New York Times, Nancy L. Zimpher on Setting a Bold Vision:
This interview with Nancy L. Zimpher, chancellor emeritus of the State University of New York (SUNY) [and former President, University of Cincinnati, and former Chancellor, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee], was conducted and condensed by Adam Bryant.
What are some leadership lessons you’ve learned over your career?
To me, vision is most important. If you really know where you’re going, and you have a clear vision for the institution, that can be really powerful. Over the course of my career, I have successfully articulated a vision three times over.
When I first met with the board of trustees at SUNY, they asked me, in effect, “What are you bringing to the table?” I told them: “Vision. I don’t know what it is at this point. I’m not coming with the answer chiseled into a tablet but I’m going to find it.”
And that’s what I do. I find it, by working with the all the stakeholders, understanding the history and seeing the potential future.
Everything flows out of that. Once you have it and articulate it, then people in the organization need to be able to repeat what that vision is. I don’t care if they’re making fun of it, but at least they know we have one.
Any other thoughts on the art of running effective meetings?
I recently figured out something about myself, which is that I don’t like one-on-one meetings. To me, one of the most boring things in the world is to have somebody come into my office to tell me the 10 things they’re doing. At No. 3, I am falling asleep. It’s just not exciting to me.
Don’t tell me what you’re doing. Just do your job.
You’ve got to have the team present, and you’ve got to have everybody’s opinion on the table. There’s so much more synergy in this room if we were having a group discussion. And it’s a lot more fun.
I have a degree of impatience. I want to get to the work and convene the people who are going to do the work. Let’s get on with it.
I’m much more external to the vision than the internal day-to-day operations. I have very low patience with hearing about why we can’t get something done.