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Business Officer Magazine

Inspiring Peak Performance

Added this year was a track called Connecting the Mind, Body, and Spirit. The new track included sessions featuring numerous examples of how to stay healthy emotionally, physically, and mentally.

Traits That Can Transform

“We all wear both hats—one as a leader and the other as an employee being led,” noted Keith Houck, vice president of administration services, Valencia Community College, Orlando. In the session “Creating an Environment Where People Want to Give Their Best,” Houck used clips from a Civil War movie about the Battle of Gettysburg to illustrate the traits leaders can exhibit to inspire the best performance from their staffs.

  • Trust. It's the do-or-die foundation for leading, said Houck. “Trust increases the speed and lowers the cost of getting things done,” he added.
  • Compassion. “Leaders who are viewed as genuinely caring about employees create a most cherished and valuable commodity in a work environment,” Houck said.
  • Stability. Followers want the leader to be someone they can always count on, even during times of trouble. “Employees who have high confidence in their leader,” stated Houck, “are nine times more likely to be engaged than those with low confidence.”
  • Hope. “While workers want stability in the moment,” said Houck, “they want hope for the future. It gives them something to look forward to.” Houck explained that when hope is absent, people lose confidence, disengage, and often feel helpless.

When asked to provide instances that demonstrate the four traits in action, audience participants offered the following examples:

(1) The University of California System recognized years of service, but the awards varied because they depended on the size of the particular department's budget. The new chancellor committed funds for the recognition awards to establish equality in the program, showing compassion and inspiring trust.

(2) At the University of Louisville, the president refused a raise for himself while committing to a $750 raise in pay for the rest of the university's employees, regardless of position or salary level. This act provided hope and stability, and, said the session participant, “It made all the difference in the world.”

Think Outside Your Norm

Cross your arms. Now cross your arms again, but this time cross them in a different position. How did it feel? Awkward? Wrong? Did you have to think about it?

“The truth is, we are all creatures of habit, and most of us find it hard to approach something in a new way,” said Mary Massaro, executive director of Balanced Health Systems, and half of the husband-and-wife team presentation “Using the 'Soft Side' to Balance Hard Realities.” According to Vincent Massaro, executive vice president and chief financial officer for Metropolitan College of New York and a long-time higher education CBO who has served a variety of institutions, there isn't much love these days for finance types. Daunting budgetary situations swell the discontent of all stakeholders when confronted with the hard bottom line that business officers must face every day. How can CBOs continue leading with a spirit of consensus and collaboration when expectations clash with financial realities?

According to the Massaros, you first have to place yourself in a different position. There is no single or right way to cross your arms or clasp your hands-or one correct interpretation of a particular institutional challenge. Forcing yourself to view or experience something from a different angle will make you think differently, too.

And in an environment of constrained resources and mounting external pressures, a little emotional intelligence can go a long way toward helping everyone better understand the actions and motivations of others to arrive at the best solution for all.

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