Center for Positive Organizations welcomes new managing director, Esther Kyte

May 20, 2020

Esther Kyte

The Center for Positive Organizations (CPO) at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan is pleased to introduce Esther Kyte as its new managing director.

Esther joined CPO in late 2014 as the associate director of partner relations. For the past year she has served as the interim managing director and then permanently named to the position in early March 2020.

Esther has dedicated her entire career to bettering the lives of people around the world, tackling some of the largest global challenges at organizations such as the Clinton Global Initiative, The Global Philanthropy Program at the World Affairs Council of Northern California, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

During her tenure at CPO she has cultivated relationships with donors and Positive Organizations Consortium members (growing membership over ninefold), supported faculty research and advancement of the field of Positive Organizational Scholarship, and led the development of a new strategy to elevate CPO’s role in the science and practice of thriving organizations.

Esther steps into this new role during a time of immense change in our personal and professional lives, as many of us continue to navigate physical distance measures to help curb the spread of COVID-19. The mission of the Center for Positive Organizations is to help organizations—and their people—thrive, especially during trying times, so we asked Esther how she envisions CPO helping during this unprecedented global pandemic.

Now three months into your new position, how do you see CPO’s role in thriving organizations change while we’re working at a physical distance to keep ourselves, family, friends, and colleagues safe?

I think it becomes more important than ever. This is a crisis that touches everyone and makes us acutely aware of our common humanity. We’re all impacted in some way, and we’re all trying to figure out how to get through it. For 18 years, CPO has focused on developing research on how systems and structures can bring out the potential in people. Never have we needed that more than right now. The knowledge, skills, and practices we’ve learned have the potential to help so many people and organizations weather this crisis, and have the strength and resilience to move forward into a new future. We’ve pulled all the most helpful resources into a special Thriving in Trying Times section of our website.

Tell us a little about CPO’s priorities for the next few years.

Over the next three years, we will focus on making our research content more accessible to more people through the website and through innovative learning experiences. Our specific goals, outlined in our newly published 2020 Impact Report, are being accelerated by the Coronavirus pandemic. Thankfully we occupy a unique position at the nexus of a world-class university, with access to cutting-edge research and the next generation of purpose-driven leaders, and a community of people who are eager to see organizations and people thrive. And even during these uncertain times, we have the opportunity to cross-fertilize ideas and collectively work towards our mission to create thriving organizations.

Many people are finding a little extra time to read while staying home. We know you have two young sons who are bursting with energy, but have you gotten into any new books lately?

I am re-reading Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg because it has such great lessons in it about resilience and growth. One thing in the book that has been particularly powerful for me is Jane Dutton’s concept that we should count our contributions rather than or in addition to reflecting on what we are thankful for. The concept that we can make a difference, in large or small ways, every day feels so relevant when so much is out of our control right now.

On the other hand, my kids are keeping themselves busy making a movie about a zombie apocalypse so I guess we’re all coping in our own ways!

If you want to learn more about CPO’s new strategy and goals, read our 2020 Impact Report. If you’d like to help support the work of the center, click here.