Category Archives: common good

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

Where’s the meaning?

where-is-the-meaningIf the people on your team have to ask “Where is the meaning in my work?” something is wrong!

In his book  Meaning, Inc. , Gurnek Bains ecourages leaders to bring the organization’s mission and vision to life through meaningful work. Between actual work time and digital connections people spend over half of their waking hours “at work.” Understanding how those work activities are making a contribution to customers (students at Minnesota State), the community or larger society will make work more meaningful.

While each person on your team has their own personal values and beliefs about what is important, there are actions that leaders can take to strengthen meaning at work.  Bains identifies the following leadership activities that help create more meaningful work:

  • Discussing and supporting personal stretch goals that are related to the vision.
  • Focusing on the unique strengths and talents that each person brings to work.
  • Documenting, evaluating, providing feedback and highlighting each person’s work and contribution to group efforts.
  • Clearly linking individual and team work activities and accomplishments to wider issues.
  • Ensuring that short-term goals don’t conflict with the deeper organizational purpose.
  • Role modeling stated ideals.

Making sure your people know the difference their work makes in the lives of other people builds meaning. And meaning is powerful.

Todd Thorsgaard