For those of us in higher education, August and September are the real start of the new year. With that in mind, we are planning more posts for you to read in October after we all get the start of the new year behind us.
In the meantime, here are some interesting facts from MPR News. As we already know at Minnesota State, the article pointed out that today’s college students aren’t who we might think they are. For example, the authors shared these statistics about undergrad students:
- 2 out of 5 attend a two-year community college
- 1 in 5 is at least 30 years old
- About half are financially independent from their parents
- 1 in 4 is caring for a child
- 47 percent go to school part-time at some point
- 25 percent take a year off before starting school
- 44 percent have parents who never completed a bachelor’s degree
The article says that “nontraditional” students are the new normal. That should reinforce our efforts to look at our processes and procedures in a new way.
Welcome back to the new school year!
Dee Anne Bonebright
I spent most of this week at the Luoma Leadership Academy, a year-long program in which about 60 leaders at Minnesota State have been learning about leadership and putting it into practice with action learning projects.
At the graduation program, Senior Vice Chancellor Ron Anderson spoke about the importance of developing ourselves as leaders. I appreciated his thoughts about the importance of development, even when it’s hard.
First, he talked about becoming comfortable living in the “murky space” of continuous change. He challenged us to stand up, step out of our comfort zones, and engage in what we could do, not just what we are doing. Increasing our comfort with change, from a work and personal standpoint, enables us to better serve our students, institutions, and the system.
He also challenged us to become comfortable with failure. As we push ourselves and our institutions into new places, we will try some things that don’t work. He reminded us that failure isn’t bad, and it doesn’t mean we’re bad leaders. As long as we learn from it, failure is part of the development process.
As Vice Chancellor Anderson pointed out, we in higher ed are less likely than some other industries to support the idea of “fail early and often.” Developing ourselves as leaders for the future will mean moving into that space and trying new things, even if we aren’t sure whether it will work as planned.
Putting ourselves into places that may be uncomfortable, and stretching our boundaries, is a key component to our work as leaders. What uncomfortable challenge have you taken on recently?
Dee Anne Bonebright
A recent newsletter from the Association for Talent Development included an article called “9 Bad Manager Mistakes That Make Good People Quit.” They cited a statistic from Gallup that you’ve probably heard before – 70% of an employee’s motivation is directly tied to actions by his or her manager.
People don’t quit organizations, they quit managers. So how can you be the sort of manager that doesn’t send good employees job hunting? Here are some tips from the article, which was reprinted in Huffington Post.
- Manage workloads – I’ve heard many employees say that they appreciate the work/life balance provided in their job at Minnesota State. That not only supports motivation, but it’s effective management. Overworked people are not as productive and are significantly less engaged.
- Recognizing contributions – Everyone likes to be acknowledged for their good work, and high performers often value it even more. Figure out what type of recognition your employees need, and then provide it on a regular basis.
- Provide development opportunities – Our environment is about learning and growing. Not only do our employees want to provide that for students, but they also want a chance to keep their own skills current and develop new ones.
- Honor commitments – Highly engaged employees usually report that they work for a manager who is reliable and trustworthy.
- Engage creativity – Encourage people to use their talents to improve the work they do. It will engage their creative problem-solving skills and tap into their passions.
- Care about your employees – Effective mangers know how to balance professionalism with being human. They understand that people have lives outside of work – they help celebrate successes and are supportive of difficult issues.
Dee Anne Bonebright
Over the last few weeks I’ve been conducting annual performance reviews with my staff. In preparation for our conversations, I ask my staff to not only document their accomplishments and performance goals, but to think about their professional development goals as well. Helping my staff grow and learn is highly satisfying. And according to career development expert and author Beverley Kaye, it is essential to retaining high performing individuals.
In her book, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go, Kaye offers up simple strategies that leaders can use help their staff grow in their careers, including:
- Have short, frequent conversations with your staff about their career development
- Listen attentively. Let your employees do 90% of the talking in your personal sessions.
- Be curious and encourage curiosity. You do not need to have all the answers.
- Provide constructive feedback regularly.
- Discuss career development as a “rock-climbing wall” where employees can move up, down or sideways – or hang on and stay put
Kaye also recommends employing hindsight, foresight, and insight conversations:
- During hindsight conversations, encourage people to look within themselves and examine where they’ve been in the past
- During foresight conversations, ask staff to look outside of themselves and consider their future paths
- Use insight conversations to combine hindsight and foresight
While professional development conversations between supervisors and their direct reports shouldn’t be limited to once a year, I find annual performance reviews a helpful time to focus on professional development conversations. It gives my staff an opportunity to discuss how they are wanting to grow their careers and it gives me a chance to encourage them and provide additional ideas for development that might include stretch assignments, new work projects, professional certifications, continuing education, and service opportunities.
How do you help your employees grow?
Annual performance reviews can be a useful tool in building organizational talent. On the other hand, if it’s not done well it can be like going to the dentist or getting an immunization – necessary to maintain health but not particularly fun.
From the employee’s point of view it’s a chance to focus on what we’ve done well this year and where we’d like to go in the future. I was having a bad day on Monday morning, and receiving my review from Anita actually made it much better. It’s very engaging to hear what your supervisor appreciates about you and to think about possibilities for development.
From the manager’s point of view performance reviews are a chance to reinforce things that are going well and develop goals for the next year. It’s much easier to hold people accountable for their performance if you’ve both agreed on what successful performance looks like. In my review, Anita and I created a set of goals that I will be able to report on in our ongoing conversations.
As an HR professional, I see the value in having the annual review meeting. I’m also well aware that they are going out of favor in many organizations, with the focus shifting to more frequent ongoing conversations. Since many of us at Minnesota State are starting a new cycle, here are some tips to make next year’s reviews effective.
- No surprises – the annual review should be a summary of conversations that you’ve had throughout the year. It’s a chance to focus on what’s gone well and what should happen in the future.
- It’s not about the form – whatever the process is at your institution, focus on having a meaningful conversation, not on filling out the form and selecting ratings.
- Don’t rely on memory – If your employee does something extraordinary in the next month, it will be nearly impossible to remember that a year from now. Keeping notes will make the process easier and more accurately reflect the full year.
- Take it seriously – I’ve heard way too many stories about people who don’t get a review at all, or who are asked to fill out their own form, which the supervisor then signs without comment. That’s demoralizing for the employee and can come back to bite the manager. It’s really difficult to manage a performance problem if the employee has a track record of reviews that exceed expectations.
Making the annual review the capstone to a year of effective performance management will help it feel more like getting ready for a 4th of July party than a medical appointment.
Dee Anne Bonebright
I love that I know what to expect on the 4th of July. Fireworks on Sand Island (photo from 2007); sparklers; food that is red, white and blue; mosquitoes; family fun, and ooohs and ahhhs! Yup, I can count on it!
Research shows that we also need clear expectations at work. The authors of a recent study by Gallup stated, “Even if employees feel energized and motivated, those who lack clear expectations and spend too much time working on the wrong things can’t advance key initiatives to create value for an organization.”
Based on Gallup’s decades of research and information from over 31 million employees they recommend the following four best practices for leaders to set effective expectations:
- Develop them collaboratively. Effective expectations need to include both the leader’s strategic perspective and the employee’s awareness of the day-to-day realities of the work.
- Articulate them clearly. Minimize confusion and uncertainty and maximize focus with clear and understandable language.
- Focus on excellence. Work together to identify “best-in-class” opportunities and expectations that inspire.
- Individualize to strengths. Identify and leverage the unique talents, interests and skills of each person related to their specific role and expectations.
Help build your people and your talent by setting clear expectations.
Julie Selander is a former colleague from the U of M. I recently came across a presentation she made for the Innovative Educators group, Execptional Front-Line Customer Service in Higher Education.
Selander is the Director of One Stop Student Services, and she had some very useful advice for creating a service culture. As an example, her unit has a goal of being knowledgeable, efficient, empathetic, and friendly. Their basic principles include:
- Understanding customers and their expectations
- Providing accurate, timely, consistent information
- Being professional and courteous
- Delivering what was promised
- Being a problem-solver
Here are some questions she proposed to help you think about service principles and standards in your area:
- Who are our customers? What are their attributes and demographics?
- What are their perceptions and expectations?
- What are we offering them – products, services, and/or resources?
- Do we have the capacity to meet and exceed their expectations? If not, how can we get where we need to be?
As Selander points out, exceptional customer service leads to increased retention, improved graduation rates, a positive reputation for the institution, and more fulfilling work for staff. How can you create and maintain a positive service culture in your team?
Dee Anne Bonebright