Many leaders in higher education and beyond need a quick reference guide on how to effectively handle a range of managerial situations. Janet A. Ford, CEO of Leadership with Purpose and Passion, LLC, provides advice on how to manage diverse employees in her new, 58-page book, I Need to Know Now! A Quick Reference Guide for People in Charge!.
“The book [is meant] to be a readily available tool to pick up, get the information needed quickly, and address issues occurring at the moment,” Ford says. “I realized that although there are numerous resources available on how to be an effective leader, those that I had seen, read, or heard about didn’t give enough practical information for the ‘right now’ situations that occur in the workplace.”
Using the breadth of knowledge she’s gained from 25 years as a management professional, Ford — who is also an adjunct professor in Northern Virginia Community College’s Workforce Development Program.— offers tips for better managing employees of all backgrounds.
“The book focuses on assisting leaders with bringing out the best in their employees and offers ideas and suggestions for handling day-to-day employee relationship issues, as well as how to create and maintain a positive work environment,” she says. “The key is that all employees want to feel valued, like they are part of the team, and that they contribute to the success of the organization.”
Furthermore, I Need to Know Now! gives readers insight into ways to maintain respect and trust between managers and employees. Specifically, Ford recommends actions such as assisting employees with completing tasks, controlling emotions when frustrated, establishing social boundaries, remaining unbiased in all situations, behaving in ways that instill a sense of security and confidence in both the employer’s and the employee’s abilities, and ensuring everyone is included in critical conversations.
Leaders who place an emphasis on inclusion — and demonstrate integrity and empathy in interactions with employees — can positively affect employee performance, Ford says, which in turn helps the company.
“A leader who demonstrates an appreciation for what their employees bring to the workplace unleashes a desire and willingness to do more in everyone around them,” she says. “… Excellent performance equals increased productivity, which results in satisfied customers and increased profits.”
In higher education in particular, Ford says that disconnected leaders can cost their institutions hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. Lack of awareness around how their actions or inaction affect employees, she says, can mean the difference between a positive climate and a “chilly” one. These environments leave employees, especially those from underrepresented groups, feeling isolated and undervalued.
“Inconsistencies in leadership behaviors inherently fail to provide for the needs of diverse employees,” Ford says, “and instead provide for rationale to blame employees for problems that have their roots in the university structure.”
Under such circumstances, she says employees often attribute leaders’ actions to individual characteristics as opposed to examining whether the university’s structure reinforces acts of exclusion, inequity, and intolerance by not holding leaders accountable. These workplace climates result in financial losses “in the form of turnover, time away from work, diminishing performance, and lawsuits,” Ford says.
Because higher education leaders’ success is directly tied to the success of their employees and students, Ford says they have a responsibility to lead positively and effectively in all areas and at all levels of their institutions.
“Administrators are the backbone of their institutions and hold the key to success or failure for others,” she says.
I Need to Know Now! A Quick Reference Guide for People in Charge! is available for purchase at amazon.com.●
Alexandra Vollman is the editor of INSIGHT Into Diversity.