are exciting and a little scary. They give us an opportunity to reflect, build on what has worked and try something new.

Good luck!

Todd Thorsgaard

 

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Hiring talent

One of the most important things a leader can do is to hire talent. New hires, if chosen well, can infuse the organization with original ideas, fresh perspectives, and cutting-edge skills. They can help you refresh old ways of doing things and create new approaches to accomplishing work.  In many ways, they can represent new beginnings.

But how can you make sure you are hiring not only the most qualified candidate for the job, but the very best person to complement your team? This question has been top of mind for me in the last couple weeks as I’ve been interviewing candidates for a vital role on our Talent Management team.

Of course,  it’s important to create an accurate job description and a position posting that attracts talented applicants. It’s also essential to conduct interview processes that reveal applicants’ skill sets and strengths. In addition doing those things, I’ve been mulling over some of the best hiring advice I’ve encountered in my career.

When I was hiring my first supervisory training director at Minnesota State 12 years ago,  the Vice Chancellor for Human Resources at the time gave me a sage piece of advice. He smiled and simply said: “Anita, hire someone smarter than you are.”  After hearing that, I had two thoughts.  The first thought was ….of course, I want to hire the very best person for the job.  And the second was ….hmmm, that can take a lot of confidence AND humility to hire people who are smarter than you.

The late Steve Jobs believed that hiring was the most important thing he ever did. He managed all the hiring for his team and never delegated it, personally interviewing over 5,000 applicants in his career. I’ve admired this particular piece of advice he’s shared on hiring and leadership: “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” 

Another of my favorite hiring insights comes from Warren Buffett, who said, “In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy.  And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.” When you think about it, it really is true. Integrity is paramount when building your team.

Do you have a piece of favorite hiring advice? What has helped you to hire the very best talent?

Anita Rios

 

 

Greeting the new day

My daughter’s dog, Lucy, frequently visits overnight. She’s enthusiastic and curious, and really fun to have around. But we often have this conversation in the mornings:

Lucy (while jumping all over me):  It’s morning! The sun is up!! That means we can get up and do things!!!

Me (pulling blanket over my head):  But the alarm didn’t go off yet. That means I can sleep 10 more minutes.

It seems like some people greet new beginnings with lots of exclamation points and are genuinely happy to jump in, while other people need to go more slowly. As leaders, we need to respond to both kinds of people.

That might mean having action steps ready for those who want to get started. We need to take advantage of the enthusiasm and channel it towards positive change. Or it might mean providing more information for people who want to consider things, and helping them adapt at their own pace.

Which sort of morning person are you when it comes to new beginnings at work? What has been useful when communicating with the other type?

Dee Anne Bonebright

 

Don’t forget the endings!

It is tempting to focus on the new beginnings as a leader. We craft messages that highlight the benefits of the new system or the new structure. We glowingly describe the advantages of a new procedure or we document the potential dollars saved “after” the change is implemented. Yet study after study have confirmed that often we never reach the hoped-for Shangri-la.

William Bridges, in the 25th anniversary edition of his ground breaking book,  (Bridges, William. Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change. Da Capo Press. 2009.)  counsels leaders to actually meet their people where they are at, the endings they are facing! All new beginnings include something ending or being lost. When we only focus on the new beginnings and ignore that our people are losing something we won’t get to the new beginning as smoothly or successfully as we hope.

Think about it, a new school year also means the end of unstructured summer time. A new leader also means the end of knowing how your previous leader liked to get updates. Or a new house also means not knowing where the closest take-out pizza place is!

It isn’t necessary, or even advisable, to wallow in the losses and endings but it is important to start there to ensure a better transition to the new beginning. Specifically Bridges advises leaders to work with their people and make sure they understand what losses they are experiencing. It may be a loss of:

  • competency
  • comfort
  • status
  • influence
  • routines
  • independence
  • or many others

While many of these losses can and will be replaced or redefined you can help your people understand what is actually ending and what isn’t ending. As an example, the human resource division at Minnesota State is changing to a service center model for HR transactions. Most employee record keeping and status changes will be done by staff at four regional centers. Campus HR staff will clearly feel a loss of direct connection with people on their campus since they won’t be processing the paper work in this new model. It is important for campus HR leaders to acknowledge that loss and also highlight that their staff  will still have have access to employee records. They will be able to answer questions and will still have a personal relationship with the faculty and staff on their campus. Lack of clarity on what is ending and what is staying can lead to the natural tendency to over estimate what is ending!

Yes, the new beginnings are bright and shiny but we need to see and acknowledge that our people are experiencing some losses and endings if we want them to join us on the other side of the change.

Todd Thorsgaard

 

New beginnings

 “The beginning is the most important part of the work.” – Plato

Working in higher education for the last 30 years, September has always signaled new beginnings for me. The beginning of the new school year. New energy with students on campus starting classes. And new leaders who are joining the enterprise of educating students and leading our institutions. In my department, this season signals work with my team on new work plans and projects that support our mission. It is an exciting time as the academic year gets underway.

On a personal level, this blog post represents another new beginning. A year ago, I crashed my bicycle and suffered a traumatic brain injury that kept me out of work for nearly a year. I’m thrilled to be returning to work (albeit part-time and slowly). It is truly a new beginning for me as I rejoin my colleagues at work and learn how to adapt to the realities of my slow recovery.

You might have noticed that Todd and DeeAnne kept the HigherEdge blog going until April of this year in my absence. It was a Herculean effort since they were also backfilling many of my duties while I was out on medical leave.  Now that I’m back to work, we are looking forward to posting articles on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays once again.

This month, we will be writing about all kinds of new beginnings:  new directions, new leaders, new coworkers, and new challenges. We invite you to join us by adding your comments to our discussions. If you like, you can start by sharing any new beginnings are you experiencing.

Anita Rios