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Workplace influence

New Outstanding Workplace Stories series kicks off Oct. 16

October 6, 2015 — 

Did you ever wonder how influencers positively impact the people around them in the workplace? According to David Ness, trust is the most important aspect of influence in the workplace.

David Ness is the director of counseling services and one of three panelists participating in the new Outstanding Workplace Stories series, which launches Friday, Oct. 16. The Outstanding Workplace Stories series is organized by Learning and Organizational Development (LOD) and features individuals who stand out in the U of M community as having insight and perspective into professional development topics. Panelists will share their stories in a less formal setting during a lunchtime seminar.

The first panel focuses on the topic of having influence in the work environment. Other panelists are James Blatz, associate vice-president (partnerships) and Karen Meelker, privacy officer/coordinator.

Mark O’Riley, director of LOD, says, “We hope the panel discussions will be an engaging way for members of the U of M community to learn from each other’s experiences, spark dialogue and contribute to the culture of support at the university.”




We spoke with David Ness in advance of the event for a preview of his insights.

What is the most important characteristic you see that promotes influence/provides leadership  (characteristic specific to the topic) in the workplace?

Ness: This is a challenging question because there are many characteristics that could be discussed. If I had to select one characteristic it would be trust. A leader needs to engender trust to facilitate open dialogue, risk taking and safety. A workplace in which there is mutual trust between all will be healthier and will promote innovation, dedication and reward. To engender trust, a leader must maintain high ethical standards and be honest, supportive and provide critical feedback in a fashion that can be received. This demands that a leader be aware of their own work and personality style and how this works for them and against them.

What or who has been your greatest influence for your work, and why? Or Who has been the greatest mentor for you in terms of leadership?

Ness: The greatest influence I’ve experienced that informed my leadership was my volunteer involvement in a national professional organization that ultimately resulted in an opportunity to assume a significant leadership role. The experiences with this national organization were seminal for my leadership skills and included fantastic support and modelling from colleagues whom I’m now happy to call friends. The environment I worked within with this organization felt safe and affirming and included significant time for interpersonal connecting, which is something that can facilitate effectively working with challenging situations later on. There were challenging topics to address during my time with this organization but this was not a bad thing as they helped to shape my leadership style and to develop my confidence. Maybe the greatest gain I realized from working with this group was enhanced leadership confidence.


 The first Outstanding Workplace Stories event takes place on Friday, Oct. 16, from 12 to 1 p.m. In LOD’s new Learning Centre at 141 Education. Following the presentations, there will be time for questions from the audience.


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