Category Archives: Leadership

Foster School and Evans School Students Gain New Perspectives on Strategic Leadership  

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Gloris Estrella – MPA ’15

The Board Fellows Program is a unique opportunity for Foster School of Business MBA students and Evans School of Public Policy and Governance MPA students to learn together as they explore the unique leadership role that comes from being a member of a board of directors. MBA and MPA students serve for nine months on a nonprofit board while participating in seminars that teach effective leadership and governance principles. Gloris Estrella – MPA ’15, reflects on her experience as a 2014-15 Board Fellow:

As a second year MPA student at the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance, the Board Fellows Program offered by the Consulting and Business Development Center at the Foster School of Business proved to be invaluable to my development and career. The chance to sit on a nonprofit board seemed unreachable to me as a young professional, but the Board Fellows Program brought the opportunity within my grasp. I thoroughly enjoyed learning from and participating with the board I was selected to be part of, and was able to put classroom materials into play in a local organization whose mission I felt strongly about.  It was also a fantastic opportunity to work with Foster School graduate students to make cross-sector connections in order to engage in addressing social issues in the Seattle area. 

One of my favorite memories of the program was the day we had two guest speakers: one from the public and the other from the private sector.  Their personal insight about their experiences on boards allowed me to better understand how to make a stronger impact on the board I was participating in.  It encouraged me to step up and voice my opinions and offer more of my skills on the board.  As a result, I was able to join the strategic plan subcommittee and provide a lasting impact on the future of the organization.  Because of my active and positive participation, the Board Chair and Executive Director asked me to join the board as voting member following my allotted time as a Board Fellow.  That opportunity wouldn’t have been possible without the Consulting and Business Development Center and the Board Fellows Program.

Veterans way

A growing company of armed forces vets is choosing the Foster School to transition from military to corporate careers, and the benefits go both ways

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Dan Boirum

Dan Boirum was leading a search-and-destroy operation up the remote Arghandab River valley of Afghanistan when a 100-pound improvised bomb exploded under his armored vehicle, wounding four crewmen, one critically.

The blast knocked Boirum unconscious. But he recovered to resume command of his US Army Stryker platoon and its mission: stabilize this volatile region at the front lines of the war on terror—a task that required a precarious balancing of military might and cultural diplomacy that is perhaps unprecedented in wartime history.

Today, just a few years removed from the dust and dangers of Kandahar Province, Boirum is back in his home town of Seattle, learning to manage in a very different context at the Foster School of Business. His combat experience and leadership credentials aren’t exactly typical at Foster. But he’s hardly alone, either.

In the past few years, a growing cohort of veterans of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard have come to Foster, looking to power their transition from military to corporate careers.

“I came to Foster hoping it would give me the ability to learn about the various aspects of business and then give me a path to a new career,” says Boirum, a first-year student in the Full-time MBA Program. “I didn’t come in with a plan. I came knowing that it would be a place where I could figure it out in a safe environment and with all the support I could possibly ask for.”

Back to school

Foster is part of a nationwide surge of military veterans flooding into colleges and universities to plot civilian careers. Recent troop withdrawals and military budget cuts are expected to send 1.5 million service members into the civilian workforce by 2019.

At the same time, the education benefits available to veterans and active duty military have never been better. The largest is the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which covers tuition, books and housing costs.

“The GI Bill made all the difference to me,” adds Matthew Nutsch (TMMBA 2014), a recent graduate of Foster’s Technology Management MBA Program who served in the Navy as an electrician on a nuclear-powered submarine and is now a senior management systems analyst at Seattle City Light . “It’s an amazingly good deal and the TMMBA Program is so dynamic that it would feel wasteful not to take advantage. The education has changed my life.”

Tony Casement, lead counselor at the University of Washington Veterans Center, says that’s a common sentiment: “Instead of getting out and trying to go straight to work, many military vets are taking advantage of the benefits to advance their education and enter the workforce with a better job.”

A great place to restart

It happens that one of the best places to advance that education is the UW. U.S. News & World Report named the UW second nationally in its 2015 ranking of Best Colleges for Veterans.

Casement believes the reasons for the ranking begin with proximity to multiple military bases, including Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the Whidbey Island, Kitsap and Everett Naval Bases. He also factors the university’s generous tuition waivers and other assistance for veterans; a proliferation of military student organizations; and a high-functioning Veterans Center that advises students, offers career counseling, and removes the pain of finding and applying benefits so veterans can focus on their studies.

The university’s sterling international reputation doesn’t hurt, either. “The UW is not only military friendly, but also a great name academically,” Casement adds. “It makes a lot of sense to go here.”

He says that more than 1,500 students at the Seattle campus are receiving some form of military benefit, which is transferrable to dependents. Of that number, around 700 are veterans or active duty service members. And nearly 80 of them are enrolled at the Foster School.

Finding Foster

Casement believes that business is a popular field of study for veterans because it opens doors to so many lines of civilian work, and because many of the management and leadership skills mastered in the military—especially by officers—are transferrable.

This may explain why the largest jump in military enrollment at Foster is occurring in the MBA programs. The Full-time MBA has seen a doubling of veterans and active duty officers in the past couple of years alone.

Why Foster? Start with its reputation and ranking in the upmost echelons of American b-schools. Add its personalized approach to teaching, advising and career services, plus its long tradition of assisting dramatic career transformations.

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Norma Domingo and Chris Wigley

But the thing that seems to appeal most of all to military veterans is the school’s genuine culture of collaboration. “There is definitely a different culture at Foster,” says Chris Wigley, a second-year MBA who has compared notes with Army buddies studying in MBA programs across the country. “For me, the collaborative environment here has been enormously beneficial.”

It’s familiar territory for anyone who has served in any branch of the military where, as Boirum says, “everything is a collaboration.”

The full package

Collaboration goes both ways. And Foster veterans give as good as they get.

According to Dan Poston, assistant dean for masters programs at Foster, students with military backgrounds add immeasurably to the shared learning environment.

“We’re looking for classes with a diversity of perspectives,” he says. “Military students bring a facility with structure and organization to get things done. These are very positive traits to have in any team. Plus, they share their leadership training, both formally and informally.”

That training is the best in any business, according to Bruce Avolio, director of the Foster School’s Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking and author of multiple studies on military leadership.

“What you see in our military is what we expect from our leaders in business: authentic, ethical, adaptive, agile role models who focus on development and put collective interest above themselves,” Avolio says. “This comes from a program of training and development that exceeds any business organization in the US or likely on Earth.”

But leadership is not the only asset that veterans bring to the management classroom. Avolio adds that they offer wisdom from having dealt with the most difficult decisions in life. They are comfortable working in hostile environments and ambiguous situations. They have a deep sense of team and self-sacrifice. They appreciate the ultimate importance of ethics. And they bring a learning orientation that challenges others in a respectful way.

Brave new world

So why do they need a business degree? Part of the value is simply in the time and opportunity to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives—especially for people with little work experience or professional network outside of the service.

“It’s hard for military people to start over,” explains Norma Domingo, a former aircraft mechanic in the Navy now studying human resources management in Foster’s Undergraduate Program. “You’ve earned a rank and a name for yourself. But that doesn’t carry over to the civilian world. I’m the same as every other Foster undergrad. We’re all here to start something new.”

Beyond career discernment and the acquisition of technical knowledge in the business disciplines, many veterans use Foster to “demilitarize” themselves, as Ryan McCarthy puts it. “In the Army we wear our rank on our chest, so you always know a person’s level of authority,” says the former artillery officer now pursuing his Foster MBA. “Here in business school and in corporate America, you have to be persuasive without the rank.”

Transferring soft skills is only half the battle. The other half is translation. “Bragging about your accomplishments is frowned upon in the military,” says Wigley. “But when you interview with a company, that’s exactly what you have to do. When you’re not used to telling that story, it can come out raw and unrefined.”

Poston says that Foster’s program staffs and career services excel at helping veterans communicate the assets they bring to any organization: “We help with the meat and the message, framing their experience in a way that has relevance to a recruiter.”

Nested networks

Military and ex-military students at Foster report a kind of sixth sense (or is it radar?) for finding each other in class. Maybe it’s their age. Or something in the way they speak, or carry themselves. Whatever it is, the bond is inescapable, the product of a shared experience, whichever their flavor of military service.

Now Foster vets have a more formal place to find each other. The student-organized MBA Veterans Association is only a few years old, but it’s rapidly evolving from social club to network hub.

The current officers are working with undergraduate leaders to charter a BA chapter of the organization. They are advising prospective students, coordinating with the Husky United Military Veterans organization (HUMV) to create a mentor program, hosting career development and networking events, and connecting with military bases and area employers to develop a military-to-corporate pipeline.

“The MBA Program administrators talk about how we have a golden ticket as a student,” says Veterans Association president Wigley. “I think we have a second golden ticket as veterans. If you reach out to vets at all kinds of companies, they’re usually more than willing to help.”

An old habit that dies hard.

Dan Boirum describes the connection between veterans in familial terms. He recalls suiting up for an interview with Liberty Mutual when a couple of classmates stepped in to perform an informal class A uniform inspection—even swapping watches so he’d look sharper. “It was just an instinctive thing,” he says. “Your buddy is going into an important meeting, so we’ll look you over, straighten you up. There’s a definite brother/sisterhood here—all within the larger Foster family.”

Passion and purpose

That’s the ultimate expression of the Foster student experience.

Matt Pescador, an executive officer in his 20th year with the Navy, enrolled in Foster’s Executive MBA Program preparing for an eventual second career, ideally at a comparable level of seniority. What he’s found is the definition of a symbiotic relationship. And endless inspiration.

“I have deep experience in leadership, and the executives in my program bring a fast-paced technocracy that I’m not familiar with,” he says. “The relationship between what they learn from me and what I learn from them is exactly what the program is trying to foster.”

For Boirum, those relationships—with people from every background who share a genuine passion—are the keys to his transformation to a successful and meaningful civilian life.

“When you transition out of the military, one of the things you’re most concerned about is finding another place where you belong, where there is a shared sense of purpose to make the world a better place. I was afraid that I’d leave the Army and be lost,” he says. “But at the Foster School I’m surrounded by people who want to be part of something special together, something bigger than themselves. I never feel lost here.”

The version of this article that appears in the spring 2015 issue of Foster Business includes profiles of six additional Foster veterans.

Change as strength

While introducing Bsquare CEO Jerry Chase as the April 22 Leaders to Legends Breakfast speaker, Dean Jiambalvo described the tech leader as an “accomplished executive with decades of experience leading public and private companies through times of transition and growth.” With the theme of “transition and growth” clearly in mind, Chase spent his time at the podium discussing the importance of listening to customers, company adaptability, and the burgeoning “internet of things” industry.

Watch his full lecture below.

Want a better board? Recruit more women directors

Now that more than 20 countries have adopted quotas for women on corporate boards, the number of companies with women directors is growing worldwide. To identify the impact that women directors make on boards, Foster adjunct professor Cate Goethals and global management consultant Susan Bloch recently completed the Better Boards Project, an international study of more than 100 board members.

The study builds on research by Credit Suisse, McKinsey, and Catalyst that concluded public companies with women directors outperformed all-male boards on several financial dimensions, including stock price, return on equity, and better average growth. For the Better Boards Project, Goethals and Bloch explored the distinctive qualities that women directors brought to the table and the relationship between board effectiveness and women’s contributions.

Study highlights
The directors interviewed overwhelmingly believe that the contribution of women makes majority-male boards more effective. Specifically:

  • Women provide the broad diversity of perspective critical to robust governance practice
  • Female directors are more likely to fully explore the implications of decisions through their implementation stage and insist upon discussing standards of ethics and accountability
  • Women are more likely to build relationships among board members and with management
  • They ask more and different questions to fuel deeper discussions and better-considered decisions
  • Women are more likely to probe the human dimensions of policies—their effects on employees, customers, and other women
  • Inside the boardroom, female directors are generally more collaborative, listening carefully and facilitating contributions from others

Many directors expressed enthusiasm for bringing more of the right women onto their boards, but noted challenges locating qualified candidates.

Creating a pathway for potential women board members
Several countries, including Norway, France, India, and the United Arab Emirates, have passed legislation mandating a percentage of women serving on public boards. Still, there are remarkably few female directors—about 11 percent of all board members around the world and markedly less in some countries and sectors.

The number of women on public boards is closer to 20 percent in the U.S., and growing as companies actively seek qualified women directors. The percentage of new female nominees to S&P 500 directorships has doubled in the last seven years to 30 percent—almost one in three new board members is a woman. The primary problem boards face is locating and nominating eligible women directors.

To respond to this recruitment gap, Goethals, Foster market researcher Andrea Bowers, and Executive Education staff Lisa Loucks and Ann Koziol launched a new program to help prepare talented professional women for board service. The Women Board Directors Development Program will be offered June 18-19 at the Foster School of Business.

The program will feature sitting directors Colleen Brown (American Apparel, Newport Board Group), Connie Collingsworth (Premera Blue Cross, Banner Corporation), and Betsy Berkeimer Credaire, (Women Corporate Directors, Los Angeles/Orange County, author of “The Board Game”) joining Goethals to share their personal board experiences.

The Women Board Directors Development Program will help participants:

  • Deepen knowledge of board roles and responsibilities, including financial reporting, corporate strategy, CEO performance, and regulatory compliance
  • Understand the best professional pathways to influential boards
  • Develop a detailed personal action plan for securing the right board seat and advancing board service
  • Learn proven techniques for becoming known to nominating committees
  • Understand the board interview and onboarding process
  • Hear from sitting board members how they found their best voice at the table

For more information and to register, visit www.foster.uw.edu/women-on-boards

For more information about the Better Boards Project, visit http://www.betterboardsproject.com/ or contact Cate Goethals.

Foster Global Leadership Summit in photos

The UW Foster School of Business hosted a Global Leadership Summit in Taipei, Taiwan ROC on April 10, 2015. The purpose of the Summit was to host a high level forum in Taiwan in an effort to reach out to business leaders in the region and engage them in a meaningful dialogue on strategies in innovation and leadership. The Summit included presentations by Dean James Jiambalvo, Professors Michael Johnson and Matthew O’Donnell as well as panelists representing Chairmen and CEOs from Taiwan Cement Group, Chungwha Telecom, CTCI Group, Walsin Lihwa, Costco Taiwan, and The Boeing Company. Attendees were mostly from Taiwan, but also included participants who traveled from S. Korea, China, India, and the Philippines. See photos of the event below.

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Developing the ability to develop – UW students get a taste of CLST’s approach to leadership development

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Students in CLST workshop discussing their development plans


This post was written by staff members from the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking

What can undergraduates do to develop their leadership while at UW?

That’s what over 150 undergraduates came to a Leadership Conference on a recent Saturday to learn about. Hosted by Delta Sigma Pi (a professional co-ed business fraternity)* in conjunction with the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking, the one-day conference gave attendees a real-world perspective on what they can do now to develop the leadership skills that will be vital to their professional success. The conference included representatives from companies such as Accenture, PepsiCo/Frito Lay, Boeing, Microsoft and Target.

CLST’s role in the event was to help students build their Developmental Readiness, their willingness and ability to develop when faced with challenging leadership situations. (It’s worth noting that the students certainly demonstrated their willingness to develop by showing up to a leadership conference early on a sunny Saturday morning.)

Research on leadership development has shown that only about 30% of leadership is hard-wired, while the other 70% can be developed, and that the extent to which one develops through experiences differs from person to person. In other words, facing a similar challenge, a person with higher developmental readiness might thrive and grow while another struggles and gives up. Further, this ability to develop can itself be developed. CLST’s goal was to help catalyze this process.

In a workshop format, CLST coaches helped participants craft a plan for working on an aspect of their developmental readiness, including specific actions they could take on a daily basis. Sienna Landry, a member of Delta Sigma Pi who helped organize the event, said that the attendees “have absolutely walked away from this conference with a new sense of how they can impact their leadership styles.”

The event was a huge success, and the fraternity plans to hold it again next year. This collaboration with Delta Sigma Pi is a great example of how CLST is reaching out to UW undergraduates to help develop critical leadership skills during their time at UW.

*Delta Sigma Pi is a professional fraternity organized to foster the study of business in universities; to encourage scholarship, social activity and the association of students for their mutual advancement by research and practice.

MBA leaders experience transition under pressure

This post was written by staff members from the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking

MBA studentsOn Friday March 13, the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking (CLST) and Foster MBA Association (MBAA) celebrated the upcoming leadership transition as elected 1st year students prepare to take over the reins from soon-to-graduate 2nd year students. This event is part of our year-long Leading Across Boundaries (LAB) workshops series. The theme chosen for this half-day event was to Transition under Pressure.

MBA studentsWorking in four parallel teams of six to eight students, each team was charged with designing a giant Rube Goldberg machine! Teams consisted of both 1st and 2nd year students. Machines were required to involve at least 4 transfers of energy from one “mini” machine or component to the next culminating in a final machine that would drop a weight into a cup. Armed with an array of materials including dominoes, mouse traps, springs, and marbles, second-year students were instructed to work on the upstream portion of the machine and first-year students were instructed to work on the downstream or terminal portion of the machine. Midway through the event, the facilitators transferred a key player from each team to another team and added design requirements. The purpose of this challenge was three-fold:  1. To focus on how well, under extreme time pressure, the 1st and 2nd year MBAs coordinated the effort and communication needed to make all parts of the machine connect and work as one; 2. To examine how well teams adapted to unexpected and disruptive changes in their structure and resources; and 3. To observe how leadership emerged and was shared to achieve the team’s objectives.

MBA studentsFollowing the ending of the game competition, feedback about how the teams worked to achieve their goals was provided by the judges – CLST’s Bruce Avolio and Chelley Patterson; 2012 alumnus, former MBAA Executive Vice President, and co-founder with CLST of the LAB series, Colin Beazley; and Director, Full-time MBA Student Affairs, Sigrid Olsen.

Many thanks to outgoing MBAA Executive Vice President, Soleil Kelley, for keeping the LAB tradition alive and for all his thought- and leg-work putting together this Rube Goldberg event! And now we move on to working with the new MBA leadership on the next LAB event as we move into the Spring quarter…

Watch video of the event below:

 

L.A.B. sessions enable MBA students to discuss topics of interest with business and community leaders while  developing their own leadership skills. The sessions are sponsored by MBAA and CLST. Visit CLST’s website to learn more.

The honor and privilege of leadership

For B. Kevin Turner, Microsoft’s Chief Operating Officer, leadership is the greatest privilege in life. On Wednesday, April 1, Turner provided a thorough discussion on the lessons he learned about being a leader, interweaving stories from his years of experience with companies like Walmart and Microsoft. Topics ranged from the necessity of self-awareness and continuous self-improvement in leaders, to the significance of simplicity in all businesses.

Watch the full presentation below:

Celebrating 45 years of Executive Development

On Thursday, March 5, 2015, the Executive Development Program (EDP) at the Foster School of Business celebrated 45 years of advanced business education. Alumni representing over 40 organizations attended the event, from established companies like Microsoft, Nordstrom, and Boeing, to numerous startups created by Seattle entrepreneurs.

Founded in 1970, under the name “The Management Program,” EDP is designed to help individuals improve their understanding of the big picture of business. The program begins and ends with strategy and touches on every aspect of business in between. “It tells you how all these things fit together,” said Professor Charles Hill.

At the event, Dean Jim Jiambalvo talked about how the program had a major impact on the Foster school, specifically the quality of the faculty. “Executives have a higher standard, and they drove us to meet those standards,” Jiambalvo said. Often, executives enrolled in EDP want to know how to immediately apply what they just learned. “It impacted my teaching for a long time,” said Jiambalvo.

Bill Ayer discusses leadershipBill Ayer, former Alaska Airlines CEO and a long supporter of the Foster School, provided a keynote address on leadership, sharing numerous lessons and pieces of advice as he talked about his experience in a challenging industry. Among the numerous takeaways of the speech, Ayer discussed the primacy of the customer, as well as the importance of decisive action: “The perfect plan will never be perfect,” he said.

Over the course of the keynote, Ayer listed eight lessons he wanted to pass on to other executives:

  1. Get the right people on board
  2. Create a sense of urgency
  3. Focus on one to two big ideas at a time
  4. Always have metrics, what you measure is what gets done
  5. Focus on what you can control over the long-term
  6. Be totally and completely customer focused
  7. Don’t confuse being popular with doing the right thing
  8. Develop strategic partnerships

Mamtha Banerjee shares her experienceThe evening ended with an invitation for EDP alumni to share their experiences about the program. One alumna, Mamtha Banerjee, founder and CEO of MagicFlix, talked about how EDP helped her become more than a technical expert, giving her the business skills to take part in strategy and decision making. “The best part was really the case studies—getting everyone’s point of view from different industries,” Banerjee said.

Reflections on the Japanese healthcare system

This post was written by Management Professor and Center for Leadership & Strategic Thinking Executive Director Bruce Avolio.

Bruce AvolioMy trip to Japan this past week, brought me first to Kyoto, then to Osaka and Tokyo. Kyoto is the City of Temples and Shrines, over a thousand, much of which are all in wonderful condition. The purpose of my trip, was to do a keynote presentation to senior Japanese leaders in the healthcare field, on the transformation that is underway in healthcare around the globe. I also conducted a day-long workshop for middle to senior leaders in the healthcare industry, more focused on advancing leadership development in individuals, teams and organizations.

If you have never been to Japan, go! The Japanese are perhaps the best hosts on earth. They delight in making things easy for you and showing you their country.

Intermingled among the work related events, we had opportunities to visit very interesting shrines where Shoguns sat in court governing regions of the nation back in the mid 1800s. We learned about their culture and styles of leadership. One style that was very disconcerting to me, as I am always late to everything, was that if you were late to a meeting with the Shogun, by a minute, and that was after traveling months to get there, it was time to say goodbye to your comrades. There were very strict codes of behavior in terms of who sat where in meeting the Shoguns, and even more strict
when meeting the Emperor.

In advance of my trip, I read up a lot on the Japanese healthcare system. Like most modern systems, it was based on Bismarck’s model in Germany of a more centrally controlled system. But unlike say Canada and the U.K., the primary involvement from government is in setting prices for everything from 4 stitches to an MRI. The costs are kept very low, such as $105 for a night in a hospital, any hospital.

BookScanCenter_2In the USA, that would be comparable to a hotel on the freeway for one night, certainly not our top hospitals, where rooms run into the thousands per night. The rigid cost structure is transparent, and everyone has to follow it, no exceptions. So, it is hard to run a healthcare business in Japan and be profitable, but everyone is covered, and the quality of care is good, based on Japan having the highest life expectancy rate, and lowest infant mortality rate in the world among other statistics. The Japanese can get into see their doctors usually in a day or two, and that can include top specialists. Japanese typically go to their physicians regularly resulting in better preventative care. And there are few if any lawsuits, and no one goes bankrupt in Japan due to medical bills.

Yet, all is not perfect of course. The system is struggling financially with low costs and an increasingly older population. Moreover, while I was in Japan, there was a series of stories of a surgeon who had killed a number of patients over a several year time span, and it appeared many knew he was incompetent, but challenging a senior physician is difficult to do in a culture like Japan. One article termed it a problem with leadership, that should have intervened to stop this surgeon. I would add a problem with organizational culture, not unlike we see in the US in terms of similar incidents.

In the end, we started some potential fruitful relationships between our school and the healthcare leaders in Japan, and going back to Japan in the near future, seems like a great possibility. Between the hospitality, food and beautiful cities and countryside, it seems like a great place to strike up a collaboration.