I was recently discussing a large-scale project with some of its leaders. As they looked back on the effort, they agreed that one of the key problems was promising too much, too quickly.
Without carefully talking to the people on the ground, institutional leadership made public statements about how much better the system was going to work, and how quickly it would happen. The system didn’t live up to expectations. We’ve all seen that same thing. For a variety of reasons, leaders often promise more than their staff can deliver.
When we think about the leadership competency of delivering on one’s promises, it’s easy to think about the personal side. As a leader, I try hard to do what I said I was going to do. But sometimes I am making promises for my unit or project team. With the best intentions, I can estimate timelines, costs, and outcomes that end up not being met.
Making the best guess when all the data isn’t available means that we will sometimes be wrong about our predictions. When that happens it’s important to own the mistake and review it to avoid the same thing in the future.
At the same time, we can try to be realistic about the expectations we set. Change is hard, and new systems rarely work perfectly the minute the switch is flipped. Helping people have a realistic picture of what to expect can make the effort more successful in the long run.
Dee Anne Bonebright
What engages your people? At our colleges and universities we hope it is the success of our students both during college and after graduation! What would your people say?
In reality it is often challenging for people to see a direct connection between their day-to-day work and the ultimate difference it makes to your customers, be they students in higher education, patients in health care, or whomever. Focusing this line of sight for your people helps them directly see the value and importance of their work which has been shown to increase engagement and performance. A real win-win for leaders.
Management educator and author Russ Linden shares a few ideas on how leaders can do a better job to create a line of sight for their people.
- Put a human face on your mission and vision. A health care organization I worked at for many years would always invite patients to join our work team meetings. It truly changed how we thought about our work.
- Encourage and make it easy for people to take short-term assignments or projects in different departments/divisions/locations. Exposing people to the full range of work required to serve your customers and how the pieces fit together helps them understand the importance of each step.
- Turn employees into customers. Actively look for ways to let your people experience your organization as a customer. Make it real for them.
- Schedule and hold multi-unit and multi-location meetings and training events. Whenever possible have people working together as a “whole” rather than in separate “pieces” so they begin to see themselves as an integral element in the overall process.
Leaders have the responsibility and the opportunity to sharpen the line of sight for every person on their team. What examples can you share of a leader doing a great job or an idea you used successfully?
Posted in Engagement, goals, higher education, Leadership, Motivation, organizational culture, stakeholders, Uncategorized
Tagged culture, engagement, higher education, Leadership, mission and vision, motivation, purpose, stakeholders, values, vision
Strategic plans, work plans, goals, action items, tactics, timelines… these are all fantastic tools for strategic leaders. They are important, and even necessary, to help leverage people’s work efforts and accomplish organizational mission. But we all know that our best laid plans can be disrupted by problems and opportunities during the year.
In those cases, what is a strategic leader to do? Abandon all hope of strategic planning and just go with the flow? Dump your plan and stay in reactive mode? I think not!
One strategy my team used to plan for unexpected problems or opportunities was a priority-setting brainstorm session. We identified criteria that should be used in prioritizing the activities we already have in our work plan as well as any new work that might emerge during the year. Some of the questions we explored included:
- How should we set priorities?
- What criteria do strategies or activities need to meet in order to be included in our work plan?
- What goals and guiding principles should we be consistently supporting as a unit?
- Does new work need to meet ALL priority-setting criteria or just some?
It was a fruitful discussion that helped us anchor our work plan and work priorities in overarching goals for our division and the system. We discussed the impact of our work, our customer’s needs, and the environment in which we work. We also had a useful conversation about how we want to work together as a team, and we agreed upon our own set of operating principles.
Since that conversation, I’ve noticed some of my team members have been more mindful of high-level priorities and have increased confidence in setting boundaries with other colleagues. In fact, just today I was copied on an email one of my team members sent to a colleague, explaining that a particular project would need to sit on the back burner until her higher priority work was completed. Now that’s leading and working strategically.
Last Wednesday, my team and I met for a long overdue planning session. (The photo featured here depicts some of our work.) Usually we conduct these every summer and spend a day off-site to re-focus on our mission, review our collective work from the year before and to set goals and priorities for the year ahead. Needless to say, due to staff turnover and my absence on medical leave, we didn’t get around to this important task until October.
In our two-hour abbreviated planning session, we still made time to include a discussion on each person’s “big ideas” for enhancing the programs, services, and resources we deliver to our campuses. And we talked through a draft workplan for this year in record time. While it wasn’t ideal…I would have liked to have had more time for everyone to discuss their ideas in detail…it was a start to reconnecting as a team and continuing to c0-create a desired vision for the near-future.
When I look at the Bass’s 4 I model of Transformational leadership, planning sessions are a key tool that leaders can use demonstrate Inspirational Motivation. If you recall from last Monday’s post, it was defined as:
- 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
- Demonstrate commitment to shared goals of the team
Team planning sessions involve followers in creating a desired vision for the future. Documenting what happened in those planning sessions through a workplan can help set clear expectations and demonstrate commitment to shared goals. In addition, making sure that your team is grounded with a set of guiding principles or goals helps to provide meaning for everyone as they work together and contribute to the good of the organization.
What other tools, processes, or behaviors have you used to demonstrate Inspirational Motivation? Please feel free to share your expertise and leave a comment below.
You nailed the interview, you got the job and now it’s time to prove your value – full speed ahead! Peter Daly and Michael Watson, authors of The First 90 Days in Government: Critical Success Strategies for New Public Managers at all Levels, encourage leaders to take a different approach to successfully navigate one of the most treacherous transitions you will face – starting a new job.
The pressure to deliver results – fast – can backfire and end up looking like the proverbial bull in the china shop. Making a lot of noise, causing a lot of action but not demonstrating your ability to lead and succeed.
To avoid a crash, Daly and Watson describe five crucial subjects or themes that new leaders need to understand before they charge forward. This will require structured on-going dialogue with your boss that they call “the five conversations:”
- The Situation Conversation – discover how your boss perceives 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.
- The Expectations Conversation – define, clarify, and perhaps, negotiate what success looks like for you in your new job.
- The Style Conversation – discuss and determine how the relationship with your new boss 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.
- 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.
- 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 new leaders strategically approach the transition to a new role. This is a time that it is “all about you!”
Posted in change and transition, communication, goals, Leadership, leadership development, organizational culture, resources, self awareness, stakeholders
Tagged communication, culture, feedback, Leadership, performance, professional development, purpose, questions, self-awareness, success, transparency, urgent
“That’s crazy,” “I could never do it that way,” You’re wrong,” “No, listen to me!”
Are you hearing statements like these at work? When new ideas are introduced are you seeing battle lines drawn? How do you lead for the common good when it seems like your people have completely different goals in mind?
Well, not to ignore how hard it is but the place to start is with dialogue. Which means helping people actually listen to each other, even if they disagree with what the other person is saying. Your goal is to help people move from:
- persuading or telling
- focusing on differences
- talking at each other
All of which lead to frustration, lack of trust and either/or thinking.
And move to:
- talking with each other
- looking at options
That requires finding some sort of common or shared interests as a starting point for dialogue. Instead of focusing on the dangers of the other point of view and highlighting the positive of their own point of view, help people work on specific issues by looking deeper and identifying underlying values, goals, and concerns that both sides share.
We encourage the leaders we work with to ask these two straightforward questions to build trust and identify shared interests.
- What do we all want?
- We do we all fear or want to avoid?
It will take work to keep people from focusing on their initial points of view and look at the bigger picture, but facilitating this conversation will help you and your people find a common good you can all agree on, and that is a great starting point!
Posted in building teams, common good, communication, goals, polarities, trust
Tagged communication, culture, ego, innovation, purpose, transparency, vision
Fourth and inches: the point in a football game where they’re almost over the goal…but just need that final push to get there. And the crowd goes wild when it works as planned, but just as often the punter is brought in, after the goal isn’t attained.
Many things need to happen on the field to get to this point:
- Knowing each player’s, and the other team’s players, strengths and weaknesses
- Calling the correct plays
- Having the right people where they need to be
- Consistently moving forward, with everyone’s eye on the same goal.
The Long-Term Financial Sustainability Workgroup at Minnesota State has been moving towards the goal of making our system sustainable for the future.
They’ve kept going by strategically identifying, then listening to and involving, all stakeholders, right from the start; communicating with everyone, clearly and consistently; figuring out who needs to be where and when, and moving steadily forward toward their goal.
The workgroup’s next move is a study session presentation to the Minnesota State Board of Trustees on Tuesday, November 15, at 3:15 p.m. You can listen to streaming audio here.