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How to Work… In Abundance

January 26, 2021

Abundant leaders are decisive, creative, collaborative, reflective, consistent, and empathetic. While the style of leadership they bring is often counterintuitive within higher education, it is crucial to the success of the Enterprise Model and Unity College.

How does “leadership in abundance” look in practice at Unity College? The list below outlines our approach…

— MPK

 Explore New Ideas

  • THINK OUTSIDE AND INSIDE THE BOX | Be bold, but follow the rules. If we have a policy, follow it. If we need a policy, propose it.  If we need to change a policy, propose that. Understand that our policies, while informed by our past, help guide our present and future.
  • BE DELIBERATE AND DECISIVE | Good process does not mean slow process. Establish inclusive task groups, open processes, aggressive timelines, and make decisions.  Trust the process and each other.  Finish the conversation and make a decision.  Write it down and move on.  Ratchet your work.  Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
  • THINK BIG | Imagine possibilities that are distinct, financially viable, and mission-driven. Envision products and services for new audiences. Draw on a range of modalities to deliver those products or services. Focus on why you are designing something, allowing that big question to shape what you design. Think in terms of overall purpose, audience, and long-term sustainability.

Collaborate

  • CHECK IN EARLY AND OFTEN | Let constituencies and decision-makers know what is under consideration so that you get feedback and avoid dead ends and non-starters.
  • COMMUNICATE MORE RATHER THAN LESS | Calibrate workstyle, establish trust, and understand each other’s need for information. Overshare rather than protect your supervisor from work, burden, responsibility, or information.  If people don’t know, they can’t help.
  • INCLUSIVITY IS THE RULE | Identify and involve all constituencies and stakeholders in deliberative processes. That does not mean every task group has to have 47 members.  It does not mean every community member is a stakeholder.  Identify all legitimate stakeholders, then get feedback: go on a listening tour, have a focus group, do a survey.  Involve new people, senior leaders, community members, students, and faculty of all ranks in your process, then incorporate that information into your decision or recommendations.
  • TRANSPARENCY | Put responsible decision-makers in charge of establishing work partners, processes, parameters, outcomes, and deadlines. Follow up with those decision-makers to ensure they have communicated about and honored deliverables. Create two-way opportunities for answering questions and solving problems.
  • TRUST | Trust each other to do the work assigned. Trust the idea that exceptions MUST be exceptional and not the norm. Trust that if a chief officer makes a rare exception to a rule, they are doing so in the best interest of the institution. Trust that if the President reverses an exception to a rule, he is doing so in the best interest of the institution. Trust yourself, trust the process, trust the shared vision.
  • BE TRUSTWORTHY | Do your work to the best of your ability and listen to peoples’ input, knowing that while it is not always possible to make everyone happy, it is often possible to make sure they are heard.

Reflect

  • FOCUS WITH FLEXIBILITY | Notice when work is beginning to stray from the core assignment and functional purview. Bring the work back to center, or ask whether scope should be broadened, or whether personnel should be added to the mix.
  • SHARE FAILURES AND SUCCESSES | Mistakes and unintended outcomes are part of the process. Stop and recognize your setbacks and goofs.  Do not hide them. Let us learn from our mistakes.  If one of us fails or falters, we all fail or falter—we need to know so we can course correct.  If the institution and students succeed, we all succeed—we need to know so we can celebrate.

Empathize

  • HAVE A SHORT MEMORY AND A LONG MEMORY | In a busy institution like ours, during times of change, folks will make mistakes. In a first among equals model, slights, mis-steps, and miscues must be processed, but we must have a short memory where they are concerned.  Honest mistakes are a part of doing business.  So is forgiveness.