The University Record, November 12, 1997

CFW launches series on leadership

By Mary Jo Frank
University Relations

Looking for new and better ways to help the University tap the potential of staff, the Commission for Women (CFW) is sponsoring a series of programs focusing on leadership.

In the first of several noon-time presentations scheduled this fall, J.A. Bardouille, program manager for the Plant Operations' Plant Academy, led a discussion Oct. 28 based on the video "Flight of the Buffalo: Soaring to Excellence, Learning to Let Employees Lead."

The video's premise is that corporations function better and more profitably when they change organizationally from a "buffalo" hierarchial style of leadership to the "V" formation used by geese, in which the birds take turns leading. To create a less top-down organizational structure, the successful leader needs to become a coach and delegate responsibility and decision-making to front-line employees who are most familiar with tasks at hand. Employees also need to have person-to-person contact with their customers so they can help customers solve problems and take pride and ownership in their work, according to James A. Belasco and Ralph C. Stayer, creators of the video and authors of a book with the same title.

About 50 staff members discussed in small groups how suggestions in "Flight of the Buffalo" could be applied in a university setting.

Karen S. Dickinson, Information Technology Division customer relationship manager and CFW co-chair, says the leadership theme grew out of involvement in total quality management programs.

"A lot of people have never felt empowered to lead. You can't just go from being an obedient follower to becoming an effective leader. Many of our staff are very capable. They run households. A lot of them have advanced degrees, but many are underpaid and underutilized," says Dickinson, who has worked at the University since she graduated from it in 1964.

CFW co-chair Elaine M. Sims, events and promotion coordinator for the U-M Hospitals' Gifts of Art program, says, "I firmly believe we have many untapped resources at the University. Many staff are never given an opportunity to exercise their leadership for the good of the institution. It is a terrible waste of potential."

The Michigan Agenda for Women, launched in 1994, raised the expectations of staff members regarding opportunities for women, according to Sims. "Women desire to play a larger role in their units and in the institution as a whole. Now we have to move to the next step," she says.

Sims notes that many women are long-time University employees and offer a number of benefits, including maturity, experience and expertise that younger employees might not have. "As you mature, you don't care so much about how you look or what people think. You do care that your time is running out and you want to make a contribution," says Sims, a U-M graduate who has worked here for 10 years.

CFW meetings are free and open to all. Upcoming programs in the brown-bag lunch series scheduled at noon in the Michigan Room, Michigan League:

 

Nov. 18, "Awakening The Leader Within." Presenters will be Robert Pasick, psychologist and author of Awakening from the Deep Sleep, Men in Therapy and What Every Man Needs to Know, and JoAnn Allen, professor emeritus of social work, continuing practitioner at the Ann Arbor Center for the Family, co-author of Family Therapy with the Elderly, Single Parent Families and contributing author to Men in Therapy. The forum will cover how individuals can focus on their personal resources to develop their leadership skills by developing communication skills and becoming pro-active in their careers.

 

Dec. 16, "7 Steps to Effective Leadership," presented by Demeter's Triangle Consulting.

For information about becoming involved in CFW, contact Sally S. Grace, the Human Resources/Affirmative Action Office liaison to the commission, at 764-5188, or send e-mail to ssgrace@umich.edu.