Do you remember all those times your parents coached you about saying "please" and "thank you"? I remember many times when my parents not only coached me about saying thank you, but also reminded me to write thank you letters. Little did I realize that such a simple lesson from childhood would be a vital leadership principle.
This leadership principle is related to the last principle of "being visible". Opportunities to be out and about on campus do provide me with a perspective about what is going right on campus. It also provides me an opportunity to thank people for the good work they are doing. By learning about the things that are going well on campus I am able to not only say thank you, but also to share with the campus community about the things going right on campus.
One habit I have developed is sending out a communication each Monday morning during the traditional fall and spring semesters. These communication occur less frequently in the summer and on vacation, but the habit of talking about the week ahead each Monday has become important to me. I use this weekly communication to highlight things on campus or in the state that people should be aware of as it may effect the college at some point in time. I also use this communication to share the good news that I learn about during the previous week.
Sharing the good news also me to be a cheerleader for the college. I do this when I'm out in the community working with stakeholders, businesses, alumni, and friends of the college. When I'm in the community I'm sharing the message that we are good community partners and that people are getting a good return on their investment in higher education.
When I share the good news internally, it provides an opportunity for others at the college to recognize the good work of their fellow colleagues. It also provides employees with information for their personal narrative about the college. By reminding colleagues that there is good work happening on campus, I am creating an opportunity for employees to choose what they want to focus on. In the absence of good news, the only news an employee has to focus on may be the negative news from colleagues.
Why do I think colleagues share the negative? Have you heard of the old adage that people share a bad experience with many friends while they share a positive experience with virtually no one? That adage holds true of employees as well. Employees tend to talk about their negative experiences at work more frequently than the positive. Sometimes, like the news media, only the negative is worth talking about. I'm not saying that employees shouldn't talk about the negative. What I am saying is that I believe a leader is able to share both the good news and the bad news.
Focusing upon only the good news or only the bad news provides a less than realistic view of what is happening at the organization. Consequently, I think it is important to highlight the good news whenever possible. A balanced view will give employees the freedom to trust both the good and bad news that you must share as a leader.