Reframe Failure to Increase Success

When was the last time you celebrated failure? We are taught from a young age that failure is bad and something to fear. Because failures may bring negative repercussions, they are often hidden, ignored and downplayed. In reality, failure can be a powerful learning experience and is essential to success. When we embrace the idea of “failing forward”, we develop perseverance, confidence and a new perspective on what it takes to succeed.

Types of Failure

Not all failures are the same, but each has important lessons to teach us.

  • Preventable failure happens in automated processes when a piece of equipment fails, a step is neglected or there is some other kind of malfunction. For this category, it’s important to determine how to best troubleshoot preventable failures. What safeguards are in place regarding people, equipment and environment? Make sure that all precautions have been taken to keep preventable failures from happening in the first place.
  • Complex failure happens when events or situations come together in unexpected ways that cannot be foreseen.

  • Intelligent failure is common in innovative projects and processes, where trial and error are simply part of the experiment.

Organizations and individuals best learn from all types of failures by having procedures in place, along with the willingness and readiness to actively detect, analyze and experiment within the workplace to catch errors quickly, learn from them, and embrace the growth and improvement that can be generated as a result.

Ideas for Action

  • Depending on the type of work you do, one of the three types of failure is probably more common than the others. Consider which is most likely to happen at your workplace and think about how you might handle that type of mistake or failure should it occur.
  • Come up with an example from your life for each type of failure: preventable, complex, and intelligent. Why did they happen, and how were they handled? Were the situations resolved? How did they affect you and others? Take some time to reflect on what you learned from these particular failures.

The Blame Game

If failure is essential to success, why does it feel so terrible when it’s happening? Failure and fault are virtually inseparable in most cultures and organizations. Every child learns at some point that admitting failure means taking the blame, and that pattern may then be reinforced in the workplace. One tremendous benefit of creating and encouraging a culture of psychological safety, in which the rewards of learning from failure can be fully realized, is that greater innovation and individual and organizational growth can occur.

The added challenge when it comes to reframing our ideas of failure is that the experience of failing is more than emotional — it’s also cognitive. We all favor evidence that supports our existing beliefs rather than alternative explanations. We also tend to downplay our responsibility and place undue blame on external or situational factors when we fail, only to do the reverse when assessing the failures of others—a psychological trap known as fundamental attribution error. The courage to confront our own and others’ imperfections with honest reflection and a focus on improvement and learning is crucial.

Ideas for Action

  • List a small number of failures you’ve experienced over recent months. Can you recall how you felt and what thoughts occurred? Make a note of these feelings and thoughts. Can you identify a pattern? Is there a repetitive loop that you repeat every time you fail at something?
  • Take one of the failures from above, which initiated the repetitive loop you have identified. Write an alternative account of what happened.

The Importance of Leaders in Building a Learning Culture

Learning is inherently about failing. Leaders can create and reinforce a culture that counteracts the blame game and makes people feel both comfortable with and responsible for surfacing and learning from failures. They should insist on developing a clear understanding of what happened — not of “who did it” — when things go wrong. This requires consistently reporting failures, small and large, systematically analyzing them and proactively searching for opportunities to experiment. A work culture that recognizes the inevitability of failure in today’s complex organizations and is willing to catch, correct and learn from failure leads to success, employee satisfaction and loyalty. A work culture that wallows in the blame game will not.

It’s imperative for leaders to move beyond the false notion that if people aren’t blamed for failures, they’ll become “lazy” and stop putting in the effort to do their best work. In actuality, a culture that makes it safe to admit and report on failure can coexist with high standards for performance. Not all failures are created equal. Taking the time to analyze the reasons behind why a failure occurred before determining appropriate action will do far more for a team than assuming that assigning blame will lead to improvement in the long run.

One interesting study asked executives to estimate how many of the failures in their organizations were truly blameworthy; their answers were usually in single digits — around 2% to 5%. They were then asked how many failures were treated as blameworthy; they admitted that was closer to 70% to 90%. One unfortunate consequence of this scenario is that many failures go unreported, and their lessons are lost.

Ideas for Action

  • Assess whether your teams offer a sense of psychological safety. Do the members of the team have confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject or punish them for speaking up with ideas? Questions? Concerns? Mistakes? Are each person’s contributions valued? If you answered yes on each measure, that team possesses a strong sense of psychological safety.
  • Leaders and supervisors need to actively create psychological safety because their position of power or status naturally suppresses people’s ability to speak up. This can be done by publicly acknowledging their own fallibility and emphasizing the need for each person’s contributions. They can also respond positively when people do bring things forward. From the results of the preceding exercise, choose a team with a low or mid-level of psychological safety. Develop an action plan for how the team leader or manager can improve the level of psychological safety.

Like everything in life, reframing failure becomes easier with practice. When failures inevitably occur, remind yourself and others that failure is temporary, and failure is good even if, undeniably, it feels really bad when it happens. When something goes wrong, practice saying, “Something good is happening here.” Look for the greater message of the experience and expect it to, eventually, turn out for the good. Need some additional encouragement and exercises to help you with this learning journey? Check out the curated collection of Reframing Failure elevateU resources, with short videos, audiobooks and more.

Sources

https://www.cnbc.com/2022/05/18/a-psychologist-says-the-most-successful-people-reframe-failure-by-doing-4-things.html

https://elevateu.skillport.com/skillportfe/main.action?path=summary/VIDEOS/125821

https://elevateu.skillport.com/skillportfe/main.action?path=summary/VIDEOS/146739

https://www.forbes.com/sites/williamarruda/2015/05/14/why-failure-is-essential-to-success/?sh=11e953df7923

https://hbr.org/2011/04/strategies-for-learning-from-failure

Performance Excellence Strategic Goal Setting: Tips for Supervisors

With everything you juggle as a supervisor, it’s easy to fall into a rut of viewing the performance management of your team as consisting simply of completing an annual review form and a once-yearly review of upcoming goals. However, making the time to take a larger perspective of the potential opportunities within the Performance Excellence process can lead to much higher yields both in the short and long term — for you, your team, and the university.

A primary goal of Performance Excellence should be connecting individuals to the organization’s greater purpose and helping develop employees to be better able to achieve the university’s goals. Although perhaps requiring a more significant investment of time upfront, creating a unifying vision for your team and establishing regular, ongoing check-in sessions to align goals will then serve as a touchstone for all performance evaluation and planning sessions.

Here are some tips and best practices to better align the goals and priorities of your team with the strategic objectives of your unit and MSU’s strategic plan.

1. Create a unit vision statement.

If your unit doesn’t already have a shared vision, now is a great time to formalize this and bring your team on board. Consider creating a one-page plan to outline your unit’s initiatives and the alignment of resources (i.e., time, people, funding) to achieve results and align with this vision.

Ask yourself:

  • Why does our unit exist?
  • What do we do that helps the university achieve the overarching strategic priorities?
  • How do we know we are successful?

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

As a supervisor, you should be regularly communicating your unit’s vision with your team, both one-on-one and with the team as a whole. Be sure everyone is fully aware of the vision, what it means, and why they should care.

3. Help employees understand how their work impacts the vision.

When we can clearly connect our daily work with a larger picture of the unit’s and the university’s goals and objectives, job satisfaction and productivity almost always improve. Employees should be able to see how their individual contributions are critical to the university’s continued growth and success.

4. Have your employees consider goals and priorities for themselves that align with the unit vision.

Allow your team to feel ownership over their goals to prioritize what’s important to them about their work while understanding that some employees will need more guidance and support with this process than others. Goals should be clear and measurable — think SMART and HARD goals — with a clear connection to your unit’s vision statement.

5. Ensure an ongoing feedback loop is maintained.

Aligning the goals and efforts of an individual with the larger team and organization cannot be a “one and done” activity. Regular, ongoing communication via one-on-one check-ins provides brief but powerful opportunities to touch base on objectives, realign priorities and clarify expectations. Strive to provide prompt, actionable feedback to your team, tying everything back to your unit’s vision and making sure each person understands how their work is important to the bigger picture.

Additional resources to support you through this process can be found below, and HR’s Organization and Professional Development department is available at prodev@hr.msu.edu if you would like further information or guidance.

Related Resources

MSU Performance Excellence: Supervisor Tips and Tools (Collection of resources including sample goals for different roles, goal setting tips, and conversation starters for high performance)

Instructor-led OPD Workshops

Performance Management for Hybrid Teams

Managing and Leading Across Locations

Strategic Planning

HR SourceLive Blog Posts

Adapting Your Goal-Driven Approach During Times of Change

Common Work-Related Goals with Resources to Help You Achieve Them

Leadership Blog Series: Performance Excellence During Periods of Uncertainty and Transition

What’s Your Plan: Six Steps to Align Your Goals with What’s Important to You

Sources

https://www.rhythmsystems.com/blog/how-the-best-ceos-align-employees-with-company-goals

https://www.hrfuture.net/strategy/staff-planning/five-best-practices-for-aligning-employees-with-corporate-goals/

Time Management Blog Series: The Pareto Principle (a.k.a., the 80/20 Rule)

Do you feel like you’re busy all the time yet still not getting things done? Although you won’t always have control over your workload and assignments, further developing your time management skills can help you better manage your responsibilities and end each day with a feeling of productivity and accomplishment.

We’re highlighting various time management techniques over a series of blog posts to give you different tools to utilize depending on your needs, preferences and work style. The reality is that the best time management technique is the one you’ll actually use and stick with, so give different approaches a try and see what works best for you.

We’ll focus here on leveling up your time management skills with the Pareto Principle, also called the 80/20 Rule.

Pareto Principle: What It Is

Created by Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, the 80/20 rule proposes that 20% of actions are responsible for 80% of outcomes, a powerful reminder that the relationship between inputs and outputs is typically not balanced. Pareto’s theory of predictable imbalance has been applied to almost every aspect of modern life and can be especially useful when used to prioritize tasks and manage your time effectively.

How It Works

Unimportant and low-impact tasks tend to get in the way of important ones — the ones that could have a real impact on our career and organization — for one simple reason: Impactful tasks are usually much harder to complete in comparison to non-impactful tasks. To avoid what’s sometimes referred to as an “urgency trap,” take the time to step back from your work and look for the 20% of tasks that are the most critical and bring 80% of the results. For example:

  • What 20% of your tasks will truly help you advance in your career?
  • What 20% of your job responsibilities bring you the greatest satisfaction and feelings of accomplishment?
  • What 20% of your tasks contribute most toward your department’s and the university’s strategic goals and objectives?
  • Which one or two or your daily activities are responsible for 80% of your time wasted?

Who Will It Benefit?

While the 80/20 approach can work well for just about anyone, it may be an especially good fit for you if you meet any of these criteria:

  • You’d describe yourself as an analytical thinker or problem solver.
  • You are often working on tasks other people want you to, but you have no investment in them.
  • You’re frequently working on tasks labeled “urgent.”
  • You’re spending time on tasks you are not usually good at doing.
  • Activities are taking much longer than you expected.

Additional Considerations

The 80/20 Rule works well alongside other time management techniques, including Eat the Frog, which we covered in a previous post. To briefly summarize: start every day with the task that seems most complex and challenging. No matter how tempting it might seem to do simple and small things first, always do the difficult tasks first to start your day off with a “win” and build momentum.

TIP

Despite the 80/20 name, don’t assume the numbers 20 and 80 add up to 100. Your 20% could create 5% or 30% or even 100% of a result. The main goal with the Pareto Principle is to recognize any input vs. output imbalances and prioritize investing your time in the actions that create the highest-impact outcomes.

Below are additional resources that may help you establish a time management approach that works for you. Keep an eye out for additional posts in the Time Management Blog Series that dive into the Eisenhower Matrix, time blocking and more. Do you have other time management tips? Share in the comments section — your ideas may be just the thing another person needs to succeed with time management.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Determining Your Time Management Style (6-minute elevateU video)

Managing Your Time So It Doesn’t Manage You (19-minute elevateU course)

Time Management Blog Series: Pomodoro Technique (SourceLive blog post)

Time Management Blog Series: Eat the Frog (SourceLive blog post)

The Power of Habit (OPD Instructor-Led Course)

Decision Making Myths and Tips

In both work and life in general, there is often no “right” decision. We’re often faced with an abundance of options, which doesn’t make the act of decision making any easier. Whether you’re someone who experiences decision paralysis, someone who makes rash decisions you come to regret, or fall anywhere in between, you will likely benefit from simplifying decision making with a balanced combination of intuition and critical thinking.

Types of Decision Making

Decisions should, ideally, come from a clear understanding of your needs, values and goals. When you’re in a familiar situation, do you find your decisions are fast and automatic? This is likely based on your established experience with what works and what doesn’t. However, when you encounter a new situation, you may find you need more time to weigh potential benefits and risks. Knowing various approaches to decision making can help you determine what’s best for your unique circumstances.

Informed Decision Making

The ability to think critically is key to making good decisions free from common errors or bias. Informed decision making means not just listening to your intuition or “going with your gut,” but rather figuring out what knowledge you lack and obtaining it. When you look at all possible sources of information with an open mind, you can make an informed decision based on both facts and intuition.

Satisficing vs. Maximizing Decision Making

A satisficing approach to making decisions involves settling for a “good enough” outcome, even if it’s flawed. Alternatively, a maximizing approach waits for conditions to be as perfect as possible to minimize potential risks. People who make good decisions know when it’s important to act immediately, and when there’s time to wait and gather more facts before making a choice.

Decision-Making Styles

If you find you’re feeling stuck when faced with the need to make a decision, consider the decision-making styles below. Examine these factors and think about how they relate to your potential decision.

StyleBehaviorWhen to useDo not use when
AuthoritativeYou make a decision and announce it to relevant parties.Time is short.

As decision maker, you have all the knowledge needed.
You need buy-in from others.
Consultative (group or individual)You gather input from individuals or a group, and then decide.As decision maker, you do not have all the knowledge or insight needed.

The issue is important to a group/team.
Others really don’t have a say in the decision (as decision maker, you may have privileged information).
MajorityYou reach a decision along with a group; everyone understands the decision, and the majority of people are willing to implement.It is a relatively trivial matter or low-stakes decision.The decision affects everyone in a meaningful way.
ConsensusYou reach a decision along with a group; everyone understands the decision, and everyone is willing to implement.The decision will impact everyone, and all need to fully buy in.

There is potential value in the team discussing or working together on the decision.
Time is short.
DelegateYou delegate the decision to an individual or a team, with constraints you have set.The delegate has all the necessary skills, or there is a coach or mentor available to assist.It is a high-risk or high-profile decision.

Decision Making Myths

Making decisions can be stressful, and it’s easy to fall into falsehoods about decision making to avoid putting in the sometimes difficult effort to make the best choice. Consider some common myths related to decision making and think of ways to avoid these traps.

Myth #1: I just need to solve this problem at this moment; I don’t have time to dedicate to this decision.

Putting off a decision is a decision in and of itself. However, intentionally slowing down a bit to be clear about what you’re solving will speed up your efficacy. Put in the quality time now to avoid having to revisit a decision later that you may come to regret. Our problems sit in a context. If your focus is too narrow, or your process is too rushed, you may solve the wrong problem, or only partially solve the problem.

Myth #2: This is my decision alone; I don’t need to involve others.

Most important decisions involve other stakeholders. Avoiding this bigger picture of who else is affected by a decision can, at best, only partially solve the problem, and may unintentionally exacerbate it.  Be mindful that, when many people are involved in making a decision, the process can become stalled by groupthink, when well-intentioned individuals make poor or irrational choices out of a desire to conform or avoid dissent. Ensure any involved individuals feel safe and confident expressing doubts and concerns.

Myth #3: Decision making is a linear process.

Good decision making is circular, requiring a feedback loop as information is gathered and analyzed over time. Don’t be surprised if you need to go back to find additional information or adjust your decisions.

When faced with difficult decisions, take the time to ensure your choices are based on what’s actually happening and not simply reflective of learned patterns of behavior that may no longer be useful. Carefully weigh any potential issues, commit to a decision, and then follow through. Interested in further advancing your decision-making skills and knowledge? Check out the elevateU resources below to get started.

ELEVATEU RESOURCES

Collected Resources: Decision Making and Problem Solving (Courses, Short Videos, Audiobooks, eBooks)

Choosing and Using the Best Solution (25-minute course)

Defining Alternative Solutions to a Problem (24-minute course)

Leading Through Problem Solving and Decision Making (48-minute course)

Sources

Psychology Today. Decision-Making. Retrieved May 9, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/decision-making.

Skillsoft Ireland Limited. Choosing and Using the Best Solution. Retrieved May 9, 2022, from https://elevateu.skillport.com/skillportfe/main.action?path=summary/COURSES/apd_15_a03_bs_enus.

Strauss Einhorn, Cheryl, 2021, April 20. 11 Myths About Decision-Making. Harvard Business Review blog post. Retrieved April 28, 2022, from https://hbr.org/2021/04/11-myths-about-decision-making.

Time Management Blog Series: Eat the Frog

Time management is an area where most of us could use additional practice and skills. Over a series of posts, we’ll highlight time management techniques to give you different tools to utilize depending on your needs, preferences and work style. The reality is that the best productivity technique is the one you’ll actually use and stick with, so give different approaches a try and see what works best for you.

We’ll focus here on leveling up your time management skills with the Eat the Frog method.

Eat the Frog: What It Is

“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

Inspired by a quote commonly attributed to Mark Twain, Eat the Frog isn’t just a catchy phrase but also a powerful approach to help you reach high levels of performance and productivity. Deceptively simple, Eat the Frog comes down to one simple activity: identify the Most Important Task (MIT) or “frog” for your day and complete it first.

How It Works

  1. Identify Your Frog/MIT. Just one—pick your most challenging, most important task for the day.
  2. Eat the Frog. Complete this task first thing in the morning.
  3. Repeat Every Day. Observe how consistently “eating a frog” every day adds up to large results over time.

It really is that simple! Eat the Frog can be combined with other productivity methods — for example, the Pomodoro Technique — but is also a powerful tool in and of itself.

Who Will It Benefit?

While the Eat the Frog approach can work well for just about anyone, it may be an especially good fit for you if you meet any of these criteria:

  • You struggle with procrastination.
  • You have trouble deciding what to work on.
  • You feel overwhelmed by your to-do list.
  • You have a hard time sticking to a productivity/time management system.
  • You complete a lot of work but aren’t making progress on important projects.

Why It’s Effective

Eat the Frog is a powerful time management tool for a number of reasons.

  • It’s simple, straightforward and flexible. Maintaining a complex, multi-step productivity method can feel overwhelming. Eat the Frog is a simple approach you can fall back on at any time with almost zero prep work.
  • It sets you up for an easy “win” at the start of your day. Any day you “eat your frog” is a good day. Tackle a difficult, important task first thing to gain momentum and motivation for the remainder of your day.
  • It allows you to set your own agenda. Rather than beginning your day in a reactive mode — responding to emails and addressing the needs of others — put your highest-priority task first on your daily agenda before other requests take you in other directions.
  • It provides space for deep work. Eat the Frog forces you to push back against external and internal distractions and focus on one task at a time while prioritizing actions that will bring you closer to your goals.

Additional Considerations

Here are tips to help you consistently and successfully apply this simple time management technique.

  • When choosing your frog/MIT, consider that these are typically tasks that are important but not urgent—the type of task that creates mental resistance and leads to procrastination if you don’t intentionally create space for it.
  • Choose a task you’ll be able to complete in 1-4 hours. A frog should be clearly defined and realistic, only requiring a few hours, tops. If the task can’t be completed in 1-4 hours, it needs to be broken down into smaller steps.

Below are additional resources that may help you establish a time management approach that works for you. Keep an eye out for additional posts in the Time Management Blog Series that dive into the Eisenhower Matrix, time blocking and more. Do you have other time management tips? Share in the comments section — your ideas may be just the thing another person needs to succeed with time management.

Additional Resources

Determining Your Time Management Style (6-minute elevateU video)

Managing Your Time So It Doesn’t Manage You (19-minute elevateU course)

Time Management Blog Series: Pomodoro Technique (SourceLive blog post)

The Power of Habit (OPD Instructor-Led Course)

Sources

Kane, Becky. Eat the Frog. Retrieved March 18, 2022, from https://todoist.com/productivity-methods/eat-the-frog.

Tracy, Bryan. Eat That Frog: Brian Tracy Explains the Truth About Frogs. Retrieved April 19, 2022, from https://www.briantracy.com/blog/time-management/the-truth-about-frogs/.

Leadership Blog Series: Lean Into Leading — Remote Work Edition

Written by Sharri Margraves, Director for HR Organization and Professional Development

At the retirement party for one of my former colleagues, they reflected that the main thing they were looking forward to was “never being responsible for another human being again.” And they meant it. As leaders, it’s important to recognize the significant responsibilities of our roles, with impacts on both the organization and the individuals with whom we serve.

It has always been challenging to be a good leader, and this is not going to get easier anytime soon. The incredible shifts in the past two years will continue to play out within our teams, departments and units as we move to understand the full capabilities of remote work (including “hybrid” work) and learn what our stakeholders want from their experiences with us.

Fulfilling the Goals and Objectives of MSU’s Strategic Plan

As you consider MSU’s strategic goals and objectives, leaning into new concepts about work, productivity and satisfaction will require a paradigm shift. Not only are external forces pushing this, but the university is also pulling us toward a new mindset focused on growth, and this means change.

Consider MSU’s strategic goal of faculty and staff success: Creating an environment in which excellence and opportunity thrive will attract and keep talent and create conditions where staff and faculty can do their best work, individually and collaboratively. We will develop the flexible, supportive, inclusive workplace required to respond to the aspirations and needs of every employee.

As employees integrate career goals with efforts to create a meaningful life for themselves and their families, they will expect — and we, as supervisors, will deliver — ongoing opportunities to grow and develop.

Related resource: MSU 2030 Strategic Plan

Remote Work and Flexibility

We are working in the most disruptive workforce changes since WWII, dubbed “The Great Resignation”. Research shows that 90% of employees expect to have flexibility in their work, and 54% are planning to leave their position if they don’t get it.

In the coming weeks, you will hear more about what MSU intends to do about remote work from a policy perspective, but that is only part of the equation. As with every policy, you can either hide behind it, or you can embrace it. I challenge you to embrace the new remote work policy in the spirit of our strategic goals. We are working with, and are, professional adults — and adults know when something does not make sense and know they need to be accountable for their actions. Be creative and innovative as you lean into implementing this new policy in your area and working toward better fulfilling the university’s goals and objectives for staff success.

A word about flexibility: not all jobs are going to be remote-friendly. Approximately one-third of our jobs will not offer remote work capability. However, most jobs can have some flexibility, at least at some point in the year. Think broadly about the organizational culture you want to thrive in — thrive…not simply endure — and do the same for your staff. It may be more challenging, but it also can also lead to greater rewards.

Related resource: Remote Work Guidance for Employees and Supervisors at MSU

Take a Deeper Dive

Consider the following ways that you, as a leader, can help MSU meet our collective strategic goals and objectives through the lens of the updated remote work policy:

  1. Examine the value of an employee’s work and not the “busy work” a person brings to their role. How can you maximize that value?
  2. What is the maximum and minimum flexibility for each position? Each team?
  3. Is the flexibility the same during the full year, or can summer months or breaks be different than the academic year?
  4. Do you really know what your stakeholders want and expect and the services they need?
  5. Can you flex starting times, hours, days?
  6. Have you already decided what is “right” or are you open to new possibilities?
  7. Consider the individual as well as the team dynamics. What can change to provide flexibility for all? Did you ask your team to help devise the strategy?
  8. What are the core times you might expect people to attend meetings (and is the meeting effective and productive, or is it casual and meant to just connect)?  Global working hours help everyone be flexible.
  9. Can you accommodate a “split shift”, with the employee able to have alternate times?
  10. What communication plans will make you more effective? Effective communication isn’t a one-way process, and employees have responsibilities here as well.
  11. What role do expectations have for the team? Individuals?
  12. What collective development and individual development will foster the kind of organizational culture that will help us meet our strategic goal?

Additional resources are available to support you as you navigate integrating MSU’s new remote work policies with your team.

MSU Remote Work PolicyImportant documents, resources and FAQs

Remote Work Supervisors’ Discussion Guides

Instructor-Led HR OPD Courses

elevateU Resources

Leading From Anywhere: How to Build High Performing Remote and Hybrid Teams (56-minute recording of live event)

Working Remotely – Curated Resources (Self-paced courses, videos, books)

Sources

Kroop, B., McRae, E.R., January 12, 2022. 11 Trends that will shape work in 2022 and beyond. Harvard Business Review blog post. https://hbr.org/2022/01/11-trends-that-will-shape-work-in-2022-and-beyond

Ascott, E., October 19, 2021. 90% of workers want flexibility. Companies aren’t delivering (This could be a disaster). https://allwork.space/2021/10/90-of-workers-want-flexibility-companies-arent-delivering-this-could-be-a-disaster/

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2022/01/05/era-flexible-work-higher-education-has-begun

Time Management Blog Series: Pomodoro Technique

Are you juggling multiple, competing priorities? Do you feel like you’re busy all the time but are still not getting things done? If so, you’re certainly not alone. Time management is an area where most of us could use additional practice and skills.

Over a series of posts, we’ll highlight various time management techniques to give you different tools to utilize depending on your needs, preferences and work style. The reality is that the best time management technique is the one you’ll actually use and stick with, so give different approaches a try and see what works best for you.

We’ll focus here on leveling up your time management skills with the Pomodoro Technique.

Pomodoro Technique: What It Is

As bizarre as it may seem to think of time management in units of tomatoes (Pomodoro is Italian for tomato), millions of people swear by the Pomodoro Technique. This popular time management method has you alternate pomodoros — focused, 25-minute work sessions — with frequent, short breaks to promote sustained concentration and reduce fatigue and burnout.

Developed in the late 1980s by overwhelmed Italian university student Francesco Cirillo, Cirillo asked himself to commit to just 10 minutes of focused study time. Encouraged by the challenge, he found a tomato/pomodoro shaped kitchen timer, and the Pomodoro technique was born.

How It Works

1 pomodoro = 25-minute focused work session + 5-minute break

  1. Pick one project or task you want to focus on.
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes and focus on that single task until the timer goes off.
  3. Mark off one pomodoro and record what you completed. Use whatever medium you prefer — perhaps an Excel spreadsheet, a physical notebook or an online project management tool.
  4. Take a five-minute break.
  5. Go back to Step 1 and repeat the process until you’ve completed 4 pomodoros.
  6. Then, take a longer, more restorative break in the 15–30-minute range.

Who Will It Benefit?

While the Pomodoro Technique can work well for just about anyone, it may be an especially good fit if you meet any of these criteria:

  • Distractions often derail your workday.
  • You tend to work past the point of optimal productivity.
  • You are faced with open-ended work that could take unlimited amounts of time.
  • You enjoy gamified goal setting.
  • You frequently overestimate how much you can get done in a day.

Additional Considerations

The core of the Pomodoro Technique focuses on the alternating “sprints” of productive time and rest periods. Applying the following three rules will help you get the most out of each interval.

  1. Break down complex projects. If you’ll need more than four pomodoros to complete a project, the project needs to be divided into smaller, actionable steps. This will help ensure you make clear progress on your projects.
  2. Group small tasks. Tasks that will take less than one Pomodoro should be combined with other quick tasks within one session.
  3. Do not break up a pomodoro once it begins. Once your pomodoro timer starts, be mindful to not check incoming emails, team chats or text messages. Simply note any ideas, tasks or requests that may come up as something to come back to later. Focus solely on the task set aside for the pomodoro.

What if You’re Interrupted?

Some disruptions just can’t be avoided. If this occurs during your pomodoro, address the urgent matter at hand, then take your five-minute break and start again. Cirillo recommends tracking interruptions as they occur and reflecting on how to avoid them in your next session.

What if Your Task Doesn’t Require a Full Pomodoro?

Planning ahead with Step 2 above — grouping small tasks — will help avoid this, but sometimes you’ll finish your given task before your timer goes off. Use the duration of your pomodoro for related learning, skill improvement or increasing your knowledge around the topic.

Tip

You don’t always need to complete four Pomodoro sessions back to back. Even just one or two Pomodoro sessions a day can set the tone to help you feel more focused and productive.

Below are additional resources that may help you establish a time management approach that works for you. Keep an eye out for additional posts in the Time Management Blog Series that dive into the Eisenhower Matrix, Eat the Frog(!) and more. Do you have other time management tips? Share in the comments section — your ideas may be just the thing another person needs to succeed with time management.

Additional Resources

Determining Your Time Management Style (6-minute elevateU video)

Managing Your Time So It Doesn’t Manage You (19-minute elevateU course)

The Power of Habit (HR Organization and Professional Development Instructor-Led Course)

Sources

Collins, Bryan (2020, March 3). The Pomodoro Technique Explained. Retrieved March 20, 2022 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/bryancollinseurope/2020/03/03/the-pomodoro-technique/?sh=41f602ca3985

Scroggs, Laura. The Pomodoro Technique. Retrieved March 18, 2022 from https://todoist.com/productivity-methods/pomodoro-technique.

5 Ways to Engage with Your Performance Evaluation Beyond an Annual Review

Part of MSU’s appeal as a residential, land-grant institution is our vast array of programs, specializations and priorities — not just for students, but for staff and faculty. This diversity makes us great, and it also requires a need for case-by-case definitions of success and achievement from unit to unit, and from person to person.

All of us working during the pandemic have experienced disruption in our duties and routines and have been required to redefine our roles, goals and accomplishments. The disruptions have occurred in many forms: unplanned shifts in personal and family needs and routines, workforce changes and university realignments, a radically updated and still unpredictable professional and social landscape. Your resilience, adaptability and growth during these times, and always, is remarkable and worthy of recognition.

One way to ensure you, your supervisor and the university are recognizing and recording your efforts is to tell your story through the Performance Excellence (PE) process. When many of us in non-supervisory, support staff roles discuss PE at MSU, we’re thinking of a supervisor-led annual review. In reality, PE encompasses an ongoing cycle of:

  1. Performance Planning — Goal Setting and Development Planning
  2. Continuous Feedback, Coaching and Development
  3. Annual Review — Collaborative Meeting with Employee and Supervisor Contributions

Below are suggestions for ways to engage as an employee in the PE process and tell your story with confidence.

1) Set SMART, HARD Goals and Find Ways to Measure Them

On one hand, we know each employee’s experience and accomplishments extend well beyond quantitative data and one review each year. On the other hand, we also know that specific measurements — especially those backed by accurate, numerical data — are a powerful and widely-accepted way to determine success.

One way to ensure the full picture of your story is told during the PE process is to take the lead when it comes to your own goal setting and measurement. Setting SMART, HARD goals is a great place to start. Consider the following:

  • Your personal goals
  • The goals of your department/unit goals
  • Organization-wide goals/university strategic plan

Goals are not something that should be determined solely by a supervisor and then assigned and evaluated once a year during your review discussion or performance planning session. Generating and adapting goals throughout the year is a collaborative process and one way you can contribute toward the narrative of your achievements.

Read related article: When SMART Meets HARD: Setting Goals that Matter

2) Track and Document Your Accomplishments

Setting and measuring goals is a great place to start, but tracking and documenting your progress toward these goals is key. Block off some time on your calendar to regularly check results, generate data and document your progress in a way that makes the most sense for you and your role. You know your work, efforts and accomplishments better than anyone else, which makes you the ideal person to collect and report out this information.

Read related article: What’s Your Plan? Six Steps to Align Your Goals with What’s Important to You

3) Schedule Regular Check-ins

In this environment of rapid change, it’s more important than ever to regularly check in with your supervisor to discuss progress, review and reevaluate goals, and receive feedback. Regular, continuous coaching allows an opportunity for you to reconnect to your unit’s and the university’s mission and ensure your goals continue to be aligned with this larger vision and objectives.

As a university, we are working to shift the perception of PE from one yearly review to a wider focus on ongoing coaching, feedback and goal setting. There’s no need to wait for your supervisor to schedule a meeting for you to touch base on these topics. You have the option of reaching out to your supervisor and setting up check-ins on a schedule that works for both of you. Even a brief 15-minute check-in can go a long way toward staying on track with goals and sharing the story of your work.

Tips
  • Go to these meetings prepared, with the documented progress and accomplishments mentioned above.
  • Bring questions to help guide the conversation and make the time as useful as possible for both you and your supervisor.

4) Contribute Toward Your Review

Did you know that, as support staff, you have the opportunity to contribute toward all your PE discussions and submit documentation to include along with your official review forms?

Review documentation imaged and kept on file with central HR includes your reviews (annual, probationary and interim) and performance improvement plans. You have the option to include a self-review and/or other statements along with your documents on file. In current times, that may be a COVID Impact Statement that outlines how your work has been disrupted during the past year, along with an overview of how you’ve adapted and what you’ve accomplished despite these challenges. On an ongoing basis, this may be a summary that features the data you’ve been tracking throughout the year to share specific achievements and outcomes.

Tips
  • Keep it brief. Unless documenting extraordinary circumstances, a 1–2-page document will be impactful and share the story of your performance. Due to system storage limitations, submitting a large quantity of documents with your review could possibly lead to some documents being excluded from imaging.
  • Reference any additional documents on the official PE forms. Include a statement within the “Employee’s comments” section of the Annual Review to “See attached ______” (e.g., self-review, list of achievements) and indicate the number of additional documents. This helps central HR know an employee wishes for those documents to be imaged alongside their review.

5) Utilize Your Resources

HR’s Organization and Professional Development (OPD) department offers online PE resources and documents geared toward both employees and supervisors that can help guide and support you in all components of the PE process. OPD is in the process of reworking this online content for greater accessibility, inclusivity and usefulness for all support staff, and we look forward to sharing these changes with you later this year.

Additional, recommended resources are listed below. Your MAU’s HR representative, central HR and OPD, and your union representatives are all available to work with you and help you share your story should you need specific guidance or assistance at any point during the PE cycle.

Recommended Resources

Performance Excellence Resources for Employees

PE Tips and Tools for Employees

Navigating Difficult Conversations in Performance Excellence for Employees (30-minute elevateU virtual course)

Adapting Your Goal-Driven Approach During Times of Change (blog post)

Common Work-Related Goals with Resources to Help You Achieve Them (blog post)

Saving Time by Setting Goals (24-minute elevateU virtual course)

Gaining a Positive Perspective on Feedback (30-minute elevateU virtual course)

OPD Courses for Employees

OPD Course Spotlight — Identify & Maximize Your Strengths

“What will happen when we think about what is right with people rather than fixating on what is wrong with them?” ― Donald O. Clifton

How do you build better relationships at work? Find the right role to fit your talents? Have powerful, constructive conversations? Living your best life begins when you tap into your unique talents. Learn to Identify & Maximize Your Strengths in an upcoming workshop with HR Organization and Professional Development.

Identify & Maximize Your Strengths, presented in a live, virtual format via Zoom, is currently open for registration in the EBS Portal for Tuesday, June 14, 2022, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.

Before this workshop, you will complete Gallup’s CliftonStrengths online assessment to determine your natural patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. Then, attend the 4-hour Zoom session to receive your customized assessment results and participate in a series of structured discussions and reflection exercises to develop a deeper understanding of yourself and increased appreciation for others.

“Identify and Maximize Your Strengths is an introduction to the CliftonStrengths framework in which participants will take the assessment and review their results to explore what they naturally do best, identify the impacts of those talents on their work and relationships, and determine how to further develop these areas to be most successful,” explains course co-facilitator, David Robinson, Learning and Development Professional for MSU Infrastructure Planning and Facilities.

Lean Into Your Strengths

Often, when we think about learning and development, we’re working on our “weaknesses” — areas that could use improvement. One unique aspect of this workshop is its focus on your existing strengths. Discovering your strengths is just the beginning. Applying and investing in them sparks real change and growth.

Danielle Hook, course co-facilitator and Learning and Development Manager for MSU HR Organization and Professional Development, shares, “Identify and Maximize Your Strengths guides participants from the initial understanding of their results through the identification and implementation of strengths-based actions. It is through these actionable steps that we see the deeply meaningful impact of a strengths-based approach to the development of individuals and teams. Using the CliftonStrengths framework, we celebrate the unique talents and contributions of individuals as well as the diversity within our teams.”

Check out a preview of what you can expect from the CliftonStrengths assessment and Identify & Maximize Your Strengths:

Ready to Sign Up?

Register for an upcoming Identify & Maximize Your Strengths session in the EBS Portal by selecting the Courses for Employees at MSU tile under My Career and Training. Contact OPD at prodev@hr.msu.edu with questions about this workshop or inquiries regarding hosting this program for a group.

Developing a Continuous Learning Mindset

As the climate of rapid change and the nature of our work continues to evolve, our professional goals and expectations are becoming more dynamic and less predictable. Learning new technology and systems is often part of these changes. Although there are many factors over which we have little to no control, we can gain both confidence and competence by taking ownership of our professional development, whether it be related to technology or anything else new and unfamiliar. Choosing to adopt and strengthen a growth mindset is a key factor in understanding and adapting to new technology and can help you expand your existing personal capabilities.

The Growth Mindset

If you happen to be a caregiver for school-age children or have experience in education, you’re likely familiar with the emphasis on a growth mindset for students. The reality is that encouraging a growth, or continuous learning, mindset is just as important for adults. To develop a continuous learning mindset, it’s important to first recognize its characteristics:

  • Skills and intelligence are grown and developed
  • Concern is focused on learning and growing
  • Effort is necessary to learning
  • Mistakes are learning opportunities
  • Challenges are obstacles to be overcome

The Benefits of a Growth Mindset

Research has shown that adopting and utilizing a growth mindset at work leads to higher levels of satisfaction and engagement. When you invest in your own learning, growth and development, you typically become more involved in your work and demonstrate a greater interest in and capacity for innovation and collaboration. This can lead to being viewed favorably by supervisors and leaders and can increase your likelihood of new and expanded career opportunities and advancement.

Those who embrace lifelong learning and bring a growth mindset to their careers are more likely to take on new challenges and are typically better able to cope with disruption and adapt to change — key skills in today’s workplace. These attributes will serve you well, enhancing your career development both now and throughout your learning journey. 

Develop a Growth Mindset at Work

Understanding the components of a mindset dedicated to continuous learning is one thing but taking action and applying this knowledge to your job is critical. This requires steps including:

  • Recognizing and monitoring your own mindset
  • Sharing your mindset
  • Providing feedback for others’ growth
  • Striving for continuous team improvement

Ways to Take Action

One common obstacle to developing a growth mindset and embracing both new technologies and continuous professional development is the feeling of not knowing how — or where — to start. Below are ideas and resources to further your understanding of the growth mindset along with ways you can help ensure your success.

TIPS

  1. Just anticipating that you’ll enjoy the learning is important. Bring a positive and open mind to any new project and treat everything as a potential learning and development opportunity.
  2. Find the right resources for your learning process. Whether you learn best on the job, through instructor-led classes, or via self-directed learning, discovering and utilizing the resources that work best for you is key.
  3. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Overwhelmed by options or feeling discouraged? Reaching out to trusted members of your team and your supervisor can provide support and new insights into ways you can increase your knowledge and continue your professional development.
  4. Share your learning with others. When you share what you’ve learned, it hones your skills in a greater way. This can happen in many different forms, from writing a how-to guide for your team to simply sharing new knowledge in a department meeting.

Recommended Resources

Live, Virtual Courses

MSU IT Training Courses

Process Mapping Series

Ready, Set, Change!

Identify and Maximize Your Strengths

elevateU Learning

Becoming a Continuous Learner (13-minute course)

Developing a Growth Mindset (24-minute course)

Microsoft Office 365 Learning Resources