Ok, I admit it. This post is a day late. I stayed up until 3:00 a.m. on Tuesday night watching the presidential electoral college vote results and the commentators trying to explain how all the predictions were wrong. Then on Wednesday, more analysis and exploration of what happened. I promise, this will not be a political post, but the election of president-elect Trump highlights how hard it is to predict the future! And we have a long history of getting predictions wrong.
So, how do leaders build organizational capacity to meet future challenges when it is so hard to see what will happen in the future?
Gary Hamel encourages leaders in his book What Matters Now (2012) – to go back to the basics and focus on values to prepare for an uncertain future. He lists the following as “pivotal, overarching concerns” for leaders:
- Values – act as a steward and take actions that demonstrate concern for your people and organization.
- Innovation – provide opportunities for all your people to contribute their ideas to meet your customers’ needs.
- Adaptability – “future-proof” your company by relentlessly pushing for internal change to match external changes. Hamel stresses the need to “seek out the most discomforting facts you can find and share them with everyone in your organization.”
- Passion – clearly demonstrate that your people are affecting the outside world with their work. Highlight the importance of each and every person’s day-to-day work.
- Ideology – examine, discuss and challenge the status quo. Make it safe for people to express their opinions and concerns.
We may mess up predicting the future but Hamel implores leaders to speak up for “the good, the just and the beautiful” to better prepare for the uncertainty ahead.
The following link provides a detailed summary of What Matters Now.
Posted in build organizational talent, building teams, change and transition, Developing Capacity, Engagement, integrity, Leadership, leading authentically, stewardship, stewardship
Tagged Change, engagement, innovation, integrity, Leadership, organizational culture, stewardship, values
I have to confess that stewardship is not my favorite leadership competencies to write about. I’m much more comfortable with areas like effective communication, talent development, and self-awareness. So this month has been good for me. Here are a few things I learned about stewardship:
- Stewardship is about using our resources to support our core goals. Activities that take up time, energy, and money without furthering those goals should be reconsidered.
- Colleges and Universities within the Minnesota State system have strong ties to place. Supporting local engagement and considering how our goals support our communities is a form of stewardship. When planning service learning, the benefits to community may be more important long-term than focusing only on the benefits for students.
- Being effective stewards means learning how to use data more effectively.
- Proactive stewardship that fosters long-term sustainability requires asking the hard questions.
- And, of course, stewardship is about communication – with donors, with community members, with students, and with our colleagues.
If you’ve been on the journey with us this month, what are the highlights or new ideas that stood out for you?
Dee Anne Bonebright
Stewardship and fundraising is a delicate balancing act for leaders in higher education. And it is easy to crash!
A 2014 doctoral thesis from Penn State provides details on what drives donors to contribute to higher educational institutions and how leaders can utilize stewardship to build donor relationships and generate additional resources for their colleges and universities. You can download the thesis here if you are interested.
The author shares a 2011 story of a large donor who felt ignored and halted his $7 million dollar donation. The donor actually asked for money back and for his name to be removed from a building that was already completed. That is a big crash!
The researcher found that donors in higher education have a unique connection with the school, potentially as an alum or due to a family or community connection, and this influences the type of interactions they expect when they donate. While much of the responsibility for donor relations resides with the development area, leaders can make a significant difference.
The top strategy for nurturing donor relationships focuses on treating them with respect. Leaders can support this by actively:
- thanking donors
- communicating with donors even when not soliciting money
- looking for opportunities to give donors private attention or private time
Building relationships with your development area, offering leadership support, and spending time with donors will help leaders be better at overall stewardship in higher education – and avoid any painful crashes!
One of the activities listed under our Minnesota State competency of good stewardship is this: Communicates decisions regarding resources in an effective manner to stakeholders.
As I was thinking about the topic, it raised another question for me – it’s important to communicate decisions, but when and how should stakeholders be involved in the decision making process? A little time on Google resulted in the following observations.
According to the University of Minnesota’s site on civic engagement, involving others in decision making can yield benefits. It can result in better decisions by providing access to more information, more perspectives, and greater mutual understanding. In addition, outside viewpoints can point to deeper understanding of problems that may need to be solved in the future.
A national consulting firm pointed out that involving employees in decision making can help them feel part of the team, improve their own day-to-day decision making, and help them feel more accountable for the decision. In addition, employees who are involved in decisions tend to be more focused on the future and less likely to get stuck in negativity and blame.
That sounds good, but when it comes to financial decision making, some managers are reluctant to involve employees. This article from Sage Communications pointed out both sides of the issue. Practicing “open book” management can increase transparency and a sense of community, as well as generating new ideas. On the other hand, some staff members may experience information overload or may need training and background in order to make suggestions that can be implemented in the organization’s context.
Recently we have seen examples of inclusive decision making related to our long-term financial sustainability. Associate Vice Chancellor Phil Davis and Chancellor Rosenstone have both reached out to the Minnesota State community asking for feedback and providing opportunities for us all to have input into the decision making process.
What advice do you have about communicating financial decisions?
Dee Anne Bonebright
“Houston, we have a problem….” is how Jane Wellman, higher education finance expert, describes the reality most public higher education institutions are facing today in an Inside Higher Education report. Minnesota State Chancellor Steven Rosenstone, at his final board of trustee retreat, reinforced our need to take action to respond to the “tectonic” changes our system is facing if we are to be stewards of the resources we receive from the public and our students and their families.
Stewardship, or long-term sustainability, in higher education requires more than carefully watching how we spend our money. Former interim president of Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Avelino Mills-Novoa, implores us to change from training our students how to fit into our colleges and universities to actually changing our colleges and universities so they fit our students!
This type of stewardship demands that we challenge ourselves and our teams to tackle issues that we have not been willing to address in the past. At a previous organization where I worked at we used the term “sacred cows” to open up dialogue with all employees. What existing practices, policies, procedures, work habits, leadership styles, infrastructure, labor agreements, ideas, or traditions need to be examined and potentially given up or radically changed to allow us to serve our students and communities as they deserve to be served?
A cross-functional workgroup representing stakeholders from our campuses and the system recently identified five potential recommendations to ensure our financial sustainability. It included students, union representatives, campus leaders, and outside experts. As you read through the report you will see that a number of sacred cows are identified. As leaders in higher education, setting the stage for your teams to examine and discuss these recommendations is an example of stewardship.
- Act as an enterprise
- Consolidate the delivery of core functions
- Build partnerships that prepare students for a successful college or university experience
- Adopt more creative and flexible labor practices
- Re-calibrate physical plant and space capacity
What are your reactions to the report? Are there other sacred cows for us to challenge and change?
Posted in common good, Developing Capacity, higher education, integrity, Leadership, stakeholders, stewardship, stewardship
Tagged accountability, Charting the Future, Leadership, organizational culture, stakeholders, stewardship, transformational change
Have public institutions of higher education been good stewards of the taxpayer funding given to them? I assume that most of our readers will answer with a resounding “yes.” Or maybe not. Recently there has been debate about this question.
I’ve been working in public higher education for a long time. When I started we were viewed as a public good creating multiple benefits for the state of Minnesota. Somewhere along the way that has changed and we now seem to be viewed as a drain on public coffers. How did that come about?
An upcoming film is set to tackle this issue. Calling it one of the nation’s most important and least understood fights, Starving the Beast seeks to present the viewpoints of both critics and proponents of public funding for higher education. According to a review in The Atlantic, the film could help leaders in higher education gain a broader context for understanding complex issues around funding and outcomes.
As with most issues, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. I don’t believe higher education is spending wildly on random projects, with faculty that are protected by tenure and therefore doesn’t need to pay attention to the rest of the world. On the other hand, we have a lot of work to do. The recent report by the Minnesota State workforce on financial sustainability highlighted some key concerns.
Maybe part of stewardship is in the perception – it’s not only what we do but how we are seen to be doing it. What do you think?
Dee Anne Bonebright
“Communities are not places to make mistakes.”
Randy Stoeker challenges higher education leaders to rethink service learning and stewardship in his new book, Liberating Service Learning and the Rest of Higher Education Civic Engagement (Temple University Press). Community engagement is a responsibility we have as good stewards, but Stoeker believes that we may be misguided in our efforts to serve our communities with traditional service learning programs. This article summarizes his main points.
As Dee Anne wrote on Monday, higher education has a unique opportunity to address critical issues that our communities face. Economic inequity, disparities in educational and occupational opportunities, racial injustice, violence, homelessness, mental illness, an aging population – the list goes on and our students can make a difference if we focus on outcomes.
Stoeker proposes a radical idea: that when we ask students to participate in service learning we focus less on our students and more on the community! What does the community want? What will make a difference for the people in the community? These questions can be more important than asking what our students will learn. This definition of stewardship highlights our overall opportunity and accountability for making a real difference in the world – not just in the classroom.
Take a moment to read the summary of Stoeker’s book and share your thoughts on stewardship and service learning.