Leading and Managing in the ACU Context Conference

Published: Tuesday 20th September 2016

Close up of hand holding

Last month over a hundred staff attended the Leading and Managing in the ACU Context Conference to reflect on the impact of communication in their roles.

The third annual conference was held at North Sydney and Brisbane and focused on the theme of "communicating with purpose", prompting discussion on how to foster staff engagement with ACU’s strategic goals as well as the Mission, Vision and Values.

Dr Stephen Weller, Chief Operating Officer, opened the North Sydney session with a preview of the University’s new Capability Development Framework (CDF), which describes the competencies needed across all roles at ACU.

“One of the essential capabilities described in the CDF calls upon staff to communicate with impact and this is the theme that we will explore today.” Dr Weller said.

“Each of you has a distinctive opportunity to impact on the people who report to you, and that’s what leadership is. I encourage you to think of yourself as the ‘Communicator-in-Chief’ of your area.  As communicators and as leaders, you’re aiming to gain the support of others for actions that benefit ACU and being able to negotiate for mutually beneficial outcomes is an important part of that.”

Dr Weller said the launch of the CDF creates a framework that encourages the style of leadership that is desired for ACU, a style that reflects collaboration and engagement at all levels.

“I encourage you to contemplate on a model of ‘Shared Leadership’. This is a model which values a collaborative style that gains staff buy-in, rather than a directive style that relies upon authority,” he said.

“Place trust in the expertise of the people you are leading.  Provide resources that foster collaboration.  This is not just about money, it’s about time, and often the greatest resource you can give is permission for people to enact their plans.”

Dr Weller said it was important for managers with staff in varying geographic locations to make time for ‘management by walking around’ when they visit other campuses.

“Schedule in unstructured time to just walk around and bump into people and to talk with your staff,” he said.

Dr Peter Langford, Director of Voice Project, presented a review of results of ACU’s last myVoice staff survey, which highlighted the significant influence that supervisors have on the work environment and on performance.

He encouraged supervisors to continuously reinforce messages with their staff and to avoid delivering one-off communications, whilst remembering that they compete with hundreds of other messages each day.

“It’s important to make some of your communications unstructured, informal and real. These tend to invite more two-way communication with staff rather than one-way. Know your staff and take the time to personally acknowledge major events in their lives,” Dr Langford said.

Professor Greg Craven, Vice-Chancellor and President of ACU, then passed on some wisdom about clear communication which he had learned from his father, who worked as a sports journalist.  He urged communicators to know their audience and not to assume the audience has the same level of technical knowledge as yourself.

“My father’s advice was ‘you should pitch your communication at the level of an intelligent 14-year-old’. I’ve never forgotten that statement and I’ve never found it to be untrue.” Professor Craven said.

Professor Craven shared that he is in the habit of jotting down a written plan before crafting a communication or making a speech. This plan notes the major points to be covered and helps to ensure the communication follows a clear structure.

“Also avoid using jargon - make use of examples, analogies and similes, especially in informal oral communications,” he said.

Professor Craven agreed informal communication was important and added “politeness never hurts.”  He also advocated the importance of being frank when giving feedback to staff. "If there is something that is truthful, which gives the person a better understanding about a matter, then you should say it,” he said.

Professor Anne Cummins, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Students, Learning and Teaching, spoke on leading for Mission, Vision and Values. She said it is important for managers to reflect on these and how they can model aligned behaviours.

“It’s important to know how we anchor to these, so that we can encounter work in a way that helps us to renew ourselves, rather than as something that depletes us,” Professor Cummins said.

“As managers we also need to be fairly intolerant of habitual cynicism and to call it out when we see it.  It’s also important that we try to understand why someone might be cynical and work to address that with them.”

She said managers need to know their team, acknowledge their work efforts and give regular feedback that helps their staff to grow and excel; including feedback during annual performance reviews.

It's your job to make them wonderful," she said.

Workshops for managers

Managers can pick up practical tips on fostering good communication and collaboration among their staff by registering for upcoming training workshops.

  • Introduction to DISC: Profiling for Team Communication
    Video Conference 10 October 2016.
    The DISC Profile is the most widely used behavioural model in the world. Effective and productive teams need a mixture of different behavioural types, each person being in a position to make a real contribution given their unique strengths, knowledge, skills and experience.  Learn how to use DISC to better understand and communicate with your team members.
  • Communicating Effectively
    Ballarat, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, North Sydney, Strathfield. 11 to 31 October 2016.
    In our daily lives, billions of messages are sent in various forms, but not all of them get through. Of those that do, many are filtered, scanned or misunderstood, which is why communication breakdowns are so common in the workplace.  Learn practical communication techniques that will help you to get the outcomes you need at work.

The Capability Development Framework and You

All staff and supervisors should register to attend one of the upcoming Capability Development Framework information sessions being held between September and November. Register for a session on your campus.