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|Thursday, December 01, 2011|
BY TOM COX
For two and a half years, the University of Oregon had an unusually high performing president. Under his leadership. the previously sleepy and mediocre school came alive. Donations began to flow in faster. Decisions got made quickly. Things started to get done. More than anything, this president, Richard Lariviere, gave people hope that improvement was possible. As folks saw change happening — as they gave themselves permission to believe more change could happen — more and more of them came off the sidelines and started taking initiative.
The facts are simple — Lariviere achieved extraordinarily good results in his role. He was so good he made others uncomfortable. And his boss, Pernsteiner, reacted the opposite of how he should have. Rather than placating the slow-moving people, Pernsteiner could have challenged them to keep up. He could have pointed to the mission, and shown that Lariviere was doing more, better and faster. Instead, Pernsteiner chose to placate the slow-pokes.
Gov. Kitzhaber should get Chancellor Pernsteiner training on how to build trust on his executive team, and on how to manage superstar performers. (The answer is not to notice low trust and fire someone — when you notice low trust, build more trust.) If Pernsteiner isn’t trainable, Kitzhaber should replace him. Meanwhile, Kitzhaber should lean on Pernsteiner and the board to ask Lariviere to come back.
Board members who aren’t comfortable with Lariviere’s return should be given training on how to be better board members.
Board members who cannot be trained, should be counseled to find other forms of service so their board seats can be filled by people who understand and can manage change.
“When you see a problem like this, it’s never not leadership,” says Grew.
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