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Effective Communication and Team Work

I’m Stuart Hunt.
I’m the Key Associate of the Leadership Foundation
for Higher Education in the UK. Leadership is particularly
valued in higher education – more, I think probably,
than basic management skills. I sometimes wish that
people would concentrate more on some of the
basic management stuff and concentrate
on leadership stuff later in their career perhaps,
or in different way. Leadership to my mind though occurs
right across the organisation. It’s about helping people understand
individual and collective purpose, it’s about helping people understand
the necessary connections and political aspects
of organisational life, enabling people
to really make full use of their potential would be one
of the key things for me. Another key aspect of leadership
is to do with enabling collective endeavour, in addition to
encouraging the individual, coaching and developing
the individual to do their best. It’s to do with helping
groups come together and form really effective teams; to celebrate and indeed enjoy
the differences between us; to make full use of the creative
conflict that exists between people, the potential for developing
new ways of seeing the world through discussion, through debate,
through challenge, and through collaboration
and cooperation also. What makes a team rather than
just an aggregation of individuals who happen to be grouped together
for administrative purposes, is something around
that collective endeavour – we share an ambition
to do X or Y and we understand
that we need each other in order to make
progress in that area. That it’s not simply a matter
of me getting my head down, getting on with my work,
and then passing it on to somebody else who
could be relatively anonymous – a kind of academic production line. It doesn’t work like that for me. Certainly effective teamworking
doesn’t work like that. It’s to do with understanding
complementary skills, understanding the need
for mutual support, mutual accountability,
mutual responsibilities, where there’s care
and trust between people, where it is fine to disagree
with one another in an open forum for that
not to cause rancour or upset. Even if passion is run
quite high sometimes, as they certainly do
in academic communities, effective teamwork means
that those difficulties can be explored
in a very open way. And then people consider
the matter settled or… but there’s certainly
no hard feelings in the long term. If a leader is demonstrating
trust, and integrity, and openness,
honesty in communication, they approve themselves
to be trustworthy, that is likely to be seen
as the way we do business here. And that sets up the fundamental
prerequisites of effective teamworking if other people start
to emulate that behaviour. And there’s quite
a lot of evidence that people do emulate that behaviour.
Not slavishly, but if the person
is admired and respected it’s more likely that people would be moving
to that end of the spectrum rather than towards
the individualism, or unhealthy
competitive behaviours, or outline conflicts
and unhelpful disagreement. One of the big problems
of organisational communication that I’ve worked with
in the UK is that the most senior managers
are not trusted to share their
perception of reality. That we are being fed
a limited amount of information. I think clearly, senior
management are privileged to confidential information
on occasions, that’s a given. But what strikes me is that there’s undue concerns
sometimes with confidentiality and certain information
being seen as private, or being seen
somewhere as privileged. Wherever information
can be shared – there’s no legal or financial reason
why it shouldn’t be shared, there’s no genuine confidentiality –
then it should be shared. Or at least it should be available. I’m also a great believer
in looking at a whole variety of different ways of sharing
and communicating ideas and also in finding
the whole variety of routes by which the organisation
enables feedback. So the communications is seen
as the continuing series of loops between all the
different groups, invested interests
and different parties within a large organisation
such as university. I think generally in the sector
we underinvest in communications. So I think it’s something that
we should invest a lot of time in, that we should
plan it more carefully, we should be much more varied in
the ways we seek to communicate. And that we see communication
as a multidirectional process, that the organisation
is able to talk to itself in all kinds
of different directions, both up, down,
across, diagonally. And that the job of the leaders
and managers in the organisation is to facilitate
that process far more than they invest in it
at moment. One of the big shifts
I would like to see for leaders in higher education is that they move away
from task management. I would like them
to see that delegated much further down the line
than it is sometimes. And that they concentrate
much more on structures and culture of the organisation and a large part of that
is comprised of how well it communicates and
the ways in which it communicates within and across the organisation, and indeed outside the organisation
to other interested parties. The best way to invest
in people’s leadership is for existing leaders
within the organisation to understand that
alongside communication and a number of other
key elements of their role is to really pay attention
to the people that they are responsible for. To give them their time,
to give them opportunities, to take risks in relation to
those people’s development and to see the long-term
rather than to be focused on the immediate short-term tasks
that need to be completed. So if the leaders are concerned
with developing leadership, then others around them
will understand that leadership is something that’s held
in high value, in high regard, and they will move
towards developing their skills in those areas.

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