Faces Of Fargo Business: Robert Jones

Written by: Brady Drake

I joined the Village Family Service Center as an Employee Assistance Program Trainer for the Village Business Institute in 2015. In this role, I train on a variety of topics that can be used to strengthen an organization and develop leaders. Some examples of topics that I cover are leadership development, self-care, organizational culture development, and diversity-related issues.

I hold a bachelor’s degree in communication studies from Minnesota State University Moorhead, and a Master’s in Education with a dual emphasis in leadership and counseling from Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota. I am currently working on my Educational Doctorate in Leadership from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. My doctoral research is considering the concept of belonging and how institutions of higher education can aid in the development of a sense of belonging among domestic students of color.

In my free time, I am a volunteer district advisor for the Kappa Sigma Fraternity working with chapters at Minnesota State University Moorhead, University of North Dakota, and The University of Minnesota. I have also been a member of the Board of Directors for Lake Agassiz Habitat for Humanity and continue to support the efforts of that organization to provide affordable housing to people in Cass and Clay counties.

I have recently become an adjunct faculty member of the Leadership and Integrative studies program with Kennesaw State University. I teach an online course on Leadership and Social movement.

What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Being married to a former therapist and spending my day with counselors at the Village Family Service Center I don’t get a whole lot of advice. But one thing that I hear people say that I struggle with is “just deal with it.” Sometimes when someone tells us to just deal with it they are trying to minimalize what a person is going through because we don’t know what to do or don’t want to deal with it.  

Instead of telling someone to mask their struggles we should be offering support through a kind ear or know referral sources that a person can be sent to. Another thing to consider when making the statement “just deal with it” is some people may not have the resources or the ability to deal with whatever they is struggling with. There are several people that don’t have the social and psychological approach that is needed to handle a stressful situation.

Three media recommendations

1) Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni – This book is key to developing a culture because it outlines how an organization needs to create an environment based on trust which can lead to the ability to have positive conflict, better levels of accountability, and greater results for the organization.

2) The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle – This book looks at how to build a strong and sustainable culture.  What I appreciate is that he doesn’t just outline ideas but uses real-life applications from real organizations such as the Navy SEALS, the comedy troupe Upright Citizens Brigade and the San Antonio Spurs.

3) The Work by Wes Moore – This book examines the decisions made and the opportunities taken that led to the discovery of his life purpose. These chances can inspire and motivate us if we are open and willing to step out of our comfort zone.  I had the opportunity to meet Wes Moore as part of the Common Read Program at MSUM and having the opportunity to hear him speak and the authenticity of his message was truly inspirational.

What’s your “why”?
My why is the “Ah ha” moment. When I work with a client, I am attempting to reach the needs of the individual both while they are at work and potential life outside of work because the two have a symbiotic relationship. I thrive on looking out a group and seeing people nodding their head in agreement or the person after a training who is grateful for what I said. It is looking out at the crowd and seeing the metaphorical light bulb come on above their head as I make a connection with them or their situation. The connection made in my opinion can be a changing event and while I know that I may never see how that presentation affects them in the long term I know that I have planted a seed for potential change and growth which leads to improvement. 

What’s one characteristic you believe every great leader should possess?
Vulnerability, too often people in power are afraid to lose power and that is why they close themselves off. The problem is that leading by power does nothing more than push quality people away. 

Vulnerability allows a leader to admit that they don’t know everything and that they need people to help them even if the person is at a different level in the organization’s hierarchy. Being vulnerable tell employees that it is okay to make mistakes which means that the staff can be comfortable asking questions and making mistake without fear of being scolded or ridiculed.  

The ability to demonstrates vulnerability also opens the leader up to the opportunity to show compassion, respect, and value for their employee which can create a sense of belong that solidifies the team or organization.

What’s one way you foster creativity within your organization?
I think there are two ways that I can foster creativity in my and any organization. First is internally recognizing that everyone has a different perspective based on life experience.  Our experience growing up shapes how we look and things and determine how we respond to situations.  The experience can shape how we respond.  

The second way to foster creativity is to ask questions. Ask questions of the people who are doing the work, ask for their perspectives, and then have a conversation to understand their thought processes. A true leader is comfortable with the knowledge that they do not know everything and because of this they are able to ask for input.  

By adopting this approach to fostering creativity a couple of things can happen. First, you create a sense of ownership and belonging with the employee because they are part of the process and not just a cog. Second, you can empower employees so as an organization you can get away from the mentality of “this is how we have always done it”.

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Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.