Tag Archives: transparency

A fresh start!

back-to-school-300x199As a kid the start of a new school year was both exciting and a little unnerving. A chance to build on what you did last year and a chance to make a fresh start!

Similarly, when you are a new leader or an experienced leader each day is a new start. A chance to build on your experience and the opportunity to make a fresh leadership start.

Amy Jen Su, author and co-founder of the executive coaching and leadership development firm Paravis Partners, encourages leaders to “step back and think about your leadership presence and if you are thinking, saying, and showing up as you most hope to and intend.” In her Harvard Business review article she highlights four key fresh start actions for both new and experienced leaders.

  1. Set or update a leadership values-based goal. Your people pay great attention to what you do and how you do it. Having an aspirational other-directed goal to guide your daily decisions and actions will directly impact the perceptions your team has of you and will strengthen your relationships at work.
  2. Continue to develop and increase your emotional intelligence and situational awareness. Leaders get work done through others and everyone on your team is different and every situation is different. Different motivations, different perspectives, different backgrounds, different experiences, and on and on. You need to be agile and adaptive. A starting point is to ask yourself the following questions before important interactions:
    • Who is the other person or audience?
    • What might their (not yours) perspective on this topic be?
    • How are they best motivated or what is most important to them?
    • What is unique about this situation, what variables are important here and now?
    • What are the optimal outcomes in this situation, for these specific players, for our team, for our organization?
  3. Be clear and direct, with respect. Leadership is build on two-way dialogue and trust. Leaders need to be clear and open to other perspectives – at the same time.
    • Know what you think and what is important to you – what are your convictions.
    • Ask, listen and acknowledge – provide space and acceptance of other points of view.
    • Share the WHY – include context, connection to personal and organizational priorities, and alignment.
  4. Be a stable and grounded presence in the face of change, stress, or difficult news. People need to feel safe bringing you news, even bad news. Otherwise you will end up in a vacuum with no information and no ability to make a difference. In addition, your team will look to you and mimic how you react to stress and changes. It is important to be genuine but prepared to demonstrate your leadership presence, even in tough times.

Fresh starts are exciting and a little scary. They give us an opportunity to reflect, build on what has worked and try something new.

Good luck!

Todd Thorsgaard

 

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Building your team in flight

When you start a new job there are two transitions in play.  As a new leader you have to fly your new plane and you have to rebuild the team of people you inherit. You are going through a major transition – and so are they! They have lost a leader and they need to figure out who you are. You also need to figure out how to work with them. And you don’t have time to land the plane while you both adjust.

Writer Carolyn O’Hara share six tips for new leaders in her article, What New Team Leaders Should Do First.

  1. Get to know each other – In our leadership programs at Minnesota State we highlight the importance of personal relationships and trust for effective leadership. Leaders lead through influence and relationship building, not power and control. You need to know who your people are and they need to know who you are.
  2. Show what you stand for – Communicate and demonstrate your vision and values. Your people are not only listening to you, they are watching you. What you say and how you act clarifies what your priorities are and how you define success. Be intentional and clear with your words and actions.
  3. Explain “how” you want the team to work – Don’t assume your norms are their norms. Work together to clarify expectations and processes. Make sure no one is surprised or confused about how to be successful.
  4. Set or clarify goals – Based on what you learn from your boss, your assessment of the situation and what your team tells you take time to explicitly clarify what the goals are for the team. Goals change but you and your team need a common understanding of your current goals and how you will assess progress.
  5. Communicate, communicate, communicate – While it is always true, as a new leader it is vital to interact with your people. Don’t rely on an open door, set up interactions. Schedule 1-1’s, don’t cancel staff meetings, manage by walking around, actually “job-shadow” your people, send emails, share progress reports and just say hi! You only get to be a new leader for a short time so take advantage of your opportunity to build strong relationships and open communication channels.
  6. Solve a problem, remove a barrier, score an “early win” – Most teams have come to accept “the way things are” but as a new leader you can listen to their frustrations and take action to solve a problem and demonstrate that you are listening and able to make a difference.

Enjoy the video!

Todd Thorsgaard

Hit the ground running – maybe not!

Bull in a china shop photoYou nailed the interview, you got the job and now it’s time to prove your value – full speed ahead! Peter Daly and Michael Watson, authors of The First 90 Days in Government: Critical Success Strategies for New Public Managers at all Levelsencourage leaders to take a different approach to successfully navigate one of the most treacherous transitions you will face – starting a new job.

The pressure to deliver results – fast – can backfire and end up looking like the proverbial bull in the china shop. Making a lot of noise, causing a lot of action but not demonstrating your ability to lead and succeed.

To avoid a crash, Daly and Watson describe five crucial subjects or themes that  new leaders need to understand before they charge forward. This will require structured on-going dialogue with your boss that they call “the five conversations:”

  1. The Situation Conversation – discover how your boss perceives 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 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 new leaders strategically approach the transition to a new role. This is a time that it is “all about you!”

Todd Thorsgaard

That makes no sense!!

conflict-management-techniques

“That’s crazy,” “I could never do it that way,” You’re wrong,” “No, listen to me!”

Are you hearing statements like these at work? When new ideas are introduced are you seeing battle lines drawn? How do you lead for the common good when it seems like your people have completely different goals in mind?

Well, not to ignore how hard it is but the place to start is with dialogue. Which means helping people actually listen to each other, even if they disagree with what the other person is saying. Your goal is to help people move from:

  • arguing
  • persuading or telling
  • focusing on differences
  • talking at each other

All of which lead to frustration, lack of trust and either/or thinking.

And move to:

  • listening
  • talking with each other
  • problem-solving
  • looking at options

That requires finding some sort of common or shared interests as a starting point for dialogue. Instead of focusing on the dangers of the other point of view and highlighting the positive of their own point of view, help people work on specific issues by looking deeper and identifying underlying values, goals, and concerns that both sides share.

We encourage the leaders we work with to ask these two straightforward questions to build trust and identify shared interests.

  1. What do we all want?
  2. We do we all fear or want to avoid?

It will take work to keep people from focusing on their initial points of view and look at the bigger picture, but facilitating this conversation will help you and your people find a common good you can all agree on, and that is a great starting point!

Todd Thorsgaard

Common good doesn’t mean we all agree

conflictLeading for the common good isn’t peaceful. Agreement isn’t the goal. Paraphrasing writer Walter Lippmann, “when we all think alike, no one thinks very much.” To work together for the common good a leader needs to be prepared for conflict and embrace conflict.

Liane Davey, author of You First: Inspire Your Team to Grow Up, Get Along, and get Stuff Done, reminds us that for teams to be effective and work together they need to experience tension and disagreement, wrestle with it, push back, open up, share, listen and only then move forward. It’s not a quiet process and not what we often think of as good leadership. But think about the best teams you have worked on. Was it acceptable to have a different opinion? To raise a concern? Or to even get a little worked up about the problem you were addressing? I bet it was!

If you are willing to dive into the messiness of collaboration and conflict as a necessary element of moving towards a common good, Davey recently shared three ideas that leaders can use to help their teams embrace “productive conflict.”

  1. Define, discuss and understand the different roles and agendas of each person on the team. Take the time to ensure that everyone understands that each person has an  agenda based on their role and that each agenda is different. Not better or worse but different. And that it is normal for the different agendas to lead to conflict that is not personal but necessary to reach the best solution in the end. Make it OK to disagree based on their unique roles and responsibilities.
  2. Pay attention to style differences between team members. Use a tool or a facilitated discussion to clarify the different approaches team members use to learn, take in information, communicate, make decisions, or do tasks. Ensure that each style is described in a positive way and highlight the value that each style brings to the team. Finally, highlight how it is natural for conflict to arise due to style differences and that you expect people to leverage their styles to facilitate collaboration, even if it gets uncomfortable.
  3. Set ground rules on acceptable dissension. Have an open conversation and identify what behaviors lead to conflict that improves how the team functions and what behaviors actually destroy trust and teamwork. Describe what is acceptable and what is not acceptable and the process the team will use to hold each other accountable.

As nice as peace and calm can be, leadership is a lot messier and noisier – and that’s OK!

Todd Thorsgaard

Transparency builds trust

transparency“I find that when you open the door toward openness and transparency, a lot of people will follow you through.” –  Kirsten Gillibrand

Transparency is an essential ingredient to building trust in teams and in entire organizations. According to leadership expert, Stephen M.R. Covey, “transparency is based on the principles of honesty, openness, integrity, and authenticity.” When leaders are transparent and communicate openly, as Kirsten Gillibrand states, people trust them and follow them more readily. When leaders build cultures that have transparent processes and communication, it gives their employees and customers greater confidence in the organization, because they know that nothing is being hidden. Multiple studies demonstrate that greater transparency translates into stronger, more productive organizations.

I’ve been inspired recently by the transparency demonstrated within my own human resources (HR) community in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. We are in the process of moving some transactional processes to a shared-service model. On the surface, it may sound simple. Believe me, it’s not!  The process represents a daunting large-scale change effort to move transactions from 31 individual HR offices across our system to four regional service centers.

The team leading this effort has created an environment of transparency through multiple communications and opportunities for dialogue and participation among human resources professionals and other stakeholders. While the change effort can be scary for some whose offices and jobs will be affected, the transparency demonstrated in the process has created great trust among my HR colleagues. Most believe that the leadership team will make decisions that are thoughtful, humane, and in the best interest of both the colleges and universities and its employees.

As you think about creating transparency, you might want to consider the following questions:

  1. What information should I be sharing with my team and other stakeholders on a regular basis?  Am I withholding information? If so, why?
  2. Ask your team:  how can we make our processes or business practices more transparent to our stakeholders? Then look for ways to increase transparency!

What are some strategies you employ to create transparency?

Anita Rios

 

 

 

 

Optimal transparency

transparent water drops“I’d always rather err on the side of openness. But there’s a difference between optimum and maximum openness, and fixing that boundary is a judgment call. The art of leadership is knowing how much information you’re going to pass on — to keep people motivated and to be as honest, as upfront, as you can. But, boy, there really are limits to that.” —Warren Bennis

Last Friday while watching the evening news, I saw our former governor Arne Carlson on TV. He was calling for the ouster of the University of Minnesota’s President Kaler, saying that he perpetuated a cover up of serious ethical issues in the handling of a mentally ill drug trial patient a decade ago. While Kaler was not leading the University at the time of the incident, Carlson asserts that Kaler did nothing to bring light to the situation once he assumed leadership of the institution and instead was complicit in the cover up.

Likewise, the MnSCU administration was hit hard in the news over last year from faculty unions and others who criticized Chancellor Rosenstone for signing a $2 million dollar contract with an external consultant to begin a change initiative, without disclosing the decision to the full Board or MnSCU’s employees.

Stories like these pop up in all our organizations. Employees and stakeholders have higher expectations of transparency in leadership now more than ever. They expect leadership to be open, authentic, and to tell the truth in a way that can be verified. Any hint of hidden agendas or obfuscation reduces trust in leadership.

At the same time, leaders have to balance transparency with issues of confidentiality. I’m sure that neither leader I mentioned above intended to hide information from employees or the public. The dilemma lies in the judgment call that Warren Bennis refers to in his quote above. Where is that boundary between maximum and optimum openness?

As Steven M.R. Covey says in his book The Speed of Trust, there must be a responsible balance in transparency. While he advocates erring on the side of disclosure and not hiding information, he also says, “Good, common sense would tell you that you don’t talk about confidential matters, private conversations, or other things you don’t have a right to talk about.”

Here are a couple questions Covey suggests you might consider in creating more transparency:

  1. Ask yourself,  Am I withholding information that should be shared? If so, ask yourself why.
  2. Ask yourself, In my work with various stakeholders, what difference would it make if I were more transparent? Then look for ways to appropriately increase transparency.

Leaders can also engender great trust when they create open lines of communication with their employees and stakeholders. This is especially important when something unexpected happens. During times of crisis or the unexpected, leaders need to consider how much can and needs to be disclosed. Or if legal risks or confidentiality prevent details from being disclosed, consider what can be communicated.

How do you create optimal transparency in your role?

Anita Rios