Tag Archives: transformational change

What does strategic leadership look like?

We know strategic leadership is important, but how do we recognize when it’s happening?  What efforts should we focus on to develop strategic leaders within our organizations?

The Strategy + Business magazine has identified 10 principles of strategic leadership. They also created a one-page infographic summary of the highlights.

The article defines strategic leaders as people who are able to tackle “wicked problems” – the ones that “can’t be solved by a single command, have causes that seem incomprehensible and solutions that seem uncertain, and often require companies to transform the way they do business.”

Higher education, like most other sectors, is facing any number of wicked problems. We’re going to have to continue to step up our leadership game.  Here are 10 principles that can help.

  1. Distribute responsibility
  2. Be honest and open about information
  3. Create multiple paths for raising and testing ideas
  4. Make it safe to fail
  5. Provide access to other strategists
  6. Develop opportunities for experience-based learning
  7. Hire for transformation
  8. Bring your whole self to work
  9. Find time to reflect
  10. Recognize leadership development as an ongoing practice

There are several items on this list that resonate with me – either because it’s something I’m involved with frequently or because it’s something I need to work on. Where could you focus as you address the wicked problems in your life?

Dee Anne Bonebright

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Walking the slackline

Nimble, agile, focused, adaptable, relying on others, willing to take a risk, moving forward, and getting up after you fall. That is how I describe my slackliner friends. It is also describes a leader who is strategic and works as a partner.

During November we will be sharing stories, ideas and resources focused on being a strategic leader and partner. In a recent HBR article, Paul Schoemaker, Steve Krupp and Samatha Howland say that leaders can make the biggest difference for their people and their organizations when the work environment is most uncertain–if they are adaptive, strategic leaders. In their words, this means “Someone who is both resolute and flexible, persistent in the face of setbacks but also able to react strategically to environmental shifts.”

Certainly the higher education work environment is uncertain. The national and global economy is going through rapid changes and most leaders I talk with point out that their industry is in the midst of epic transformations. So, we all have a great opportunity to make a difference as leaders now. But it takes work and skill development to be strategic leader and partner.

Are you ready to try walking the slackline?

Todd Thorsgaard

Follow the leader

It takes more than saying the right things to be a transformational leader; you have to do the right things! And that takes work.

Through their work transformational leaders demonstrate Idealized Influence, the first of the 4 I’s that Anita described in her post on Monday.  Just like the lead biker in a team time trial, they don’t just have a powerful message or good ideas. They lead by example. They are the type of leader who isn’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and work along side you.

In fact, through their actions they become such a positive role model that people are inspired to follow. The following actions or behaviors are often listed when people describe a transformational leader. They:

  • Walk the talk
  • Would never ask you to do something they wouldn’t do
  • Stay true to their values without worrying about outside opinions
  • Spread enthusiasm and integrity
  • Provide real-life examples through their actions
  • Take personal risks when it is the right thing to do
  • Inspire through action

Becoming a more transformational leader is a lot of work, but the trust and engagement you build can set the stage for success.

Todd Thorsgaard

 

 

 

The time is right!

Devinder Malhotra, the new interim chancellor for Minnesota State, has stated that there has never been a better moment in time for our leaders to make a profound difference. Due to the challenges we face, the complexity of a system of colleges and universities, and the incredible difference our schools can make in the lives of the people of Minnesota, now is the time to be a leader.

One type of leadership Malhotra was highlighting is defined by Bernard Bass in his groundbreaking book, Transformational Leadership.  Transformational leadership works well in exceedingly complex organizations made up of diverse and challenging work groups that need to feel empowered to succeed in times of great uncertainty. Sound familiar?

Transformational leadership is best recognized by the impact it has on people in the organization. This type of leadership causes people to trust, respect, and even admire, their leaders. Transformational leaders:

  • Hold positive expectations for their people and show their people that they believe they will succeed.
  • Focus on and demonstrate that they care about their people’s personal and professional development.

Can you picture the leaders who have made a difference in your life through their transformational leadership?

Todd Thorsgaard

Stewardship means change!

houston“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.

  1. Act as an enterprise
  2. Consolidate the delivery of core functions
  3. Build partnerships that prepare students for a successful college or university experience
  4. Adopt more creative and flexible labor practices
  5. 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?

Todd Thorsgaard

Encouragement from the heart

The fact is, we don’t do our best in isolation. We don’t get extraordinary things done by working alone with no support, encouragement, expressions of confidence, or help from others. –Kouzes & Posner

As Todd mentioned on Wednesday, reinforcing the new normal takes persistence and resiliency. We have to be able to get back up and keep moving forward when things inevitably take a wrong turn. And it works best when we don’t do it alone.

I recently reread Kouzes and Posner’s classic Encouraging the Heart. They described seven essentials for leaders who want to provide genuine encouragement.

  1. Set clear expectations
    – Do your people know what the new normal is supposed to look like?  Do they understand their roles and responsibilities?
    – Does everyone in the organization share a common set of goals, values, and principles?
  2. Expect the best 
    – Do you genuinely believe that your people can achieve the new goals?
    – How do you communicate that belief to them?
  3. Pay attention
    – Do you observe what people are doing and understand the significance of their actions?
    – When you see someone doing something great, what do you do about it?
  4. Personalize recognition
    – How do you provide recognition that is personal and meaningful?
    – How can you reinforce the message that individual efforts can make a difference?
  5. Tell the story
    – How can you demonstrate the benefits of the new normal in ways that are meaningful and memorable?
  6. Celebrate together
    – How can you create public events and ceremonies that will build trust and bring people together around the change?
  7. Set the example
    – How can you demonstrate that you are personally committed to the change?

As leaders, we can easily get caught up in the new business processes and work activities generated by change. This book was a great reminder that our most critical role in leading change is to support and encourage our teams.

Dee Anne Bonebright

How are we doing?

High performance doesn’t come from pills and potions. It’s a product of dedication and discipline.

I follow Joe Friel @jfriel, an endurance sports coach who focuses on the science and art of training and performance, and the above tweet popped up in my feed a few weeks ago. Successful change, the kind that leads to action, also requires dedication and discipline during planning, engagement of your people, and the tracking of progress. On Monday, Anita highlighted the importance of goals that are immediate or have a result that can be seen right away. Tracking those results and sharing that information with your team reinforces action and provides information on what is working and what needs to be tweaked.

The sports world has embraced the idea of tracking progress to reinforce action and to analyze results. People are using heart-rate monitors, power meters, GPS tracking devices, activity monitors and watches. With sites like TrainingPeaks or Strava they get immediate feedback on how they are doing related to key measures of action. Here is an example of my training during August. training log

 

 

Earlier in my career I worked for a large health care organization going through transformational change. Our goals focused on providing safe, timely, effective and patient-centered care. We developed an easy to read set of reports that were shared each week on the key actions and results. Work teams could then analyze how their actions affected the results and what they needed to continue doing and what needed to be done differently. Tracking progress and sharing the information directly with people led to continued commitment for further action.

Breaking your change into shorter goals and tracking the results will help sustain the energy needed for action and successful change. I know that tracking my endurance training helped me finish my first triathlon in over seven years and by the end of the season, a medal! medal

Todd Thorsgaard