So, here we are, at the fifth of the “Five Behaviors of Cohesive Teams.” What brings us here? The ultimate goal of building greater trust, conflict, commitment and accountability is one thing—achieving greater results as a team. In the case of NMC, we don’t seek to realize results for results sake, nor for a profit motive. We’re driven by a community centered – community serving purpose, and a mission focused on supporting student transformation and success.
NMC has a results-driven culture. In my first couple of months here at NMC I’ve been doing a lot of ‘listening and learning.’ I’ve noticed that NMC has plans (e.g., a strategic plan, A3 goals, and an individual goal-setting process), score cards (e.g., digital dashboards), and results. A mentor once coached me, “Good teams have plans. They have a sense of purpose and a road map they follow. And, better teams have score cards. They have a dashboard that helps them track their progress on their journey. But the best teams produce results. They execute their plans and make adjustments based on the score cards, always seeking to improve.” Below are some of NMC’s most touted and truly outstanding results that I’ve heard about as I am listening and learning. Our stakeholders are proudly and passionately sharing such results with me.
- 2nd in the nation “Best for Vets” community college
- 10th in the nation out of “Top 15 Best Drone Training Colleges”
- 16th in the nation for “Best Short-Term Study Abroad Programs”
- One of the Top 30 “Best Choice Schools for Culinary” nationwide
- Only “ADCI Certified ROV Pilot Technician Training Program” in the world
- One of the country’s most generous community college foundations, awarding over $800,000 in scholarships each year
- First community college baccalaureate in Michigan
How we achieve our results is as important as the results that we achieve. I am also hearing from you how important our values are to a healthy, vibrant NMC culture, especially in our pursuit of our desired results. I am clearly hearing that while we have plans, score cards and results that we’re realizing; how we achieve our results is as important as the results that we achieve. I fully agree. I will continue to expect and champion a values-grounded approach to our pursuit of results. We must remain individually and collectively committed and responsible to live these values:
- Learning is at the center of all we strive to achieve. It is the foundation upon which an enlightened citizenry and a dynamic community are built and is a lifelong process in which we are all engaged.
- We will continuously improve the learning experience and its global relevance to those we serve through innovation, agility and thoughtful risk-taking.
- Our actions are governed by the highest degree of ethics, integrity and personal responsibility, exhibited through transparency, openness and trust.
- We each will practice responsible stewardship for the human, physical, financial and environmental resources entrusted to our care.
- Each of us will strive to exceed expectations for quality and service in all that we do.
- We value all people and will invest in their personal and professional growth and development.
- We will exhibit foresight by monitoring the changing world around us and taking actions today that prepare us to meet future needs of our communities.
- We will seek others who share our vision and values, and collaborate with them on behalf of our communities.
Since 1951 the NMC community – students, faculty/staff, alumni, community members, businesses, donors/supporters and so many more – have co-created a culture of shared purpose and values, a culture where everybody is focused on achieving collective results.
Continuing to focus on collective results. Let’s step back for a moment, and ask, what do we mean by results? There are many ways to think about results. Each organization is different and each will have a different focus. Results are not simply limited to financial measures or enrollment numbers. But in every team, there is a potential conflict between how each member views results. The question is, do they view results from an individual perspective or a collective perspective? In dysfunctional teams, the drive to achieve individual results conflicts with the need to achieve collective results. Sports fans will recognize the analogy of the gifted player who’s so focused on their own glory that they put the success of their team at risk. The same situation can arise in any organization. Members may be so focused on meeting their own key performance indicators or individual goals, that they lose sight of the need to achieve collective results for the team. The team suffers as a consequence. NMC has a structure already in place to ensure that our individual goals are aligned with work group goals that in turn support our overall strategic plan directions. We must continue to support such alignment and ensure that everyone has a ‘line of sight’ – a clear understanding of how their individual contributions contribute to our overall results.
How can we make our NMC team even more results focused? Let me suggest the following actions that we can take. Some people refer to this as developing a team that is hungry. At NMC I sense that we are hungry. There exists a passionate desire to want to help transform students’ lives, helping them build a bridge to opportunities that might not otherwise have existed, if it were not for NMC.
First, we need to be setting clear expectations and hold one another accountable for those expectations. Again, we have the right structure: plans (e.g., a strategic plan, A3 goals, and an individual goal-setting process), as well as score cards (e.g., digital dashboards). And, as I mentioned above, a values-grounded approach to our pursuit of results is equally important.
Second, we must ensure that we’re practicing regular feedback, and be willing to call out team members when their performance or behaviors need to change (of course, in a constructive and empathetic manner). We must also embrace a strengths-based approach, seeking to leverage one another’s gifts and talents (and, not spend so much time focused on the traditional deficits-based approach to organization development).
Third, we must be encouraging to our team members. This may sound obvious, but it’s often overlooked. When a team member performs well and works with other members to drive collective results, they must be praised both by their leaders and fellow team members. This should be done on a regular basis to reinforce team spirit. Let’s continue to recognize and celebrate our team members and teams for their accomplishments.
Lastly, let me share, this summer we’ll begin to turn our attention toward a process of either updating our existing strategic plan or launching a new strategic plan. I am still not convinced which it will be. However, as I listen and learn, I am hearing a desire from our stakeholders to be engaged in a strategic planning process, to help co-create our desired future. A strategic planning process would allow NMC to develop a strategic plan by engaging our wider community in key conversations:
- Asking ourselves questions about our desired results. All teams want results. But how are we working together to get them? Does everyone know what we’re aiming for? Are we all on the same page? Are we all working together to achieve these goals? And, how do we know?
- Gaining clarity about our future direction. One of the most common roadblocks to realizing desired results is a lack of clarity on what goals we are working toward as a team, and what everyone’s role in these are. Vague goals are really hard to work toward. It’s hard to know what they look like, or even whether you’ve achieved them. A strategic planning process can help us gain clarity, by setting clear goals with everyone’s role defined.
- Keeping focused on progress. NMC has a momentum of forward progress, since its founding in 1951. A strategic planning process isn’t simply about ‘setting a new direction.’ Rather, it’s about focusing together on what we’re working toward, and have been working toward for almost 70 years.
These “Five Behaviors of Cohesive Teams” that I’ve shared over the last five weeks are not simply ‘answers.’ Together, they are more like a ‘game plan.’ And, a game plan requires practice. Reading them is simply not enough. Together, we must practice them. I will make it a priority to ‘coach the team.’ I have already seen that the NMC team members are willing to ‘play your heart out.’ My commitment back to you – I am all in, too! So, together, let’s:
- trust one another,
- engage in conflict around ideas,
- commit to decisions,
- hold one another accountable, and
- focus on achieving collective results.
Most importantly, let’s be driven by a community centered – community serving purpose, and a mission focused on supporting student transformation and success.