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4 things we learned in the first 2 days of CASE Summit

This Thursday will mark the conclusion of the CASE Summit for Leaders in Advancement. The virtual conference has covered a number of topics—from how presidents have navigated the challenges and unforeseen events of the past two years to how senior Advancement leaders can position their teams to drive and deliver institutional strategy.

Here are four key lessons we’ve taken away from the first two days of the Summit.

1. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed the Advancement profession into the spotlight.

“I’ve actually never felt more relevant to my organization,” said Rachel Sandison, Vice Principal, External Relations, University of Glasgow, during the session “Your Role in Leading Institutional Strategy.” That’s because the division’s communications have served as a cornerstone to the institution’s pandemic response.

David Bennett, Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations, Howard University, noted that Advancement engages with a number of constituencies including students, alumni, faculty and deans, corporate partners, and foundation leaders. That can provide Advancement with a wide-ranging perspective that can inform the institution’s future direction. Over the course of the pandemic, Bennett has found a greater appreciation for the department’s ability to build community and inform strategy, in addition to generating revenue.

2. By finding ways to make employees’ jobs more meaningful, institutions can reduce employee turnover.

“People choose to come to jobs for the obvious reasons—title, money, status, prestige—but they actually don’t stay for those reasons,” said Peter Hayashida, President, UC Riverside Foundation and Vice Chancellor, Advancement at University of California, Riverside, during the session “Your Role in Leading Your Team to Greater Effectiveness.” They stay for reasons such as the work that they’re doing, achievement, advancement, recognition, and growth.

Investing in conversations over the long term around those reasons that people stay can boost morale and reduce employee turnover. For example, Hayashida takes part in his teams’ interview processes to set the table for where a potential employee wants to get in five or 10 years as it relates to the skill set he or she has today and those required to fulfill his or her goals. Similarly, when a vacancy arises, he first asks whether the institution needs to fill the vacated position and, if so, whether the role should be altered. He also examines whether there are any responsibilities within that role that someone else might want to try or if there is something else in another team member’s responsibilities that might fit better within this new role (if the team member is interested in giving up the task).

“That approach gives people reason to think, ‘I could stay here over the long term because I can find ways to make my job more meaningful,’” he said.

3. The return back to campus has been more difficult than the pivot to remote work.

“There has been more debate about what’s safe,” said Suzanne Fortier, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of McGill University, during the featured session, “Your Role in Leading Institutional Strategy.” There have  been different views, growing debate, and increasing anxiety about returning to campus.

That’s required leaders to take a compassionate approach to returning to the office. At McGill that has meant bringing students back first, then gradually bringing employees back to campus. Because many employees have been able to do their work at home, it has enabled McGill to take a measured approach back to campus.

4. Leadership is a dynamic process.

When leaders practice inclusive leadership by creating the conditions in which team members’ best selves are activated and cultivated, they generate better results. “The power of inclusion can’t be overstated,” said Laura Morgan Roberts, Ph.D., of the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, during her keynote presentation “How can we lead our teams to become more effective in our work, and more inclusive in our approach?”

She noted that leaders who are validated and told that they are seen, appreciated and thankful for what they bring to their work and have to offer the organization. Among the data points she highlighted were:

  • 17% increase in team performance when leaders practice inclusive leadership
  • 20% increase in decision-making quality
  • 29% increase in team collaboration

People bring their best ideas to bear when they’re in an inclusive environment and don’t feel the need to worry about their credibility, stereotypes, or whether they’ll face a negative encounter, she said. Inclusive leadership is particularly important given the changing demographics within the United States.

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