Promote inclusion and communication.
Organizations do better when everyone is included in the conversations that lead up to strategic choices. Those people who are dealing with the issues and working in an organization every day have really significant input relative to their experience.
What I’ve done everywhere that I’ve been is created more open, inclusive and participative processes than have ever happened before.
What often happens in organizations is that decisions and consultation get siloed; you have a kind of hierarchy and separation a kind of silo. Institutions make small, incrementally bad individual decisions that become colossally bad because they aren’t inclusive, and they don’t consider all the reality.
My goal is to broaden the conversation so every one of those committees and groups going forward will have a fuller appreciation of the global issues that impact the university and how those global issues relate to their specific task.
Listen to your employees.
One of the major issues for leaders is to create environments where they can actually hear from people.
People are reticent to talk honestly with me because they don’t know what the implications of that would be. That means I have to listen very well.
You have those talking who are doing it for political agenda, and then those who are trying to test to see if I’m really ready to hear what they believe is the open, honest or accurate view of the situation (or) event, or a reaction to one of my decisions.
Be a role model for employee performance.
Staff selection at every level is a critical thing, and then it becomes a question of encouraging the values and performance that you want from those really good people.
It’s important for me to have someone in Role X whom I can trust to do what seems best and what is consistent so I don’t have to worry about Role X. That cascades down through the organization.
The best thing (executives) can do is to model (values and performance) and talk about how important it is. Everything I do gets noticed. It is a huge amount of pressure in an organization where you have a person like me talking about respect, inclusion and participation, so I’ve ratcheted it up.
In a lot of other types of organizations, people would excuse some of that as the prerogative of leadership. I try not to create prerogative for me because I don’t believe that’s important, at least not as important as the other values.
In my early weeks as president, I told the food service employees I didn’t expect to be served first. It took them a little while to get used to it.
A few months later, I heard somebody comment on that as a sign that, ‘Gee, this guy might be real when he says these things.’ It’s difficult to be consistent all the time so that’s what makes some of the small stuff even more important as a way to underline and accentuate for folks what the values are and how they really are meaningful.
Approach change slowly.
The traditional advice is really good but very difficult to follow: Listen, pay attention and start keying in to the organizational values.
You can’t change an organization unless you understand it. You have to understand what motivates employees. I don’t motivate my employees; I have to be able to talk to the values their goals, hopes and possibilities and that will motivate them.
New leaders have to really pay attention, and they have to uncover what those values are, especially if they’re moving on toward change, you need to be able to demonstrate a vision. You’re creating opportunities for the longer-term employees to see things differently.
Take on the responsibility to do good.
I often say to people, ‘We have an opportunity to think about how we want this relationship to change. Are we going to make the choices today to make that relationship better or not?’
In every relationship, we have that choice every day, and often enough, we don’t pay attention to that. We’re not thinking that this simple choice about how I greet the person at the latte stand is going to make a difference in their day and mine.
Make the best possible hire.
Hire someone smarter and more talented than you because it makes more things possible.
When you’re dealing with someone you work with, you want that person to be more creative, more thoughtful, more deliberative, more able to do more with what you’ve talked about together so that you don’t have to do all the thinking, all the directing (or make) all the choices. This goes back to trying to empower everyone in the organization to do as much as they can to accomplish that common goal.
There are people, because of their skills and experience, who can do more than I can in some areas. I want them to do that here because that makes us better. I want the organization to be better than me.
HOW TO REACH: John Carroll University, (216) 397-1886 or www.jcu.edu