A collaborative spirit

While he was a student at
Miami Dade College, Eduardo Padrón learned many
lessons about how to be a good
leader.

Now as the college’s president — a position he has held
since 1995 — Padrón uses
many of those lessons in his
daily tasks.

Padrón has set a vision for
the college — which has more
than 160,000 students on eight
campuses — to lead it into the
future. He also listens to his
nearly 8,000 employees to get
their input on important decisions.

“One of the skills that we
need to have in order to be able
to be successful is to listen and
foster collaboration by which
you achieve much more in the
long term than those who try to
dictate,” Padrón says.

Padrón’s focus on listening
and collaboration has helped him
oversee the school’s $315 million
operating budget and guide it
through future growth.

Smart Business spoke with
Padrón about how to establish
a collaborative environment and
how to communicate when
establishing a vision.

Develop a vision. You need to
have a vision in order to be able
to know where you want to go
and how to get there. Collaboration has to be key, because I
could have hundreds of wonderful ideas, but I accomplish nothing if left on an island by myself.

The other important factor is
communication, because that’s
a constant process. You need to
make sure your vision is shared.
If you have your vision, but it is
not shared by the people you
work with, your ability to succeed is limited.

If you don’t have a vision,
you’re going to go in many different directions, spread yourself too thin, try to be all things
to all people and not be able to
focus on what’s essential for the
growth and development of
your business.

Collaborate with employees. It
should be an open process, and
frankly, sometimes we underestimate how people, even at the
lowest level, can have bright
ideas that can help you better
formulate your vision. In an
institution where you want to
take advantage of the talents
that are inherent in each of your
employees, you need to provide
constant opportunities for
employees to provide feedback.

We have a strategic plan … and
that plan has several components. Employees at all levels
have the opportunity to participate in that. So the plan is in
constant evolution based on the
feedback and so forth that we
get from employees.

You have to honestly believe.
It should not just be something
to give people the impression
that they are participating; you
need to take it seriously and
believe that you can do much
better by getting people to give
you ideas.

When you have people who
believe they know it all, you
have a problem. As long as you
believe that by giving people
participation, your ability to lead
is going to be enhanced. If you
want answers, you need to present employees with the questions you feel are important.

Collaboration depends on the
willingness to listen and respect
another viewpoint. Bureaucracy
is too often defined by organizational divisions and the roles to
which people adhere, often too
rigidly. Collaboration is dynamic, not limited by hierarchy. It
depends on people being, on one
hand, human and open to each
other, and on the other, willing to
be accountable as part of a team.

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