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How to effectively include new presidents and other leaders (opinion)

How to effectively include new presidents and other leaders (opinion)

In my work as a consultant, I and my colleagues have developed a strategic adaptation design – or, as we prefer, a highly effective integration design or training network – for presidents and other senior executives starting a new position. As we discuss in our book From the presidential transition to Integrationit’s a strong concept that can really help a new leader achieve a few things during the first month at work that are critical to their success, in particular:

  • To learn the true history of the institution from some of the most trusted, wisest and trusted people on campus.
  • To begin building capital relationships that are vital to their success with key stakeholders and leaders.
  • To create a permanent team that will give them honest feedback and momentum for campus for the first year and possibly beyond.

In this essay, I will share some of the key components of the learning network in the hope that it will provide some ideas for people who are leaders as well as for those who are just starting new leadership positions. (For simplicity, I will focus on the president in this article, but the lessons can be adapted for other types of leaders.)

Creating a training network

A senior administrative team led by the Vice Chancellor should create a strategic list of approximately 10 to 12 of the most trusted and trusted people on campus. Such people must have a stellar reputation and a deep understanding of the culture and complexity of the institution, as well as its policies, history and governance processes. In addition, they must have a genuine love for the place and be willing to tell the truth to the authorities.

Choosing the right participants for the network is the key to the success of the whole process. If you are organizing such a network, make it clear that politicians or people with agendas or regular complainants do not need to be approached. This does not mean that you only need to choose a choir of boys and girls. But you have to recruit on campus the people who have the most credibility and will be honest with the new president.

The good news is that most campuses of such people have a full bucket. It’s okay to add a candy or two (but no more) to add some flavor to the group. Horses have an advantage over them, but they are almost always highly respected for their science and teaching, as well as for their love of the institution. However, do not add deep cynics because they will poison the process. Cynics have lost hope and are usually very evil people; they just won’t add value.

The usual training network consists of five or six highly respected faculty members, two experienced senior administrators (such as vice presidents or deans) and two experienced and reliable staff. You should also include several thoughtful and reliable applications, as they have a clear view of the institution. Look for people who care very much about college or university and want the right type of leader who will continue to live by their values ​​and be guided by its principles. In short, you need people who are committed to serving the mission of the institution, not your own ego.

Once your senior team identifies these individuals, you should schedule a one-on-one conversation between the new president and each person in the group on the first 21 days of the transition process – the sooner the better. Ideally this could take the form of a series of meetings for breakfast or lunch during the first month. Obviously, Zoom meetings are possible, but they are not preferred.

At the end of these talks, the new president will receive invaluable information that cannot be found in 500-page briefings over 500 pages or in conversations with council members. They will have a true story of a place that would take them years to explore.

For the new president

Once the senior team does its job, the new manager must build on its efforts. So after such a series of talks, if you are the new president, we suggest you convene the whole group on a quarterly basis.

It takes a little organization to make the conversation constructive. The last thing you want to create is a complaint or grievance mechanism that quickly moves the discussion into the rabbit hole. Instead, we suggest you ask the following three questions to shape the conversation so that you are essentially getting valuable information and so that participants feel that they are really contributing to your adaptation and orientation.

  • What positive things are happening on campus that I need to know?
  • What problems or issues arise that require my attention?
  • Any specific tips for me to consider next?

Make sure you hear everyone, especially employees and administrators. This should be a discussion of the whole group, not just a teacher talk. Be simple and keep it in a quiet place during lunch, not in a noisy restaurant or other distraction.

It is important that you demonstrate as you listened to the advice and feedback of the network, as well as how it affected your thoughts and actions. You should be prepared to offer honest comments, such as:

  • “You offered me weekly lunches with certain social groups, which I did. The goodwill for our campus is great. ”
  • “You told me that the issue of additional compensation is an important issue that is largely ignored. I am assembling a task force to study the problem in 30 days and make some important recommendations. I want to act quickly in accordance with their recommendations as needed. “

You want the meetings not to be seen as superficial or just decorated, or for the participants not to feel manipulated. Genuine feedback from others on campus is a gift in the transition of any new leader, so you should not only seek it out, but also show appreciation and make some effort to apply it.

Points to consider

Creating such a network is not without risk. If a new leader does not communicate well with his members, many other people will know this because these members will tell them about such interactions. Remember that those who will work online will have great credibility and influence, so what they report says a lot for many stakeholders.

The good news is that when a new leader connects – which usually happens – they will build real connections and relationships with key people in the institution. These people will soon tell the good news, and the capital needed by the new president will be built quickly.

Another important advantage is that the new president will know what is really going on on campus, and avoid the dynamics of “seducing the leader” in which they hear only good news about everything. The members of the training network will tell the truth to the authorities, and this is exactly what the new president needs.

Finally, the new president will be credited for learning from stakeholders and listening to them, expressing respect for the institution. And it will spread pretty quickly across campus.

All this can greatly help in the process of transition and adaptation and at the same time create good will. If you are a new leader, just be sure to take action in response to network recommendations if necessary. You don’t want to waste someone’s time, including your own.

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