President of Central College, Pella, IA
Dr. Putnam is president of Central College, a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with the Reformed Church in America. Mark has more than 28 years of higher education experience. He maintains a blog, Mark: my words, at http://blogs.central.edu/president/.
Mark: I do this continually in a self-reflective process. I have always enjoyed my own thought process and have continued to analyze how I think. Reflection is not about a place or time, it is more a state of mind. It can sometime be difficult to shut down.
Mark: My talent is breaking down complex situations into manageable pieces. To do this, I tend to throw out questions to various people to add pieces to the conversation. This begins to create patterns to play with in the mind.
Mark: You must create interdependence in a leadership team where their primary responsibility is to each other. I know we are getting there when people understand how I think. Collaboration is not a method, it is about developing a relationship.
Mark: I am concerned that goals can lead to a means-end reversal. The process can become the end product. I am more committed to the long-term impact of a decision. Goals should project intent and drive energy down a pathway. There should be clear intent but some goals can lead to false precision.
Mark: You have to demonstrate intellectual flexibility and avoid rigidity. I need to facilitate tension not resolve it.
Mark: I use to believe that execution of process could always work until I saw it fail. You cannot execute your way past apathy and disfunction. The key is to ask the right questions. This enables people to elevate the discourse. If the questions are good, the results will be also.
Mark: Precision of thought that can be communicated with clarity and precision while being aligned with humility.
Mark: Organizations need to be involved in two things. They need to be concerned with getting healthy as an organization and planning for the future. When I arrived at Central College, we eliminated six organizational units right away and two more in the next year. If you use governance to supplant management, your organization will crumble. Eliminating some of these other things is how you help move toward organizational health.
Mark: I work from the four frames of Bollman and Deal. Those are structural, human resource, political and symbolic. Most complex decisions involve all four frames. Most people start with the structural when the symbolic may be a bigger deal. Most complex situations will require concurrent management of all frames.
Mark: When the time horizon is short you must accelerate the symbolic and political frames. Get to the key people, build a critical mass and name the nature of the opposition.
Mark: I used to think organizations were about tasks and execution but now I think it is about relationships.