“That ship has sailed, sweetheart!” My husband replied to my concern about being named the Founding Dean of the School of Nursing. The School was a concept that brought complex academic programming under one administrative leader. It was innovative and collaborative. I had developed a business plan and worked with professionals from both institutions to establish success. Honestly, I hadn’t planned to be named the Dean as I am a good planner and developer. However, I said yes and had a great 3 and a half years of working with some high end professionals who educate a quality nursing workforce. This was an opportunity, not an expectation, it developed out of an idea.

Curious, how often opportunities are a combination of reaching out and engaging with people and professionals who have expertise in other institutions and professions. Courageously choosing a new and different path to address inefficiencies or problems instead of choosing a safe, well worn path. And, finally, engaging with a broad network that includes individuals who genuinely support your work and mission. These three elements are essential to responding to opportunities – 1. Networking; 2. Courage; and 3. Support (playing with a net).

In the above example I networked and established trust with both institutions for 3 years prior to transitioning to a School. It was hard work. My commitment to collaboration was sincere and, together, we found small successes, then bigger successes. Everything came together because those that were part of the team wanted opportunities for students.

Courage is a tough thing when you are walking into an unprecedented area, indeed it is the only time courage is actually needed. Regardless of the great criticism and confusion about complex systems, the approach worked. The questions reflected on the change of the norm and how that was an uncomfortable place to navigate. Courage takes conviction and understanding of complexity, and willingness to step into a place where the footing is unsure. It is scary, and exhilarating!

Finally, support is essential. I am privileged to “play with a net”. I had support from the administration in the School opportunity, I had and have support from my spouse. These are key to success. Further, I have a strong educational background and network that will support other directions and other opportunities.

Over the span of my career I have had many opportunities. At the moment the opportunity was presented, I was not always sure that the direction or choice was an opportunity that fit me and my future. Today, I am pleased to be in a new role where I engage with the community, connect community needs to higher education opportunities. I am blessed… “This ship is sailing”.

Breathing in a memory

Today is a great day for reflection. I say that just about every day. However, today it really has been thought provoking. I was up and getting ready for a morning with the Chamber MLK breakfast, one of my favorite events, and decided – today we take out the Dove. What?

Yes, Dove bar soap, the original (scent) is my favorite because it reminds me of my grandmother. I would walk into her farm house entry and there you would take your shoes or boots off and wash up before you came into her home. On the side of the small sink was a bar of Dove soap. For a farm house, I have to say, I only remember the smell of Dove soap at Grandma’s. I loved going to her house because there was always activity. Raising 15 children translates into a vibrant atmosphere! She was busy with baking or sewing or setting the table or cleaning up after coffee or lunch. I loved visiting with her because she had great stories about growing up, the depression and how she survived. Boy did she survive! She would share when it was just the two of us – rare and precious moments. Grandma Esther was not boastful or talkative as far as I could tell. However, she was wise.

I love the fact that the smell of Dove brings me back to Grandma Esther and her great stories, exceptional managerial lessons, and way of being. Today, I wish for all of you a moment of memories.


Platforming: A plan for personal success


The Platform: New Beginnings

With the new year comes the idea of new beginnings and assessing how success will happen this year in our work, our families, our lives. The concept of a platform and how a platform supports the plan is an important “success” focused approach to life. By definition a platform is a declaration of principles adopted by a group and a flat surface or space for public discussion, the operating system where work begins (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/platform). Identifying the platform that works for your “new beginning” depends on your goals and audience. Your platform may need to be an education that aligns with your goals, work or intern experience that connects you to the right professions and professionals, or personal/team development. Recognizing your personal values, and motivation to follow-through provides the path to your personal platform.

Platform and Values
Values are personal, they tend to be identified by a work team or understood by a family, however the most powerful values are those that are lived everyday. I value transparency, honesty, integrity, personal accountability, and people. These values cross sect family, work, and family life for me. Think about your values – and name them.

Being Transparent: Sharing information to those that are impacted is key to identifying the best next step. Engaging in a thoughtful discussion based on all of the information has been key to landing on the best solution, collective wisdom. Don’t rely on the finite engagement of too few minds, be courageous and engage others to help with solutions.

Being honest seems like an easy approach – however, there is great risk to honesty. Owning the situation and sharing all of the related data, the feedback, the next steps and the possible impact on the future are all equally important. A leadership flaw I have witnessed is being honest about the present time versus the long term impact. Focusing on the now is a feel good approach to leadership. Everyone loves you today, which is an opportunity to feel good today. Although short-sighted, it is a great way to eliminate waves and controversy.

Integrity, another value, is complex and individually applied. Everyone has their own definition of integrity. Personally, my integrity is based on honesty, personal responsibility, and the greater good. Maintaining integrity informs and motivates my decisions and shapes my reflective process. Reflection is both meditative and serves as a personal growth approach for future choices. Consider your definition of integrity and how you evaluate and apply your definition to hard decisions (Integrity Is Easy, Until It Is Hard, https://gangeness.wordpress.com/2017/01/07/integrity-is-easy-until-it-is-hard/).

Personal accountability is all about the hard worker. Growing up on a farm has meant for me an ingrained daily routine and hard work. Days off don’t really happen. My brain is always considering the next steps, how to better help those I work for (students), and what would be the next, best, step for moving the goals forward to completion. I don’t need to be accountable to others, I am accountable to myself, a much more harsh judge. If I commit to a cause, I commit.

Finally, people matter. Seriously, I shouldn’t have to write this, but people matter. The number of times financial gain or frugality has translated into jeopardizing individual health and wellbeing astounds me. Justifying these actions is so pathetic and unreal I can hardly type these words. Undermining the personal experience and what an individual outcome is from any given situation makes me reflect on the Nuremberg Trials. Reflect on these trials and look up the word complicity (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuremberg_trials). Note to reader: Rarely will you see this level of passion in my writing, why? BECAUSE PEOPLE MATTER.

Platform and Authentic Self
Once you identify what is important to you and your work (values), you can identify what makes you – you – your authentic self. Leading and working under these guidelines will feel natural, more comfortable, and people will draw to you as you will be seen as comfortable in “your own skin” – an authentic leader, and your true self. To be successful in any new beginning you need to set yourself up for success which only happens through strong connections with your values, and willing to risk exposing your authentic self to achieve greatness. Set yourself up for success – what is your platform for achievement?

Integrity Is Easy, Until It Is Hard


Integrity Is Easy, Until It Is Hard

Integrity is one of those things everyone believes they have, which is based on… what exactly? Most people believe integrity is about doing what’s right.
Right for who?
Right for when?
What if the conditions change?
What if it is right for some but not others?

I find integrity to be complex and individually applied. Everyone has their own definition of integrity. Personally, my integrity is based on honesty, personal responsibility, and the greater good. When I am faced with a tough, complex decision I am forced to consider options for resolution. I find it easy, when I am not faced with a hard choice. When the choice is more challenging I consider the complexity and focus on my authentic leadership style and maintaining integrity. However, it is the harder choices that test integrity.

Several years ago I was a part of a small department on the verge of elimination due to the high costs and limited revenues. It was clear that we had an exceptional product. Students completing our program were exceptional, most going to graduate school, many leaders at their institutions. I began visiting with colleagues at community colleges and we found ways to partner. A way to offer students a way to transition from one degree to the next smoothly, without moving and in their own community. The offers to partner were more than we could accept. That is when choices became hard.

Overall, many great partnerships. However, not all of the discussions resulted in a partnership. Why? Because in one situation, the leader at the other institution wanted to align with us to pressure another partner into an agreement that benefited her institution. We walked away from the situation because it lacked integrity.

In this situation we would not be entering into an honest partnership. It was to manipulate another institution. Personal responsibility to students, faculty, and the institutions would have resulted in little gain, and it “just wasn’t right”. In the end we served the greater good by not aligning and allowing the other institutions to negotiate on their own. This is one situation where, to maintain my integrity, we walked away.

In contrast, there have been a number of situations recently where professionals affiliated with college sports have supported the student-athletes (1, 2). For them, it appeared, their integrity was about student athlete support. Others, considered the bigger impact of the situation (greater good), versus individual reform (blind support). I read the articles with great interest, these were professionals that were leaders in their fields. I was stunned and dismayed by their choices, however, couldn’t help think these people have a different “self” definition of integrity. Clearly, different than my definition which makes me think everyone has their own litmus test for integrity.

In summary, I believe fully engaged and authentic leadership involves difficult decision making, honest relationships, risk-taking, and balancing public perception with long-term investments. Central to the habits of this leader is the practice of reflection, reflecting on personal values and integrity when making decisions in complex conditions. Integrity grounds my work, it is not easy, it requires work and reflection (3).

1. http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/columnist/brennan/2017/01/04/brent-musburger-joe-mixon-sugar-bowl-espn/96162474/
2. https://www.buzzfeed.com/tylerkingkade/minnesota-football-coach-fired?utm_term=.bpr56L3ZK#.ftPXljoOa
3. http://www.leadershipvisionconsulting.com/what-we-learn-by-listening/