Author Archives: Anita Rios

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

 

 

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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

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

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