Tag Archives: trust

Advice for new executive leaders

Rich Bents, Ph.D., Partner, Future Systems Consulting

Are you in a new executive role or contemplating one? If so, this advice from Rich Bents might be very timely for you. I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Bents this month and found that he has a wealth of wisdom to share. (My questions are noted in bold, with his answers below.)

Rich, you’ve been serving as an executive coach to quite a few of our new and emerging executive leaders in the last seven years. What do you see as the top two or three challenges that new executive leaders face in their roles?

A common challenge for those seeking executive positions in higher education is fiscal management, particularly fundraising. Delegation is often a challenge. The basic act of clearly assigning a task and accountability can be difficult for new executive leaders. Another challenge is creating a stimulating vision for an organization that fits comfortably into the vision for Minnesota State. It is easy to just articulate a vision, the difficult part is demonstrating how that vision fits into a larger context.

In your observation, are there any predictors of success for a new executive leader? What do successful leaders do?

The predictors of success I have found are emotional intelligence and the ability to create trust while exuding trust-worthiness. The first step is to ensure high self-trust. Then attend to the following questions: Are my intentions pure? Do I have high integrity? Do I have the necessary abilities to get the work done that is before me? Do I exhibit the appropriate behaviors? Am I engaging in collaborative ways? Do I get desired results? These six questions pretty well cover all trust issues. A breech of any one of them will always challenge a trust relationship.

What are some of the most common pitfalls for new executive leaders?

A common pitfall is not understanding or not identifying all of the stakeholders and attending to their needs. New executives often do not realize who all of their stakeholders might be. And even when all of the stakeholders are identified, new executives may not know what the stakeholders are expecting. The needs of the stakeholders may be very diverse and at times unexpected. Validating the various stakeholder needs is an important and rewarding exercise.

Another common pitfall is not identifying potential blind spots in their leadership style or in their values. Blind spots are just that –things that we do not see. When looking at leadership styles and personality preferences, blind spots can be exposed by looking at the opposing styles and types. Opposing values are more difficult to discern because executives dearly hold to their personal values and find it difficult to find and state an opposing value in positive terms. Usually what happens is a value is stated i.e., “Optimism” and we quickly say “Pessimism” is the opposing value. However an opposing value to “Optimism” may well be “Realism.” Understanding that other people will hold opposing values to our own gives the executive greater insight to their own values and behaviors.

What do you advise leaders to do to avoid those pitfalls?

Reflect to identify all stakeholders and articulate, then validate, their needs. It is important to engage stakeholders in discussions that answer the following questions: What is it they want? What is it they need? What is it they expect?

First clarify personal values. Then share your values with those close to you. And always live your values.

If there is one thing you could advise all leaders to do whether they are new in their role or not, what would it be?

Know your values and live them. Learn how to create trusting relationships. Be emotionally strong/well.

For executives, I always try to instill the full meaning of what Max De Pree once said: “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant.”

Thanks for your willingness to share your wisdom, Rich!

Anita Rios

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Get your steps!

Becoming a transformational leader can seem intimidating. It can seem like something you are either born to be or not. In reality it all starts with getting your daily steps in. Sometimes called “management by walking around” as described in the Tom Peters and Bob Waterman 1982 bestseller In Search of Excellence.

An article in one of my favorite resources for leaders, the website MindTools: Essential skills for an excellent career, highlights how to connect with your people and build the relationships that lead to transformational work by getting your steps in!

Management by wandering around” does require more than just aimless chatting or random office visits.  MindTools encourages leaders to:

  • Relax – take a deep breath, calm your mind and make it easy for people to be open with you.
  • Listen and Observe – take the time to understand your people and demonstrate genuine interest in their perspective.
  • Be Inclusive – wander everywhere, strategically plan to connect with your whole team.
  • Recognize Good Work – encourage people to share what they are proud of and give specific compliments.
  • Spread the Word – share what you hear with others and share what you know about the work being done.
  • Embrace Chat – learn more about people’s non-work interests and lives. Demonstrate that you are aware they are more than just what they do at work.
  • Don’t Overdo It – don’t hover over people or become a distraction.
  • Review Your Conversations – assess what you have learned, take action and solve problems.

Transformational leaders know their people and know their work.

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

 

 

 

Find the sweet spot!

diagram_sweet-spot_clear-background-3-1024x804Author Dan Pontefract has released a new book that I found energizing and I encourage you to check it out. In The Purpose Effect (2016) he suggests that leaders can help their people recognize the “sweet spot” where the organizational mission overlaps with their role purpose and their own personal vision. You can read a summary of the book here – getAbstract

The sweet spot is the space where people feel engaged in their work, energized by how they can make a contribution and clearly understand the contributions their organization makes to their stakeholders. As leaders we rarely have the opportunity to be involved in the crafting of the organizational mission and vision but we can connect it to the day to day work being done and the unique aspirations of each person on your team.

Pontefract suggests that leaders focus on understanding and facilitating two-way dialogue in these three areas:

  1. Individual and personal goals or purpose and how they relate to the day to day work.
    • what motivates the people on your team?
    • how do they want to develop themselves?
    • what most interests them in their job?
    • how can you and the organization support their success?
  2. The organizational purpose, mission and vision.
    • what are your organization’s values?
    • how does the organization live out it’s purpose?
    • what are examples of the organizational purpose?
  3. Role-based purpose.
    • how do individual roles contribute to the success of the organization?
    • where do individual roles make a difference to stakeholders?
    • how can a leader recognize individual role contributions to the success of the department or organization?

Taking the time to understand each of these three areas is the first step. Then taking the time to consistently help your team members find their own personal sweet spot at work will help you bring your mission and vision to life.

Todd Thorsgaard

Stewardship and communication

dashboardOne 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

 

Grab a shovel?

IMG_3260Leaders have a choice to make. To grab a shovel and dig in or not!

Simon Sinek, author of Leaders Eat Last, challenged us at the 2016 International Association of Talent Development conference to take on the tough work required to be leaders. He reminded us that being a leader is not a title but a result of choosing to dig deeper into the real issues people are facing. Only then will people trust that you are looking out for them and choose to follow. And only when people follow are there leaders.

What makes it even tougher is that trust is a feeling – an emotion – not a behavior or a skill. So we don’t know exactly what will build trust or how long it will take. Still, Sinek defines a leader as a person who is able to create the conditions inside an organization that cause people to trust. And when people trust each other they can do remarkable things.

Taking the actions to build trust requires both faith and risk. The faith to believe that the smIMG_3266all daily actions you take with your people will make a difference to them, even when you can’t see the immediate results. It’s somewhat like the faith I had in my climbing partner this morning when we climbed to the top of the peak you see here. I had never used alpine touring skis to climb up a mountain but I trusted Bob based on the many small actions I have seen him take over the years that demonstrated his authentic concern for my well-being.

Leaders also have to take a risk and grab their shovels to dig into what their people are concerned about, even when they don’t have all the answers or know exactly what they may unearth. Sinek actually stated that he thinks the most important tool leaders need is their shovels, and the willingness to dig up the unknown.

Grab a shovel, trust your people and find out what matters to them and have faith that it will make a difference!

Todd Thorsgaard

P.S. We carried our avalanche shovels and were prepared to use them but I only had to take it out for my blog photo.

 

 

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