Tag Archives: renewal

At the lake…

lake michigan“If we connect with nature, we can reconstruct our soul, spirit and strength.” – Lailah Gifty Akita

This month we will be taking a brief break from our blog. August is exceptionally busy for leaders in higher education. Most are trying to squeeze in the last days of summer vacation and get ready for fall semester.

I can relate. It seems work has been non-stop since spring. So, I’m really ready for some time away to recharge my batteries. Next week, I’ll be spending some time camping on Lake Michigan with my family. I love camping because it helps me connect with nature and refuels me in a way that nothing else can.

Please look for us in September, when we will focus on our next leadership competency in Minnesota State: Demonstrates Good Stewardship.

Until then, I hope that you are able to take a little time for rest and renewal before the fall semester begins!  As for me, I’m hoping for warm sunny days and cool, star-filled nights along the shores of Lake Michigan.

Anita Rios


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

Leadership is not for the faint of heart

I am very excited to share a guest post today. I heard Dr. Christina Royal, Provost/VP of Academic Affairs at Inver Hills Community College, talk about a life changing practice she has adopted. Her heartfelt story impressed me and I am confident you will also find it valuable. Thank you Christina!

zen-stone-tower_Gkt0x1PdThere is Zen proverb that states: “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”

Leadership in today’s world is not for the faint of heart. The problems of today are more complex, we have fewer resources in which to address the challenges, and our public accountability to our students, our communities, the State, the Federal Government, and our accreditors is at an all-time high. We are all busy, but the problem is that busyness doesn’t necessarily lead to productivity; it can actually have the opposite effect.

Mindfulness and meditation are two tools that may help reduce the busyness and create an awareness that leads to increased performance.

According to a study highlighted in the Harvard Business Review, spending time on thinking and purposeful reflection, rather than solely working, led to greater productivity. Taking just 15 minutes at the end of your day to engage in mindful thought and reflection could lead to a more productive tomorrow.

Meditation may help with sustaining focus and attention to tasks. There was a study conducted in 2012 that studied how meditation training impacted the behaviors of individuals who were multi-tasking at work and found that “those trained in meditation stayed on tasks longer and made fewer task switches, as well as reporting less negative feedback after task performance” (Wobbrock, Kaszniak, & Ostergren, 2012).

While meditation may not solve all of your problems, there is research showing how meditation positively affects the brain. If you find that the stress of your job is overwhelming, you may want to consider experimenting with mindfulness or meditation to ease anxiety and improve focus.

Christina Royal

References and Additional Resources:

Di Stefano, G., Gino, F., Pisano, G, & Staats, B. (2014, April). Learning by thinking: How reflection improves performance. Retrieved from http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/7498.html.

Gina, F., & Staats, B. (2015, April). The remedy for unproductive busyness. Harvard Business Review [online]. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2015/04/the-remedy-for-unproductive-busyness.

Headspace. (2015). How can mindfulness meditation improve your focus? Retrieved from https://www.headspace.com/science/mindfulness-meditation-focus

Levy, D., Wobbrock, J., Kaszniak, A. & Ostergren, M. (2012). The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation Training on Multitasking in a High-Stress Information Environment. Proceedings of Graphics Interface. 45-52.

MacLean, K. A., Ferrer, E., Aichele, S. R., Bridwell, D. A., Zanesco, A. P., Jacobs, T. L., Saron, C. D. (2010). Intensive Meditation Training Improves Perceptual Discrimination and Sustained Attention. Psychological Science. 21, 6. 829-839.

Walton, A. (2015, February). 7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change the Brain. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/02/09/7-ways-meditation-can-actually-change-the-brain/.

Take your vacation, please

Over a decade ago, I was coordinating a work/life program for faculty and staff at the University of Minnesota and wrote an article about the importance of taking your vacation. Amazingly, not many of the statistics on overwork and vacation use have changed since then.

Jobs can be greedy things, gobbling up all the time we give them. Nearly half (46 percent) of U.S. employees feel overworked, according to the Families and Work Institute. That overwork has serious implications for safety in the workplace, job performance, retention, and health care costs. According to a recent survey conducted by research firm Harris Interactive, only 51% of employees use their eligible vacation time and paid time off. Even more concerning, their findings showed that 61% of Americans work while they’re on vacation, despite complaints from family members. And one-in-four reported being contacted by a colleague or boss about a work-related matter while taking time off.

Vacations are an important rest, recovery, and renewal strategy for creating work/life balance–especially in our fast-paced, 24/7 world. They provide an opportunity to recharge our batteries, so that we can return to work refreshed.

As leaders, it’s not only an important strategy to take your vacation, but to model that behavior for those you lead. I still recall a conversation with a former college president from early in my career. She had served as director of the Office for Women at the American Council on Education and as an executive coach to other senior leaders. When I asked her what one piece of advice she had to share with leaders about work/life balance, she said that taking time off was absolutely critical for leaders to avoid burnout. Her personal strategy to avoid burnout was taking one week off every three months. And she advocated that every leader find something outside of work that they were passionate about and that fed their soul. For her, it was playing piano that helped her to regain some sense of work/life balance.

Do you have something outside of work that re-energizes you? What rest, recovery, and renewal strategies work best for you?

Last week I discovered that my children’s spring breaks fall in the same week, which is a mini-miracle since one is in college a few hours away and the other one is in our local high school. If the stars align and my husband can get the week off, we might just be able to squeeze in a short vacation this spring to visit my sister and her family in Florida. vacationThe chance to reconnect with extended family and the prospect of even a few hours on a sandy beach sounds like rest and renewal to me. I’ll let you know how that goes.

In the meantime, I encourage you to take your vacation, please.


Rest and renewal

“If you neglect to recharge a battery, it dies. And if you run full-speed ahead without stopping for water, you lose momentum to finish the race.”   —Oprah Winfrey

Many leaders in higher education have all-consuming jobs –the sort that can eat you up if you let them.

Years ago when I was partnering with the American Council of Education (ACE) on a national project to support women leaders, an experienced college president gave me some good advice. I asked her what she saw as a key to a leader’s success. She told me, “Every leader needs to purposely plan for times of rest and renewal. Without purposeful renewal, burnout is inevitable.” She went on to say that she often counseled younger, up-and-coming leaders to take quarterly breaks to recharge their batteries and to find passions outside of work that brought them deep satisfaction and renewal. For her, playing piano was that everyday passion that allowed her to recharge and bring fresh perspective to her work. She also practiced what she preached by actually taking her vacation.

With the holiday season upon us, many of us will be taking some time away from work to spend with family and friends. I’m happy to say that I’ll be doing the same and preparing to host 22 of my relatives for Christmas Eve. I’m also planning to recharge my batteries by getting outside and enjoying the Minnesota winter on my cross-country skis.

What do you plan to do to recharge your batteries so you don’t lose momentum for the race ahead?

Anita Rios


Higher EDge will be taking a break and returning on Wednesday, January 2.