Positive Leadership: The Staff Series “Living with Intention”

September 9, 2016

At the Ross School of Business, a vision of abundance has been conveyed through the Dean’s Office work with the Staff Involvement Group, as well as opening class opportunities for staff to attend and providing training such as Crucial Confrontations.  In Professor Kim Cameron’s book Practicing Positive Leadership, he states that “This kind of vision helps unleash human potential, since it addresses the basic human desire to do something that makes a difference, something that has enduring impact.”  Continue reading to hear what Nancy Schuon’s reflections were on attending the Positive Leadership Series for staff.

Name: Nancy Schuon
Title:   Financial Manager
Number of Years at Ross: 16 at Ross, 27.5 at the University of Michigan

1. Before you attended the sessions, what did you think you were going to gain from them?

The series sounded interesting.  Knowing that the Center for Positive Organization’s faculty were teaching, I knew that I could understand what they were saying, as opposed to attending a statistics class.  These faculty members are experienced at talking to people at all levels of education.  

I also knew that my director, Sean, would be supportive of my attendance and that I would enjoy it.

2. How would you explain/describe the experience of attending these sessions to a close friend or family member?

Each session was structured so that we would sit with different people.  In addition, each session started with an impacting ice-breaker – different than other ice breaker activities I’ve participated in before.

I resonated with Professor Robert Quinn because he is such a good speaker. Professor Lynn Wooten’s talk on crisis management helped me to think through how I would respond to a crisis.

3. What did you take away and how do you see yourself applying what you learned into your everyday life?

The most impacting information I received was “Living with Intention.”  I would seriously like to look into John Maxwell’s work a bit more.  I was left thinking “What would my day be like if I developed a life plan and did things with more intention?”  

As I get closer to retirement, I need to make a plan – I can’t keep putting that off. These sessions helped clarify for me that I need to know the end result and plan for it so that what I do or don’t do doesn’t put me at risk (like having enough money for retirement).

To live life in this way, I need to keep the book of notes I have kept from the sessions handy and maybe try to use it to help my actions equal my intentions.

4. What constitutes a positive work environment?

What we have at Ross has many facets that create a positive work environment.  Staff know that they are valued by the opportunities for classes and seminars that are offered.  Significant efforts by Dean Alison Davis-Blake have made Ross a better place to work.  Positive strides have been made so that staff do not feel marginalized.

Having said that, there are departments that do not allow their staff to participate.  In fact, some department leaders do not encourage staff to attend All Staff Meetings.  I believe it would be beneficial to have department directors accountable for allowing and encouraging staff to participate in all the activities offered.  If staff felt free to attend and participate, how would that affect their performance on the job?  It’s possible for staff, no matter what their rank at the School, to become more engaged, take more pride in their work, and perform at a higher level.


I have seen real effort and measurable, concrete decisions made to benefit staff.  Before five years ago, staff had to purchase their own coffee (while faculty did not).  Now, that is no longer the case – staff and faculty receive free coffee.  In addition, classes like Crucial Conversations are now offered for staff.  Staff feel engaged and more appreciated when they are allowed to take advantage of all the opportunities offered here at Ross.  

If you would like to discover how to be a more effective and positive leader, we highly recommend that you read the book How to Be a Positive Leader: Small Actions, Big Impact, edited by Jane E. Dutton and Gretchen M. Spreitzer.

Positive Leadership: The Staff Series is a group of interviews capturing staff reflections after participating in the Positive Leadership Workshops.