Lisa DeAngelis, Director

UMass Boston | College of Management | Center for Collaborative Leadership

January 11, 2016
by Lisa DeAngelis
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Something to think about

Wolf

I’ve recently been reflecting on the Lesley University Sonnebend Fellowship Lecture that I attended earlier this year. The guest lecturer was Dr. Daniel Goleman. For those of you not familiar with Dr. Goleman, he is a prolific author whose book Emotional Intelligence was labeled one of the top twenty-five influential business books by Time Magazine.

While Dr. Goleman covered a great deal of ground in his brief lecture, I’d like to focus the attention of this blog on focus. Throughout Goleman’s remarks he shared multiple stories that had us reground ourselves in the present.

One example he called upon was a parable where a Native American elder is speaking to his grandson and says, “I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One is anger and the other love.” The child asks, “Which will win?” To which the elder says, “Whichever one I feed.” A comment that Goleman made to support this story summed it up wonderfully, “The world is full of everyday acts of kindness, it’s just not news.” So much of our world has been focused on what’s wrong, what’s broken, what’s not working and, the more we pay attention to those issues, the more of them we will see. Conversely, when we actively look for, and contribute to, acts of kindness (large or small), the more our perspective will change. I’m not talking about putting on rose-colored glasses or pretending that issues don’t exist, rather I’m suggesting that we each find ways to become part of the solution.

This time of year is naturally one where individuals, and organizations, re-focus their attention. This may be driven by New Year’s resolutions or the fiscal calendar; the reason is less relevant. The opportunity here lies in where we focus that attention. As I mentioned in the Talking Business Advice Series, reflecting on what went well – what we’d like to see more of – opens up thinking and creates possibilities; whereas, reflecting on what went wrong – what we’d like to avoid repeating – narrows thinking and creates a defensive posture. Since I offered organizational examples in that piece, I’ll offer an individual example here. In fact, I’ll offer a personal example. As the director of the center, one of my goals in building the brand of the center is to publish. Last year, I did meet the established goal for manuscript publications, but was inconsistent with other writing vehicles (such as blogs). I could spend my time focusing on why not, but a far more productive exercise is to ask myself what I learned, what worked, and what can be leveraged to increase success this year.

And, with that, I’d like to invite you to this process. What have you liked about these blogs? What would you like to see more of? What other topics have these blogs made you think of?

Most importantly, which wolf will you feed in 2016?

January 4, 2016
by Lisa DeAngelis
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What Your Practices Say About Your Culture

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The BBJ recently reported on Ropes & Gray’s year-end bonus program. As the reporter noted, this practice is not out of the norm for law firms. Why, then, did it catch his attention? As he frames it, “The kicker: It will toss in a little more to those lawyers who logged unusually long hours this year.” This got me to thinking about the culture that the industry is perpetuating – particularly as they strive to be more inclusive.

I’m curious as to how the associates have been included in this process. What are their intrinsic and extrinsic motivators? Might they want to be recognized for accomplishments rather than hours? Might they value time more than discretionary income? And, I am most curious about how those candidates who have chosen not to work in these environments would answer these questions.

The legal profession has long heralded the maximization of billable hours, despite the growing body of research refuting the sustainability of this practice. This established system excludes those who are not able, or willing, to dedicate themselves wholly to the profession in such an all-consuming way. I would hazard a guess that this may be a deterrent for talented, nontraditional individuals. In many cases, the exact individuals that the firms are working so hard to attract and retain.

The bonuses these law firms distribute, when multiplied by the number of associates and partners receiving them, are more than sufficient to hire additional staff. One thought might be that law firms earmark a portion of these funds to hire additional associates, enabling the associates to work more reasonable hours, while still allowing funds to be available for discretionary bonuses.

More systemic than this would be for the firms to engage those they are trying to attract and retain to understand what it is about their culture that is deterring them. I would suggest that they think broadly and creatively about this outreach – speaking to those that have left the organization, candidates that have rejected their offer, those studying for their law degree, and, perhaps even select high school seniors. The goal is to seek to understand how these individuals perceive the industry and, in particular, your organization. These discussions will begin to shape a composite that describes your culture – as defined by those that you wish to attract. The question then becomes, is this culture helping you achieve your vision and goals, over the long-term, or might you need to amend it.

http://www.bizjournals.com/boston/news/2015/12/17/in-twist-ropes-gray-gifts-select-associates-bigger.html

December 18, 2015
by Lisa DeAngelis
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Cultural Competency – not just about diversity and nationality

Recently I organized a cultural competency session for a group of emergent leaders in various industries in Greater Boston. I was not the facilitator, so luckily I had the opportunity to listen and learn along with the attendees. I already knew that culture had a broader definition than referencing diversity and nationality, but the session gave me pause to reflect upon culture within an organization – particularly given my move from the corporate world to the new planet of academia at a state run university.

While my current role is situated in a university, the center I lead is very much business oriented, and as such, I apply the working style that I have developed in my many years in the private sector. Does that style work here? Not so much. I am bumping up against a vastly different culture. I’m not saying that in a negative way, and this is not a reflection on the institution, rather on my surprise that it took my sitting in this session for the light bulb to go on for me as to why I was struggling.

As one faculty member explained to me, academia is about engaging in a dialogue. Academicians are incredibly cognizant of the historical markers that have led to the current conversation; whatever that conversation is. So, when I am thinking about making a change to the curriculum of a program we run, or adding something new, it’s important that I remember to make time and space to have conversations with key partners that provide the historical context that supports this change.

Another example comes in working with centralized departments. As I mentioned earlier, our center is run like a business. Therefore, my expectation is to get reports and information in a timely fashion to ensure we’re ‘on track.’ Again, it’s important for me to keep two things in mind. First, our center is a very small piece of the work of the university. And, second, the university is not a business – it is an educational institution. Therefore, part of my role is to explain to these key partners what our business model is, and how we work; and, at the same time, be patient and flexible as they work to meet our needs.

The workshop helped me recognize my cultural preferences, and become aware that in order to get things done I needed to take a moment to identify strategies to bridge the cultural differences between departments; in this case, between my preferences and theirs.

So, when you think of culture as nationality or diversity, take a moment to think about the multiple cultures that you are immersed in within the confines of the company that you work for. How does your team/department interact with other departments? Which departments do you work with? How do the relationships vary with the departments? What are the ‘unwritten rules of engagement’?

November 9, 2015
by Lisa DeAngelis
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Where’s the fire? What’s the hurry about?

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Some of you may recognize the reference to Billy Joel. In this song he was focused on the speed at which children want to grow up. I, however, am talking about the speed and aggressiveness demonstrated by drivers.

I have the unenviable task of driving in and out of Boston everyday and, despite the fact that my commute takes place at a very early hour, the trip can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours or more. It may be worth noting that I live a mere 13 miles from work. So I can certainly appreciate how drivers may find the commute frustrating. However, I have noticed a pattern of behavior that is unacceptable and, frankly, dangerous.

A few examples of this are the dashes across multiple lanes (without signaling, of course); driving dangerously close to the vehicle in front of you; bypassing the line of cars in cue to take an exit and cutting someone off as close to the front of the cue as possible; and, my personal favorite, not stopping for the individual that is using the crosswalk to traverse the street. I’m sure you can all think of examples of your own.

I am not here to get into the debate of how irrational this behavior is, or to discuss how it really doesn’t get you to your destination any faster. Rather, I want to focus on the residual affect this aggressive behavior has had on the rest of us and, in particular, on me. I find that I have now become a more aggressive driver. I will drive closer to the car in front of me than I should. I will get unreasonably upset with the person cutting into the line. I’ve also noticed the toll that this is taking on my stress levels – and on my co-workers and family.

We don’t leave that anger/stress in the vehicle when we step out, do we? I know that I am more irritable and have a shorter tolerance level with those around me. Not a great demonstration of leadership, is it?

Now that I’m aware of the affect this is having on me, I am able to address it. As a leader, and we all lead ourselves, I can choose to behave differently. You may remember a quote that says something to the effect; “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react that is important.” I’ve decided to change and I would encourage you to think about it as well. How am I doing it? I’ve taken to imagining that my son (who is nearing the age of getting his license) is driving the other vehicle. I listen to podcasts or classical music on the radio – or I leave the radio off. I consciously let people in and stop for those in crosswalks, and I am distancing myself from the car in front of me. I practice mindfulness, becoming aware of what is happening in my body during the commute (e.g. hands tightening on the wheel, tension in my shoulders, talking to other drivers), acknowledge this awareness, and make a choice about whether this reaction is serving me or not.

Has any of this changed the driving behaviors of others on the road? I don’t know, but I do know that I am far less stressed and angry when I get to my destination. It’s about me putting out into the world what I want to see more of. And, the reality is, while this example is about driving, I’m sure you can think of many others that happen in the office on a daily basis. The response can be the same. Choose differently. Step into your leadership and model what you want to see.

Referring back to the very next line in this Billy Joel song, “You better cool it down before you burn it out.” I welcome hearing about the techniques you are using to identify and positively impact issues through your personal leadership.

October 23, 2015
by Lisa DeAngelis
0 comments

Do you even know you’re in a Rut?

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Perhaps you’ve heard of, or even used, the term, ‘stuck in a rut.’ It is thought to have come from the days of wagon travel when the wooden wheels of the wagon would literally get stuck in the grooved path carved out by those that had gone before them (Moreland, 2011). In essence, tasks become so routinized that we fail to notice the redundancy of them.

A vivid reminder of the ruts in our work happens when we bring someone new into our organization. As we begin to explain the processes and procedures of the organization, we’re likely met with the raised eyebrow or polite, “may I ask why it’s done that way.” Too often we are quick to defend the status quo – even if we don’t like it – saying things like, “that’s the way we do it here,” or “we’ve always done it that way.”

As a center, we are in the midst of reorganizing our small team and hiring someone into a newly created position. This process has required us to think about not only what the work of the center is, and who is primarily responsible for which components of the work, but also why the work is done the way it is. Needless to say, we’ve already uncovered quite a few ruts!

Instead of staying in the rut, we welcome that inquisitiveness as a chance to identify new ways of doing things. These are fantastic opportunities to look at our work with fresh eyes.

My tip to you: as you interview new hires, ask them to share innovations that they have made in their prior roles. Find those people for your team who will continue to help you look at the work you do from new perspectives and get you out of your rut.

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Moreland, T. (2011, November 13). Stuck in a rut? Lessons Learned from Early Pioneers | HR C-Suite. Retrieved from http://www.hrcsuite.com/pioneers/

Some of you may have recognized the title of this blog as having come from the quote from Henry Ford. I am not about to endeavor in a history lesson here, but I would like to take a moment to ground this quote in its context. Ford is credited with bringing to fruition a variety of things that many of think of as mainstream today. These included things such as the mass production of vehicles, the concept of a standard workweek, and living wages (he paid more than twice the standard daily wage).

I have to imagine that each step of the way he was met with incredulous stares. Can you picture the scene where a mere twenty or so years after the automobile was invented, this guy comes along proclaiming that vehicles should be available and affordable to the masses? Or the reaction when he declared that he would pay employees $5 per day, for a standard 8 hour day.

My point is that, as his quote illustrates, Mr. Ford did not give in to the internal or external voices that tried to dissuade him. Can you say the same?

How many times do we tell ourselves, “I can’t do that,” or “I wouldn’t be good at that?” Worse yet, how many times do we allow others to say it to us? And when I say this I am not talking about reimagining an industry, I’m talking about pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone; about realizing that we have no idea of what we are truly capable of because we choose to limit ourselves.

Why do we limit ourselves? Is it fear? Are we afraid to try something and ‘fail?’ (see my earlier blog for my thoughts on ‘failure.’) Are we afraid of not being instantly good at something? Are we protecting an image we hold of our self?

At our Emerging Leaders Program immersion week last week a leader the participants heard from talked about an important person in her professional life who consistently posed the question, “why not?” Similarly, I have the “so what” person in my life. When I begin to back away from opportunity (whatever that might look like) this person is able to walk me through the “so what” scenarios. It sounds something like this, “so what if you try something and it doesn’t go well. What’s the worst that will happen?” Followed by a conversation where I am able to look at the risks realistically. We then move to “so what if you try something and it does go well. What may come from it?” Over the years I’ve gotten better at asking myself the “so what” question. This opens me up to the possibilities and allows me to grow and learn in ways that I might not have yet imagined.

I’ll leave you with a closing quote from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, “… if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” Perhaps that is what inspired Henry Ford.

September 2, 2015
by Lisa DeAngelis
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HR Leadership, an oxymoron?

I’m honored to have been asked to speak at NEHRA’s annual conference on the topic of changing the perception of HR leadership. As someone who spent the first two and a half decades of my career as an HR professional, I truly believe in the value this discipline can offer to an organization.

Unfortunately, human resources has garnered a reputation as the ‘policy police.’ These professionals take their role seriously, ensuring that the organization is complying with laws and regulations, and utilizing internal processes and tools, which is laudable. However, they have become so focused on this aspect of the role that at times the business feels as though HR is speaking a foreign language.

Early in my career my CEO told me that he expected me to know the business as well as he did. Since then I’ve had the good fortune of working with senior business leaders, across a variety of industries, who appreciated my efforts to learn the business, and who took my recommendations seriously because I was able to ground them in business logic and speak their language.

Most organizations would readily admit that their most important asset, their competitive advantage, is their people. And, human resources should have unique purview into the people within the organization, their strengths, their aspirations, and their motivations. At the same time, HR must be immersed in the business of the organization. They should know how the business works, the competitive landscape, and emerging trends in the industry. This powerful combination of understanding the business landscape and the talent within the organization (and within the industry) positions HR leadership to counsel the business on how to leverage the people in the organization both for competitive advantage and for personal fulfillment.

HR leadership does not need to be an oxymoron. During my time at the NEHRA conference I hope to help HR professionals think about their roles differently, harness their leadership potential, and shape a new vision for HR.

June 11, 2014
by Lisa DeAngelis
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Powerful lessons from the Emerging Leaders Program Project Team Presentation

Each year the fellows of the Emerging Leaders Program work within leaderless teams to address issues facing our region.  In my role as director of the Center for Collaborative Leadership, I have the pleasure to attend the Emerging Leaders Program Team Project Presentation at the culmination of the program where a representative from each team presents their findings. During this event, I see the progress made by our fellows in their leadership development and growth as they discuss what they learned about themselves, collaborative leadership, and the importance of civic engagement. I also have the honor to learn from our panelists who are invited to respond to the team project findings through their lens as civic leader, government official or business executive.

 

Here are key lessons from a few of our presenters and panelists:

“The biggest lesson I learned as a participant in the Emerging Leaders Program was about active listening. I learned it is ok to shut your mind off, take a step back and understand what people are talking about. I learned this with my team and I am working to transfer this skill to my work.” Kenechukwu Anadu, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Team 3 Presenter

 
Embrace what you learned during the team building process and maintain the relationships you have made through the program. Being able to call upon members of your cohort as resources is vitally important. We don’t know everything, and it is a major benefit to be able to call on your colleagues for help.” Josh Zakim, Boston City Councillor, Panelist

 
“The merging knowledge project really struck me. I used to be a part of an organization that worked to improve the lives of underserved girls. Without understanding their issues, we told them ‘here’s how to do this’ and that approach didn’t work. When we finally sat down with them, and asked them, and listened to them, we were able to help them.” Leslie Lewis, Brightcove, Panelist
 

“For Boston to be a global leading city, it needs to be built on a foundation of equity where every single Bostonian has an opportunity to excel. We can’t have equity without all the things we talked about this morning. We need transportation, adequate affordable housing, and workforce development that is free from discrimination. These are important goals of this administration. Boston needs to be a city where Kenechukwu Anadu can tell you to pronounce his whole name, and you do, as a show of respect.” Tim Sullivan, City of Boston, Office of the Mayor, Closing Speaker

 

For more information about the projects, please see our website http://www.leaders.umb.edu/index.php/leaders/2014_team_project_presentations/.

 

Let’s keep this important conversation going.  What additional advice or insights might you offer on active listening, embracing teamwork, maintaining relationships, or building a foundation of equity?

May 23, 2014
by Lisa DeAngelis
1 Comment

The Impact of a Person

In the past two months the world – my world – has lost two incredible men to cancer. This blog is not about the horrible disease that claimed their lives; this is about honoring how they chose to live their lives.

 

Both men were men of character, who held strong beliefs and values and who strove to live by them. Both were entrepreneurs but neither defined themselves by the work that they did. Rather, they used the work as a platform to express their unique gifts.

 

I have had the incredible honor of knowing individuals throughout my life who have had this strong sense of self – this deeper understanding of their life was connected to the lives of others. Each of these individuals has demonstrated the influence that one person – one authentic being – can have on another.

 

I am often asked why I do the work that I do. For me, this is my gift, to help others understand who they are as a leader – regardless of their title – and the incredible joy and impact that can come from fully living the life you are meant to live. As leaders, where we are able to unlock this potential in ourselves and other, there is the boundless opportunity to create change.

 

“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle,

and the life of the candle will not be shortened.

Happiness never decreases by being shared.” – Buddha

 

While those who knew these men would agree that their time on earth was not nearly long enough, I think that they would also agree with me when I say that the impact that they had – the thousands of candles that they lit – will remain strong.

Dedicated to Fernando Garcia and Jim Tupper

April 25, 2014
by Lisa DeAngelis
0 comments

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

At this morning’s Cafecitos Breakfast, Jackie Palladino of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston opened her keynote address with this question. She then went on to share her response to this question, noting that, for her, “it is more about principles than positions.” Her list included things such as
• Taking on challenging assignments – stepping out of her comfort zone.
• Being part of intellectually stimulating teams – where ideas can be generated, shaped, executed and refined.
• Building strong relationships – where early warning signs of trouble are brought to her attention and where the people she needs to help fix an issue are already in her network.

During the networking after the event, many of the individuals I spoke with were pondering their response to this question. Some were focused clearly on organizations they wanted to work for, titles they aspired to hold, and the work they would be doing. While others were, like Jackie, thinking about how they wanted to feel about what they were doing and who they were working with. The lesson here is to be thinking about it, to be insightful and deliberate about the direction you want to be moving in. In this way, as opportunities arise, you are better able to make decisions as to whether these will propel you along this path, or create a detour. Detours aren’t necessarily bad, wonderful learning can come from them, and it’s always better when you choose to take the detour rather than suddenly find yourself there, don’t you think?

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