Tag Archives: career development

Work-Life balance in 5 easy steps

Sorry. I just added that title so you’d open this post. Actually, the more experience I have as a leader and the more I hear other people’s stories, the less I think there are any easy answers for work-life balance.

A popular post from Inside Higher Ed, titled “It’s 4:30 in the morning, do you know where your work-life balance is?” recounts the daily experiences of a wife, mother, and tenure-track faculty member. She says that her life can be crazy, and while she hasn’t found balance, she has found fulfillment in both home and career.

On the other hand, this report in the Wall Street Journal, written about a year after the death of her husband, explains how “Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg rethinks part of ‘lean in’.” Raising two teens by herself, and dealing with grief in public, have given her a new view of work and life. As she says, it’s really hard. Sometimes things change and Option A is no longer available. So what will you do with Option B?

If you are a faculty member of color, or a female in a male-dominated field, things get even more challenging. An article from Inside Higher Ed describes the stress and frustration that may result from being the only minority in a predominantly white institution. The author gives some suggestions for dealing with this stress. While they won’t promote work-life balance in a few easy steps, they are good advice for anyone:

  1. Find some mentors
  2. Work efficiently and manage time well
  3. Find and use wellness resources
  4. Separate work time and personal time
  5. Build your professional brand and credentials

As leaders, there is no single policy or procedure we can enact that will ensure work-life balance for ourselves and our team members. Maybe that’s not even the right goal. The common theme to these stories is about figuring how to thrive wherever our live and career journeys take us.

Dee Anne Bonebright

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New Year Greetings

We’ll be taking some time off over the winter break and returning in January with a new set of blog posts. In the meantime, we wish you all happy holidays and a great new year.

And on that note, I’m sure that many of us will make new year’s resolutions over the next few weeks, and then find reasons to start working on them later. So here’s a post from Harvard Business Review called 5 Research-based Strategies for Overcoming Procrastination.  Here are a few examples:

  • Know your triggers. People are more likely to procrastinate with tasks with tasks that they think of as boring, frustrating, difficult, ambiguous, or lacking in personal meaning. How can you think of the task differently to minimize these triggers?
  • Just get started.  Doing something – anything – helps get over the initial hurdle. It’s easier to keep going than it is to begin.
  • Disconnect. Electronic devices offer a wide range of options for avoiding tasks. Consider taking a break from electronics over the holidays. Or tell yourself not to check email or social media until you’ve made progress on the task you’re avoiding.

See you in 2018!

Dee Anne Bonebright

You mean I have to talk (and listen) to people!

As a confirmed and proud introvert it is hard for me to reach out and ask for help. Others of you may be confident extroverts and struggle to truly listen to others. Either way, when you transition into a new leadership role it is crucial to take the time to initiate conversations and to spend time listening to what others have to say.

Peter Daly and Michael Watson, authors of The First 90 Days in Government: Critical Success Strategies for New Public Managers at all Levels,   describe five crucial subjects or themes that  new leaders need to understand as they move into a new role or take on a new project. This requires having the following “the five conversations” with your leader or colleagues.

  1. The Situation Conversation – discover how your boss and others perceive the current standing or status of the overall organization and your unit. Your goal is to ensure a shared understanding of the challenges and opportunities you face.
  2. The Expectations Conversation – define, clarify, and perhaps, negotiate what success looks like for you in your new job.
  3. The Style Conversation – discuss and determine how the relationship with your new boss and colleagues or stakeholders will work. How do you each prefer to communicate, what boundaries exist, how are decisions made, and how frequent do you need to interact to ensure trust and success.
  4. The Resources Conversation – determine what resources are available, what you believe you need, confirm how resources are allocated and begin negotiating to ensure access to critical resources.
  5. The Personal Development Conversation – mutually identify opportunities and expectations for continual development to ensure success in your current and future roles in the organization.

In reality these will not be distinct one-time conversations but they are a framework to help leaders strategically approach the transition to a new role.

Todd Thorsgaard

The dreaded review!

h-WOMAN-TALKING-OFFICE-628x314A leader at one of our schools remarked that when done right, performance reviews can be energizing and uplifting but when done wrong they are demoralizing. It appears that the latter is what is happening in most organizations. David Ulrich, the Rensis Likert Professor of Business at the University of Michigan and the “Godfather of HR” just published an article in the  latest issue of Talent Quarterly titled “Resolving the Performance Management Paradox.” He cites that 90% of HR professionals are unhappy with their review system, only 14% of CEOs believe that the review system is working and only 8% of HR executives believe that performance management makes a contribution to the success of the organization. Yet, he also cites a long history of studies that clearly indicate that accountability makes a difference. In fact one study identified that just the presence of a performance review system is the greatest predictor of success for hospitals. What can a leader do?

Ulrich recommends that regardless of the process or forms used, leaders embrace conversations:  conversations focused on what he calls “positive accountability,” conversations emphasizing learning and improvement opportunities rather than evaluating what went wrong, and conversations primarily focused on the future rather than the past. He suggests that leaders look for opportunities to engage in “real time” conversations that are ongoing and revolve around work events (projects, semester start or finish, work cycle periods, annual milestones, etc.) Leaders should focus on asking questions to discover how employees can sustain success and prepare for the future and help their people look forward to apply what they have learned and address new opportunities or challenges that arise.

A simple conversational model for leaders to use with their performance review process includes the following three steps:

  • Know Yourself – ask about and discuss each person’s strengths, weaknesses, passions and interests.
  • Action for Growth – ideas and concrete action to leverage individual strengths and interests to support success and on-going development.
  • My Value – dialogue focused on the value that each employee provides to the work unit, institution, students, stakeholders or overall organization.

By focusing less on the process and more on the conversation we can make performance reviews a more uplifting experience.

Todd Thorsgaard

 

Talking talent

“Talk to me, please!”

The Gallup Q12 poll highlights the fact that people need to know that their manager actively supports their development. Yet research by Gallup indicates that less than 20% of employees get regular feedback from their boss. In fact, over 50% meet less than once a month. That is not enough talking about development!

Roland Smith and Michael Campbell from the Center for Creative Leadership suggest that leaders have an opportunity to turn this around quickly by talking talent with their people – in their words start having regular talent conversations. Sincere and direct dialogue with your people focused on their interests, their job, the work that needs to be done and what support or development they need to be successful.

What I like best about talent conversations is that they are for everyone. Not just people who “need” development and not just under-performers. Talking about what is needed to maintain current and future success demonstrates that you are supporting your people.

At Minnesota State we will be working this year to help our supervisors have talent conversations with their people. The first step is to identify the goal for the conversation for each team member based on their current job-related competency and their own personal development needs or interest in growth. In general you will discover that each person on your team will be interested in one of the following four goals:

  1. Develop full competence. Focus on acquiring the skills and developing the competences needed to become a solid performer in their current role.
  2. Explore growth while developing competence. Similar to the first group but also include conversations about future opportunities and how current develop will support growth.
  3. Maintaining their expertise and staying successful in the future. This group will be interested in deepening their skills, sharing their expertise and staying up-to-date in their current role.
  4. Accelerating their development. These folks are competent and want to learn new skills and develop competencies needed for bigger roles.

Having a simple and clear goal for your talent conversations will make it easier to dive in and start talking talent!

Todd Thorsgaard

Let’s do this together!

FAFSA-Application-2016-2017Do you recognize this form? My daughter will be a freshman in college next year so the long and complicated FAFSA form is near and dear to my heart. It reminds me of a form that many leaders and HR Offices use – the IDP or Individual Development Plan. Ask yourself, who likes to fill out forms and sign “on the line?” Not me, I imagine not you, and certainly not the people on your team. Yet we continue to be surprised that a once-a-year form-based event does not engage our people or lead to robust conversations and actual professional development.

Authors and employee development experts Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni agree and wrote Redeveloping the Individual Development Plan  to address this concern. Instead filling out an Individual Development Plan once a year they recommend leaders initiate Iterative Dialogue around Possibilities (IDP) with their people. Working together, employees and leaders can embed continuous learning and development into their day-to-day work.

This new approach to IDPs relies on the following four key ideas that are easy to try out.

  1. Start a new conversation. Begin having regular dialogue focused on asking questions and exploring interests. Demonstrate sincere curiosity in your people’s interests and be open to their questions. Clearly demonstrate that you expect and are confident that everyone can learn and develop.
  2. Move away from complicated forms and plans and try development “Post-Its.” Simplify the process and make it an iterative and flexible approach that can be easily modified, re-sequenced, and updated.
  3. Promote possibility thinking. Encourage your people to be creative and unbound when they think about development. Ask to to build long and diverse lists of ideas and options for development to discuss and share. Facilitate team members working together to explore development strategies and experiences.
  4. Distribute development. Move development conversations and actions into the day-to-day work and communication of your team. Include updates and debriefing conversations into staff meetings, one-on-one meetings, prep time, and other regular work activities.

Together, you and your people can energize both the conversation and the action that is needed to continuously develop everyone in your workforce.

Todd Thorsgaard

Now what?

Flat tirePssssssssss – the dreaded sound of air leaking out of my tire. Nothing can ruin the best planned bike ride as a slow leak in my tire. I pump it up, it looks good but a few miles later I am slowing down. Stuck on the side of the road and the precious air that I work so hard to pump in is escaping.

Leaders face the same issue when building a diverse workforce. You work hard to expand your recruiting pool. Your organization weeds out selection practices that unfairly penalize diverse candidates. You hire an increasingly diverse team but you notice over time that you lose more of your diverse employees. All that work leaking away like air out of a tire! Now what?

Josh Bersin, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, encourages leaders to focus on providing training and support for all your people to make your organization irresistible ,  one that people won’t want to leave. Bersin cites research that reinforces the importance of development activities and opportunities for growth as a key determinant of retention, particularly for new hires. A starting point is formal training that leads to competence and success in their current role. Your willingness to provide the time and support of training demonstrates your commitment to your new employees. As important are the more informal development opportunities you provide through:

  • Developmental and stretch assignments
  • On-the-job training
  • Lateral assignments
  • Mentoring
  • Coaching

Focusing on professional development and formal and informal growth opportunities will patch the leaks in your organization and help you keep the people you have worked so hard to recruit and hire.

Todd Thorsgaard