I have a confession. A few minutes ago I finished a task that I’ve been procrastinating about for several weeks. It took less than 15 minutes and I’m sure I’ve spent more time than that adding it to to-do lists and thinking about it. It feels great to finally check it off!
That step was part of some new habits that I’m working on. I decided I would start managing my time differently, and so far it’s working. I’ve been able to make significant progress on some big projects as well as get little things done.
To celebrate my “accomplishment,” I went into the break room for some tea and met a colleague who was excited about some new time management techniques her daughter learned from her piano teacher. Not only was it making practice much easier, but mom had also started using the techniques in her work and home life.
Sometimes we can make our own new beginnings. Attending a class, reading a book, or a conversation with a piano teacher can create a spark that makes us want to make a change. Whatever the reason, it helps to tell someone about your new goal. It keeps you accountable, and it means someone else will notice your success.
What new beginning would you like to make? What’s one step you can take to get there?
Dee Anne Bonebright
It is tempting to focus on the new beginnings as a leader. We craft messages that highlight the benefits of the new system or the new structure. We glowingly describe the advantages of a new procedure or we document the potential dollars saved “after” the change is implemented. Yet study after study have confirmed that often we never reach the hoped-for Shangri-la.
William Bridges, in the 25th anniversary edition of his ground breaking book, (Bridges, William. Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change. Da Capo Press. 2009.) counsels leaders to actually meet their people where they are at, the endings they are facing! All new beginnings include something ending or being lost. When we only focus on the new beginnings and ignore that our people are losing something we won’t get to the new beginning as smoothly or successfully as we hope.
Think about it, a new school year also means the end of unstructured summer time. A new leader also means the end of knowing how your previous leader liked to get updates. Or a new house also means not knowing where the closest take-out pizza place is!
It isn’t necessary, or even advisable, to wallow in the losses and endings but it is important to start there to ensure a better transition to the new beginning. Specifically Bridges advises leaders to work with their people and make sure they understand what losses they are experiencing. It may be a loss of:
- or many others
While many of these losses can and will be replaced or redefined you can help your people understand what is actually ending and what isn’t ending. As an example, the human resource division at Minnesota State is changing to a service center model for HR transactions. Most employee record keeping and status changes will be done by staff at four regional centers. Campus HR staff will clearly feel a loss of direct connection with people on their campus since they won’t be processing the paper work in this new model. It is important for campus HR leaders to acknowledge that loss and also highlight that their staff will still have have access to employee records. They will be able to answer questions and will still have a personal relationship with the faculty and staff on their campus. Lack of clarity on what is ending and what is staying can lead to the natural tendency to over estimate what is ending!
Yes, the new beginnings are bright and shiny but we need to see and acknowledge that our people are experiencing some losses and endings if we want them to join us on the other side of the change.
Sometimes, a work group or project we manage is facing change and we are leading the transition. More often, the change is happening somewhere else and we need to support it. This is especially true with leadership transitions. What role do we have when there is change in the organization’s leadership? How can we put out the welcome mat and help the new leader be successful?
The Association for Talent Development (formerly ASTD) created a blog post and podcast with some useful tips for preparing organizations for new leadership. Here are some of the highlights:
- Clearly identify what is worth maintaining. What programs, relationships, and business practices are critical to accomplishing core goals? How can we help shepherd them through the transition? What will the new leader need to know?
- Communicate throughout the organization. Develop a formal transition plan with specific communication strategies to ensure regular, open, two-way communication. People will tell you if you’re communicating too much. In my experience, that hardly ever happens!
- Build a strong leadership team. When a leadership team is working well together, with clear goals, transparent decision-making, and trust among the members, it is easier to welcome in new members.
- Complete major projects. It can be tempting to put things on hold until the new leader arrives. It’s more effective to identify critical tasks or projects and make sure there is a plan to keep them on track. As the article commented, finishing things up is a gift to successors.
- Provide orientation and training for the new leaders. When a new leader arrives, provide both formal and informal orientation. This can include the core processes of the organization, resources for getting things done, and standard practices. They’ll also need to understand the organization’s history. Where possible, provide a transition time so the new person can learn directly from the outgoing leader.
- Help the new leader build networks. In addition to figuring out what needs to be done and how to do it, a new leader needs to learn who can help. Providing formal opportunities to build connections should be part of the transition plan.
Are you anticipating leadership changes in the near future? What can you do now to ensure things go smoothly?
Dee Anne Bonebright
My daughter just started a new job and recently spent a full day in a new employee onboarding program. Since she knows what I do for a living, she called to tell me that I should have been there – so I could tape it and use it as an example of what not to do!
The arrival of a new employee is often one of the greatest missed leadership opportunities. During the period of transition, employees are wondering not just about the nuts and bolts of their jobs, but also about the organization. What kind of team have I joined? What is the culture? How can I fit in?
Last summer I introduced the 4 C’s model of onboarding. Based on work by the Society for Human Resource Management, it identifies four key focus areas:
- Compliance: the basic legal and policy requirements of their role.
- Clarification: the roles and expectations for the new positions.
- Culture: introduction to formal and informal organizational norms
- Connection: integrating new employees into the work group.
My daughter’s program focused on compliance. She learned about the laws and policies that govern her new work. She filled out the paperwork to be covered by benefits. But she didn’t hear from organizational leaders about their goals and priorities, and she didn’t have an opportunity to build a connection with the other new employees who were there. She walked away feeling like they had wasted her time on things she could have done from her own desk.
The organizational leaders missed the chance to meet with a group of eager new staff who wanted to hear what they had to say. Even a brief welcome and greeting could have made them feel like the organization was glad they were there and wanted them to succeed.
Many of our Minnesota State schools are examining their new employee programs and looking for new ways to build culture and connection. How can we as leaders make better use of this important transition?
Dee Anne Bonebright
Well, by definition that may not be true – (Merriam-Webster definition of future\ˈfyü-chər\: coming after the present time) – but leaders need to take action now to ensure that their people and their organizations are successful both tomorrow and further down the road.
The leadership competency we will be discussing in November is Builds Organizational Capacity to Meet Future Challenges. Specifically what actions do you need to take now to understand the challenges you and your people will be facing in the future and how to take action now to tackle those challenges.
The colleges and universities of Minnesota State define this leadership competency as:
- engaging and supporting appropriate risk-taking
- identifying and removing barriers to innovation
- rewarding and supporting innovations advancing excellence and effeciency
- promoting accountability for self and others
- collaborating across educational and governmental boundaries in the system, nation and world
- networking with innovative thinkers, developers and donors
We will use that definition as a starting point for our conversations with you.
The future is full of opportunity and uncertainty but one thing we know – it will be here soon!
Posted in build organizational talent, building teams, change and transition, Developing Capacity, higher education, leadership challenges
Tagged accountability, Change, collaboration, higher education, innovation, Leadership, Transition
Best of 2015, first published on February 15, 2015
We just had our first “biggest blizzard in years” yesterday. While it ended up with a modest total amount of snow it did create traffic snarls and many accidents for those working this week. I had the luxury of time off and was able to enjoy the beauty of the snow falling and look forward to skiing. That reminded me of this post that highlighted the value of messiness and collisions! Enjoy. –Todd Thorsgaard
And the answer is?? Planned accidental collisions!
We had a freezing rain and snow “event” yesterday and cars were slipping and sliding into each other by the hundreds. Not a pretty sight but actually a great metaphor for building effective teams. In fact both urban planners and highly successful leaders have been promoting the idea that density and unplanned interactions, or “collisions” can spark creativity and help build an engaged culture at work.
The main idea is that “running” into other people, sharing ideas, asking questions, and listening to what they are working on stimulates our brains and opens us up to more possibilities.
Leaders can make changes in the physical work space and the processes a team uses to facilitate these creative accidental collisions. The department I work in has created an informal work space. Several times while I was using it a colleague has ask me what I was working on and then shared some ideas I had not thought of.
Other ideas you can try to foster “accidental collisions” include:
- scheduling work and share times where people talk about their projects and others are encouraged to share ideas
- rotating project team members on a regular basis
- encouraging people to participate in cross-functional projects
- inviting representatives from other departments to participate on project teams
- support participation in professional organizations and interest groups
Creating safe opportunities for people and ideas to collide will help your team succeed over the long run, and they will have more fun!
“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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Are you a glass half full or a glass half empty type of person? Do you see great opportunities for making significant change in higher education over the next few years or does it feel like the decrease in funding and financial instability will rob us of our ability to educate our students?
However you answer it is clear that higher education leaders need to be stewards of diminishing resources while providing hope and opportunity to their communities and to our society. This demands that we identify the crucial and eliminate the unnecessary. Or as the old saying goes, “doing more with less.”
While this is a daunting task one concrete place to start is to think LEAN.
Lean thinking asks leaders to fully engage the people on their team and identify how and where they make the greatest contribution to student success and, as importantly, what obstacles or inefficiencies exist in their day-to-day work. It focuses on the work flows and work processes that support higher education and applies a rigorous examination of how valuable each step in the process is and what is getting in the way of your people and making it harder to do their jobs!
A colleague of mine, Theresa Waterbury, wrote a book titled, Educational Lean:Theory and Practice. It provides an introduction to lean thinking and hands-on examples of how to make changes in your workplace. A simple way to start thinking lean is to ask your team the following questions – do this both with your whole team and with individuals:
• What things keep you from doing your work?
• What is something you should not have to do?
• What would make your work easier?
• What would make your work more satisfying?
• What would improve the skills and capabilities of those who work for you?
• What would improve your work environment?
• What would make you more successful in your job?
We can’t magically change the national economy or print more money but leaders can help ensure that the work they are doing and the work of their team is focused and efficient by thinking lean.
For more information on Lean Thinking in Higher Education check out the following resources:
Constanta Maritime University Annals, Vol. 18, 2012.
“Everything means something.” – William Bridges.
During change and transition everything gets magnified. Small actions take on large meanings. Often unexpected meanings! Being aware of this can help you reinforce the new normal with small, yet symbolic, decisions and actions.
I was a part of a large organizational transition that included moving from a top down to a more participative leadership style. A few months into the transition I noticed our CEO was saying “all leaders from me out to our front-line supervisors,” instead of the typical phrase “down to the supervisors.” A small change in language by our CEO reinforced her commitment to the new leadership model.
Other symbolic actions that you can take to reinforce the new behaviors and actions of your new normal include:
- who gets invited to meetings
- assignment or location of parking spaces
- use of job titles
- inclusion in phone directories
- the look or design of name badges
- the colors of labor contracts (MnSCU readers have experienced this one!)
- company logos
What opportunities do you have to symbolize the new culture of a change you are leading?
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.
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!