On July 26, 2010 the Chronicles of Higher Education recognized Westminster College as one of the best colleges in the nation to work for. This was the second consecutive year in which Westminster had been so honored. The link to the related press release is found at:
I received a call that same year from the college’s Advancement and Alumni Relations department. They wanted to become a stronger team and fortunately they reached out in my direction for coaching support. Future postings will document our work together noting both the high points and the low spots. For now let us set the stage by posting the departments “take” on what brought us together.
Lyn Christian and SoulSalt became involved in our college’s Advancement and Alumni Relations department in summer 2010, two years after we began implementing a Good to Great team building model. Throughout this blog, “team” refers to the entire department, while “group” refers to Hedgehog Committee members (named for the Good to Great term which identifies your group’s core mission as your hedgehog).
Our Hedgehog commitment came about in 2008 as we embarked on a $30 million fundraising effort for a new building. The first year, prior to our annual summer retreat, the department read an excerpt from Good to Great. At the retreat, the first group of “Hedgehogs” was formed of staff volunteers. They met frequently to consider the three circles of the hedgehog concept and define our team’s core values. Hedgehog members strategically left management out of the mix, instead choosing individuals from each area of the department. Honesty was paramount and nothing personal would leave the group without permission. As the group met throughout the year, it became increasingly obvious that communication in the department was a problem and needed to be addressed. As the first year drew to a close, Hedgehog accomplishments included interview guidelines for job applicants and a department mission statement.
In 2009, we focused on difficult conversations and improving intrapersonal communication. To kick off this effort, the entire department team read Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking when Stakes Are High prior to our annual summer retreat. At the retreat, the team decided to stop the practice of blind copying management on emails and formed a new Hedgehog group with members from each department. Some first-year members attended the first few meetings. The goal was to create a place where frank discussions could be held regarding problems in communicating with each other. Members felt that the first few meetings went well, but soon took on a negative feel, with some expressing unhappiness at the group’s progress. Others felt frustrated, saying that many issues were overstated. In the end, the group recognized that there were deeply rooted communication problems that needed to be solved before we could move forward as a team. The group decided to ask our vice president if we could bring in a consultant to help with communication issues. He agreed, and we engaged Lyn Christian and her company, SoulSalt.
Before our staff retreat in summer 2010, we all took the DISC assessment, a quadrant behavioral model, under the auspices of SoulSalt. Lyn came for part of the retreat to discuss our results. We were all very impressed with her and asked management if she could continue coaching us. It was decided that Lyn would coach a new group of Hedgehogs who would then coach other staff members. The focus for this group would be better communications. Since last summer, Lyn and the Hedgehog group have successfully implemented a coaching program and completed a survey. Results have given insight into the team’s views about trust, mutual respect, and individual strengths and weaknesses.