Endorsements

After our orientation meeting, Steve dove right into the task, and along the way, became an ardent supporter and coach for Blue Ocean Society. Once the board determined that developing our board was critical to ensuring our capacity to perform our mission, Steve facilitated our creation of a board member role and responsibilities document. In less than a year, we recruited 3 new board members who have brought tremendous strength to the organization. I am now proud to talk about our board and able to better articulate the organization's accomplishments. Steve is wonderful to work with - positive, accessible, and skillful at providing ideas and advice. His many years of experience in the non-profit sector make him an ideal consultant and I'm so glad we worked with him.
Jen Kennedy, Executive Director, Blue Ocean Society

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Reflections on a Month in Vietnam

I have been back in lovely Lynnfield, Massachusetts, USA since August 24. Eleven days to acclimate and reflect.

The opportunity to travel to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and teach classes in the MS Leadership program for Northeastern University was a terrific experience for me. The first class on Leading Teams began online June 30. This gave me an opportunity to get to know the students through the Blackboard platform. To exchange ideas. To learn a bit about their lives and what drew them to this program.

Week 5 of the Teams class got underway in HCMC the week of July 28. The warmth and friendliness of the students at first meeting was very much appreciated. I got to know a bit more about them and their lives beyond what they posted in Introductions on Blackboard. Two of the women in the class own their own successful businesses. Three students work at International University, the partner institution in downtown HCMC. One student is a gas and oil trader. The youngest in the class is a recent grad straight out of undergraduate school. One is assistant to the President of another local university. Another organizes student activities at another university.

What this group has in common is a desire to carve out their niche in a highly competitive world of work in Vietnam. There are many MBA programs. But this MS Leadership program is quite different from the rest. It helps students examine styles of leading. What makes teams tick and how best to develop this form of work; in many instances, a project management tool that draws people from across departments in the workplace to get a special job done.

The Teams class wrapped up August 9. And the Building a Leadership Development program got underway August 10. We were fortunate to have Mr Lai Minh Duy, General Director of TST Tourist, Vietnam and Mr Bruce Newton, Senior Director, HR for eSilicon a US corporation with offices in Vietnam. Both gentlemen discussed how they developed as leaders in their companies, how they worked through impediments, and what makes some people successful. The following week we had Jeff McLean, General Manager of UPS operations in Vietnam. These speakers shared how they developed as leaders and what they believe contributes most to success today in the workplace, particularly in Vietnam. A key topic was always the multicultural make-up of today’s workforce.

Departure was bittersweet August 23 when i began the long flights home to the USA. Getting the unique chance to teach overseas and to learn so much while at the same time providing some stimulating food for thought for these students was a great experience. I will always cherish it. And when this group of 12 graduates I look forward to seeing them when they come to Boston to don the cap and gown and regalia for commencement. I recommended June vs February 2015.

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In Ho Chi Minh City Talking Teams

First of my two classes in Northeastern University’s Leadership program in cooperation with International University. Wrapping up this and next week with Leading Teams class. Yesterday our focus was virtual teams. Today it was effective performance review systems to apply to teams. Teams, Teams, Teams. Spam, Spam, Spam. There are so many ways you can serve it. We work to improve keeping in mind Katzenback and Wisdom of Teams. As the economy grows and diversifies in Vietnam, young up-and-comers want an edge to help make their place in the development of their country. The enthusiasm is palpable.

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Building Effective Teams: It Starts with Team Purpose

Engaging teams in the workplace to deal with cross-functional issues needing attention is a very popular approach. But what % of all teams are organized in a way to accomplish the assignment?

First of all: Is there a clear assignment? Are all members clear on what needs to be accomplished and when it should be completed?

Second: Who is the team reporting or responsible to? Is it one senior staff member? Leadership of a department?

Third: Are the roles of all members of this team clearly defined? Does each member of the team have a specific task to complete? Clear assignments to accomplish between team meetings?

When there is clarity around these issues, the likelihood of success improves.

I’m looking forward to teaching the Northeastern University class on Leading Teams in Ho Chi Minh City starting in late-July. I’m most interested in exploring how cultural and international differences influence how teams can work, and special challenges they face.

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Coaching From the Inside

As I get ready to head to Ho Chi Minh City (which most folks continue to call “Saigon”) I’m getting acquainted with thought leaders who have something to teach us about Coaching from the inside.
I’m sure most of us are aware of Coaching from the outside.
Some of us have had the benefit of consultants who come in to help us through a sticky wicket. This can be very helpful. But does it serve the organization’s long-term purpose?
In the book The Extraordinary Coach by John Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett (McGraw Hill, 2010) we get some helpful detail on how to introduce and sustain leadership through coaching.
It’s much less about giving those who report to us good advice. Or direction. It’s more about talking through how the person is thinking about resolving the sticky wicket. Being supportive in that way.
In a way, it’s akin to teaching a person to fish vs. handing over the fish.
For the recipient, what s/he learns and does following their own thinking tastes better. And the learning lingers.

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Teaching Leadership in Ho Chi Minh City

Looking forward to four weeks in Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) Vietnam July – August 2014. Northeastern University has formed a partnership with International University and is offering a graduate program which got underway late 2013/early 2014. I will be teaching two six weeks classes, with two weeks from each class “on ground” in downtown Saigon. The first class will be on Leading Teams, drawing on the Daniel Levi text Group Dynamics for Teams.
The second class will be Building Bench Strength built around texts by John E Zenger, including The Extraordinary Leader co-written with Joseph R Folkman. I will be Skype-ing in people with interesting perspective/expertise to contribute. You can send me an email at ste.smith@neu.edu.

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