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Inclusive Excellence: Setting it up

In this presentation we look at how to set Inclusive Excellence (IE) up, what to look out for, and how to get it going.  The very first thing that tells you if your effort has any chance of success is the leadership of the Chancellor.  The very first thing you gauge is whether your Chancellor is a leader or a manager.  If your Chancellor is a leader – you have a shot at making this IE effort work.  If your Chancellor is a manager – stay two or three years, build your resume, and get out! It will not ever work there. 

Now remember, I am writing this on the assumption that you want this IE effort to be successful.  Your ambition could just as easily be about you…and then none of this really matters.  So do understand the perspective that I am writing this from.

Okay.  You need someone who is willing to go toe-to-toe with your Board of Regents (BOR).  This takes a lot of internal confidence.  If this job is to be done well, you must have your Chancellor in your corner.  The Chancellor must be committed to the vision of IE, and strong enough to articulate that vision to the BOR, in the language of the BOR. 

Many seem to think that it is nice flowing language that impresses the BOR.  It is not.  The BOR has a responsibility to maintain and/or elevate and/or defend the message that the University wants to send out to the world.  They say, “This is what we stand for, this is how we do it, and this is how we will maintain financial solvency while doing it.” So you have to help your Chancellor aggressively present why IE is important to this University.  Here are some questions that you must help your Chancellor respond to. 

  • How is this IE going to advance the University’s interests?
  • What do I, as a member of the Board, say to my constituents and donors?
  • How much disruption of the smooth flow of the University will this shift toward IE cause?
  • Why can’t we just dust the furniture again?  It seems fine enough to me and everybody else seems fine with dusting their furniture?
  • How much will it cost?
  • How long will it take?
  • How would we know when we get there?
  • What are the benchmarks to tell us we’re on the right course?

You give these answers to your Chancellor or work with him/her on responding to those challenges, and you will be fine…granted your Chancellor is a leader.  

What then, are the characteristics of a leader in that role?   You hear people identify characteristics like truth, ability to communicate effectively to different audiences, a clear sense of centeredness, knowledge of both the material and the politics, vision, purpose, ability to listen silently and effectively, supportive, fair, and having clearly articulated expectations.  For your purpose, it really does not matter how well your Chancellor matches that list.  What matters is that you see him/her as a leader who will have your back in a scrum. 

A Chancellor who is a manager will not work.

Why?

It offers an inversion at the top.  Those of you who have worked in school districts know what that looks like.  What this means is that your Chancellor goes to your BOR and asks, pleads, cajoles, begs, and demonstrates a general lack of commitment to, knowledge of, and backbone for.  Many times it is fear for his/her own job.  Many times it is just his/her weak nature.   Many times it is a dual relationship situation where they are golf buddies of dinner buddies.  Many times they really don’t believe what they’re selling.  Whatever the reason is, it is not leadership.  Their language is one of weakness.  It is impossible to negotiate from a position of “Please, may I…” 

Now, in there, I alluded to the Chancellor who is the co-conspirator.   This one is really hard to catch.  This is the Chancellor who calls you in, says all the right things, shakes your hand, finishes your sentences, interjects at all the right times with a well-placed “Hmm!” or “Yes, yes!”   You release yourself to him/her, he/she goes play golf with his/her buddies or have dinner, and they are all laughing at you.  That happens when there are heavy social relationships between the Chancellor and the BOR.   That is another really tough one to work with – particularly if you are looking for change.  This is not going to work too well. 

There is nothing wrong with any one of these.  It is just not going to work very well if you intend making changes.  You can hang out.  Build your resume.  Move on.

The true leader tends to be very insightful, a bit of an outsider, with a very fluid marriage between the left and right brain hemispheres.  For example; you might observe a sense of fluidity in artistry yet a strict lover of classical music. 

I did not mean to stay so long on this but understanding who your Chancellor is, is central to the success of your intervention.   Yes, IE is an intervention.  You want to frame it in developmental terms, but honestly, it is an intervention.   Let’s be honest: You won’t be there is there was a feeling that things were all honky-dory – right?  The fact that, in many cases, it is an external force driving the perception of a need for change, does not help things at all.  If the University thought there was a need for change, we won’t be having this conversation at all.  There would be readiness, coming from the top, for the conversation about IE.  All we’d be talking about is “How do we institute this change?”  Right now, many of you still have a whole lot of convincing to do.  Yeah, you have the job…so?

Back to the Chancellor and your relationship with him/her. 

The Chancellor has to buy it, internalize it, interpret it, and turn around and sell it to the BOR in packages that a hesitant and suspicious BOR might buy. 

We social activists tend to be all about, “This is the right thing to do,” and “Now is the time to do it.”  Many of us dress smooth, talk smooth, walk smooth.  The BOR does not buy that.  That is the wrong audience for “the smooth.”  The people who make up your BOR know that the world is not going to fall apart anytime soon.   Your well-articulated verse does not influence them in the least. 

So your Chancellor has to translate all that heavy passion into the language of listening for your BOR.  That is a social-business model.  Place the emphasis on the “business” part of the model.

  • You have to have confidence in your Chancellor’s translation.
  • You have to have confidence in your Chancellor’s leadership.
  •   You have to have confidence that your Chancellor will block for you.

Despite your best ego-play, you are not leading here.  Sorry!  Leave the big ego home and work through your Chancellor.

I am telling you, if your Chancellor is a true leader, he/she has blocked so many shots for you already, and you don’t even know about it.  I promise you.  They want you to do the work.  He or she will do the politics. 

This is why you do not make a move without letting the Chancellor know.  If you want the Chancellor to have your back, you must have his or her back.

Next time, we’ll talk steps.  We’ll start to set the frame for this thing called “IE.”

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