OPD Course Spotlight — Continuous Process Improvement Series

“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” – Mark Twain

Picture this: Your department is functioning smoothly, with greater efficiency and productivity, utilizing clear, easy-to-understand frameworks for ongoing processes with easily transferrable knowledge and expertise. This type of work environment isn’t just a pipe dream. In fact, it’s part of MSU’s strategic plan, which sets forth the following action item:

Establish processes to systematically identify and remove barriers to success and reduce work inefficiencies to improve the experience of working at MSU.
(MSU 2030 Strategic Plan: Goal 2, Objective 1, Strategy/Action 6)

Continuous Process Improvement is an area of growing importance, as new and emerging leaders recognize process as foundational to the success of individuals, teams and organizations. Continuous improvement can range from simple changes in the day-to-day workings of your team to large-scale procedural shifts across the entire university. In all cases, you need the right instruments to achieve success and keep it going.

Continuous Process Improvement Learning Series

A variety of programs are available to assist you and your team in developing a culture of process excellence, with Fall 2022 sessions currently open for registration in EBS. The courses below typically provide the maximum benefit when taken as a series, although taking only a few of the classes is also an option, depending on your learning needs.

  1. Process Mapping 101 – Getting Started | elevateU e-learning course, 20 minutes
    • Define key process improvement terminology.
    • Identify common process maps and their differences.
  2. Introduction to Process Mapping | Instructor-led training
    • Define key process improvement terminology.
    • Identify common elements of process maps.
    • Reduce barriers to success by adopting best practices.
    • Create a process map.
    • Begin work on individual work-related processes using the resources provided.
  3. Promapp, Interactive Process Creation | Instructor-led training
    (requires completion of a prerequisite course, Introduction to Process Mapping)
    • Create processes in the Nintex Promapp system and use key features.
    • Utilize best writing practices and process standards to create engaging and consistent processes.
  4. Writing Policies and Procedures | Instructor-led training
    • Draft policies and procedures in clear terms that can be understood by all.
    • Discover strategies and methods for creating easy-to-understand resources.
  5. New Course! Facilitating Process Improvement | Instructor-led training
    • Identify leading process improvement frameworks and their appropriate applications.
    • Apply the RAPID methodology and supporting project documents to design a process improvement initiative.
    • Evaluate process effectiveness and identify common sources of waste
    • Adopt facilitation best practices in the management of process improvement initiatives.

Check out a preview of what you can expect from the Introduction to Process Mapping class to get a feel for the types of tools and strategies you’ll gain:

Ready to Learn More?

Register for upcoming courses in the Continuous Process Improvement Learning Series in the EBS Portal by selecting the Courses for Employees at MSU tile under My Career and Training. A list of recommended self-directed learning resources is below to get you started, and OPD can be reached at prodev@hr.msu.edu with any questions.

RECOMMENDED ELEVATEU RESOURCES

elevateU Courses

elevateU Microlearning – Videos

Sources

Image by rawpixel.com on Freepik

Leadership Blog Series: Learning & Development Resources for Supervisors

Whether new to a supervisory role or a long-time manager, the best leaders are lifelong learners adaptable to change and flexible in their leadership style. The rapid changes and unknowns of the past couple years have made it particularly clear that supervisors must embrace the complexity of their roles, which demands new ideas and strategies to stay fresh and ahead of the curve. HR’s Organization and Professional Development (OPD) department has resources to help.

NEW LEADER DEVELOPMENT SERIES (NLDS)

Designed for supervisors new to their roles or new to MSU, this nine-session series equips new leaders with a toolkit of crucial knowledge and resources. Registration is available in EBS for the next NLDS cohort, beginning August 30, 2022.  

Sessions cover a variety of topics, including:

  • Leading in a Union Environment
  • Workforce Management and Strategic Staffing
  • Fostering an Inclusive Culture
  • Budget Responsibilities and Ethical Finance
  • Conflict Management
  • and more

Learn more about NLDS.

LEADERSHIP WORKSHOPS

Looking to learn or strengthen specific leadership skills? OPD has both in-person classes and virtual courses to provide expanded options and best meet your learning needs and preferences.*

View all upcoming OPD course offerings.

SELF-DIRECTED LEADERSHIP RESOURCES

elevateU

On-demand, self-paced courses, videos, audiobooks and more are available to MSU employees via the free elevateU platform, including a Leadership Development section covering a wide range of leadership topics.

Access elevateU leadership resources.

Leadership Library

Created by a cross-departmental workgroup to assist leaders in navigating challenges and handling their responsibilities with confidence, the online Leadership Library highlights curated content related to timely topics.

Visit the online Leadership Library.

Have questions regarding the above resources and opportunities? Contact OPD at prodev@hr.msu.edu for additional information.

*MSU HR Organization and Professional Development follows all applicable state and public health guidance and university-wide directives. If deemed necessary or advisable to refrain from in-person learning, courses scheduled as in-person will instead be hosted in a virtual format.

Time Management Blog Series: Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time

Do you feel like there aren’t enough hours in a day to complete your to-do list? You may be right! Time is a finite resource that, despite our best efforts, can only be managed to a certain degree. Shifting your focus to managing your energy, rather than your time, may be the key. With an increased and sustainable capacity for your work, you will likely find it easier to complete your tasks with improved efficiency, focus and a sense of purpose, ultimately leading to greater job satisfaction.

Although it may seem counterintuitive to suggest within a blog series about time management, it’s often more important to consider how much energy you need to complete a task rather than how much time is required.

Assess your energy level

It’s important to regularly evaluate your energy from a few different angles — physical, mental and emotional — to determine the quality of energy in each of these areas.

Physical energyConsider your current relationship with sleep, physical activity and nutrition. Does your body have the physical energy to sustain you through the day?

Mental energy – How would you describe your capacity to focus and think critically?

Emotional energy – How well are you managing challenging emotions that arise during your workday?

Establish new rituals

Once you have a clearer picture of where you lack energy, you can then prioritize investing in areas where you feel depleted. Establishing rituals — especially ones that allow you to connect with your core values and purpose — can help you create lifelong habits that better serve your well-being and your work.

Ideas to Try

Establish a physical movement ritual. This can be as simple as setting a timer to remind yourself to pause throughout the workday for a one-minute stretch or regularly taking a short walk/roll around the block during your break.

Find a mindfulness ritual that helps you feel centered and rejuvenated. Determine a touchpoint to return to throughout your day to bring your focus back to your purpose. This may be a physical object, such as a photo or Post-It note with an affirmation or favorite quote, a five-minute talk from an app like Headspace or Insight Timer or anything that allows you to slow down, refocus and feel better energized.

Reduce and remove recurring irritants. Small irritants and inefficiencies, compounded by their volume or frequent recurrence, can eat away at your energy. When we are facing large challenges in our lives, we don’t always have the capacity to solve the little ones. Make the time to regularly consider your workspace and processes to determine if there are irritants that can be eliminated. Is there a simple process you find yourself executing regularly that could be automated using software? Could a small shift in your daily schedule provide you increased time for productivity or focus?

Create a “To Don’t” list. You’re likely already in the habit of adding tasks and commitments to your To Do list, but have you ever practiced removing things from your list? When making a To Don’t list, consider the things you’re currently doing that are draining your energy. This may include certain people you decide not to see, certain habits you want to break or projects no longer serving your growth at work. There may also be a few items that you want to drop but can’t. In those cases, focus on your sphere of influence and the things that are in your control.

Manage your time to manage your energy

We’ve been 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. You may find added benefit in combining energy management techniques along with time management approaches such as the Pomodoro Technique and the Pareto Principle, which provide frameworks for focused energy and regular, designated downtime.

Below are resources that may also help you establish an energy and time management approach that works for you.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

The Power of Habit – HR OPD Course | Next offered October 13, 2022. Registration is available in EBS.

elevateU | Free, self-paced resources including short videos, online courses and books around a wide variety of topics. Highlighted topics include:

Health4U Programs | Register online for free courses including Sleep: Understanding and Optimizing Your Nightly Reboot, Explorations in Eating, and Essential Skills for Navigating Challenging Times. Health4U also provides a wealth of online resources regarding emotional wellness, food and nutrition, and health coaching.

WorkLife Office | Find affinity groups, webinars, and personalized support to help you facilitate success in your many roles and guide you in creating synergy between those responsibilities.

Sources

https://hbr.org/2007/10/manage-your-energy-not-your-time

https://hbr.org/2022/04/stop-trying-to-manage-your-time

https://www.masterclass.com/articles/manage-your-energy-not-your-time

Photo by AllGo – An App For Plus Size People on Unsplash

Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

When you think of upskilling — learning new skills — at work, what comes to mind? Perhaps learning new software or working toward a certification or degree. There’s no question that many in-demand skills are technical in nature, but there’s also a critical need for what are sometimes described as “soft” skills, particularly strong emotional intelligence (EI).

EI allows us to build and maintain relationships and influence others — important skills no matter your position and area of work — and research has found people with greater EI tend to be more innovative and have higher job satisfaction than those with lower EI. Using emotional intelligence in the workplace can improve decision-making and social interactions, and enhance your ability to cope with change and stress.

The good news is that, like technical skills, soft skills such as EI can also be learned and improved.

Emotional Intelligence: What It Is

To strengthen your emotional intelligence, it’s important to know what it entails. Most definitions of EI include the following components:

  1. Perception and expression of emotion — Noticing your own emotions and picking up on the emotions of others as well as the ability to distinguish between discrete emotions.
  2. Using emotion to facilitate thought — How you incorporate emotions into your thinking processes and understand when and how emotions can be helpful for reasoning processes.
  3. Understanding and analyzing emotions —The capacity to decode emotions, make sense of their meaning, and understand how they relate to each other and change over time.
  4. Reflective regulation of emotion —An openness to all emotions and the ability to regulate your own emotions and the emotions of others to facilitate growth and insight.

Measuring Your Emotional Intelligence Skills

Do you find you relate to either of these statements?

“I want to improve my EI skills but don’t know where to start.”

“I already have strong emotional intelligence skills. This isn’t an area I need to work on.”

As is the case with any skill, we all have varying levels of aptitude when it comes to EI and may feel overwhelmed about where to begin.

One interesting study found that 95% of participants gave themselves high marks in self-awareness. However, using more empirical measures of self-awareness, the study found that only 10-15% of the cohort was truly self-aware. Consider the following characteristics typical of people with higher and lower EI skillsets as one way to better gauge your skillset:

Potential indicators of higher EI:

  • Understanding the links between your emotions and how you behave
  • Remaining calm and composed during stressful situations
  • Ability to influence others toward a common goal
  • Handling difficult people with tact and diplomacy

Potential indicators of lower EI:

  • Often feeling misunderstood
  • Getting upset easily
  • Becoming overwhelmed by emotions
  • Having problems being assertive

It’s important to note that these potential indicators can also stem from other causes and vary significantly depending on the day and situation.

Learning and Developing Emotional Intelligence

Research indicates that as little as ten hours of EI training (i.e., lectures, role-play, group discussions, readings) significantly improved people’s ability to identify and manage their emotions, and these benefits were sustained six months later.

No matter your current EI skillset, it may be helpful to try the following exercises:

  1. Notice how you respond to people — Are you judgmental or biased in your assessments of others?
  2. Practice humility — Being humble about your achievements means you can acknowledge your successes without needing to shout about them.
  3. Be honest with yourself about your strengths and vulnerabilities and consider development opportunities. Even though it might make you cringe, it’s helpful to get others’ viewpoints on your emotional intelligence. Ask people how they think you handle tricky situations and respond to the emotions of others.
  4. Think about how you deal with stressful events — Do you seek to blame others? Can you keep your emotions in check?
  5. Take responsibility for your actions and apologize when you need to.
  6. Consider how your choices can affect others — Try to imagine how they might feel before you do something that could affect them.

Interested in further increasing your EI skills? Check out the resources below to get you started.

Additional Resources

elevateU Featured Topic: Emotional Intelligence | Short videos, self-paced online courses and more

Essential Skills for Navigating Challenging Times | Free, instructor-led offering from MSU Health4U | Eight-session series begins July 12

Everything DiSC: Behavior Styles at Work | Instructor-led offering from HR Organization and Professional Development | July 20 or October 20

Creating and Sustaining a Positive Workplace | Instructor-led offering from HR Organization and Professional Development | August 25

Identify and Maximize Your Strengths | Instructor-led offering from HR Organization and Professional Development | September 21

Sources

https://www.ottawa.edu/online-and-evening/blog/october-2020/the-importance-of-emotional-intelligence-in-the-wo

https://positivepsychology.com/emotional-intelligence-eq/

https://professional.dce.harvard.edu/blog/how-to-improve-your-emotional-intelligence/

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