Monthly Archives: July 2015

Start with the basics

knowledge-is-powerMost of us didn’t go into higher education or leadership to manage budgets (apologies to my accounting and budget colleagues). Or in today’s environment, to cut budgets. Yet that has become our reality. As much as we hope that the next budget cycle will be better, increasing your financial acumen and skillfully utilizing your budget is crucial to success and delivering on core commitments. As a CEO I used to work with said, “No margin, no mission.”

Operating with more knowledge can help you feel slightly more in control of your situation and allow you to make proactive and strategic decisions, rather than reacting to crises or external demands.

A great starting point is to pick up the phone and invite your CFO or budget/finance director out to lunch. Developing a partnership with your finance leader can help you learn and, more importantly, integrate financial strategy into your leadership actions before cuts need to be made.

At Minnesota State Colleges and Universities we have an online course titled Finance for the Non-financial Administrator. (MnSCU administrators can register here.) It provides tactical information on the financial systems we use, budget reports, acronyms and other foundational fiscal information needed to understand and manage a budget in our system. Finding that type of information wherever you work can help you increase your financial savvy.

Dr. George S. McClellan, author of the book, Budgets and Financial Management in Higher Education, shared his insights on budgeting and institutional missions in a recent interview that is an easy read and very informative. You can find it here. A key take-away for me was his advice when cutting budgets, “be sure you can articulate what you won’t be able to do if funding is not available for a particular program or service. Whose ox will be gored?”

You may not look forward to the next budget meeting but increasing your financial proficiency will help you make strategic decisions focused on your core commitments and values.

Todd Thorsgaard



Saving time with online meetings

online meetingAs Todd described in his blog on July 1, most of us are trying to do more with less. And though technology can bleed over into our personal lives as DeeAnne described in her last post, it can also be quite a time and money saver.  For example, online meetings reduce travel times when colleagues are scattered across the state and certainly eliminate travel costs.

I have one or two online meetings or leadership program orientations that I’ll be leading every day this week. While meeting with people or conducting training online is never the same as it is in person, I’ve found that several practices can enrich the online experience.

  1. Use web cams! While some folks may be reticent to project their own face via web cam, it enriches the meeting because participants can see each other.
  2. Ask lots of questions. Asking questions AND waiting for participants to answer, increases engagement. (It also lessens the possibility that folks are tuning you out.)
  3. Share the facilitation. Ask various participants to lead parts of the online meeting. Have them share their desktop to walk through their materials.
  4. Use the online tools! Depending on the online platform you are using, WebEx, Go To Meeting, etc., there are nice tools that you can use to engage participants, like a chat box, polling features, or other icons that can be selected to gauge agreement on issues.

This Friday, I’m meeting with a group of coaches who are used to meeting in person only. Because of time constraints, we will be meeting virtually for the first time ever in our 5-year history. I’ll be using all of the strategies I’ve listed above to make sure everyone is engaged.

What have you found to be helpful when leading a meeting online?

Anita Rios

Don’t read this post – at least not today!

Assuming WordPress works as it’s supposed to, this post will come out on July 3, which is a holiday for MnSCU. I’m writing it beforehand and setting it to automatically post, but I’m also planning to log in on Friday to make sure it worked. And while I’m there, I’ll probably check my email. And maybe do a couple of things to be sure I’m ready for the following week…

iphone at lunchDoes that sound familiar? Technology can be a great benefit for leaders, but it also means work can follow you 24/7.  Foresters, a global financial services firm, researched the impact of technology on personal lives and found that 43% of participants thought electronic devices make it impossible to truly “leave work at work” and be fully present for their families. Almost half thought that technology was ruining the family vacation.

Foresters started a Tech Time Out challenge that encourages families to take a break from technology.  Check out this short video introduction and visit their website for ideas.

Here are some other tips about how to disconnect on your next vacation, whether it’s a couple of hours, a day, or even longer:

  1. picard readingLeave the laptop at home. Don’t tempt yourself by bringing work on vacation.  If you want to read for pleasure, bring a Kindle or follow Captain Picard’s advice and try a hard-copy book.
  2. Delete work email from your phone. Set up a vacation notification and give your number to someone who can contact you if there’s a real emergency.
  3. Disable notifications from all your social media sites.
  4. Get away from it all. Consider an unplugged vacation to somewhere with no access to TV, wifi, or phone connections.

The tech site recommends figuring out what will work for you and setting up a plan in advance. Vacations are supposed to be a time to relax and re-charge, so identify what technology will support that and what won’t. Decide how you want to use tech while you’re away from the office, and then stick to it.

I’m still planning to log in on Friday, but I’m taking a real vacation in August and will follow the tips above. What can you do this summer to disconnect and refresh?

Dee Anne Bonebright

It’s real!

Panicked womanAmerican higher education has been under extreme pressures for nearly a decade from a perfect storm of financial, political, demographic, and technological forces. The seemingly never-ending list of worries year after year is beginning to crack the confidence of college leaders.

Selingo, J. (2015). The View From the Top: What Presidents Think About Financial Sustainability, Student Outcomes, and the Future of Higher Education. The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inc.

You aren’t imaging it, it is real. You and your people are facing high expectations and new demands. Specifically, you are being asked to save money and cut costs while also increasing completion rates, decreasing attainment gaps and improving the overall quality of education. Or as you put it when we surveyed you at the beginning of the year, help me lead my people while managing tightening resources and increasing demands!

There is no silver bullet but during the month of July we will share helpful ideas and resources on managing workloads, prioritization, supporting your people, designing work, eliminating inefficiency, and exploring new technology. We also want to provide a platform for you to share information and tips that you are using as you tackle the challenge of managing tightening resources and increasing demands.

The challenge is real but as Ray Kroc said in his autobiography, “Persevere. Nothing in the world can replace persistence.”

Todd Thorsgaard