Category Archives: build organizational talent

Focus on strengths!

Best of HigherEDge, first published on December 12, 2012.

I am kicking off a leadership program today. I am looking forward to another engaging discussion about how we can help our team members fully develop their strengths. Todd Thorsgaard

What is right about me? What is right about the people on my team?

These are the questions that led to a very energetic conversation during the three day leadership development program I just finished facilitating with a group of higher education leaders. We were discussing the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment and their individual strengths profiles. (Rath, Tom. StrengthsFinder 2.0. Gallop Press. 2007.)  The work of Donald Clifton and Tom Rath encourages us to embrace our strengths and use our natural talents to enhance our leadership by focusing on “what is right about me!”  I was struck, once again, by how passionate and enthused the 34 leaders got when I asked them to share stories about their strengths, about what is “right about them?”  The conversations were full of laughter, vigorous head nodding and an authentic sense of pride and satisfaction.

Their conversations were a reminder to me of how powerful a small shift in perspective can be as I work to be the best leader I can be. From my experience, and the stories I hear from leaders, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the challenges we face in higher education. I can feel stuck and unable to work effectively with those around me who are also feeling overwhelmed. Yet I know when I rely on my strengths and ask myself, “how can I use my strength of individualization (the ability to identify unique attributes in others) to solve a problem with a course I am developing or a program I will be facilitating,” I have much more energy to tackle the challenge and I am more likely to come up with an effective solution.

This small but purposeful shift in perspective when working with others also makes a big difference in my leadership. I find that when I specifically start interactions with colleagues by asking myself, “what is right about this person?” or “what unique attribute or experience or information makes them successful?,” I am more open to new ideas and better able to move beyond the frustration I feel when things don’t go the way I expected!

Next time you feel stuck or overwhelmed, stay energized by asking, “What is right about me and what is right about the people on my team?”

Todd Thorsgaard

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It’s all in your mind….. thank goodness

As Buddha said, we can use our minds to drive our behaviors. Developing a more strategic way of thinking leads to more strategic behaviors.

In fact, leadership development expert Melissa Karz highlights how having a “strategic mindset gives you a lens to think big in every moment.” In a recent article, she suggests practicing four specific habits to develop your own strategic mindset.

Align to Organizational Objectives. Asking yourself the following questions can help you stay aligned and take the actions necessary to help your team be aligned to the vision, values and goals of your organization.

  • Where are we today and where do we want to be in 12 months?
  • What skills am I missing, and is my team missing, to accomplish those goals?
  • What relationships do I need to build or nurture?
  • How are we defining success now, and in the future?

Identify Highest Value Activities.  Strategic thinking means scanning all the demands, options, requests, and opportunities and identifying the ones that will best support short-term and long-term success. Prioritization means saying no or delegating. High value activities include:

  • Coaching and developing your direct reports.
  • Building relationships and networks to facilitate collaboration and a broader perspective.
  • Creating a direct line of sight for your team so they can see how their work contributes to the big picture.

Seek Under-The-Radar Information. The reality is that leaders are shielded from much of the information they actually need. It is human nature to withhold bad news or to hesitate to “bother” leaders. To overcome this leaders need to actively seek out information and make it easier for people to share information, even bad news. Practice:

  • Asking questions.
  • Using mistakes as a learning opportunity.
  • Reinforcing open and transparent communication.
  • Taking time to meet with colleagues and peers.
  • Meeting with people outside your own industry.

Schedule Time for Reflection. Developing a strategic mindset requires action and reflection. Scheduling time to analyze and assess what you have learned, what you want to continue doing, and what you want to do differently is strategic. Just like you schedule important meetings, dedicating scheduled time daily, weekly, quarterly and annually is a challenging but necessary habit to develop.

Over time these habits reinforce a strategic mindset which leads to more strategic behaviors further establishing strategic habits making strategic leadership a part of who you are.

Todd Thorsgaard

 

One size DOESN’T fit all

Standardization and consistency are necessary but not sufficient if you want to be a leader that truly helps your people thrive. As my humorous picture depicts: people are not the same! They need different sizes and types of leadership from you. Different strokes for different folks informs individualized consideration which is the fourth I of transformational leadership.

Individualized consideration focuses on the importance of leaders recognizing the unique characteristics of each person on their team, respecting and valuing their uniqueness, and most importantly taking different actions based on their unique needs and strengths.

The first step starts at a personal level. Individualized concern asks leaders to genuinely demonstrate awareness and interest in the individual needs or concerns of their people.  Next your leadership actions must vary and be customized to bring out best in each person on the team.

Sounds challenging and it is. However small steps matter and people appreciate authentic interest. Informal conversations, purposeful checking in, listening and being open to new perspectives will help you detect what is important to each person on your team. Do they like data? Are they drawn to the concerns of others? Do deadlines energize them? Are they focused on new ideas? Do they want clear processes or structure? You get the idea.

Acknowledging the uniqueness of the people you lead and supporting them so they can leverage their strengths will unleash the potential in your team.

Todd Thorsgaard

Are they doing it wrong, or just differently?

One of the four I’s in the Bass model is Intellectual Stimulation.  Bass says that transformational leaders involve followers in working through problems and encourage them to find innovative solutions.

While this makes sense, it’s not always easy to do.  I’ve worked with many leaders that have a very difficult time letting people do things in new or different ways.  An important question is to ask “are they doing it wrong, or are they just doing it differently?”

If someone’s approach is going to yield the needed results, within an appropriate time and budget, give them the autonomy to proceed and help them evaluate the new process. You may find that it’s an improvement.

But what if it’s not better?  I worked with a department that saved a lot of time by skipping several unnecessary process steps. Or at least it was working until it was time for the annual report to the regulatory agency. Suddenly those steps were critical and there was a lot of work to re-create them.

When considering intellectual stimulation, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do they clearly understand the goals and boundaries of the problem?
  • How can I help them see the big picture?
  • How can I encourage them to generate creative solutions and support their efforts to try new things?
  • What assumptions may be getting in the way?
  • What barriers can I eliminate?

How did it feel when one of your leaders challenged you in this way?  How can you provide that for others?

Dee Anne Bonebright

 

 

 

Demystifying transformational leadership

As my colleague Todd shared last week, “Transformational leadership causes people to trust, respect, and even admire, their leaders.” It also inspires and empowers followers to exceed normal levels of performance. Sounds like wonderful, but heady stuff!

As a leader, you might ask: what can I do to become more of a transformational leader? How can I inspire trust and respect and empower those I lead? Is there a recipe or a checklist that can help guide me? To answer that question, Bass, author of Transformational Leadership, outlines four helpful components to transformational leadership.

Often referred to as the 4 I model, the four  components listed below describe specific behaviors that leaders can adopt.

Idealized Influence
Serve as role models for followers.  “Walk the talk.” Demonstrate appropriate risk-taking, consistency, and high levels of integrity.

Inspirational Motivation
Inspire and motivate followers by providing meaning and a sense of challenge to their work. Involve followers in creating a desired vision for the future, communicate clear expectations and demonstrate commitment to shared goals of the team.

Intellectual Stimulation
Involve followers in addressing organizational problems and support them in being as innovative as possible in identifying solutions. Encourage followers to challenge assumptions, reframe problems, and approach existing problems in novel ways.

Individualized Consideration
Give individualized attention to each follower’s professional development by acting as a coach or mentor. Provide customized learning opportunities for  each follower based on that person’s unique needs and desires.

Over the next week and a half, my colleagues and I will be diving deeper into each of the 4 I’s. For now, I challenge you to read through each short description and to make a mental note of which I’s you are strong in and which I’s you may need to focus on as you reflect on your own leadership.

Anita Rios

Transformational leadership

This year my talent development colleagues have been engaging our chief human resources officers in conversations about transformational HR. The conversations are meant to support human resources leaders as we begin a system-wide effort to move key transactional work to regional service centers. The move is designed to create efficiencies in our system and assist HR leaders so they can spend more of their time doing strategic work at the local level.

As we go down that path, it begs the question, what do we mean by transformational? Our HR community has agreed upon a discipline-specific definition of transformational HR that includes mastery of the following leadership competencies:

  • strategic leadership and partnership
  • organization development
  • employee engagement
  • diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • change management

Still, the core idea of transformational HR builds upon transformational leadership itself. With that in mind, we thought it might be helpful to discuss the broader concept of transformational leadership this month. We’ll explore the following questions:

  • What exactly is a transformational leader?
  • What differentiates transformational from transactional leadership?
  • Why does it matter?

We’ll also explore some of the characteristics of transformational leadership in our blog posts.

Before we dig in, tell us your thoughts on transformational leadership. What does it mean to you?

Anita Rios

 

 

 

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