Tag Archives: leadership journey

You mean I have to talk (and listen) to people!

As a confirmed and proud introvert it is hard for me to reach out and ask for help. Others of you may be confident extroverts and struggle to truly listen to others. Either way, when you transition into a new leadership role it is crucial to take the time to initiate conversations and to spend time listening to what others have to say.

Peter Daly and Michael Watson, authors of The First 90 Days in Government: Critical Success Strategies for New Public Managers at all Levels,   describe five crucial subjects or themes that  new leaders need to understand as they move into a new role or take on a new project. This requires having the following “the five conversations” with your leader or colleagues.

  1. The Situation Conversation – discover how your boss and others perceive the current standing or status of the overall organization and your unit. Your goal is to ensure a shared understanding of the challenges and opportunities you face.
  2. The Expectations Conversation – define, clarify, and perhaps, negotiate what success looks like for you in your new job.
  3. The Style Conversation – discuss and determine how the relationship with your new boss and colleagues or stakeholders will work. How do you each prefer to communicate, what boundaries exist, how are decisions made, and how frequent do you need to interact to ensure trust and success.
  4. The Resources Conversation – determine what resources are available, what you believe you need, confirm how resources are allocated and begin negotiating to ensure access to critical resources.
  5. The Personal Development Conversation – mutually identify opportunities and expectations for continual development to ensure success in your current and future roles in the organization.

In reality these will not be distinct one-time conversations but they are a framework to help leaders strategically approach the transition to a new role.

Todd Thorsgaard

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The intersection of integrity and pride

by guest blogger Leslie Bleskachek

cslewis700208The author C.S. Lewis is credited as saying “integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.” This suggests we have an internal moral compass, a sense of purpose and pride in what we are doing. As educational professionals, we all take pride in what we do, and take pride in doing it well. But it’s important to remember that our pride can also have a dark side.

Pride can go too far. Sometimes, if we want to be in the spotlight, pride can keep us from giving public credit for a teammate’s great work. Or, perhaps we want to hide from scrutiny. As Marvin Williams said “there is no better test of a man’s integrity than his behavior when he is wrong.” Pride can get in the way if we are too proud to admit we’ve made a mistake. We might try and cover it up, or blame others to move the sense of shame from ourselves. Our Leadership Competencies remind us that to be a person of integrity, we must keep in mind where integrity and pride intersect. At our best, our integrity shows when we take pride in good work, are honest and law-abiding, delivering what we promised. But we also have to set aside our pride, admit when we make a mistake, correct it, and learn from it.

Perhaps it’s time to update that old saying, with apologies to C. S. Lewis. After all, integrity is doing the right thing when no one is watching. . . and also when everyone is watching.

Leslie Bleskachek

Leslie is the Vice President Academic Affairs at Minnesota State College – Southeast Technical which has campuses in Winona and Red Wing, Minnesota. She is currently participating in the yearlong MnSCU Executive Leader Development Program. During the last seminar leadership integrity was discussed and Leslie asked to share her insights with the readers of Higher EDge.

 

Carbon fiber and integrity

bike crashIntegrity matters, in biking and in leadership!

When carbon fiber bike frames were first introduced there were examples of “massive failures” as the frames shattered at high speed or when under pressure. That led to ugly crashes. The challenge was that the frames looked good from the outside yet they lacked internal structural integrity.

Same with leadership. Successful leaders must possess integrity along with their strong skills, competence and experience. In fact, it is their internal integrity, often hard to see at first, that keeps them successful during times of high demands and stress!

John Sporleder, Founder and President of Sporleder Human Capital, describes integrity as the unseen foundation that effective leadership is built upon. In an article titled “Leadership in the Workplace:The Importance of Integrityhe lists three crucial attributes that leaders with integrity possess:

  1. Stability: the ability to remain steadfast and true to your values despite the turmoil and volatility in the workplace or culture.
  2. Safety: a willingness to trust people and give them the benefit of the doubt when they try their own ideas. An expectation of openness and honesty.
  3. Reference: serving as a role model and example for others. Holding oneself to a standard of integrity for others to follow.

Felt bikeAnd yes, I now have a carbon fiber bike.

Internal integrity is not always flashy but it is powerful!

Todd Thorsgaard

It takes courage!

I had the chance to really get to know myself better this morning in a Privilege Walk activity.

“Take a stepPrivilege walk forward if either of your parents graduated from college”

“Take a step forward if there were more than 50 books in your house when you were growing up”

“Take a step back if either of your parents were laid off or unemployed not by their choice”

“Take a step back if you have been divorced or impacted by divorce”

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System Office Inclusion Council kicked off their Intercultural Passport Program event with a Privilege Walk. Privilege walks are designed to help people recognize and understand how privilege influences who they are. I know for me, and for others based on their comments, many of the questions were about things we “took for granted” or assumed were common for everyone. However, by being open and responding to each question by moving forward or back, I learned a lot about myself! Having the courage to look at where I was in the room and where others were helped open my eyes.

As leaders I want to suggest there is an additional question that needs to be added to a Privilege Walk.

“Take a step forward if you are in a leadership position”

An important part of the leadership competency, “Understand Yourself and Others” is to have the courage to acknowledge that being a leader is a privilege. A leadership role, by itself, influences how you perceive the world and affects how people treat you. It is a part of who you are! It is not good or bad but it is important to recognize.

If you want to learn more about self-awareness and privilege walks you can click here to watch a video. And this link contains the actual questions.

Got privilegeYes, we all have privilege and it takes courage to dig deep in search of self-understanding.

Todd Thorsgaard

Are you losing air?

Best of 2015, first published on January, 2015
The holiday season can be exhilarating and fulfilling as we take time to connect with family and friends. On the other hand we can also end up feeling drained and overextended. This post reminds me of the importance of assessing where I am and where I want to be as we wrap up 2015. –Todd Thorsgaard

It is one of the most depressing feelings while biking. I can be riding along; happy, outdoors, feeling strong and having fun. Everything is in synch and flowing until I feel myself slowing down and I can tell I am riding on a flat tire. I may hear a loud pop and a fast “whoosh” as all the air escapes at once or a soft, almost evil, hiss as my tire gradually goes flat. Or I may hear nothing at all and just have a soft tire. Either way it means I need to stop what I am doing, assess the situation, and take the appropriate action to refill my tire so I can get back to riding.

Bike flat largeSometimes I have just gone too long without pumping up my tires and I  need to use my CO2 cartridge and add air, other times I have hit an unexpected bump in the road or run over a small sharp object and need to patch a hole before adding air. Occasionally my inner-tube has been neglected and ruptured in multiple places and I need to completely replace it with a new one before I can add air.

We go flat in our lives when we lose our work and life balance. How you refill yourself depends on the type of leak you are experiencing. Paul Blatz, founder and president of Good Leadership Enterprises, encourages leaders to utilize his 7Fs Wheel to understand where they may be leaking energy or if they have a major rupture to repair! The seven Fs that help us stay positive and moving forward as leaders are:

  • Future
  • Fun
  • Friends
  • Fitness
  • Finances
  • Family
  • Faith (spiritual)

Over time we can get distracted by the regular demands at work and lose track of our daily choices that keep us fulfilled in all seven areas. Then we may just need to take some small actions that “refill” all seven. Other times we hit a major bump and need to focus on one area that is losing air fast. When I travel for work I tend to ignore my extended family relationships and I need to remind myself to take the time to call my mom and check-in with her.

The Seven Fs Wheel (Seven Fs Tool) is an easy tool to carry with you and use to keep yourself “pumped up” and rolling along as a leader. TT and Ellie bike

Todd Thorsgaard

Shifting sands

time exposure of waves hitting shore

“Everything was working yesterday!”

The harsh reality is that often, as soon as you understand the culture you are in and are aligned with it, it shifts! Suddenly your leadership behaviors may not work as well as they did in the past. The on-going transitions that higher education, and all industries, are experiencing leads to continual shifts in culture. Your effectiveness as a leader depends on how quickly you recognize these shifts and how you adapt your leadership style and actions.

Peter Daly and Michael Watkins, authors of the First 90 Days books, have developed a framework that can help leaders understand the shifting cultures. Their transition assessment model identifies four common situations that exist in organizations, the related cultural implications, and potential leadership actions that are aligned with the culture.

  1. Start-ups: This occurs during times of new priorities, new programs or restructuring.
    • The culture is one of confusion.
    • Key leadership actions focus on providing clarity and direction.
  2. Turnarounds: This occurs when there has been a major set-back or shake-up.
    • The culture is one of despair.
    • Key leadership actions are to provide support and hope.
  3. Realignments: This occurs when priorities are shifting or there are predictable and expected changes happening.
    • The culture is one of denial or lack of awareness.
    • Key leadership actions are to expose reality and highlight the urgency of the situation.
  4. Sustaining Success: This occurs when “things are working” and results are strong.
    • The culture can slip into complacency.
    • Key leadership actions focus on continual development, reinforcing success and active searching for new opportunities.

The sands of culture are constantly shifting and require leaders to strategically assess and respond to leverage the best of their people.

Todd Thorsgaard

Leadership is not for the faint of heart

I am very excited to share a guest post today. I heard Dr. Christina Royal, Provost/VP of Academic Affairs at Inver Hills Community College, talk about a life changing practice she has adopted. Her heartfelt story impressed me and I am confident you will also find it valuable. Thank you Christina!

zen-stone-tower_Gkt0x1PdThere is Zen proverb that states: “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”

Leadership in today’s world is not for the faint of heart. The problems of today are more complex, we have fewer resources in which to address the challenges, and our public accountability to our students, our communities, the State, the Federal Government, and our accreditors is at an all-time high. We are all busy, but the problem is that busyness doesn’t necessarily lead to productivity; it can actually have the opposite effect.

Mindfulness and meditation are two tools that may help reduce the busyness and create an awareness that leads to increased performance.

According to a study highlighted in the Harvard Business Review, spending time on thinking and purposeful reflection, rather than solely working, led to greater productivity. Taking just 15 minutes at the end of your day to engage in mindful thought and reflection could lead to a more productive tomorrow.

Meditation may help with sustaining focus and attention to tasks. There was a study conducted in 2012 that studied how meditation training impacted the behaviors of individuals who were multi-tasking at work and found that “those trained in meditation stayed on tasks longer and made fewer task switches, as well as reporting less negative feedback after task performance” (Wobbrock, Kaszniak, & Ostergren, 2012).

While meditation may not solve all of your problems, there is research showing how meditation positively affects the brain. If you find that the stress of your job is overwhelming, you may want to consider experimenting with mindfulness or meditation to ease anxiety and improve focus.

Christina Royal

References and Additional Resources:

Di Stefano, G., Gino, F., Pisano, G, & Staats, B. (2014, April). Learning by thinking: How reflection improves performance. Retrieved from http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/7498.html.

Gina, F., & Staats, B. (2015, April). The remedy for unproductive busyness. Harvard Business Review [online]. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2015/04/the-remedy-for-unproductive-busyness.

Headspace. (2015). How can mindfulness meditation improve your focus? Retrieved from https://www.headspace.com/science/mindfulness-meditation-focus

Levy, D., Wobbrock, J., Kaszniak, A. & Ostergren, M. (2012). The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation Training on Multitasking in a High-Stress Information Environment. Proceedings of Graphics Interface. 45-52.

MacLean, K. A., Ferrer, E., Aichele, S. R., Bridwell, D. A., Zanesco, A. P., Jacobs, T. L., Saron, C. D. (2010). Intensive Meditation Training Improves Perceptual Discrimination and Sustained Attention. Psychological Science. 21, 6. 829-839.

Walton, A. (2015, February). 7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change the Brain. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/02/09/7-ways-meditation-can-actually-change-the-brain/.