Friday, January 22, 2016

graceful transitions

Over the past 18 months, I have watched many transitions take place at Concordia University Texas, beginning with my own.  Some of them went very well...and others left something to be desired.  Leaders of organizations always hope for graceful transitions - people leaving well and others taking on their new responsibilities well.  Transitions are a part of every organization, so it behooves the leadership of institution to do everything they can to ensure a smooth transition.  What might that look like?  Here are a few thoughts:

  • prepare the institution - transparency during transitions is critical.  why is the person leaving?  who is the new person coming in?  what, if any, changes can be expected?  why might this person have been chosen over another?
  • honor the person leaving - not always easy to do depending on the circumstances, but anything that can be done to highlight the positive contributions this person has made will ensure a smooth transition.
  • prepare a clear position description for the new person - if they know what they are to be doing, it will help everyone involved.  Sharing that position description with those who they manage can also help in the long run.
  • figure out the right time frame between announcement and change- too short of a time frame does not allow for the institution to thank the person and make preparations...too long of a time frame can make for awkward situations and rumors to persist.
  • get everyone on the same page - what is the story you will share with the public?  Trying to come to an agreement with the person leaving and the rest of the team certainly helps the institution and the incoming person.
  • share what is expected in the transition period - letting people know what the new person is expected to accomplish in the first week, month, and three months helps everyone manage the transition better.
  • on-board properly - rather than jumping right into their work, take time to introduce the new person to others in the organization and allow them to get acquainted with the work and people involved.  This is also a great opportunity to honor the person who has left.
  • don't forget the one who is no longer there - stay in touch with that person...give them access to information...remember them in public...invite them to be a part of the future of the organization...and remind others of the impact they had while they were a part of the team.
Planning for graceful transitions is a part of any leader's job...may it go well for you and, where it has not gone so well, plan on some way to repair the less than graceful transition with the individuals involved.

Friday, January 15, 2016

meaningful work

At Concordia University Texas, it is our goal that those who graduate will find meaningful is also our goal that all employees find their work meaningful at the school.  But what exactly is meaningful work...and what does it feel like when one has that in their lives.  As a part of the exploration, I have begun to ask people what gives them meaning in their work, and last evening I had the chance to talk on this subject with one of the bartenders at a new restaurant and cocktail bar in San Antonio called Juniper Tar.  He described his work as a chance to educate people, to give them a great experience, and a chance to learn and grow himself.  His opportunity to entertain...and to give another person an "AHA" experience provided meaning for him in his work.  It is no longer just a job - working at Juniper Tar has become his mission.  And yes, he enjoys a good cocktail himself, so this mixes his passion with what he enjoys and what he does well.  And he can make a living in this work.

So what can leaders do help create a place where work can have meaning for others?  Here are a few thoughts:
  • hire well - ensuring that someone is a good "fit" for the work they are asked to do goes a long way in helping that person find meaning in their work over the long haul
  • train them well - when people know how to do their work in a manner that is both efficient and effective, they can find greater joy in what they do (I found out last night that there is a proper way to shake a cocktail so as not to strain one's muscles)
  • give them freedom - everyone has a different way of thinking about the world and how they should interact with others.  Letting people be themselves allows them to bring their whole selves into the workplace
  • work in teams - while some people are more of a loner than others, being a part of something bigger than oneself provides the chance to accomplish great things together and feel pride in the outcome
  • allow them to fail - trying new things may (and probably will) lead to failures.  Celebrate the failures as something learned as a result of taking a risk
  • reward them - part of meaningful work is the ability to make a wage that allows that person to take care of themselves and those they love (including charitable causes).  While rewards can and should encompass more than financial gain, recognizing people for a job well done through some type of bonus system provides great incentive for continuing that type of work
  • engage them - people love to be asked their opinions and when they contribute to the organization, they feel good about themselves, they feel good about their work, and they feel good about the institution
I had a great time engaging with the bartender last night...and I found out more about meaningful work in the process.  So what about you - what does it mean to you to engage in meaningful work?  Feel free to leave your answers below.

Friday, January 8, 2016

the power of hope

I believe that it was Napoleon who coined the phrase "leaders are dealers in hope," a concept I have been teaching for many years.  The world (at least the college football world) witnessed this several weeks ago when the TCU football team came back from a 31-0 deficit at half time to beat the Oregon Ducks 47-41 in three overtimes.  We may never know exactly what was said by Coach Patterson during halftime in the locker room, but something happened that gave the players hope - the ridiculous hope that they could come back and win a game that seemed unwinnable.

I have also seen the opposite effect when people have given up on hope and how that affected them mentally and physically.  When the patient has been doing well for the longest time hears the words "I'm afraid there is nothing else that can be done," they often go into a tail spin and are dead within a few weeks or months.  Hope sustains (even when there is no reason for hope)...hope creates positivity (even when the outlook is negative)...and hope gives life (even when death is imminent).

So what can leaders do to provide hope within their organization?  Here are a few ideas:
  • provide a clear vision that inspires and is something bigger than what one or two people could accomplish on their own
  • tell stories that support that vision and provide a picture of what is possible
  • create an engaged community, where people are participating in the future of the organization and feel as if they have a part in the success of the organization
  • be honest and realistic about the current state of affairs, explaining it in a way that people can understand
  • put the right people in the right places throughout the organization
  • allow people to share their worries openly and honestly
  • take courageous steps to right the situation, no matter how hard they might be
  • never blame others for what got the organization to its current are the leader right now
  • remind people that others have weathered this type of situation in the past and overcame the odds that were against them
  • don't in front..and over-communicate what you want people to know and do