Leading with a Compass

Leading with a Compass

As an IT leader, with shifting priorities as well as a faster future ahead, you cannot lead with a map. You need a compass. But then, how would you inspire your troops, have them follow you, and deliver the intended results?


    • Helen Norris, Chief Information Officer, Chapman University

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Top 5 Learning Points

  1. Can IT leader set a vision and a strategy in this shifting turbulent, fast-moving environment?
  2. How to deal with change when one is not well-equipped to handle it?
  3. How can we deal with situations that need immediate attention and that can disrupt the organization?
  4. Change seems good. But how good is it when it comes to implementation of the same in business processes?
  5. How an individual employee’s potential can be tapped and transform them to spearhead a set of operations during the changing times?

Show Notes

  • It is not just about the people working inside who matter but also the stakeholders who own their part in the organization.
  • The ability to succeed depends on the ability to change and adapt.
  • Clear communication will ensure a transparent work culture, across levels.
  • Addressing the issues at the right time will help sustenance and growth.
  • Between change and processes lies a clear communication.


Change is constant in any given setup. But how does change matter to an IT organization? The mechanics and the operations vary depending on a certain matter of facts. This, when applied to the fast track technology firm, becomes even more robust. Given the fact that change is imperative, the way it is discussed and implemented in the work culture makes the entire difference.


Sanjog: Our topic for today is “Leading with a Compass.” We have Helen Norris, the Chief Information Officer, Chapman University. Hi Helen, how are you?

Sanjog: We picked this topic because we are looking at and I’m sure you’ve seen this as well. People are saying that there is an overall faster future ahead and also turbulence. Turbulence necessarily doesn’t mean that it is a negative connotation. It’s like things shifting. At such a pace what do you do in terms of moving ahead because it reminds of a boy scout, someone going on a hiking trail? You could say that we will somehow figure out where we are going by using a compass, – you’re not going on a treasure hunt with a map. If you are to work with a compass, means the person who is leading the troop has to behave, has to think, has to approach whatever they’re doing differently and here the context is IT. As IT leaders, if you were to lead with a compass, what does it do to our own mindset? How do we inspire people and everything else that comes with it?

So, can you truly or how well can us as IT leader set a vision and a strategy in this shifting turbulent, fast-moving environment?

Helen: Well, I think there is maybe a perception or maybe there used to be mythology that we could as leaders decide our vision and strategy and bring it forward and then it’s a map and we just follow it this way. That’s just not true. When we look at IT leaders as what our vision and our strategy has to be, we have to consider it two major pieces, we have to consider the external environment and us also, in the context of our organization. One of the things I see as an IT leader is not only is the technology world changing really quickly, really fast but our organizations are also changing more quickly than we might have thought about in the past.

I can think of a good example and it is that impacts university and other businesses. We may have set our directions around how we process credit cards per student payments or a business, they set their direction about how they take payments from their customers online. But as an IT leader, we have to have some flexibility there and watch what’s happening in the technology community. I’m not an expert on Bitcoin, so I hope we don’t have a conversation about that today, but I need to know that these things are on the horizon. I can’t set my plan around how I’m going to protect credit cards in my environment and not think about the fact that you can’t send it right now, use them and in the future, we’re going to have Bitcoin as something that we have to take. As an IT leader, when I’m developing the vision around that technology, I have to be constantly scanning the environment for what’s coming next.

The second thing I want to say is that as IT leaders, it’s really important for us to be much plugged into our organization also and into our organization’s strategic planning process. We’re no longer the utility in the back room. We’re critical to the success of the business. One of the most important things that we can do as leaders for our organization is really be engaged outside the IT organization. We have to be working with our colleagues within our institutions. So we don’t want the long-term check plans for the institution, what the changes are that are coming to the business and how best we can position IT to anticipate those changes, to plan for them.

As an IT leader, when I’m developing the vision around that technology, I have to be constantly scanning the environment for what’s coming next.

Sanjog: Let’s compare this to building a castle. Someone who is drawing the blueprint, some other people are laying the bricks and some other people will actually be living in it. None of them today seem to be having an idea what that castle will look like, where we will live and what type of material will be needed because the environment that you’re referring to would be entirely different than what it used to face in the past. You’re talking about the material changing the people who are going to occupy, it’s changing and the people who are thinking of the shape of the castle is changing which is the business, the very customer, and the technology people if they were the ones supposed to be understood as either the architect or the ones laying the bricks.

If you were to draw an analogy that one and then compare that and what’s happening on the ground with IT dealing with business and the customers, what would that look like? Are we not in a state of constant flux which is an oxymoron perhaps?

Helen: We are in a state of constant flux, I agree. The other thing I would say, I love your castle analogy. In addition, when we build a castle, we build them for perfection, and so the things we used to do in the past, build a moat to protect the castle, the threats coming from outside the castle are different to what they used to be too. We have to think about not just the people in the castle but the people outside. The best way to address one other technique we can use to address the constant flux is to make sure that we’re all engaged in the conversation. If I’m drawing the plans for the castle and I’m not speaking to the people who are going to be living in the castle and I’m not looking outside the castle to see who the invaders are, I’m going to draw the wrong plan. It’s very important for us to be constantly engaged with our castle needs and our external stakeholders too.

Once you’ve built something and brick, it’s pretty hard to change it. I do think that one other thing we’ve done in IT in the past when we build enterprise systems, we think of them as lasting 10 years and not being agile. That may not be the right approach for us anymore that we may need to build, I don’t know how we build a castle in the cloud.

Sanjog: Maybe use Legos for castle where you can shift things.

Helen: Yeah. Have the ability to be able to change a little bit more quickly than we used to be and be willing to step away from something that we’ve put a lot of time into if it turns out that a change is coming that’s going to make that castle be a little bit less effective than it used to be.

Sanjog: What you just mentioned where in order to tackle, when you said constant flux, we at least need to communicate with each other. Now imagine, you’re communicating with others who themselves are not sure where we ought to be going. They know where they’re going, you know we’re going but somewhere but not exactly what it should be or is that should suppose to be totally removed from our dictionary because we will just live one day at a time.

Helen: Well I don’t think they can quite live one day at a time because it’s very difficult I think to be quite that agile, but we also can’t live with five-year plans, like perhaps we used to have in the past. A shorter term plan that has the ability to change something that you review on a more frequent basis. You put something in place that you evaluate it on every six months, instead of every five years. I think it’s a way that we can go. I do think as we make plans, as our businesses do, disruptors come along. I think that that’s where businesses get into trouble and it is a problem.

When a disruptor comes along, I think we really have to see what impact that makes on our strategy and on our plans, and be able to change those plans to address the new threat or the new disruption. Well, I’m not suggesting that we go one day at a time without a plan, I am suggesting that we have plans that are fluid that we can adjust as the conditions that we’re living in change. Does that make sense?

When a disruptor comes along, I think we really have to see what impact that makes on our strategy and on our plans and be able to change those plans to address the new threat that come along or the new disruption.

Sanjog: Yes. You made a point now but if you do anything short term, that means you’re not allowing yourself to do creative destruction which means making way for the new, you end up forcing yourself to build newer but incrementally better mousetrap which did not allow you to position for the changed state. You or anyone who is working in this mode may be just focusing on handling the change versus whatever you’re becoming today, whatever different type of bricks or mortar you’re going to use, is it really going to make you compatible with the changed state?

If we say, I’m not going to live by the day, I’m going to live in the short-term at least have some way to say, this is a strategy for the quarter or say, strategy for the next six months. But if I do that, and if my eyes are only set on that, I’m not going to drop any systems or applications or processes. I know I cannot fundamentally rebuild them again in that shorter time. It will always be urgent over important. But how do you get over that predicament and bite the bullet and do certain things which are important and it will also position you appropriately for the future.

Helen, here the situation is, we always keep talking about, “Oh my God, I have legacy systems and applications I have to deal with or the processes, we’re not ready for it.” But every time when we think, we think one thing at a time and I understand that there may be reasons why you do it. But then when will we ever rip and replace certain things which are not going to be relevant in due course or maybe eating into our otherwise growth and profitability? Anything that you’re trying to change in terms of systems or processes or tools or techniques take time. If you only say three months at a time, then God bless us, we will never be able to get to a point where we can say, “Yes, I have the tools and processes.” In that castle analogy and somebody laying bricks, I don’t have the right equipment to do what I’m supposed to do. How do you deal with this?

Helen: We get very focused on IT on the urgent situation that’s ahead of us. One of the things I think we have to do as IT leaders are trying to balance the immediate and the urgent with the important in long-term. Certainly when you’re running a legacy system. If your legacy system is a payroll system that people have to get paid if you have an urgent situation, you have to deal with it and correct that situation and make sure payroll gets out but too often we get so focused on the urgent, we’re not really looking at the long term. Perhaps we need to be doing our payroll in a whole different way. It’s your castle analogy, a whole different tool to ensure we no longer have these urgent problems. We have to very deliberately set aside time and set aside an approach to focusing on the long-term and the need to do, you called it rip and replace, be thinking about what the long-term answer is.

As IT people we do have genuine situations where we have to deal with urgent problems. We start to think of everything as an urgent problem so I would like to challenge us to not always jump to everything that’s urgent or isn’t. So be deliberate about when you respond to an urgent situation and be deliberate around setting aside time for the long-term piece. Sometimes I would say those two things are different skill sets. A person who is great at handling the emergency and the urgent problems, that may be the place that you have that person focus. But also make sure that you have people on your team who are better at the technology vision, and figuring out how to replace legacy system and legacy business processes so that you can be better positioned in the future not to have to always deal with those urgent situations. If we don’t disrupt ourselves, I think somebody else is going to come in and disrupt us. It’s something we have to take on.

One of the things I think we have to do as IT leaders are trying to balance the immediate and the urgent with the important in long-term.

Sanjog: When you say that you have to take on, who needs to bless it? Because on the one hand you’ve been told to watch every penny that is being spent. You also talk about innovation but then you also are not able to make a case, because as soon as you use the word long term, there is someone challenging that to say, what do you mean long term? There is no long-term today. It becomes like a catch 22. Why would someone at the top, like say executive management agreed to that rip and replaced or do impactful creative destruction? When you do not have a way to explain to them, what’s coming next? To that end, the speed or the variety, the volume and the velocity of change that is coming, how do you explain it? How do you make a case and what do you give those executive management folks to help you help them?

Helen: Yeah. It’s very important to have those conversations at the most senior level. As I mentioned earlier, I think that that’s the value that the IT leader brings is the ability to engage in those conversations at the top. I would say, in fact, my experience is that our leaders at the top really want to challenge the IT organization to be more agile. I think they know the change is coming, it’s pretty obvious, and it’s pretty easy for them to see where disruptions have happened in other industries. A lot of times those disruptions based on technology, and as an IT leader, we can leverage those lessons into our own industry.

We can think about Amazon or Uber and how they’ve really disrupted some of the other industries and how we can be prepared within our own industry for those coming disruptions. I think where the challenge is, I find that our leaders would love for us to be putting in new systems. What they don’t like is the cost and ready – I’m not talking just about dollars out the door, the cost, but also the people cost of doing a rip and replace or a wholesale change of our system. It’s my job as an IT leader to really help them understand what the true cost for the major change of a system is, both in terms of what we’re going to spend but also the cost to the organization.

Sometimes there is a perception that you just buy a new system and you put it in and it will change everything in the organization, but it really is about changing the culture and the business process and really the change management piece in the organization is the most important thing to look at. That’s where that variety of change and the volume of changes really impact. It’s actually outside the IT organization on our colleagues around the institution or you think our new tools and our new systems. Our ability to lead well have to extend beyond IT and into the business side of our organizations.

Sanjog: What you shared was the responsibility, basically what we should be doing. When it’s really on the ground, so maybe you would have had cases where you went ahead and tried to get these other leaders to agree with you. Or the business unit leaders to allow you to change everything so you or someone can retrain his or her staff and for that to be a good investment maybe before even the systems are put in place, you ask them to change their processes. You’re asking a lot of things to be changed, to be moved from status quo. People are already nervous and overworked with things that they have on their plate. What’s your secret sauce of getting them to agree and especially, when you cannot claim that I know more than six months out, what’s going to happen?

Helen: It sounds great to say, “Well, we’ve got to change our business process.” But as you pointed out, the boots on the ground, it’s the people who are out there, every day, doing good work, it’s so much harder to make those changes. They’re busy people. They’re very comfortable, the processes have worked for a long time. I don’t know that I have a magic answer or secret sauce as you said. I think it really is about expressing empathy for their situation. I’ve seen a lot of IT people who will take a fairly, almost judgmental approach to use the new system. But it’s really about empathy and change management with our partners outside of IT.

Acknowledging that change is hard. Struggling with change doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It just changes hard for all of us. Bringing in place, changing our skill set an IT from a technical programmer or sysadmin or whatever in the background, focusing more of our resources, business process analysts and project manager who can actually help our partners across the organization to make those difficult changes. I think that that’s one thing we can do to be successful. In the past, I think we take the approach of, to use your word, saying to our partners, “You should be making this change. You should be doing this.” I think the approach is now, “Let me help you make this change. Let me provide some training for you. Let me provide a business analyst who can help put those processes in place that will make the technology effective and will allow us to fundamentally change how we do business. I think that that’s the approach that we can take.”

I will say however that that is not a fast approach. We cannot be saying that when we take that one methodically, let me put a business process analyst out there. It is a slower process. It’s still the right way to go because you fundamentally come out with a better solution and a better resolution. I take my job as a leader in the organization is to make sure that the executive management understands that. I’m not going to put in a new system and everything’s going to be peachy in three months and by the way, if something could change with that system three months after that, it’s just going to be a slower process but we’re all going to take that process together. Does that make sense?

Sanjog: It does. I would like to bring up a question. Imagine there is a tour bus, you would like to get on it and explore some areas. You get there and you find the driver to be not completely sure of where to go and how to go about, taking you through that excursion. How confident would you be to get on that bus? The reason I say this is because it comes down to with the changes happening, you can fake confidence and fake what you know that you know where you’re going but actually that’s not the case with anyone including the management, the IT leader or anyone else. Why would anyone including the business leaders, the business users, and the technology people who report to you, to willingly get on the bus when you yourself cannot claim that you know where you are taking them?

Tour bus driver is not feeling very confident, how can that person make other people get on the bus in the first place for them to join that – which otherwise could be a fun journey because not everyone is an explorer. Some people need more than saying, “Oh, we’re going to have a fun ride, let’s jump on.” What do you do then?

Helen: I think it is about being honest. As a leader, authenticity really matters. We can’t pretend we know where we’re going. You used a praise a few minutes ago, we can’t fake confidence. If we have anxiety or uncertainty about where we’re going to end up, I think we need to be clear about that but what we have to convince both our staff and our partners across the business is that we can competently respond to changes and make plans as we go along, that will lead us away from falling into a swamp. We have to demonstrate that we will make good decisions as we find our way through these processes, through these new systems, these new uncharted systems.

I think that that’s what it’s about. It’s being clear, being honest, and having a track record of making quick decisions and mistakes too. Owning up to that mistake and doing a course correction that gets us back into safe waters as quickly as we can is important. I also think that there is a shared responsibility between ourselves and our business partners. It’s not just the IT leader making the decisions about how to move forward. It’s also about engaging our business partners and the decision-making process.

As appropriate, I think one thing that’s really important to do is when we’re moving forward into an area where maybe our universities or our businesses haven’t been before, being willing to engage external experts and seek advice, I think makes us not just look strong, makes us strong and helps us to have a safer place to go.

If we have anxiety or if we have uncertainty about where we’re going to end up, I think we need to be clear about that but what we have to convince both our staff and our partners across the business is that we can competently respond to changes and make plans as we go along, that will lead us away from falling into a swamp.

Sanjog: I did bring up this idea about not everyone trying to want to be explorers. If I say, “Hey, come join me. I assure you, I’m honest with you.” They say, “Yes, I understand. I appreciate it, but no thank you.” Because I do not know if I’m going to get to where I want to. I had my own personal agenda when I joined this job. I don’t want this, where I put more on my plate and increase my stress. Those people have to be tackled as well. Do we manage them out or what would you do with such people?

Helen: What you have to do is understand the appetite of your own organization or the personality perhaps of your own organization. It’s certainly true that there are organizations where the organizational culture is to be a follower and innovation, not to be a leader. You as an IT leader, you have to look at your organization and see what the right thing for that organization is. In addition, I think there are some specific areas where we won’t ever take risks, because there we don’t want to be leaders because of the cost. We have to gauge the cost of making a mistake versus the benefit of moving forward quickly.

First of all, there can’t be room in the organization for specific areas where we don’t move forward at a very fast pace. We lived with some of the legacy systems. Some of the examples of that might be systems where the cost of an error is very high. I would not expect. I have never worked in air traffic control but I would expect that air traffic control system, you would move forward in a very risk-averse way because literally, people fly. So gauging the environment and putting together the appropriate approach and taking a more risk-averse approach is sometimes okay. However, if you’re in an organization where the organizational culture is to move forward fast and you come to one partner who is not in step with that organizational culture.

Sometimes there is an opportunity to maybe move in a different direction. There is a peer pressure that a person sees when everybody else in the organization is moving forward at one pace and they’re getting left behind a little bit. Gauging each situation is really important than looking at different ways that we can bring those people along makes sense.

Sanjog: What you just said definitely is the case for exceptions but then if you have people within IT who report to you. You spoke about a business partner. They did not sign up, not everyone signed up for this new day and age. Do we wait for us to transform the culture or make use this as an opportunity to move some of those people who have the appetite or had the inclination or maybe they would enjoy this as a joy ride to naturally convert into the keepers and the rest automatically manage out because we cannot sit and wait for this to become a consensus but at the same time, we cannot be seen on a website as the poorest employers. Where do we draw the line?

The reason I ask this question is that I’m trying to bring it back to our very topic, is leading with the compass. You’ve got a set of people, like troops who signed up to be following you but at some point, they will always keep coming back to their own survival, their own comfort and their own growth. At the end of the day, it’s about them. How do you move the organization forward while taking care of those individuals agendas if you will, some explicit, some not as explicit?

Helen: Good question. When I took this job, I thought it would be this and it would stay that way forever. Unfortunately, that reality does not exist any longer in IT. Our jobs are going to change, even as a CIO, my job in five years is going to look completely different to how it looks now. That’s the first uncomfortable truth I think we have to help our staff be aware of that just because you were hired to do X, it doesn’t mean that that’s what you’re going to be doing forever. I agree, we can’t just manage everybody out so it’s really incumbent on us as leaders to ensure that we provide the training and the support for people to learn these skills as their jobs change. Their jobs are going to change. It’s our responsibility I think to give them the tools to change with the times.

However, I would say that it’s the employee’s responsibility to own their own career. As a manager, I like to provide the tools, the opportunities, but a person has to step up and take charge of their own careers. Unfortunately, there isn’t a career anymore that remained stagnant for many, many years. There are some people who have they come in with that approach that you hired me to do this and that’s all I’m going to do. They may not be able to survive in the new environment. But in an empathetic way, it’s important for us as managers to help provide them the opportunity to move forward and to learn new skills.

I would say that it’s the employee’s responsibility to own their own career. As a manager, I like to provide the tools, the opportunities, but a person has to step up and take charge of their own careers.

Sanjog: Your response, as you use the word ‘manager’ in your response. I am going to look at someone as a manager to think that way, you’re responsible for your own career and you do what you’re supposed to. Yes, that’s a role the way we define it. But then let’s elevate ourselves or those individuals, select few individuals who are leaders, who are supposed to create, not always a charisma but a reason, a motivation for someone to stretch themselves initially to their discomfort but eventually to their delight to become what they never thought they could become. That requires something from a leader for people to have that energy and motivation to come from within. What does that take because we can beat people around the bush on their head all the time to so say, okay, take this training, and that could be a manager or the manager come say, “Hey, this guy is not listening, let him go,” but it’s possible there may be some things which are under current in the organization and in the culture that may be causing this issue. Should we be waiting for an initiative to come up for them to be checked for that attitude or this should be a proactive exercise where we see who all we want in the team, do they have the right attitude and do they have the skills?

Given the short time duration that you’re talking about where you got the short term to midterm focus, how do you align all of this? It’s not an easy question but I have to pose it.

Helen: It’s not an easy question. It gets back to you mentioned the difference between management and leadership and the difference between skills and attributes. As leaders, we have to model some of those attributes ourselves. That’s one way I think that we can motivate or encourage those attributes of being willing to and not just being willing to change but embracing change, embracing great customer service. We as leaders, have to model those attributes. That’s what infuses that new approach, that agile approach throughout the organization. I want to get back to that, I think it’s really important to provide both leaders and staff opportunities to stretch. Sometimes I think as technical people when we think about training, we don’t hesitate to send our staff to technical training but we really need to also focus some of our training in those attribute areas. Working on how to approach change in a rigorous and methodical way and taking that on as a team and as an organization.

As leaders, I think we need to model it, I think we need to reward people for it. We do need to offer training because it is a skill set that can be learned. It is difficult to do it in a short time period. I know we talked about, we have shorter windows that we use to have. But the change in the culture from risk-averse and keeping the lights on to let’s be more agile and take on some more rip and replace our legacy systems with newer, more modern technologies, changing that culture takes time. We do have to actually take the time to do it in a meaningful way.

Sanjog: Given that we have knowledge workers who are smart, who have a brain of their own and they’re not being asked to produce widgets for the most part, especially when we deal with IT. If you are the leader, shouldn’t any manager whom you’ve given the title of a manager essentially should be a leader because the job is no longer just to get them to do the things right, it is about getting them to do the right things in this fluid and environment. When you have to get people to do the right things that means you’ve got to be a leader. What do you do with your “managers” to elevate themselves to a leader so that they share your load versus you remaining as a lone warrior holding them back with whatever happens?

The question is, yes, you can give a title to someone of a manager – in the legacy definition of a manager is someone who is supposed to do, get other people to do the things the way that was set up for them to do. Like getting the things right, but then, given the fluidity that you have, yes, we teach people to do the right things, you can train them but in order for them to do it with gusto, with confidence and given the variability that’s coming to the people, don’t we need to move every one of these managers to be groomed into becoming a leader where they add their own respective team level are letting people or helping people to become the best of themselves where that fire comes from within versus them beating them on the head. Wouldn’t that be a better approach to it and then let them share the load with the top leader, like yourself?

Helen: Yes. I think it’s really important to create a more leader for the organization. I’m not 100% convinced that there’s no room for some “management” but I do agree that anybody that’s in any kind of leadership position, the focus should be on leadership, rather than on managing to – in the old days, give me a status report every week of how many lines of code. I think that that is not at all helpful. I do feel that’s quite a transformation for people for managers who have worked in an environment where it’s more managing in an almost punitive way to leading in an inspirational way. It’s helpful to engage the legacy managers in their own development into leaders. How do we help them see themselves as leaders, how do we infuse leadership throughout the organization? Because in fact there are leaders all through our organizations whether or not they have the title of manager.

Building a leadership team, I do think it’s important to work on your leadership attributes individually. As a leader, myself, I think one of the things that are really important for me to do as a leader, is to engage with my staff, really listen to what they have to say, listen to their concern. Really talk to them so that they know what the general goal of the organization is so that we can all steer in the right direction rather than prescriptively tell them, “Here’s what you got to do today,” but more making sure that they know the general go up the organization and that they’re rolling in that direction.

Specifically, some of the things that I try to do to encourage a leader for an organization, it’s frequent outreach to my staff needing, sitting with people, working with them to ensure that they know where we’re going, expressing gratitude and appreciation when we see people working in the right direction and doing the right thing and ensuring that the organization is a place where people can take a risk and not be punished for their mistakes. For some of the things I think that we need to do as leaders to move away from a punitive management style to an engaged leader for the organization.

Sanjog: What you just mentioned about working with these people and asking them or maybe to take the task upon themselves to become a leader and you go and do some coaching, mentoring and supporting them to become leaders but it’s still could be like hiking through the woods in the dark. Unless there is some sort of a measure of success and/or some way to recognize that people are taking accountability, you could be guessing at best of whether the preparedness of your team for what’s coming next and what’s coming after that. You would not be sure and if you’re not sure enough, we cannot say 100% sure, then it will be tough for you as a leader to go out and make claims to the business and also take on anything with confidence because you’re only as good as a team that you lead. What is the best way to get these people to become accountable or in fact, I would remove the word accountability because it looks like it’s outside in, how can you make them countable, which is an inside-out that whenever someone is looking up to me to take this thing on, let me do my best. I’ll do the right thing when no one is looking. What have you tried in that regard?

Helen: There’s a couple of different approaches that one can take. First of all, we work in teams so there’s an element of being accountable to each other which I realize is still an outside facing in, rather than an internally, that motivational piece but it’s really ensuring that the people who work together understand that their piece impacts everybody else and that their responsibility is not even to our manager but it’s to their colleague and to their teammate. I think that that’s a more effective way for people to feel countable if you will.

I also think that fundamentally people want to do the right thing. Very few people want to come to work and not have a good experience. In my experience, people want to do a good job and want to go home at the end of the day say, “I made a difference today. I did something that’s really good for my students or colleagues or faculty today.” Tapping into that internal desire of a person to really do something great is the key. It’s really building on the person’s internal motivation, helping them, it’s not so much convincing them to do something good and to do the right thing, but helping them know what the right thing is. I’m pointing out to them, working with them to ensure that they know what works well and letting them have that good outcome in the way that matches best to their skill set. I think fundamentally people want to come to work and at the end of the day go home and say I did something good today. What we can do as leaders are make sure that they know where they can have the most impact and what it is that will count, that will make a difference in the workplace.

Sanjog: Thank you so much, Helen, for sharing your views on how a leader can go with a compass versus a map to tackle the changes that we’re seeing, the speed at which we’re shifting our business models and the way even IT is getting impacted so that we all work together, take the joint countability versus accountability and get to the end goal. Thank you so much again.

Helen: Right. Thank you. I’ve enjoyed it.


Helen Norris

Helen Norris, Chief Information Officer, Chapman University

Helen Norris is the Chief Information Officer at Chapman University. She has almost 30 years’ experience working in IT including several years in the private sector in a variety of industries including advertising and consumer products. M... More   View all posts
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Helen Norris


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