Leading for the common good isn’t peaceful. Agreement isn’t the goal. Paraphrasing writer Walter Lippmann, “when we all think alike, no one thinks very much.” To work together for the common good a leader needs to be prepared for conflict and embrace conflict.
Liane Davey, author of You First: Inspire Your Team to Grow Up, Get Along, and get Stuff Done, reminds us that for teams to be effective and work together they need to experience tension and disagreement, wrestle with it, push back, open up, share, listen and only then move forward. It’s not a quiet process and not what we often think of as good leadership. But think about the best teams you have worked on. Was it acceptable to have a different opinion? To raise a concern? Or to even get a little worked up about the problem you were addressing? I bet it was!
If you are willing to dive into the messiness of collaboration and conflict as a necessary element of moving towards a common good, Davey recently shared three ideas that leaders can use to help their teams embrace “productive conflict.”
- Define, discuss and understand the different roles and agendas of each person on the team. Take the time to ensure that everyone understands that each person has an agenda based on their role and that each agenda is different. Not better or worse but different. And that it is normal for the different agendas to lead to conflict that is not personal but necessary to reach the best solution in the end. Make it OK to disagree based on their unique roles and responsibilities.
- Pay attention to style differences between team members. Use a tool or a facilitated discussion to clarify the different approaches team members use to learn, take in information, communicate, make decisions, or do tasks. Ensure that each style is described in a positive way and highlight the value that each style brings to the team. Finally, highlight how it is natural for conflict to arise due to style differences and that you expect people to leverage their styles to facilitate collaboration, even if it gets uncomfortable.
- Set ground rules on acceptable dissension. Have an open conversation and identify what behaviors lead to conflict that improves how the team functions and what behaviors actually destroy trust and teamwork. Describe what is acceptable and what is not acceptable and the process the team will use to hold each other accountable.
As nice as peace and calm can be, leadership is a lot messier and noisier – and that’s OK!
Posted in building teams, communication, Diversity, leading authentically, organizational culture, polarities, racial tension, self awareness
Tagged communication, community, culture, ego, Leadership, performance, self-awareness, stress, transparency
Last week while I was facilitating a retreat, one of my colleagues mentioned how our blog theme for the month complemented the customer service training she was using with staff at her college. The training program is called, “At Your Service: Working with Multicultural Customers.” While we usually don’t promote training programs on this blog, I thought that this one was worth a mention.
Created by the University of Minnesota’s Extension Service, the program helps participants understand the significant role that culture plays in any service encounter. For example, did you know that customers’ wants, needs, thoughts, and feelings are shaped by their culture? If you accept this premise, it naturally follows that in order to truly serve your customer (i.e., student, parent, community member, colleague, boss), you need to look at the following questions through the lens of their culture.
- What does my customer want?
- What does my customer need?
- What does my customer think?
- What does my customer feel?
Taking this one step further, you can also ask:
- What is important to my customer?
- What are they trying to accomplish?
- What are their goals?
Understanding the answers to each of these questions and then helping your customer reach their goals or accomplish what they want, can go a long way to providing stellar customer service no matter what culture they are from.
Happy Memorial Day! Like me, today most people will be spending time with friends and family. Many people will also attend Memorial Day ceremonies or parades or visit a local cemetery to pay respects to those who have served our country.
While it is important to honor those who have paid the ultimate price serving our country, we can also honor the living who have served our country by hiring a veteran. Last year at this time, I shared some resources with readers about recruiting veterans that are worth a repeat.
One helpful resource is called Hire a Hero, Hire a Vet. It outlines the many benefits of hiring veterans and contains links to useful tools for employers. If you are hiring in Minnesota, here is a web site with a video showing you how to hire a veteran in three easy steps.
As the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) points out, there are many reasons to hire veterans. Veterans bring education, training, values, leadership and teamwork to the workplace. They also have learned to work side by side with many different people, regardless of race, gender, geographic origin, ethnic background, religion, economic status and capabilities.
Students at our colleges and universities are becoming increasingly diverse, and many of our schools are promoting diversity initiatives on campus. But how often do students get a chance for meaningful conversation with people from different backgrounds?
We’ve all heard that authentic conversation is one of the building blocks of trust. For our students, this may be the first time they have an opportunity to meet someone from a very different background. Developing curiosity and respect for other people’s traditions will help them succeed in school and also in the world of work. At the same time it can also present a challenge for faculty and staff who want to provide safe environments where students trust each other enough to engage in deeper dialogue.
I just attended our MnSCU Academic and Student Affairs leadership conference and heard about a creative idea to address this problem. Tiffany Korver and Jan Stanley from St. Cloud Technical and Community College have developed a collaborative partnership that builds cross-cultural dialogue into the curriculum.
Stanley teaches a course in cultural anthropology and Korver teaches an introductory writing course aimed at ESL learners. As part of each course, students meet together several times to interview each other and learn about a variety of subjects such as cultural traditions, work, family, and even religion. Students are then assigned to write papers that apply their experiences to the course content.
For the ESL students, it’s a chance to practice speaking, increase their vocabulary, and use their writing skills to explain aspects of their cultures. The anthropology students are able to develop curiosity and and apply textbook knowledge to real-life interviews. Both groups report that they recognized their commonalities and were able to develop a stronger campus community.
What examples have you seen of creative ways to create connections?
Dee Anne Bonebright
I was shocked when I read that 84% of college and university presidents believe that race relations on their campuses are good or excellent, as published in this month’s release of Inside Higher Ed‘s 2016 Survey of College and University Presidents. That number actually went up from 2015.
Compare that to the fact that only 24% of presidents described race relations on other campuses as good, and none described them as excellent.
These numbers suggest that leaders are struggling to recognize the need to take action on diversity and inclusion since everything is already good or excellent “on my campus.”
Do you agree? Do you think faculty, staff and students on your campus would agree?
A take-away for me from these numbers is that leaders need to make sure they are getting the unvarnished truth from their own people. However, most people are justifiably hesitant to share bad news with their leaders. In fact it is recognized that leaders are often shielded from bad news by those closest to them.
To truly ensure that race relations are good where we work, we need to make it safe for our people to share bad news – the unvarnished truth – with us on tough topics like diversity and inclusion.
Some tips on how to do this:
- Explicitly and regularly ask for bad news. Ask directly about what people are hesitant to share.
- Don’t assume that people are sharing bad news – actively look for it.
- Examine and change how we respond to hearing bad news.
- Prepare in advance and minimize negative reactions like “Oh no!” or “I can’t believe it.”
- Purposely thank people for sharing bad news with you.
- Recognize and even celebrate when bad news has been addressed and an improvement has occurred.
This is easier said than done. I know that when I am facilitating and participants share what “our system” isn’t doing to address racism my first reaction is to defend the leaders I work with, or to share all the good work I know is happening. I have to work hard to listen and thank them for sharing their truths.
Think back to the last time someone on your team pointed out an issue or shared some bad news. Was it welcomed?
Posted in chief diversity officers, Diversity, equity, higher education, Leadership, leadership challenges, racial tension
Tagged cultural competency, diversity, equity, higher education, Leadership, organizational culture
If you’re a native of Minnesota, you’ve probably heard of the phrase “Minnesota Nice.” And maybe you’ve heard that it’s a good thing. According to Wikipedia, Minnesota Nice is “…the stereotypical behavior of people born and raised in Minnesota, to be courteous, reserved, and mild-mannered.”
Interestingly enough those same “nice” behaviors often make it difficult for those not born and raised in Minnesota, or those not part of the dominant white culture, to fit in and feel welcome. Recently I’ve become acquainted with Corey Bonnema and Jerilyn Veldof, authors of an e-book: Minnesota Nice? A Transplant’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving in Minnesota. After much research into the Minnesota Nice culture, they’ve identified common behaviors shared by many Minnesota natives that often confounds people who move here from other areas of the country. They include:
- Polite friendliness. Polite friendliness is just that; it doesn’t mean interest in being friends or imply any future obligation.
- An aversion to conflict and confrontation. This goes both ways – Minnesota Nice makes it hard to confront and to be confronted. This can include a strong aversion or unwillingness to give or ask for feedback that might cause friction as well as a pattern of jumping to surface agreement rather than dealing with conflicting and divergent ideas.
- A tendency toward understatement. This can show up in the workforce as a difficulty to tell others when they have done something well.
- A disinclination to make a fuss or stand out. Minnesota Nice causes people to squirm under the spotlight. They still may want to be acknowledged, but in a low key sort of way
- Emotional restraint. You’ll hear a lot of “not too bad” when you ask how a Minnesotan is doing.
- Self-deprecation. When asked to explain their own contributions or critique their own performance Minnesotans are more likely to undervalue themselves.
- Resistance to change. As you have most likely discovered, Minnesotans tend to be born, raised and continue to live in the same town surrounded by the same friends they’ve had since baby play dates and preschool. These tend to be folks who are suspicious of anything different and fearful of a lot of change.
- Passive aggressiveness. Look for signs like procrastination, sullenness, stubbornness, or confusion and it’s likely you’ve hit on passive aggressive behavior.
Of course, not every Minnesotan shares every characteristic of Minnesota Nice, but I’m sure you can recognize some of these behaviors in your Minnesotan-born friends, colleagues, and possibly yourself!
Non-Minnesotans often say that it is very difficult to make new friends here because most Minnesotans socialize with friends that they’ve had since preschool. In fact, a few months ago while at Macy’s, I met an African-American makeup artist who said that he had moved here 18 years ago from San Francisco, but his only friends were also transplants. He said it was just too hard to get past “Minnesota Nice” to make good friends.
Listening to Corey and Jerilyn, I realized that these behaviors can create unwelcoming campus climates for many people. At the same time, I realized that there are a few things I can do to help new employees feel welcome in my workplace. I can help decode Minnesota Nice behaviors and point them to “8 Tips for Dealing With Your Passive-Aggressive Colleagues, Friends and Neighbors.” Or better yet, I can move beyond polite friendliness and take the time to invite that person to coffee or lunch and really help them feel welcomed.
What can you do to combat the effects of Minnesota Nice and make your campus climate or workplace more welcoming?
Today is Good Friday on the Christian calendar, and starts a weekend of religious celebration. That got me thinking about a practical aspect of diversity that has tripped me up over the years – scheduling meetings and events around religious holidays.
Since I am a member of the mainstream culture, I don’t have to worry much about work conflicts with my significant holidays. I’m not likely to have a professional conference on December 25 or a staff development day on Thanksgiving. Part of my role as a leader with responsibility for staff development is to help participants who practice other religions to avoid similar conflicts
For example, early in my career I was part of a team that planned a fall orientation. We were lucky enough to get the best conference room on a Friday in September. Well, I later learned that the room was available because the day fell on a major Jewish holiday and more experienced event planners were avoiding it. Several of our Jewish participants were not able to attend and it created a less welcoming climate for them.
Just a few years ago I helped my daughter host a baby shower. Two of our friends were not eating, and explained that it was Ramadan and they were fasting. I hadn’t considered that, and they didn’t expect us to. But they were pleased when I packed treat boxes so they could enjoy cake and fruit after sundown. That was an easy gesture that helped them be part of the group.
Your diversity and equity office may provide a religious holiday calendar, or there are many online resources such as this one from Williams College. They are a start, but not all holidays are created equal. A complete calendar can make it seems like there’s a holiday every day!
I’ve taken the opportunity to educate myself about which holidays are most important to consider when planning campus events. For example, if I were teaching a course and planned to bring pizza once during the semester, I’d check the dates for Ramadan and avoid bringing food when some students are likely to be fasting.
Respecting other people’s religious holidays is one way I can demonstrate inclusivity in my work. What experiences have you had with scheduling for diversity?
Dee Anne Bonebright