Category Archives: common good

Creating a sense of system

I recently heard a great example of transformational leadership. Devinder Malhotra, the interim chancellor for Minnesota State, shared his vision of what it means to be a system:  it’s when we jointly take ownership of the success of all our students, no matter where they are enrolled.

I first heard him make this comment in an interview on Minnesota Public Radio. He reinforced it earlier this week at the Academic and Student Affairs leadership conference. This definition presents a clear picture of where we are going, and helps us to think about the necessity to work together outside of our usual boundaries and silos.

During the conference I learned about many ways this is happening. There are large-scale efforts such as the transfer pathways work that is supporting what students are already doing–completing their education by attending multiple institutions within Minnesota State. On a smaller scale, I learned how the culinary program at Saint Paul College is helping students from China to succeed at Metropolitan State University.

Another conference speaker, Dr. David J. Weerts from the University of Minnesota, helped us think about what it means to work together for the common good of our students and our society. He pointed out that historically this has meant different things to different people. Does it mean educating citizens and preparing leaders for the future? Does it mean ensuring that all of our students can achieve economic success? Or does it mean focusing on social justice and ensuring that everyone has an equal chance for education?

Clearly we need to do all of these things. It is going to require working together in new ways, across institutions, across lines of rank and status, and across bargaining unit lines, to name a few. As Chancellor Malhotra said, no individual institution will be sustainable by standing on its own.

Dee Anne Bonebright

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Listening and leading

listeningWe’ve pointed out before that listening is an essential leadership skill. When it comes to leading for the common good, it’s more important than ever.

I recently heard a TED talk by Julian Treasure in which he pointed out the importance of conscious listening. He said filters – things like culture, values, expectations, attitudes, and beliefs – impact how we listen. Even though most people are unconscious of their filters, these filters create our reality by determining what we pay attention to.

Our fast-paced and noisy culture is inhibiting our ability to do the kind of conscious listening that creates understanding across differences. Treasure recommends that we practice these five skills, and encourage our staff to practice them, in order to enhance our listening skills.

  1. Embrace silence – spend 3 minutes each day in quietness.
  2. Focus on channels – listen to all the sources of sound around you and try to separate as many distinct sounds as possible.
  3. Savor sounds – focus on everyday sounds and learn to appreciate them.
  4. Examine your listening positions – identify your filters and learn to be intentional. Are you being active or passive? Critical or empathetic? What is impacting your perception of what you’re hearing?
  5. Practice RACA – Receive information consciously, Appreciate the viewpoint of the speaker, Summarize what you heard, and Ask followup questions.

Treasure says that we’re losing our ability to listen. Do you agree? If so how can we reverse that trend?

Dee Anne Bonebright

 

That makes no sense!!

conflict-management-techniques

“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:

  • arguing
  • 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:

  • listening
  • talking with each other
  • problem-solving
  • 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.

  1. What do we all want?
  2. 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!

Todd Thorsgaard

Incivility and the common good

hands_across_the_divide_sculpture_derry_-_panoramioOne aspect of leading for the common good is the ability to lead across boundaries. We’re all familiar with the problem of silos in academia. Many times even well-meaning activities fail to include everyone who has a stake in an issue or tools to help address it. And there are many other potential divisions that can be formed by race, gender, age, even which candidate someone voted for. Bringing people together across these boundaries is a critical leadership challenge.

I recently came across an article in Forbes that made a connection between boundaries and another hot issue in academia – incivility. The author pointed out, logically enough, that much of the incivility we’re dealing with is based on an unwillingness to work together with people that are on the other side of some perceived boundary.

Somehow I hadn’t connected the idea that by leading people to work together across boundaries, we are also creating an environment where people show respect and civility. Here are some recommendations from the article:

  • Treat employees as problem-solving partners
  • Make sure everyone has a voice
  • Provide ways for people to speak up about concerns and ideas
  • Build teams that bring diverse people together
  • Make sure it’s OK to ask uncomfortable questions
  • Promoting collaboration that is focused on the common good

How have you seen leaders effectively lead across boundaries? Do you agree that it promoted an environment of respect and civility?

Dee Anne Bonebright

Image: Hands Across the Divide, sculpture by Maurice Harron, Co Derry, Ireland

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

 

What is a servant leader

Image result for robert greenleaf servant leader

It seems clear that the common good isn’t always the same as our personal preference. Sometimes leading for the common good means putting others’ interests ahead of our own.

Robert Greenleaf called this behavior servant leadership. It starts with taking care to make sure other people’s high priority needs are being met. Beyond that, Greenleaf said we should ask “Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”According to the Greenleaf Center, this doesn’t only apply to individuals – organizations can also demonstrate servant leadership.

So does that mean that I should greet my employees with coffee every morning and be ready to set aside my own tasks to help out when things get busy?  According to consultant Skip Pritchard, that’s not servant leadership.  He proposed nine qualities that define a servant leader:

  1. Valuing diverse opinions
  2. Promoting a culture of trust
  3. Developing leadership in others
  4. Helping people with life issues, not just work issues
  5. Encouraging others
  6. Using persuasion more than command
  7. Thinking about “you,” not “me”
  8. Thinking long term
  9. Showing humility

Have you had the chance to work for an individual or organization that demonstrated these traits?  How did it feel?  For me, those have been the times when I was able to bring my best to the workplace. How can we all work together to make Minnesota State a place where servant leadership is the norm?

Dee Anne Bonebright

 

Now what?

womens-marchMuch has happened since we wrote our last blog in December. I know my social media feeds are full of arguments, passionate points-of-view and a lot of ALL CAPS statements of righteousness or outrage.

All of this emotion, energy and disagreement also enters the workplace. The Minnesota Women’s March actually started at one of our schools, Saint. Paul College. Your people are navigating the current political landscape and you need to be prepared to lead during a very chaotic time. As nice as it may seem to just ignore all the divisiveness, true leadership demands that you step into the tumult and help your people work together.

To start the conversation we are going to share some ideas during February on how to lead for the common good. Specifically, we’ll be talking about:

  • discovering shared interests
  • managing conflict
  • truly listening
  • integrative leadership
  • servant leadership

Please share whatever ideas you have to help your people work together for a common good in the midst of raw emotions. Otherwise our teams may end up as divided as the couple cited in today’s Reuters poll – From disputes to a breakup

Before I sign off I want to share one hopeful picture from a blog I follow. A peaceful bike march in Paris with flags reading “Bikes not War.”

Posted by https://www.dcrainmaker.com/bikes-not-war-dc-raymaker

Todd Thorsgaard