Supervision – Trial by Error

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I was reading the book Radical Candor by Kim Scott recently and she said many of us learn how to lead on the backs of our employees. This got me thinking about how I myself have learned to lead and some of the mistakes I’ve made along the way.

Trial by Error

I certainly wish I had read Ms. Scott’s book earlier in my life. It would have saved me from making some pretty big mistakes (and by pretty big I mean some utter doozies). Though I had the best of intentions, I inevitably impacted employees in a negative way because I had not found my own voice and way of doing things.

In the beginning, I learned how to lead by watching others and adopting their strategies. So, you could say, my leadership skills came about via trial-by-error. It didn’t take me long to realize that a one-size-fits-all approach does not meet the needs of every individual. Some staff want to move up and be given tasks that prepare them for their next role. Some staff members are happy right where they are. And some are not in the right role at all.

The problem with my initial approach to leadership was that I failed to see that each employee had their own wants and needs. I assumed everyone wanted to be groomed for advancement, and so I “led” through this narrow lens.

Okay, so that approach obviously backfired. But the good news is that all of this trial-by-error leadership taught me to listen to staff and explore what it is that they really want. As a leader, I have to first understand the needs of my employees instead of assuming I know what they already are. And then I have to recognize what makes that employee tick, so I can meet those needs effectively.

It’s Okay to Make Mistakes – But Here’s How to Avoid Them Anyway

It’s ok to make mistakes as long as you own them and change your approach to best meet the needs of your team. I’ll leave you with a list from Forbes Magazine’s “5 common Mistakes Most Leaders Make (And How To Avoid Them)

1. Most Leaders Confuse Control with Delegation

2. Most Leaders Care More About the Title Than The Job Requirement

3. Most Leaders Want To Take Credit For The Wins, And Shift Blame For the Losses

4. Most Leaders Work Less Than Everyone Else, And Expect More Than Everyone Else

5. Most Leader Treat Other The Way They Were Treated.

What qualities will you focus on this year to become a better leader? Let me know in the comments section.

Training – Does it Stick?

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Many organizations, programs, and teams hire consultants or trainers at the beginning of each semester with the hope of implementing systematic change. I myself used this same approach at the beginning of every semester, assigning leadership or inspirational articles, conducting team builders, and engaging in strategic planning as a way to further team and program development.

What generally happens is this approach fails. Miserably. Why does this happen time and time again?

Because change, real change, can’t happen instantly. Once trainers and consultants move on to other campuses, once those articles and books begin collecting dust, old patterns and ways of doing things start to take over. The same old deadlines and pressures begin to rear their ugly heads, and any hope of real and lasting change flies directly out the proverbial window.

So, what can be done?  What should be done to move forward to make change stick and shifts to occur?

Practice, practice, practice.

Ok, I know what you’re thinking. “Practice what exactly?”

Think of it this way:  athletes don’t show up for a game and hope they win; they have to practice first. Before each season, the coach makes a game plan, but the work doesn’t end there. That plan is practiced pretty much every single day for hours. And even after the first or second or third games, that plan is still practiced. Because you can’t hope to win consistently by winging it – you have GOT to prepare and practice first.

Can you imagine what professional athletes and teams would look like if they took the approach that we have adopted in higher education?

Lasting change takes practice. To get better at our roles takes practice. To serve our students at a high level takes practice.

I recently adopted a practice model using what I call the “fishbowl” approach. I’ll share a quick example.

I had every staff member that does outreach share a presentation in front of the rest of the group. We evaluated each story, delivery, the PowerPoint slides and other materials. What we learned as a staff is that the members are really great presenters but needed to practice certain skills more than others.

For example, one staff member benefitted from attending storytelling training. These sessions allowed her to practice crafting stories that would make a lasting impact on her audience.

I have tried the traditional model of training just once or twice a year, but what I have learned is that my staff deserves more because the student deserve the best from them. If I’m not bringing out their best through intentional practice embedded throughout the year, how can they improve and be at the top of their game.? Practice allows for robust training that lasts, engaged and invested staff, stronger programs, and realized change.


Why Rejuvenation Needs to Go Beyond the Break for a Successful 2018

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At the end of this last semester, I was exhausted and looking forward to a much-deserved break. As it got closer for my break to begin, I vowed not to check email, think about work (or bring any work home), and most important, not think about January 2018 and the many projects that I knew would be waiting for me when I got back.

I’m happy to report that this last break was one of the best I have ever had. Okay, so maybe I ate a few too many calories, (How do you say no to all of those festive foods and cocktails? It can’t be done!), but I made sure to mostly take care of myself, my whole self, during the break and I came back feeling refreshed.

Of course, the challenge now is to keep this feeling. How do I approach my projects, supervision, and navigate the office and institution politics differently so I don’t end up depleted by the third week of 2018?

It became clear that some things in my life need to change, and I am the only one in a position to change them. So, during my break, I started focusing on what is most important and I determined that moving forward my priorities must be my health, my family’s welfare and having fun. I made a list of all the things I have let go over the last few years so I could focus solely on the job and the many logs I have in the fire, namely family time, reading, hiking, exercising regularly, movies, and adventures.

This change is going to take time and discipline because for the last three years, I have been living in overdrive, focusing solely on career goals while letting health and social goals slide. Get my doctorate degree – check. Obtain an Associate Vice President position – check. Obtain several training certificates: coaching, appreciation at work, Harvard Strategic Business Management – check, check and check. And finally, start my own coaching and consulting business- ch-ch-ch-check.

So here it is, 2018, and I need to make some changes. I have enough. I am enough. This year I must get back to the things and people that help me breathe so I can be a balanced leader. I don’t want to miss life. I want to enjoy both work and life outside of work. I cannot be a whole person if I continue to give work 80% of my attention and life outside of work only 20%.

If you’re nodding your head right now, aware that your life has also become imbalanced, and you’d like help getting it back on track, please get in touch with me. I am in the business of growing people to become highly-effective leaders and programs to provide the services students need to be successful. Whether it’s one-on-one coaching, or training you are looking for I can assist you with transforming your approach and enable you to be the visionary, strategist or supervisor you’ve always wanted to be.

Let’s connect and make 2018 the year you will forever call a turning point in your career. Give me a call today and let’s get started.

Have a great start to your semester/quarter!

Click on the link to my calendar and find a time that works for both us. We can talk about your particular situation and start to create a solution.