Category Archives: integrity

The perfect apology

We all know that effective leaders admit and learn from their mistakes, but admitting that we were wrong can be hard to do well. And if we’re taking ownership for an error related to work that was done under our leadership it can be even trickier.

On a website devoted to The Perfect Apology, the authors say that in a business setting, a good apology “will help solidify relationships with existing customers, acquire new ones, enhance customer confidence and improve overall loyalty to the brand.”

As an example, they analyze an apology given by JetBlue Airline after a particularly difficult week that included multiple delays and missed connections. The authors say it includes the key elements of an effective apology:

  1. It starts by expressing appropriate humility and remorse.
  2. It gives a detailed account of what happened and takes responsibility. In this case, the delays were caused by a severe winter storm, but the company didn’t try to minimize the effects of what happened.
  3. It offers restitution and proposes a Consumer Bill of Rights to remedy the situation in the future.
  4. It ends by saying that the airline values customer relationships and hopes to do business again in the future.

We could say that the experiences of an airline CEO don’t relate to us in higher education. We don’t sell tickets or compete for customer flight miles. We don’t seek customer brand loyalty (or do we?). But we all know that higher education isn’t perfect. People and organizations make mistakes, and leaders have to take responsibility. Is there anything we can learn from this example?

Dee Anne Bonebright

 

Radical transparency?

Last week when I was preparing to meet with one of our university leaders, I noticed that her email to me had an interesting tagline. At the end of her email signature and institution’s mission, she had added a postscript. It read:

PS: “Please forward this email to those I may have inadvertently missed. Anyone who needs this information is welcome to being in the loop. Let me know who I missed so I can add them to future correspondence. Radical transparency is a fundamental practice I choose to follow.”

Wow! After reading it, I began to think about how her message not only communicated that she was committed to transparency, but was a declaration of her values AND a demonstration of integrity. Many leaders say they practice transparency in their communications, but few go to lengths of demonstrating it in this way.

At the end of our meeting, I asked her about the postscript in her email and remarked on its uniqueness. She affirmed that this practice has built trust among her teams. (I have to add that it is just one of the many things she does to create a productive work environment on her campus.)

As we were talking, she remarked that anyone who doesn’t think that their emails are completely public is fooling themselves. Everything we communicate online is open to sharing and can circle the globe quickly.

The phrase radical transparency makes me smile, in that it communicates transparency to the extreme. Simply defined, radical transparency includes actions and approaches that radically increase the openness of organizational process and information.

In that one postscript, this leader clearly demonstrates her integrity with every email message.  What practices do you employ that demonstrate integrity?

Anita Rios

Acting with integrity

The second in our Minnesota State leadership competencies is Acts with Integrity. As I was reviewing it and the behaviors that describe it, I was struck by the fact that it’s included under “Leader of Self.” Does that mean that a leader can’t really act with integrity without demonstrating self-awareness and self-control?  I think it does.

Some of these behaviors, such as abiding by relevant laws, rules and regulations, might not appear linked to self-awareness. But as I read about some of the public leadership failures we’ve had recently, they seem at least partly driven by a failure to ask the question:  “This act seems like it will benefit me, but does it align with my core values?”

This month we’ll look at this competency and how it applies to us as leaders within higher ed.

  • Demonstrates honesty
  • Abides by all relevant laws, rules and regulations
  • Encourages others to do the same
  • Gives credit where credit is due
  • Delivers what is promised
  • Admits and learns from mistakes
  • Corrects mistakes to utmost ability

Dee Anne Bonebright

It takes more than understanding

The harsh reality for leaders is that understanding without action is not enough to make a difference. In fact, a more accurate title for our January leadership competency could be – Understands Self and Others – and does something with that understanding. Kind of cumbersome but more realistic.

Tom Rath and Barry Conchie in Strengths Based Leadership, identify four essential elements that people want from their leaders and when they get them they are more engaged and committed to their work.

  1. Trust: Credibility, respect, integrity and honesty
  2. Compassion:  Caring, concern about whole person, genuine interest in whole person
  3. Stability:  Predictability, consistency, fairness and security
  4. Hope: Direction, clarity, guidance and optimism for the future

Understanding these human needs for engagement is a starting point for identifying day-to-day actions you can take to demonstrate trust, compassion, stability and hope to your people. It will look different for each of us but taking action is what is important.

A great starting point is to think back to leaders who have most inspired you and ask yourself, what specifically did they do to demonstrate trust, compassion, stability and hope?

Please share your answers and we can build a toolkit of action ideas to share among us!

Todd Thorsgaard

The problem is not the problem….

Best of HigherEDge, first published on June 24, 2013.

Interestingly, this post from 2013 is one of the most-read on our blog. I’m not sure if it’s because of topic or the fact that it contains a nice photo of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. Still, the core message is enduring. While we can’t always control the circumstances we are in, we can control our reactions. This lesson has been even more important to me personally as I’ve worked the last 15 months to recover from a brain injury and tried to choose gratitude each day, rather than anger and frustration or sadness and a positive attitude, rather than a negative one. It’s made all the difference in the world. – Anita Rios

Ok. I have to admit that I’m not your usual Pirates of the Caribbean fan, but I do love this movie quote from Captain Jack Sparrow. Let me explain why. A few months ago, I experienced a few big disappointments. I know my natural response to those disappointments could negatively impact my team, their productivity, their confidence in me, and as a result,  their service to others. (If you recall Dee Anne’s blog about mood contagion, she outlines why it is so important for leaders to maintain a positive attitude and how it impacts our service to our customers.) I used this picture and quote as a daily reminder to keep my focus on maintaining a positive attitude, even though my gut reaction was exactly the opposite. I can’t say that I was successful every day, but this daily reminder helped me to focus on what I could control: my reactions.

Shawn Achor, one of the world’s leading experts on human potential, takes this idea further in his book The Happiness Advantage. Drawing from positive psychology, Achor builds a case that positivity or happiness fuels success for ourselves, the people we lead, and our organizations. He says that, “when we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work.” He also demonstrates how this discovery has been borne out by research in neuroscience, psychology, management studies, and organizations around the world.

He outlines seven principles in his book:

  1. The Happiness Advantage: how happiness gives your brain and your organization the competitive edge
  2. The Fulcrum and the Lever: changing your performance by changing your mindset
  3. The Tetris Effect: training your brain to capitalize on possibility
  4. Falling Up: capitalizing on the downs to build upward momentum
  5. The Zorro Circle: how limiting your focus to small, manageable goals can expand your sphere of power
  6. The 20-Second Rule: how to turn bad habits into good ones by minimizing barriers to change
  7. Social Investment: why social support is your single greatest asset

If you’re trying to lead and excel with increased workloads, stress, and negativity or you want to build on a positive culture you have developed, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Achor’s book.

What strategies do you have for cultivating happiness and a positive attitude in yourself and others?

Anita Rios

Strategic influence

Part of strategic leadership and partnership is the ability to influence others. Whether advocating for their own positions, representing a group of stakeholders, or explaining the priorities of a work unit, strategic leaders need to communicate in a way that helps others understand and support their viewpoints.

Quite a while ago I was given a little book called The Power of Ethical Persuasion, by Tom Rusk.  I appreciated his argument that influence can be more than trying to get people to do things your way. He defined ethical persuasion as communicating with respect, understanding, and fairness in order to build stronger connections and shared goals.

Rusk provides a three-step process which has worked for me over the years.

Step 1: Explore the other person’s viewpoint

  1. Focus on mutual understanding, not problem solving.
  2. Ask the other person to help you understand their thoughts and feelings.
  3. Listen without defending or disagreeing. Refer to your position only as needed to keep the conversation going.
  4. Repeat the other person’s position in your own words.
  5. Repeat the steps above until the other person agrees that you understand their position.

Step 2: Explain your viewpoint

  1. Ask for a fair hearing in return.
  2. Explain how the other person’s thoughts and feelings affect you. Avoid blaming and defensiveness as much as possible.
  3. Explain your thoughts and feelings as your truth, not the truth.
  4. Ask the other person to restate your position, and correct any factual inaccuracies as necessary.
  5. Repeat until you both can understand and explain each other’s positions.

Step 3: Create resolutions

  1. Review each other’s positions and identify any mutual goals and shared values.
  2. Brainstorm multiple options without analysis and criticism.
  3. Review the options and determine whether there is a mutually agreeable solution.
  4. If not, consider any of the following:
    – Taking a time out and then reconsider the options
    – Compromise by meeting each side’s strongly held goals and meeting in the middle on others
    – Agree to the other person’s position, as long as you believe your position has been completely and respectfully considered
    – Seek help from a third party mediator or counselor
    – If no solution is needed in order to maintain collaboration, agree to disagree and still respect each other

It’s amazing how often positions that at first seemed mutually exclusive are actually based on similar values and goals. For example, we may disagree strongly on the campus budget, but we can respect that we are both seeking what’s best for the students. I’ve found that starting from that point and working toward mutual understanding can be much more persuasive than continuing to re-state the reasons why my side is correct.

Dee Anne Bonebright

 

Creating an ethical climate

People don’t usually wake up one morning and say “I think I’ll be unethical today.” It’s more of a gradual slide away from the moral center.
— Bill George

Several years ago I heard leadership expert Bill George talk about the idea of “true north,” which he defines as an internal ethical compass. He said it is shaped by a leader’s personal experience and it guides their leadership decisions.

The comment above has stayed with me. As we’ve seen in recent ethical failures by business and government organizations, most often it can be traced to a gradual path of unethical leadership decisions rather than one big mistake. For George, that can be traced back to the lack of a clearly defined moral center.

Transformational leadership needs to be ethical. And in order to be ethical, it needs to be authentic. George has identified five key areas for developing this kind of leadership:

  • Knowing your authentic self
  • Practicing your values and leadership principles
  • Understanding your motivations
  • Building your support team
  • Staying grounded by integrating all aspects of your life

You can explore this topic futher by reading the True North book and using the reflection activities available on the True North web site. Consider these reflection questions from the introduction activity:

  • Do you understand your purpose?
  • Do you practice your values?
  • Do you lead with your heart?
  • Do you establish connected relationships?
  • Do you demonstrate self-discipline?

Think about leaders that you admire and who demonstrate their “true north.” How might you want to follow their examples?

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

The time is right!

Devinder Malhotra, the new interim chancellor for Minnesota State, has stated that there has never been a better moment in time for our leaders to make a profound difference. Due to the challenges we face, the complexity of a system of colleges and universities, and the incredible difference our schools can make in the lives of the people of Minnesota, now is the time to be a leader.

One type of leadership Malhotra was highlighting is defined by Bernard Bass in his groundbreaking book, Transformational Leadership.  Transformational leadership works well in exceedingly complex organizations made up of diverse and challenging work groups that need to feel empowered to succeed in times of great uncertainty. Sound familiar?

Transformational leadership is best recognized by the impact it has on people in the organization. This type of leadership causes people to trust, respect, and even admire, their leaders. Transformational leaders:

  • Hold positive expectations for their people and show their people that they believe they will succeed.
  • Focus on and demonstrate that they care about their people’s personal and professional development.

Can you picture the leaders who have made a difference in your life through their transformational leadership?

Todd Thorsgaard

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