Tag Archives: executive presence

Stewardship and tragedy

scsu-rallyOne leadership competency that is always important is the ability to respond in the moment. I am going to take a quick detour from stewardship and share a powerful set of stories and images from the past week. This photo by @NickLenz captures what it means to be a leader in higher education. Students, faculty, staff, administrators and interim president Ashish Vaiyda all joined together for a rally this week in response to the stabbing incident in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

I have been proud to read the stories of how one of our schools has demonstrated true compassion in response to a tragedy and unwavering support of students and community members who are threatened because of their ethnic background. They all stepped up in a public arena and led a rally for unity. Afterwards they also hosted small group discussions.

I will let their words and pictures speak for themselves.

#StCloudUnited twitter feed

MPR News story

Bring Me the News story

St. Cloud Times story

Stillwater Patch story

KNSI radio story

Have a peaceful weekend.

Todd Thorsgaard

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Speak from your heart

Wow, the entire room just broke out in applause!

I just witnessPrinted that in a Board of Trustees meeting after a speech by one of our newly appointed presidents. These meetings are usually formal but her message  touched us deeply. She spoke from her heart! We knew she was the right person to be the new president as she shared her story as a first generation college student herself, who now lives and breathes the urban metro university life.

Getting comfortable speaking from your heart can be a challenge, but learning how to do it will help you communicate in ways that truly share your message and literally compel people to listen.

Anett Grant, president of Executive Speaking, Inc., shares five steps for speaking from the heart in her 4 Minute Read in FastCompany.

  1. Tell a powerful opening story from your own life. Open yourself up to bring your audience closer to you.
  2. Make sure your story directly connects to your overall message. This ensures that it is your message that is retained and influences people, not just the story.
  3. Connect your message to your audience’s own experiences. Help your audience clearly recognize how your message is relevant to them.
  4. Share a brief concluding story. Bring your message home by telling a personal story that relates to your overall message but adds a different aspect.
  5. Wrap up! Conclude with a brief summation of your message to ensure that people clearly understand your key points.

People may not always applaud, but when you speak from your heart your message gets through.

Todd Thorsgaard

How I found my voice or what is that awful screeching sound?!

by guest blogger Ramon Padillo Jr.

findyourvoiceI am writing to you today because someone was kind enough to say that my communications style was “effective and distinctive.” I am taking that as a compliment but now that I re-read that –hmm? In any case, I would like to share with you why my communications come across as they do and why they tend to work for me – both of which are a product of training and experience.

Back in the Stone Age (1987), I was a fresh young MBA student at the University of Louisville straight out of my undergraduate studies in a class called “Leadership” taught by T. Ballard Morton. Mr. Morton has been an Executive in Residence at the College of Business and Public Administration of the University of Louisville since 1983. He is a retired high-powered business executive and chairman of several boards and a graduate of Yale. Teaching the class on leadership was his way of giving back. I mention all of this because of the impression he made on me.

In his class, we read a management book a week (How to Get your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less, A Whack on the Side of the Head, and other management best sellers at the time). We had to write a one-page memo to him for each book as if he was the CEO and we were management, explaining to him why we wasted our time reading the book and why he should too. He was quite the taskmaster and my memos often bled red. That said, he drove home the points: 1) Your audience is busy, 2) Grab their attention and make it personal, 3) Say what you need your audience to do –right away!

I took his teachings to heart and entered the business world. Fast forward a couple of years and I end up teaching classes as an adjunct professor at U of L and writing for the publication Tech Republic. I quickly learned that his admonitions for writing worked the same for speaking and also discovered that the best way for me to grab a reader’s attention was through humor.

My classes enjoyed the fact that my lectures were less structured than most and they felt that I was addressing each person individually. I did the same with my blogs for Tech Republic. I knew that if I could grab my audience quickly and then make them feel personally engaged, I would hold their attention throughout the article. “Flip your writing on its head to communicate more effectively” is an article I wrote in 2007 that still gets reads today.

Lastly, unless I need to use the power of my position, like when I am complaining to a vendor, I write and speak as a regular Joe. Stodgy and stuffy writing will usually get you thrown in the trash–unless it’s a subpoena–and who wants one of those!

I hope this little jaunt through my memory has been useful for you. I will add that my communication style may also be a little bit innate. I can remember distinctly in high school giving a speech on parent’s day and leading off at the podium with “Do you have VD?” I had everyone’s rapt attention.

Ramon Padillo Jr. is the Vice Chancellor and Chief Information Officer at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. MnSCU ITS collaborates with campus staff, faculty, presidents and the system office to meet their information needs and the needs of external customers and stakeholders by providing quality, timely, reliable information technology services. Ramon and his communication insights were highlighted in an earlier post by Dee Anne. You can follow Ramon at @R_Padilla_Jr

Todd Thorsgaard

Code blue – save that change!

Best of 2014, first published on June 11, 2014
Leadership provides many opportunities to serve our students and the people on your team. It also requires much from you, particularly when there is conflict or concerns about needed changes. Inspirational leaders find a way to “go first” and demonstrate with their own actions what must be done. Even when it is hard.  –Todd Thorsgaard

aedEach morning I notice the AED defibrillator when I exit the stairwell on my way to my office. If I am running late I may be slightly out of breath from running up the stairs but I have never needed the defibrillator, thank goodness! Yet, I am glad that the leaders in our organization don’t just talk about healthy employees but take accountability and are committed to the health of their people. They purchased and put AED devices on each floor and provided training on how to use them. I am trained and it is a good feeling to know that we have resources available and I know what to do in the event of a health emergency.

Change leaders have a similar responsibility to align their own behaviors and take accountability for their role in building accountability for change in the overall institution. The Implementation Institute uses the acronym CPR to help leaders build accountability for actual behavior change and execution in change initiatives.

C – Communicate: Clearly define, articulate and share the specific behaviors, performance and actions that are a part of the change.

P – Practice: Clearly determine what behaviors you need to personally demonstrate to show your commitment to the change. “Practice what you preach”

R– Reinforce: Create an infrastructure, policies and practices that reinforce the desired behaviors, successful and initially unsuccessful attempts at the new behaviors, and other activities that support the change.

Leaders who understand the importance of change CPR and actively communicate, practice and reinforce the desired behaviors necessary for a change to succeed will build accountability and commitment through their higher education institutions or any type of organization.

Todd Thorsgaard

 

 

Engaged, me?

We saved the hardest for last!  The 5th critical change management action identified by McKinsey &carter-who-me Company that Dee Anne described in her post, To support change – five to-do’s and one don’t, is to ensure that you, the leader, are fully engaged in the change.

In addition to clearly defining accountability and expectations, communicating and over-communicating, providing autonomy, and building that talented team, you also need to dive head first into the change and be a role model for action! Your people need to see you behaving differently before they do. Your actions demonstrate priorities, provide motivation and build confidence that it is ok to make a change. As defined by the MnSCU leadership competencies  in our 2013 blog posts, effective leadership starts with “leading yourself.”

The “P” or “practice” in the  C-P-R tool  I shared earlier this summer, can help you clearly identify the specific behaviors and actions that will increase your influence and demonstrate your full engagement. For each specific change outcome or action desired, a leader can identify the behaviors that they need to practice or demonstrate. The actions need to be visible and repeated over time to make change stick!

Watching you, their leader, try out new ideas and new behaviors will inspire others to take a risk and try something new and unleash the potential of your team and your organization. Give it a try!

Todd Thorsgaard

Code blue – save that change!

aedEach morning I notice the AED defibrillator when I exit the stairwell on my way to my office. If I am running late I may be slightly out of breath from running up the stairs but I have never needed the defibrillator, thank goodness! Yet, I am glad that the leaders in our organization don’t just talk about healthy employees but take accountability and are committed to the health of their people. They purchased and put AED devices on each floor and provided training on how to use them. I am trained and it is a good feeling to know that we have resources available and I know what to do in the event of a health emergency.

Change leaders have a similar responsibility to align their own behaviors and take accountability for their role in building accountability for change in the overall institution. The Implementation Institute uses the acronym CPR to help leaders build accountability for actual behavior change and execution in change initiatives.

C – Communicate: Clearly define, articulate and share the specific behaviors, performance and actions that are a part of the change.

P – Practice: Clearly determine what behaviors you need to personally demonstrate to show your commitment to the change. “Practice what you preach”

R– Reinforce: Create an infrastructure, policies and practices that reinforce the desired behaviors, successful and initially unsuccessful attempts at the new behaviors, and other activities that support the change.

Leaders who understand the importance of change CPR and actively communicate, practice and reinforce the desired behaviors necessary for a change to succeed will build accountability and commitment through their higher education institutions or any type of organization.

Todd Thorsgaard

Communicating executive presence

Recently as I’ve been working with executive searches, it has become extraordinarily clear, that regardless of a candidate’s accomplishments and excellent work history, those who succeeded further than others in the search process, had a “presidential” quality or what I might term as “executive presence.” Interestingly enough, this anecdotal evidence about “executive presence” is backed by a 2012 study by the Center for Talent Innovation. They found that executive presence accounts for 25% of what it takes to get promoted to director-level and above positions.

So, what if you want to develop your own executive presence in order to move into higher levels of leadership? Executive presence sounds rather ambiguous, something that you might only know when you see it.

Fortunately, the Center for Talent Innovation, has helped demystify the concept, by identifying three key elements that comprise executive presence:

  •     Gravitas, or the ability to project confidence, poise under pressure, and decisiveness
  •     Communication, which comprises excellent speaking skills, assertiveness, and the ability to read an audience or situation
  •     Appearance—looking polished and pulled together

As you think about your leadership development, where might you need to strengthen your executive presence? Do you need to project more confidence? Polish up your speaking skills? Or update your appearance?

Anita Rios