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Business Officer Magazine

Building Trust, Leaders

Sessions in this track were designed to help business officers learn how to foster an environment that promotes high performance on personal, professional, and organizational levels.

People: Difficult or Different?

Personality is who you are; behavior is what you do. You can't change your personality, but you can choose to modify your behavior to better fit the situation or meet particular needs.

Based on that foundational message, the session "People: Difficult or Different?" focused on understanding how people with different personalities may find each other's behavior annoying, frustrating, or baffling. George Myers, senior partner at the Effectiveness Institute, explained how attendees can learn to embrace and value their diversity. Gregg Goldman, senior associate dean and chief financial officer, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, used his personal experiences in the campus environment to illustrate points.

The session worked through four dimensions of personality that affect individuals' behavior and perception of others. Decision-making style, for instance, can range from heavily process-focused to fast, gut-based "snap" judgments. Without trust, the process-focused style at one end of the spectrum may be seen as weak or fearful, while those operating at the other end may be criticized for being pushy and rude. If there is trust among the parties, however, characterizations could instead range from thoughtful to confident. The other dimensions discussed were environment (dynamic versus stable), accuracy ("get it done" versus "do it right"), and people (socially cautious versus socially assertive).

Understanding the differences in colleagues' personalities and modifying your behavior in ways that allow you to interact without driving each other crazy will allow trust to build among team members, according to Myers and Goldman.

Bolstering Your Bench Strength

"We are notoriously bad about teaching staff, even though we are in the business of teaching," said Catherine Lilly of Michigan State University in her presentation, "The Leadership Economy: Developing Supply to Meet Demand." Lilly, senior adviser to the executive vice president and chief financial officer wants to keep the university's leadership pipeline flowing. "In 2007, our retirement projections showed that 62 percent of all management roles at all levels would be eligible to retire by 2013."

This was the data that Lilly used to develop a leadership development plan, which focuses on developing talent from within through the university's new Business and Finance Leadership Academy. Using its Gerald Ford Library as a cost-effective venue, the program teaches a number of leadership competencies, including:

  • Leadership and achievement orientation.
  • Flexibility and adaptability to change.
  • The meaning of quality service and how to deliver it.
  • Creative problem solving and strategic thinking.

Lilly reported that the first class will finish the program in December. It's hard to measure the results at this early stage, she said, "but we're seeing people step up to challenges, especially personnel problems. They're doing more self-assessment-and we're seeing a transfer of wealth of experience to those participating in the program."

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