Month: October 2011

Managerial skills

In 1955 Prof. Robert Katz developed the three managerial skill model.

According to Katz, there are three managerial skills that every manager needs.
These are:

  1. Technical Skills –  the ability to perform the given job. The lower-level managers require more technical skills.
  2. Human Relations (Interpersonal) Skills – the ability to understand, communicate  and work with people. Human relations skills are required by all managers at all levels of management. The reason for that is all managers have to interact and work with people.
  3. Conceptual Skills – the ability to see the big picture, to visualise the organisation as a whole. It includes analytical, creative, problem-solving skills. The top-level managers require more conceptual skills and less technical skills.

Managers working at different levels of management require different levels of skills. The level of importance of each skill set is directly correlated with the management level that the person has in the organization. As managers moves up in the organization, they need more conceptual skills and less technical skills.

Related posts:

  1. Situational leadership styles
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Situational leadership styles

Marilyn J. Corrigan, Leadership and Communications Consultant from Eden Prairie, Minnesota, was one of the two presenters at my Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI) training on Friday, Oct. 14, 2011.

In her 4 1/2 hour presentation titled “Dynamic Leadership,” Corrigan covered a lot of topics including characteristics of effective leadership, difference between effectiveness and success, good to great leadership (5 levels of leadership), managerial skills, situational leadership styles, DASR feedback methods, motivational theories, and effective listening skills.

Below and in the next few posts, I will share more details about some of these topics. I will start with  situational leadership styles.

The situational leadership model was developed by Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard in
1969. In 1985 Blanchard refined the model and it was named The Situational Leadership II (SLII) model. It is one of the most well known models in leadership theory.

The Situational Leadership Model has two components – the Leadership Style and Development Level.

According to the situational leadership model, there is no one best leadership style. Effective leaders are the ones who are able to adapt their leadership style according to the situation – match the appropriate leadership style to the individual’s or group’s development level.

Leadership Style

Leadership style is explained in two different kinds of behavior: Supportive behavior and Directive Behavior.

  1. Supportive Behavior – This people-oriented behavior involves two way communication and focuses mainly on emotional and social support.
  2. Directive Behavior – This task-oriented behavior focuses on goals to be achieved and actions to be taken.

The leadership styles can be classified in four groups:

  1. Directing style/S1 – High directive, low supportive.
  2. Coaching style/S2 – High directive, high supportive.
  3. Supporting style/S3 – Low directive, high supportive.
  4. Delegating (Empowering) style/S4 – Low directive, low supportive.

Development Level

Development level refers to the follower’s degree of competence and commitment. The four levels describe several combinations on competence and commitment.

  1. D1 – Low competence, high commitment (don’t know what they don’t know).  Start with Directing Style (high directive, low supportive)
  2. D2 – Some competence, shaky commitment (overwhelmed by what they don’t know). Go to Coaching Style (High directive, high supportive)
  3. D3 – Moderate competence, moderate commitment (knowledgeable but not too motivated). Move to Supporting Style (low directive, high supportive)
  4. D4 – High competence, high commitment ((knowledgeable and motivated). Move to Delegating Style (low directive, low supportive).

Effective leadership lies in matching the appropriate leadership style to the development level. Otherwise there will be problems and conflicts.

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Becoming Extraordinary Leaders

“Becoming Extraordinary Leaders” was the title of the presentation by Jack Zenger at my Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI) training on Friday, Oct. 14, 2011.

The presentation was based on his research and book The Extraordinary Leader : Turning Good Managers into Great Leaders.

Using “The Leadership Tent” as the conceptual framework, Zenger talked about the following five elements of a great leader:

1. Character – The center pole represents the personal character of an individual. It is the core of all leadership effectiveness. A great leader must display integrity and honesty.

2. Personal Capability- This tent pole describes the intellectual, emotional, and skill makeup of the individual. It includes technical and professional expertise, analytical and problem-solving capabilities, ability to create a clear vision and sense of purpose for the organization, and self-development.

3. Focus on Results – This tent pole describes the ability to have an impact on the organization. It means being capable of getting things done, taking initiatives and driving for results.

4. Interpersonal Skills – This tent pole includes all the interpersonal and people skills, such as communicating, inspiring and motivating others to high performance, building relationships, developing others, collaboration and teamwork.

 5. Leading Change – This final tent  pole focuses on an individual’s ability to produce change within an  organization.

Zenger also talked about 10 fatal flaws that consistently lead to leadership failure:

  1. Not inspiring due to a lack of energy and enthusiasm
  2. Accepting mediocre performance in place of excellent results
  3. Lack of clear vision and direction
  4. Loss of trust stemming from perceived bad judgment and poor decisions
  5. Not a collaborative team player
  6. Not a good role model (failure to walk the talk)
  7. No self-development and learning from mistakes
  8. Lacking interpersonal skills
  9. Resistant to new ideas, thus did not lead change or innovate
  10. Focus is on self, not the development of others
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Showing my pastor appreciation

October is Pastor Appreciation Month. Have you done something special for your pastor to express your love and appreciation?

Last Sunday at Spirit of Life Bible Church, my pastor Frank Sanders and his wife Kathy was showered with hugs and cards by the congregation. As the couple stood by the alter, families lined up on both sides. One by one, they went to the alter and expressed their love and appreciation to the Pastor couple. It was very moving to see the impact  Pastor Frank and his wife have on the church and its people.

I gave my pastor and his wife a handwritten thank-you note along with a gift card. I also praised my pastor publicly on  Faith Radio and entered him into the Clergy Appreciation Month drawing.

Today I learned from a church member that I won two books because I entered my pastor into the pastor appreciation drawing. She heard the news on the radio this morning. So that’s cool. I hope he will like these two books.

October is almost over. But there is still time to do something for your pastor. And you don’t have to do it in October. You can show appreciation any time, any day and any month.

Everyone likes to be appreciated. Pastors, who are often overworked and underpaid, deserve more appreciation and encouragement than anyone.

My doctor visit and recommendations

This week I had a doctor visit at the HealthPartner Clinic for the annual physical exam. And I learned something new.

At the check-in, I was given a brochure by the receptionist. I didn’t pay attention to it because I found some more interesting materials to read in the waiting room.

After I was called in by the nurse and after she was finished with the initial exam, I was left alone in the room to change and to wait for my doctor.

It was a long wait. I had finished reading the whole magazine and the doctor still didn’t show up. Not knowing what’s going on, I got inpatient.

Dressed in my hospital gown, I opened the door, stuck my head out and asked the nurse standing in the hallway where the doctor was.

A few minutes later, my doctor finally came. She apologized for the delay because she had to do something for the other patient. That’s OK with me as long as I was told what’s going on.

The doctor did a few manual exams here and there on my body. She asked if I had any concerns. I did.

I have had shoulder, neck and back pain on and off. They come and go. So I asked the doctor about it. She advised me to take Ibuprofen whenever I have the pain. I said I was not interested in the pain medication. I was not concerned about the pain, but I was concerned about the cause of the pain. I didn’t want to take pain medication to not feel the pain. Pain medication doesn’t solve the problem for me, it only covers it up. Then my doctor said I should do physical therapy. She didn’t say anything about what I could do to prevent shoulder, neck and back pain.

I also asked the doctor about any effective treatment for nail fungus that doesn’t have any side effects like the oral medication has. She mentioned laser treatment. Then she left the room to let me change.

After I finished changing and while I was waiting for the doctor to come up, I picked up the brochure to read because I had nothing else to do. I was glad I did.

The brochure was about preventive care visits and billing. It says when patients come in for the annual preventive care visit, if they also discuss with their physician a medical issue unrelated to their annual exam and the physician spends extra time to talk about and assess other concerns, it is considered as two distinct services in one visit and as the result the physician will bill twice, one for the routine preventive care visit and one for the illness related office visit. The process is known as split billing. In this situation, the patient is responsible for paying a copay and/or deductible related to the “non-preventive” portion of the visit.

Immediately, this raised a red flag in my mind. Because I did ask my doctor about two concerns unrelated to the preventive care, I could be billed for it and have to pay copay and deductible.

When my doctor came back, I asked her about the billing. She hesitated a little bit and said she won’t do split billing because she didn’t spend a lot of extra time.

I wondered whether the result would be different if I had not asked her about the billing and if I had not waited for her for a long time. The time I spent waiting for her was a lot longer than the time she spent with me for the visit.

So here is the new thing I learned.

During the annual physical visit, when the doctor asks what concerns I have. I am supposed to keep my mouth shut and not discuss any concerns I might have.

My question is, why do physicians ask patients about their concerns? They should stop asking: “Do you have any concerns?” It feels like a set up now.

I have been thinking about changing my doctor since this last doctor visit. I wanted to find someone who

  • doesn’t rush in and out the room,
  • is interested in dealing with the causes of any issues I have than just prescribing medications to deal with the symptoms,
  • is more knowledgeable about alternative medicine,
  • does a better job caring for the patients.

Today I paid a visit to Weili Shen’s Acupuncture Woodbury. I had always wanted to try acupuncture, but never did before.

My first acupuncture visit was great. I will definitely go back and intend to continue in the years to come.

I believe acupuncture will do a better job in preventing and healing a lot of medical concerns. Even if you don’t have any concerns, acupuncture can still be good for your overall health and well-being. Any it doesn’t have any side effects.

BTW, if anyone has a recommendation for any good family doctor in Woodbury, please let me know.

If anyone needs a recommendation for an acupuncturist or orthodontist, I would recommend the following:

Weili Shen – Acupuncture Woodbury

She started practice in Woodbury only four years ago, but has already gained loyalty of  patients some of whom have to pay out of their own pockets to visit her.

Read a related article about her and acupuncture.

Dr. Robert E. Eng – Mendota Heights Orthodontics

He is my son’s orthodontist with offices in Mendota Heights and St. Paul. He has the honesty, integrity and trustworthiness that I often don’t feel in other doctors.

Last week I visited Dr. Eng with my son who the dentist said needed braces. After the visual exam, Dr. Eng told me, my son could benefit from braces, but he doesn’t necessarily have to have braces. It was up to me to decide. I like him for putting patient’s interest first instead of his own interest.

I mentioned Dr. Eng in a previous article.

14 traits of a great place to work

In the article “Discover the secrets of becoming a great place to work” by Patti Lee-Hoffmann (Leader To Leader Journal, No.61, Summer 2011), the author talked about 14 traits of a great place to work.

The 14 traits are:

  1. Artwork, Music, and Performance - Great companies encourage employees to express themselves in a variety of ways, including through art, music, and performance.
  2. Everyone a Leader – Great companies build leadership from within the organization—from top to bottom, as well as across departmental boundaries.
  3. Firing Customers and Clients - Great companies are not afraid to fire a customer when ethical, financial, legal, or other considerations require it.
  4. Company and Community Are One – Many great companies have become an integral part of the communities in which they are located. They contribute to their communities in many ways—far beyond just providing jobs and paychecks.
  5. Company-Wide Meetings – While most companies have meetings, a much smaller number have company-wide meetings that involve everyone in the organization at the same time or place—either in person or virtually by computer link for building communication, relationships, knowledge, and trust.
  6. Focusing on the Environment and Sustainability - Great companies have a focus on sustainability and the environment.
  7. Constantly Challenging the Status Quo – Great companies focus on continuous improvement that results in reduced waste, improved product quality, reduced rework time, faster response times, lowered costs, and the development of more innovative products and services.
  8. Egoless Leadership – Leaders of great companies remember that they do not work alone—it takes the active support and engagement of employees at all levels of an organization to create a business that is built to last.
  9. Future Focus – The leaders of great companies keep an eye on the future. They are constantly exploring new product and service offerings and new ways of doing business.
  10. A Truth-Telling Culture – Great companies practice management honesty and transparency—treating their employees as partners instead of hired help.
  11. Ignoring the Conventional Wisdom -Great companies lead their industries instead of following them—they break new ground and take risks that more conservative organizations are unwilling to chance.
  12. Employees First - Great companies put employees first. In doing so, they build employee engagement and loyalty.
  13. Storytelling – Great companies do a great job of telling employees, customers, shareholders, and other stakeholders about the good work they’re doing, and the positive impact they are having on their communities and the world around them.
  14. Action, Not Talk – Becoming great requires not just talk, but action—a lot of action.
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The 7 E’s of mentor leadership

I am currently reading Tony Dungy’s latest book The MentorLeader: Secrets to Building People and Teams That Win Consistently, co-authored with Nathan Whitaker.

I am not a fan of any sport. I only knew Tony Dungy from the interviews I heard on radios over the years.  He wrote three books. This is the first book I read by him.

Among the leadership books I have read, this book is one of my favorites. I like the writing style, the contents, and the approach to the subject.

Here I am sharing a very small part from the book on the 7 E’s of mentor leadership.

“I cannot move the ball forward with positive, nurturing leadership until I engage with those I am blessed to lead. Once I’ve engaged with them, I am able to educate and equip. Throughout the process, it is essential to encourage, empower, and energize in order to finally elevate the people around me.”

Engage – It’s impossible to mentor from a distance. Without engagement, you cannot lead effectively. A true open-door policy is a matter of attitude and approachability, not just whether the office door is propped open.

Educate – Education is an essential building block of mentor leadership. Because mentor leadership is all about helping others become the best they can be, it is built on a foundation of teaching, helping, and guiding. Mentor leaders must take a hands-on, one-on-one approach to mentoring individual lives.

Equip -Mentor leaders create an environment in which others can be productive and excel. They provide the tools and equipment needed for everyone to be successful in their assignment and to ultimately accomplish their mission. In essence, they strive to furnish what is needed for the task – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – and to accomplish the mission. Educating and equipping go hand in hand. 

Encourage – Encouragement is the fuel that powers our efforts to engage, educate, and equip.Mentor leaders care, lift others up and encourage. People need affirmation and encouragement. 

Empower – True empowerment is preparation followed by appropriate freedom. At some point, a mentor leader must turn others loose to do their jobs. 

Energize – Great leaders energize, motivate and inspire those they lead. They do this intentionally. 

Elevate – The ultimate goal of every mentor leader is to build and grow other leaders for long-term, sustainable success. The regenerative idea that leaders produce leaders, who in turn produce leaders – is a powerful concept for mentor leaders and their organizations. At the heart of this regeneration is the principle of elevation – raising people up. Raising up leaders is the truly selfless goal of every mentor leader, the culmination of focusing on others. To elevate your followers means to help them reach their God-given potential, even if it means preparing them to replace you. As a mentor leader, the success of the people you’ve elevated is what you like to see. You want the organization to continue to thrive after you are gone, to be in better shape when you leave than when you got there. It’s not about getting the credit; it’s about helping the organization, and everyone in it, be the best they can be. An organization that remains totally dependent on a particular personality is one that has not been properly led. 

These 7 E’s describe a progression of steps that will help you mentor others while you lead them to reach their potential. They are the methods of a mentor leader for maximizing the potential of any individual and organization for ultimate success and significance.

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Leadership and ethics

Leadership and ethics are the main topics on Day 3 of my Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI) training on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011.

Carolyn Trevis, Assistant State Negotiator with Minnesota Management and Budget talked about the Code of Ethics for Employees in the Executive Branch.

Dr. David Schultz, a Professor at Hamline Unversity and an expert in government, nonprofit, and business ethics, led the discussion on ethics and values, the relationship between personal and workplace ethics, the differences in ethics across sectors – private, non-profit, public sectors and in personal life.

When I had the interview with Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens on Monday, we touched upon this topic of ethics. I was surprised to hear that not only the Mayor doesn’t make a living wage, but she also has to pay for all expenses herself when she attends community events – buy her own event tickets and pay for her own transportation. Being a Mayor is like a full time job, but there is hardly any financial reward.

I knew there is a high ethical standard for the government officials and employees in the United States, but I didn’t realize it is so strict.

There is a popular (ironic) saying in China that the best place to be a government official is China. Being government officials and employees bring enormous financial rewards, directly through salary and benefits, but mostly indirectly through gifts and bribery.  The higher the position, the more power and rewards you enjoy.

If I tell average citizens in China what government officials and employees in the US can and can’t do, they would laugh and would not believe me. It’s unheard for them in China. Ethics as we know here hardly exist in real life in China.

When it comes to ethics in the public sector, the US and China are at the opposite end of the spectrum.

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Woodbury photo contest winners awarded

The winning photo with my daughter in the front yard of our house.
Accepting the certificate from Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens. Thanks Kris Janisch from Woodbury Patch for the photo.

Yesterday evening I went to the Woodbury City Council meeting to receive the award for my photo “The Wonder of Autumn Leaves” that won honorable mention in the People category in the 13th annual Focus on Woodbury photo contest, sponsored by Woodbury Magazine.

First, second and third place winners in five categories, 8 honorable mentions and readers choice were awarded. The Readers’ Choice winner was selected by online voters.

Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens and Debbie Musser, editor of Woodbury Magazine, awarded the prizes at the beginning of the City Council meeting.

I would like to thank Woodbury Magazine for sponsoring the event and making it an easy process, and thanks also to City of Woodbury for their support.

The 2011 Focus on Woodbury Photo Contest Results are posted on Woodbury :

Reader’s Choice: Mother Fox and Kissing Cub by Beth A. Kuehlwein (61 votes)

Landmarks: 1. Woodbury Heritage House by Michael Dupont; 2. Country Sunset by the Oehlke Barn by Colleen Davis

Activities: 1. Little League Slide by Dianne Towalski; 2. Cricket-winning Moment by Nancy Pretty Sargunam; 3. Pitcher Perfect by Shannon Rode

Pets: 1. Explorations! by Janet Hartje; 2. Koi by Steven Shor; 3. Puppy BFF by Jessica Lloyd; Honorable Mention 1. Fascinating Red by Ilya Kravchik

People: 1. Watch Out by Sandra Stephens; 2. A Girl and a Flower by Cala Iverson; 3. Puppy Kisses by Kathy Weigelt; Honorable Mention 1. The Wonder of Autumn Leaves by Qin Tang; Honorable Mention 2. Brotherly Love by Amy Curnow; Honorable Mention 3. A Rainy Day by Cala Iverson

Nature: 1. Daybreak by Ben Ricker; 2. April Snow at the Wood Duck House by Tom Ziegler; 3. Ojibway Park Chorus Frog by Megan Jones; Honorable Mention 1. Coming in for a Landing by Nancy Ribeiro Miller; Honorable Mention 2. Purple People Pleasers by Shannon Rode; Honorable Mention 3. Reflections by Alison Schneider; Honorable Mention 4. Beetle Mania by Ron Long

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Leadership interview – Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens

This is the second in a series of interviews I am doing with established and respected leaders on the topic of leadership as part of my Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI) assignments.

Today I had the great pleasure of meeting with Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens who became the new mayor of Woodbury on January 12, 2011 — the 1st woman and the 5th in the city’s history.

Being a resident of Woodbury for over 10 years and being a loyal reader of the local newspaper, Woodbury Bulletin, for the same amount of time, I am familiar with the names of people who are active in the community – from city and county governments, school district and non-profit organizations to local businesses. I knew Mayor Stephens from a distance, through newspapers, but had never met her in person. So I was glad to have a chance to meet and chat with her in Central Park this morning.

Stephens is a lawyer by trade. She wanted to be a lawyer when she was in high school. But in her heart, she is also a volunteer, a community leader and a public servant.

Stephens’ leadership role started when she was at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul. She was involved in the Student bar Association.

During her 26 years of living in Woodbury, Stephens has been very active in serving the community through various organizations – Woodbury Jaycees, Woodbury Athletic Association, Woodbury Soccer Board, New Life Educational Foundation, Woodbury Prayer Breakfast, Woodbury City Council, Woodbury Community Foundation, etc.

Stephens’ life experience is a testimony of a servant leader.

When I asked her what the most critical attributes are to successful leadership, I was not surprised by her response: “Servant, humility and empowerment. Many leaders are driven and task-oriented. But relationships and being people-oriented are more important to successful leadership.”

I asked Mayor Stephens whom she admires as a leader, and why, she said her father and her husband.

“My father is an cardiologist and my husband is a lawyer. They both have successful careers and competency. But more importantly, they have characters and high integrity. They are trustworthy, authentic and likable. They act the way they are inside. They communicate well. They always want to do better, be better and learn more. They know how to set the priorities right – faith, family and work – and have a balance in life. My husband likes to read, write and teach about leadership skills. He is writing books on leadership.”

Stephens agreed with my comment wholeheartedly when I told her: “You are so blessed in every aspect of your life.”

“Yes, I feel very blessed and thank God every day. I have a very loving and supportive husband. He is behind me in everything I do – resigning from my partnership to spend more time with our children, running for the Woodbury City Council and Mayor. He provides the financial means for me to do what I love to do. I have two wonderful children. Now I have a grandchild and another one on the way. I love the job as the Mayor and serving the community. I am truly blessed.”

The Stephens worship at the Eagle Brook Church which just opened a Woodbury Campus at East Ridge High School last month.

“What are the hardest part of becoming a leader?” I asked her.

“Making and acknowledging mistakes. Being accountable for what you do. I know I don’t know everything and I am not good at everything. But I am surrounded by smart people. I make sure that I am open to other people’s opinion and learn from them.”

A word of wisdom from Mayor Stephens:

“Don’t let the low points in life frustrate you and discourage you from trying again. Don’t let the high points cause you to rest on your laurels and stop you from reaching higher.”

As I left our meeting, I couldn’t help but thinking that if everyone could set priorities right in life, his or her life would be really blessed, just as Mayor Stephens and her family have experienced in their lives.

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Leadership interview – Commissioner Spencer Cronk, part 2

For part 1 of the interview, check the previous post here.

February 8, 2011, the newly elected Governor Dayton appointed Spencer Cronk as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Administration. So Cronk is on the job as the Admin Commissioner for less than 8 months when we met for the interview on Monday, Oct. 3.

I was interested in getting to know some leaders in the state and local governments and learning some leadership lessons from them.

I did prepare in advance a list of questions I wanted to ask Commissioner Cronk. But we ended up having a very casual and free flowing conversation. Our conversation on leadership was mostly centered around the topic of what leaders do to connect with and engage their employees in their organizations.

I shared what Commissioner Tom Sorel has been doing at MnDOT in the last 3 years to engage and empower employees, based on my observations and experiences. Then as I was listening to Commissioner Cronk talking about what he had done or is doing at Admin, it became clear to me that he had already made some positive impact within his organization in the 8 months he has been on the job.

We came to the conclusion that to connect with and engage employees, the key ingredients to success are visibility, communication, participation and appreciation. A great leader is someone who is visible and approachable, who communicates effectively and keeps communication open, encourages participation and shows appreciation.

Let me share some examples Commissioner Cronk did to illustrate the points.

As a state agency, Admin provides a broad range of business management, administrative and  professional services and a variety of resources to other state agencies, local governments and to the public. Among its responsibilities, the department maintains 22 state-owned buildings, including the State Capitol. Admin has about 500 employees.  Some janitors work the night shift. Commissioner Cronk made the effort to visit those employees who worked the night shift in other buildings. He was surprised by the feedback he received doing little things like this.

Once a month, Cronk offers the opportunity of having “Coffee with Commissioner” to employees who have birthdays on that month. That’s a great opportunity for him to have some face-to-face time with employees and hear their concerns and feedback. Employees have a chance to meet, talk and connect with their Commissioner. They feel heard and appreciated. It’s a win win for both sides.

Cronk sends out emails to keep employees updated regularly. Employees really appreciate his open and regular communication. It builds transparency and trust.

In the process of revising the mission statement, he sought employees’ input and involvement. Through participating in the process, employees feel valued and engaged. They are more likely to be committed to their work and working harder.

Commissioner Cronk’s leadership philosophy is servant leadership. He sees his job and his agency’s job as being a servant to others.

Our meeting time was up before we could get into the questions I prepared. Commissioner Cronk graciously agreed to get back to me with the Q&A. So more to come…

Leadership interview – Commissioner Spencer Cronk, part 1

This is the first in a series of interviews I will be doing with established and respected leaders on the topic of leadership as part of my Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI) assignments.

Today I had the great pleasure of meeting with Minnesota Dept. of Administration Commissioner Spencer Cronk.

I first met Commissioner Cronk at the ELI opening ceremony at the Minnesota State Capitol on Sept. 15. He was one of the invited guest speakers. He appeared to me as both an emerging leader (judging from his youthful look) and an established leader (from his experiences and positions). I was impressed and intrigued. I wanted to know where he comes from and how he got where he is now. He is the first one I asked for an interview. I was glad he accepted my request. We met today in his office.

When I walked into his office, the first thing I noticed was how organized, tidy and uncluttered everything looked. I had never seen anyone’s office so nice and clean. When I made the comment and compliment about it, Commissioner Cronk jokingly said since he is only 8 months on the job, it is easier to keep things uncluttered. He challenged me to visit him again in a year to reevaluate the situation.

He did agree with my comment. He said he likes to keep everything organized and clean from clutter. He cleans up his email inbox and his desk every day before he leaves work.

What a nice trait to have as a person and especially as a leader! Being organized is the first step to being efficient. I know Commissioner Cronk is big on finding efficiencies in large organizations, creating a leaner, more cost-effective government that can do more with less, and developing more efficient processes that deliver better results for the public.

In today’s economy, citizens are living with less. The government should do the same.

I asked Commissioner Cronk about his background and life experiences. What he shared was very interesting.

Cronk grew up in Hopkins, Minnesota and went to Hopkins High School. His mother is from Jordan, Minnesota, and his father is from Minneapolis, Minnesota. So he is deeply rooted in Minnesota.

He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Bachelor’s degree in rural sociology with honors in 2002. In 2000, he spent his junior year studying and researching in Kenya, Africa. It was an eye-opening and life-changing experience for him. The experience in Africa taught him to look at the life and the world from a broader perspective. He also learned to appreciate more of what we have in life in the US.

After graduation, Cronk worked in Oakland, California for the National Community Development Institute. He was a Public Affairs Fellow with the Coro New York Leadership Center. While serving as Executive Director of Organizational Development and Senior Advisor for the Department of Small Business Services for the City of New York under Mayor Bloomberg’s Administration, Cronk also completed the Harvard University’s Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program.

After Cronk left his job with the City of New York in 2009, he spent a couple of months in Argentina traveling.

In July 2010, Cronk came back to Minnesota, to his roots. He felt he could make a bigger impact in his home state.

Cronk supported Mark Dayton in his campaign for governor. He believed in Dayton as a better leader for the state.

When Dayton won the election, he appointed Cronk to be the Admin Commissioner. Cronk brought fresh ideas and new energy into Dayton’s new administration.

Talents  and timing, preparation and opportunity all worked together in Cronk’s favor.

In a future post, I will share some of my questions and answers from Commissioner Cronk on leadership.

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Limit school lunch spending and waste

I once talked about school lunch, food waste in schools and limiting my kids’
spending on their school lunch in the article titled “More
healthy lunch, less messy lunchroom
.”

My kids knew they should not buy extras including desserts and soft drinks at
school. If they do that, I will simply put a limit on their account so they
can’t spend more than the amount for their regular lunch.

Yesterday I found out that my daughter has “forgotten” the rule. Since she
has just transitioned from elementary school to middle school, there was no
limit set on her account to prevent her from breaking the rule. She purchased
soft drinks and cookies several times in the last couple of weeks, because some
of her friends did that too.

When I called and talked to the cashier at school to set a limit on my
daughter’s lunch account, she said: “Good for you.”

I don’t like wasting food. I found the wasteful behavior in the school
lunchrooms terrible. Some kids don’t finish their lunch and throw a lot away.
They buy more what they like and throw away the stuff (mostly veggies and fruit)
they don’t like.

I know if I allow my kids unlimitd spending, they will buy more junk food and
waste more healthier food.

I don’t tolerate my kids’ wasteful behavior. At home, I make sure that they
eat everything they have on their plates. But I can’t control what they do at
school. However, through setting a spending limit on their account, I can
control their spending and thus preventing them from buying unhealthy food.

It’s important for me to teach my kids to be resourceful with our food and
money, and to be mindful with our environment. I want to do what I can to help
them build healthy eating habits and to keep the lunchroom from becoming a waste
site.