Category Archives: Engagement

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

 

Advertisements

Should leaders set the vision?

Last week I had a chance to hear a presentation by Gervase Bushe, an internationally known author and scholar in my field of organization development. One of the first things he said was that, basically, he thinks leaders with a clear vision can be dangerous to organizations.

That was unexpected. Aren’t leaders supposed to create a clear vision, get others on board, and then lead the organization to success?  Well, not always.

We’ve written before about adaptive challenges. Unlike technical business problems, they don’t have clear solutions, a right answer, or a single clear end goal. Leaders who treat adaptive challenges as technical problems are doing what Bushe called the “pretend it isn’t really complicated” method of leadership. They can cause great harm.

Instead, Bushe said that what we need is “generative leadership” in which leaders promote dialogue among the stakeholders who actually do the work. The role of generative leaders isn’t to drive change, it’s to support the change process and promote collaborative decision-making.

This article from the Higher Learning Commission talks about the benefits of generative leadership in community colleges. I appreciated this observation:

Sometimes community colleges try to do so many things that they have difficulty doing any one thing well. Often, especially at small colleges, employees wear so many hats that it is difficult for them to find the time to communicate with each other, as well as to reflect on their practices and the theories inherent in them, and to exercise their creative energy to think through challenges and to innovate instead of simply adapt.

We’re all been there, and it can be easy to create coping strategies rather than systemic change. In addition, there are challenges in moving higher education from a culture of isolation and stability to one of collaboration and nimble change.

The article says that anyone in an organization can show generative leadership. What examples have you seen?  Who on your team has been a generative leader, and how can you support them?

Dee Anne Bonebright

 

 

Missed opportunities

boredMy daughter just started a new job and recently spent a full day in a new employee onboarding program. Since she knows what I do for a living, she called to tell me that I should have been there – so I could tape it and use it as an example of what not to do!

The arrival of a new employee is often one of the greatest missed leadership opportunities. During the period of transition, employees are wondering not just about the nuts and bolts of their jobs, but also about the organization. What kind of team have I joined? What is the culture? How can I fit in?

Last summer I introduced the 4 C’s model of onboarding. Based on work by the Society for Human Resource Management, it identifies four key focus areas:

  1. Compliance: the basic legal and policy requirements of their role.
  2. Clarification: the roles and expectations for the new positions.
  3. Culture: introduction to formal and informal organizational norms
  4. Connection: integrating new employees into the work group.

My daughter’s program focused on compliance. She learned about the laws and policies that govern her new work. She filled out the paperwork to be covered by benefits. But she didn’t hear from organizational leaders about their goals and priorities, and she didn’t have an opportunity to build a connection with the other new employees who were there. She walked away feeling like they had wasted her time on things she could have done from her own desk.

The organizational leaders missed the chance to meet with a group of eager new staff who wanted to hear what they had to say. Even a brief  welcome and greeting could have made them feel like the organization was glad they were there and wanted them to succeed.

Many of our Minnesota State schools are examining their new employee programs and looking for new ways to build culture and connection. How can we as leaders make better use of this important transition?

Dee Anne Bonebright

 

Connecting purpose to the greater good

purposeOrganizations, leaders, and brands with a real and genuine purpose are primed to deliver success not only in the marketplace but also where it really counts—in the lives of others.
— Karin Volo, Huffington Post

A challenging part of leading for the common good is figuring out exactly what that looks like in any particular situation. One helpful strategy is to reflect on the organization’s mission and purpose.

Huffington Post recently published an article called Why Becoming Purpose Driven is the Path to Success in the 21st Century. The author described several benefits that come with a clear understanding of purpose. When everyone is on board with an organization’s mission, it translates into higher levels of confidence and engagement among employees. It encourages working together and promotes collaboration rather than self-focused competition.

When individuals and organizations understand their purpose, they are also able to be more innovative by changing the “rules” that aren’t core to the mission. For example, many leaders in higher ed are taking a serious look at open-source course materials. They’re asking how we can change the rules that say students have to spend money on expensive textbooks. How can we collaborate, share knowledge, and use technology in new ways?

In my field of training and development, we traditionally had a rule that said the best way to deliver training was in person. Over the past decade we’ve been learning to break that rule. We’re asking if there are better ways to reach learners with the information they need, when they need it.

How can focusing on your organizational mission help you to lead for the common good?

Dee Anne Bonebright

 

Giving thanks

As this is being pothanksgivingsted, I’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving with friends and family. I’m looking forward to hearing about my nephew’s new job and other family transitions during the past year.

While I may not be thinking about my work team over the holiday, I frequently reflect on how fortunate I am to work with a supportive group of talented people. As a leader, I probably don’t express my thanks to them as often as I should. There’s plenty of research that says acknowledgement of good work is a significant reward. We often forget about this very simple way to support innovation and advance excellence.

So thanks, Talent Management team, for working together through a challenging few months.  I appreciate the work we’ve been able to accomplish together and look forward to what’s ahead!

Dee Anne Bonebright

 

Who would have predicted that!

dewey-winsOk, I admit it. This post is a day late. I stayed up until 3:00 a.m. on Tuesday night watching the presidential electoral college vote results and the commentators trying to explain how all the predictions were wrong. Then on Wednesday, more analysis and exploration of what happened. I promise, this will not be a political post, but the election of president-elect Trump highlights how hard it is to predict the future! And we have a long history of getting predictions wrong.

So, how do leaders build organizational capacity to meet future challenges when it is so hard to see what will happen in the future?

Gary Hamel encourages leaders in his book What Matters Now (2012) to go back to the basics and focus on values to prepare for an uncertain future. He lists the following as “pivotal, overarching concerns” for leaders:

  1. Values – act as a steward and take actions that demonstrate concern for your people and organization.
  2. Innovation – provide opportunities for all your people to contribute their ideas to meet your customers’ needs.
  3. Adaptability – “future-proof” your company by relentlessly pushing for internal change to match external changes. Hamel stresses the need to “seek out the most discomforting facts you can find and share them with everyone in your organization.”
  4. Passion – clearly demonstrate that your people are affecting the outside world with their work. Highlight the importance of each and every person’s day-to-day work.
  5. Ideology – examine, discuss and challenge the status quo. Make it safe for people to express their opinions and concerns.

We may mess up predicting the future but Hamel implores leaders to speak up for “the good, the just and the beautiful” to better prepare for the uncertainty ahead.

The following link provides a detailed summary of What Matters Now.

https://www.getabstract.com/en/summary/leadership-and-management/what-matters-now/17412?dfs=wxmmqkfksovueayhlzbvluhtiwngbj&rf=DLZPJVUFWN&utm_campaign=share&utm_souce=getAbstract&utm_medium=email&u=MNSCU

Todd Thorsgaard

Living the Mission

To wrap up our Mission and Vision topic for this month, here’s an interview from an organization where employees live and work by both of them.

Becky M, Member Services Director of a local YMCA

Do you feel like all or most of the employees know the mission and vision of the YMCA?
I think most employees know our vision and mission or they know the general idea of it

How does this happen?  Are you reminded of it regularly, is it woven into your daily work?
Every week a manager of each department walks around and ask random employees to recite our vision and mission and how we live it in our everyday life.  At our staff meetings we do what’s called a “Mission Moment” where we tell stories where we have witnessed our mission and vision in full swing.  We are reminded of it daily through our members, program participants, staff, and volunteers.  Our mission and vision is the reason I work for the Y.  I believe in our cause and how we can help our community.

Have you worked somewhere that this was not the case, and what differences do you see?
I have worked at places where there was a mission statement but they didn’t really explain to us why or how they came up with that mission statement.  I have worked at places where I didn’t see it put into action from day to day.

The big difference I see is that at other companies we didn’t base our work off the mission and vision where at the Y the work that we do is all based off of the mission and vision and how we can impact someone’s life.

Mission:  To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.

Vision:  To serve relentlessly with our community until all can thrive in each stage of life.

Could you see any of the above practices working for your organization, or come up with others that would?   Please share your thoughts, ideas and suggestions in the comments!

Cindy Schneider