Unless you have a birthday coming up, these are not words you want to hear. Especially at work from your boss. They strike fear and sow mistrust, yet, as leaders, you have information that you cannot share with your people – you have secrets! How do you balance the transparency needed to demonstrate integrity with the confidentiality your position requires?
Karen Seketa, a blogger that I follow, suggested that we think of it as being translucent not completely transparent. Leaders are “not sharing ALL information ALL of the time” but taking “an intentional approach to empowering your employees with the information they need in order to be successful.” When I consult with leaders they get hung up on what they can’t share and they overlook all they can share. Even in the most chaotic and tumultuous times you can share how decisions are being made, how you will keep them informed, how they can be involved and how they can share their concerns with you. People need and want clarity, honesty and how they can be involved. You can share that, even when you can’t share every detail or name or potential option being considered.
Yes, you may have a secret but that doesn’t mean you are hiding things from your people.
Posted in building teams, communication, integrity, Leadership, leading authentically
Tagged Change, change management, communication, culture, engagement, integrity, Leadership, organizational culture, transformational change, trust
Congruent, what’s that? Congruence is defined as behaving in a way in which your values and your actions match. Sounds simple, right?
Over the last decade or so, I’ve done quite a bit of coaching with leaders who are preparing to interview for various leadership roles. One of my best pieces of advice to them is to demonstrate congruence in their interview. That is, when they say they have particular values, strengths or abilities, they need to be able to give clear examples of those things and weave them throughout their interview.
Demonstrating congruence is important for leaders at all times, not just in an interview setting. When your actions match your values, it gives people confidence that you lead authentically and act with integrity. Still, demonstrating congruence is not easy. It’s one thing to have the self-awareness to know and communicate your values, but it’s another thing to ensure that your actions always follow your espoused values.
In her chapter on Congruence in the edited book, Leadership for a Better World, Tricia R. Shalka, says “Acting in congruence means you give time and energy to the things you say are important. If you say your family is most important but you choose to work 80 hour weeks and, via technology, are never truly with your family 100%, is that congruent with saying your family is most important? Probably not.”
So how can you ensure that your values and actions are congruent? Here are a few questions for you to ponder:
- What are my core values?
- How do my actions demonstrate my values?
- What actions have I taken recently that are clearly aligned with my values?
- What actions have I taken recently that are not aligned with my values?
- Do I need to change my actions to bring them in line with my espoused values? Or do I need to re-evaluate my values and communicate them honestly to myself and others?
- How can I demonstrate congruence with those I lead?
Last week I was struck with the congruence that Dr. Annette Parker demonstrated while sharing her story of her early career. She started working at a GM plant fresh from high school and only later began her education at a community college, quickly becoming a tutor and then an instructor. Dr. Parker continued her education and rose through her career to become a president of a community and technical college, and now leads collaborative workforce development efforts for the system. Her career has demonstrated the way she values both technical and continuing education for herself and others.
What examples of congruence have you seen in yourself or leaders around you?
We all know that effective leaders admit and learn from their mistakes, but admitting that we were wrong can be hard to do well. And if we’re taking ownership for an error related to work that was done under our leadership it can be even trickier.
On a website devoted to The Perfect Apology, the authors say that in a business setting, a good apology “will help solidify relationships with existing customers, acquire new ones, enhance customer confidence and improve overall loyalty to the brand.”
As an example, they analyze an apology given by JetBlue Airline after a particularly difficult week that included multiple delays and missed connections. The authors say it includes the key elements of an effective apology:
- It starts by expressing appropriate humility and remorse.
- It gives a detailed account of what happened and takes responsibility. In this case, the delays were caused by a severe winter storm, but the company didn’t try to minimize the effects of what happened.
- It offers restitution and proposes a Consumer Bill of Rights to remedy the situation in the future.
- It ends by saying that the airline values customer relationships and hopes to do business again in the future.
We could say that the experiences of an airline CEO don’t relate to us in higher education. We don’t sell tickets or compete for customer flight miles. We don’t seek customer brand loyalty (or do we?). But we all know that higher education isn’t perfect. People and organizations make mistakes, and leaders have to take responsibility. Is there anything we can learn from this example?
Dee Anne Bonebright
The second in our Minnesota State leadership competencies is Acts with Integrity. As I was reviewing it and the behaviors that describe it, I was struck by the fact that it’s included under “Leader of Self.” Does that mean that a leader can’t really act with integrity without demonstrating self-awareness and self-control? I think it does.
Some of these behaviors, such as abiding by relevant laws, rules and regulations, might not appear linked to self-awareness. But as I read about some of the public leadership failures we’ve had recently, they seem at least partly driven by a failure to ask the question: “This act seems like it will benefit me, but does it align with my core values?”
This month we’ll look at this competency and how it applies to us as leaders within higher ed.
- Demonstrates honesty
- Abides by all relevant laws, rules and regulations
- Encourages others to do the same
- Gives credit where credit is due
- Delivers what is promised
- Admits and learns from mistakes
- Corrects mistakes to utmost ability
Dee Anne Bonebright
To truly understand others, leaders need to listen – not talk! That may sound easy but in the day-to-day crush of work and deadlines and priorities it is a challenge. Yet the payoff is huge. In fact, one study discovered that the strongest predictor of trust is a leaders ability to listen with empathy and respond based on what they hear.
Harvard Business Review suggests that leaders focus on three crucial “behavioral sets” to improve their listening.
- Actively recognizing ALL verbal and nonverbal cues. People speak with much more than the words they use and listening is different than just reading a transcript of their statement. We all have “misheard” or “misread” an email. Empathic listening involves paying attention to things like tone, emphasis, energy, excitement, reticence, body movement, gestures, and facial expressions. Seeking to understand both what is being said and what isn’t being said demonstrates true listening.
- Processing the message or tactical listening. Sharpen your skills and use techniques or tools to help you follow along with the speaker, remember what is being said, keep track of key points, identify areas of agreement/disagreement, and capture the overall message. This can be as simple as taking notes, using summary statements and minimizing distractions. It also involves giving up control of the conversation and focusing all attention on the other person.
- Assuring others that genuine listening has occurred and that conversations will continue. Only the people on your team can accurately state if they feel listened to. Leaders need to use verbal and nonverbal actions to share the message that they are listening and want to continue listening. Ideas include verbal acknowledgements, clarifying questions, summary statements, check-in’s, paraphrasing and at times even restating a point being made. Your non-verbals are also being watched so eye contact, posture, facing each other, nodding along, and mirroring body language all reinforce your empathic listening.
Learning to listen builds trust and helps you say more with less talking.
Have you noticed that sometimes people don’t perceive your messages the way you intended? As leaders, we know that people have different communication styles and preferences. It can be challenging to adapt our own styles and help people understand what we want to say.
A Google search for “communication style differences” yielded about 3,650,000 results. Clearly many people recognize the challenge! Most of the resources I saw dealt with verbal and non-verbal communication preferences across cultures.
One resource that I particularly liked was a Cross-Cultural Communication 101 course from the U.S. Department of State. While it was written to assist U.S. citizens who are traveling and working abroad, it could also be useful for those of us who work with a multicultural audience. Some of the communication factors they cover include:
- Different gestures, such as head nodding or finger pointing, mean different things across cultures.
- Time has different meaning across cultures. For example, what is the appropriate time to show up for a party that starts at 8:30?
- People from different cultures prefer different amounts of personal space.
- Conversation norms, such as appropriate tone and volume levels, also vary across cultures. Are the two people in the photo above angry with each other or excited?
That last one is a challenge for me. As I was growing up with a mostly-female peer group, it was acceptable to talk over each other and finish each other’s sentences. In fact, the more engaged we were the more likely that was to happen. As an adult, that behavior doesn’t always express support and engagement. Sometimes, as my daughter would say, it’s “just rude.”
Even when working with a group of people who all grew up in Minnesota I’ve seen different preferences for verbal and nonverbal communication styles. Paying attention to my audience and adjusting my behavior accordingly has been a helpful leadership strategy.
Dee Anne Bonebright
What engages your people? At our colleges and universities we hope it is the success of our students both during college and after graduation! What would your people say?
In reality it is often challenging for people to see a direct connection between their day-to-day work and the ultimate difference it makes to your customers, be they students in higher education, patients in health care, or whomever. Focusing this line of sight for your people helps them directly see the value and importance of their work which has been shown to increase engagement and performance. A real win-win for leaders.
Management educator and author Russ Linden shares a few ideas on how leaders can do a better job to create a line of sight for their people.
- Put a human face on your mission and vision. A health care organization I worked at for many years would always invite patients to join our work team meetings. It truly changed how we thought about our work.
- Encourage and make it easy for people to take short-term assignments or projects in different departments/divisions/locations. Exposing people to the full range of work required to serve your customers and how the pieces fit together helps them understand the importance of each step.
- Turn employees into customers. Actively look for ways to let your people experience your organization as a customer. Make it real for them.
- Schedule and hold multi-unit and multi-location meetings and training events. Whenever possible have people working together as a “whole” rather than in separate “pieces” so they begin to see themselves as an integral element in the overall process.
Leaders have the responsibility and the opportunity to sharpen the line of sight for every person on their team. What examples can you share of a leader doing a great job or an idea you used successfully?
Posted in Engagement, goals, higher education, Leadership, Motivation, organizational culture, stakeholders, Uncategorized
Tagged culture, engagement, higher education, Leadership, mission and vision, motivation, purpose, stakeholders, values, vision