Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Symposium focuses on organizational health

Starting with “smart vs. healthy,” a group of IASB members enjoyed a presentation on organizational health at the seventh biennial LeaderShop Academy Symposium, held June 18 in Lisle. This invitation-only event was for members of IASB’s LeaderShop Academy, which promotes and recognizes board members’ efforts toward continuous learning and professional development.

“The Advantage of Organizational Health” was an engaging and encouraging seminar led by Keith Hadley, a principal consultant of The Table Group.

Hadley described how smart and healthy are both requirements for success. However, when faced with challenges, organizations tend to focus on smart – which includes strategy, technology, finance, and marketing – and overlook the importance of health – minimizing politics, confusion, and turnover; and maximizing morale and productivity.

Keith Hadley led the seminar on organizational health.
“I don’t know anyone who isn’t smart,” Hadley said. “When there are problems in an organization, it’s never a matter of smart. It’s a matter of health. And even when we know it’s health, we double down on smart.”

“The Advantage of Organizational Health” is based on the book The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business by Patrick Lencioni, a consultant in organizational health and executive team development and founder and president of The Table Group, a management-consulting firm specializing in organizational health. Its name comes from the idea that, according to founder Lencioni, “There is simply no substitute for people sitting down together around a table to resolve the critical issues around their business, whether those issues relate to operations, strategy or teamwork.”

Both The Advantage and Hadley’s presentation outlined four disciplines of developing organizational health, including building a cohesive leadership team; creating clarity, over-communicating clarity, and reinforcing clarity, with the goal of creating “an environment in which success is almost impossible to prevent.”

One key element to building a cohesive leadership team, according to Hadley, is building trust. Not just any trust, but vulnerability-based trust, requires transparency and honesty from all group members, as well as not hiding behind weaknesses. Many of the symposium’s participants had an “ah-ha” moment when Hadley said “trust plus conflict equals the best possible answer; conflict without trust is politics.”

Hadley went on to add commitment, accountability, and results to the trust/conflict discussion before moving on to the issues surrounding clarity. A team assessment helped participants discover their team’s challenges.

“My biggest takeaway from the event was the team assessment,” said Carolyn Owens, a board member at Matteson-based Elementary SD 159. “The five behaviors narrowed down some major areas and I am glad they were titled problems for our board to work on.  Some of the outcomes surprised me.

“Organizational Health was an awesome title,” Owens continued. “This should be required for all boards -- seven board members present and working the exercises could help us bond and get on one accord.”

The next section brought six critical questions about “Creating Clarity,” and worked through answering the question “What is the most important, right now?” and discussing how healthy organizations set “thematic goals” and define objectives. Hadley called a district’s strategic plan “a series of thematic goals put in the right order.”

“The idea that stood out most for me during the LeaderShop Symposium was how important it is to set ‘thematic goals,”’ said Kathleen Conlon-Wasik, a board member from Grayslake CHSD 127. “This allows a board, and their administration, to focus on a clearly defined objective.  With so many ideas competing for a school board’s time, thematic goals allow a board to cut through noise and work with clarity and a strong sense of purpose.”

LeaderShop programs, including the biennial symposium, address principles of effective school district governance as well as board-level leadership topics.

“We wanted to bring this topic of organizational health to our members for so many reasons,” said IASB Associate Executive Director Dean Langdon. “Through these interesting times of financial uncertainty, our boards still need to provide clarity to administration and staff they govern. They still need to over communicate their expectations and they still need to hold effective meetings.”

Nearly 100 people participated in the LeaderShop Academy Symposium.

All members of IASB’s LeaderShop Academy were invited to the event, and almost 100 individuals took part, including 83 board members along with educators, superintendents, and IASB staff. The event took place at Universal Technical Institute in Lisle. Hadley filled in admirably for the symposium’s scheduled presenter, Rick Van Arnam, who was unable to attend due to a family emergency.