Cultivating and Maintaining Good Habits

Written by Andrea Williams, HR Organization and Professional Development

You’ve likely heard more and more talk about the next phase of our personal and professional lives — be it resuming our pre-COVID routines or creating new ones going forward. Although none of us know exactly what the future looks like, now is an excellent time to consider the changes we may have made over the past year that we’d like to carry forward — perhaps prioritizing our health, creating new family traditions, or learning new skills.

As we navigate the next phase of our lives, University of Southern California research psychologist, Wendy Wood, points out, “We’re going to be faced with two sets of habits: pre-pandemic and during the pandemic. And we’ll have to choose which to repeat.”

Don’t leave your habits to chance. Take this opportunity to make deliberate choices about which habits you want to maintain going forward and any new habits you want to form. Here are some tips to help you cultivate and continue the habits that best serve you and others.

Take it one at a time

Focus on one habit or goal at a time to reap the most reward. When you have the foundations for the first goal in place, you can then move to the next one. When you have integrated the second goal into your schedule, you can then work on the third goal and so on. Set yourself up for success and remember that slow progress is better than no progress.

Understand your habit’s function

Our habits typically meet an underlying need, such as the need for comfort, to feel safe, or to feel cared for. Understanding the significance behind our habits can help us better evaluate whether these habits still serve a real need. We can then opt to further cultivate a habit or design a new, healthier one.

Compare likely outcomes

When you’re faced with a moment of choice, ask yourself, “If I perform this habit, how will I feel? Where will it put me?” Pause, envision yourself and the outcomes, and notice how you feel. Then ask yourself, “If I instead choose to perform this other habit, how will I feel? What will it get me?” Pause, envision, and notice. Set an intention for what you’ll do and then follow through.  

Be consistent and kind

Strive for consistency in your habits rather than perfection. Many habits take time to integrate to the point that you no longer need to think about them. Until then, when you deviate from your plan, kindly redirect yourself toward the results you want without punishment or judgment. There is debate over whether there is an actual causation or rather a correlation between repetition and the formation and enforcement of habits, but research shows positivity combined with consistency is key. Reinforce the positive and focus on your progress and victories, no matter how small.

Share the experience

Cultivating and maintaining habits happens faster and easier when they’re shared. Friends, family, and colleagues can provide support in the form of accountability, reinforcement, and celebration. If you don’t have a circle you can count on, reach out to a therapist or an organization that fosters community in a particular area. MSU faculty, staff, and their families have access to resources including the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), Health4U, and the MSU WorkLife Office that can help.

Don’t get discouraged if your first (or fourth) attempt doesn’t stick. Nobody is perfect in forming and sticking with good habits. Focus not on perfection, but rather on the process of trying things, redesigning your approach as necessary, and trying again.


Chua, Celestine. 21 Days to Cultivate Life Transforming Habits Retrieved April 2, 2021 from

Fitzgerald, Sunny (2021, April 5). Pandemic habits: How to hang on to the good ones and get rid of the bad. Retrieved April 5, 2021 from Forbes Coaches Council (2020, July 1). 16 Unique Ways to Cultivate Good Habits and Cut the Bad Ones. Retrieved April 2, 2021 from

Leadership Blog Series: Preparing for the Next Normal

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

In March 2020, we embarked on an incredible journey. Do you remember the shock when, seemingly overnight, everything changed at work and in our community? Thinking it would only be a couple of weeks, then two months, then six, and so on as reality set in? I imagine that few, if any, of us would have ever expected a collective and comprehensive change in our lives quite like this.

As we turn our thoughts to creating the “next normal,” many will experience a new set of emotions and challenges. We might keep wishing for things to go “back to normal,” even when we intellectually know it’s not possible. MSU will remain a residential university and being present is essential for the experience.

So, how do we prepare for an uncertain future as we begin to bring the campus back to a fuller vibrancy? Consider the following:

Start with being self-reflective

  • Honor that this experience has been hard for everyone, although not always in the same ways. Remember that we have our shared experience, but we did not share the same experience.
  • Appreciate those who continued to report in-person throughout the past year and those who continued to work remotely. It took everyone to get us through.
  • Make a list of your and your team’s accomplishments. It’s beneficial to reflect on the positive. Did you learn new skills? Create new processes?
  • Start thinking about how you might approach work differently.
  • Be grateful.

Be intentional

Approach the next set of changes with thoughtfulness and intentionality, considering how they will impact individuals and teams. Luckily, upcoming transitions will likely be gradual as opposed to the abruptness of going to “pandemic rules” last year. In all cases, consider how change will affect both employees and operations.

  • Prepare for change by engaging in discussions around work expectations, challenges, and changes in teams (e.g., what to expect regarding breaks, lunch, and dress code).
  • Allow ample time for employees to adjust to returning to campus as this is another major change. Those who have been on-site will also experience this change. Many employees will have new arrangements to make, and a lack of consideration for their needs will lead to disengagement.
  • Be prepared to utilize resources such as the MSU Employee Assistance Program, Guide to Remote Access, and others. Anticipate and address conflict. This adjustment will include following the MSU Community Compact, differences of opinion regarding vaccinations, and how employees will feel if co-workers choose not to disclose or get a COVID-19 vaccination, to name only a few.
  • Continue to be inclusive. Announcements, meetings, and other common workplace activities can impact teams, particularly with a mix of on-premise and remote employees. No one wants to feel excluded or that they missed something.

Be mindful of transitions

As we move forward, it’s critical to not just consider changes but also transitions. Consider the following quote from William Bridges:

“It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions. Change is not the same as transition. Change is situational: the new site, the new boss, the new team roles, the new policy. Transition is the psychological process people go through to come to terms with the new situation. Change is external, transition is internal.”

Anticipate that your team may need support engaging with the transitions of our “next normal.” Take advantage of the resources provided by MSU and understand that this is an expected part of the process. Prepare yourself and your team for the changes and transitions ahead, and you can use 2020 as a springboard to the next, better normal.


Bridges, W. (2017). Managing transitions: making the most of change. Da Capo.

Want Greater Power and Influence? Establish Trust and Credibility.

Written by Andrea Williams, HR Organization and Professional Development

“Influencers” are all over the news, but what does it mean to be a true influencer in the workplace? It’s not about your number of Instagram followers, but rather knowing — and practicing — the skills that strengthen personal power and influence.

Positional vs. Personal Power

To start, it’s important to be aware of the characteristics and value of both positional and personal power.

Positional power is influence directly related to your position. People react to this form of power because they have to. It can help ensure strong leadership and resolute decision making and enables the direction of others to complete tasks, establish processes and procedures, and make decisions quickly.

Personal power is influence you earn by obtaining the respect of others. People respond to this form of power because they want to, not because they have to. This form of influence is often shown by people who are great at their jobs — they have strong networks and relationships, expertise and knowledge, and have established themselves as being reliable and trustworthy.

Personal power can be as influential as positional power and is completely unrelated to your job title.

Building Personal Power: Trust Is Key

True, positive influence is not coercion or manipulation. Rather, the foundation of influence and personal power comes from trust. Keep in mind the traits that help build trust:

  • openness
  • reliability
  • humility
  • use of facts
  • empathy and loyalty
  • authenticity

Think about experiences you have had and how you responded — or could have responded — to build trust:

  • When there have been problems, in what ways have you helped through your expertise, empathy, or reason?
  • When someone has required your assistance, have you helped willingly while keeping confidences and being reliable?
  • What have you done, or not done, to build trust during periods of conflict or turmoil?
  • How have you responded to opportunities to listen and try to understand others?

Remember that trust can be built or broken. To establish and maintain trust, it’s imperative to be open and honest, admit shortfalls, stick to the facts, and don’t betray confidences.

The Power of Credibility

Being trustworthy is a major component of credibility, and developing credibility is critical to wield greater influence. Ways to build credibility include:

  • Be open to sharing knowledge and resources. Establish and utilize your networks and relationships to do your best and help others when you can.
  • Be confident in your abilities but not arrogant. Acknowledge and be open to the expertise and contributions of others. Have the capacity to say, “I don’t know. What are your ideas?”
  • Walk the walk. Be authentic, fair, and transparent. Show integrity and display good character. Prove your reliability by always following through.

To be a skilled and powerful influencer, you must be trustworthy and credible. Use your credibility to demonstrate that what you want will help others achieve what they want. Follow through on your agreements and commitments, and you’ll achieve the personal power that comes from being a true influencer.


Skillsoft Ireland Limited. Personal Power and Credibility. Retrieved March 1, 2021 from  

OPD Course Spotlight – Everything DiSC®: Behavioral Styles at Work

Written by Andrea Williams, MSU HR Organization and Professional Development


“Inspiring and fun”

“True game changer”

Everything DiSC®, a popular virtual training and personalized learning experience from HR Organization and Professional Development (OPD), has earned rave reviews from participants and is currently open for registration in the EBS Portal for two upcoming dates:

The DiSC® program provides you with a pre-course, individual assessment — a tool powered by more than 40 years of research — which is then analyzed to deliver detailed information regarding your preferences and tendencies. The live, online portion of the course, led by OPD’s knowledgeable and experienced DiSC® facilitators, offers an opportunity to learn more about relating to others and how to utilize actionable strategies to help you improve your interactions and, ultimately, your performance.

In this OPD course, you will:

  • Gain insights into your own behaviors and those of others.
  • Understand and appreciate the work styles of others.
  • Learn how to communicate and persuade more effectively.
  • Create strategies for overcoming challenges when working with people of different DiSC® styles.

“Everything DiSC® can benefit everyone in an organization,” explains Carrie Galdes, MSU HR Senior Learning and Organization Development Specialist and DiSC® facilitator. “The program teaches participants to understand themselves and others while learning to appreciate the different priorities and values each person brings to the workplace.”

DiSC® participants have cited everything from decreased stress to increased productivity to an improved work environment as examples of the program’s positive results.

Angela Levack Michael, Associate Director for MSU Recreational Sports and Fitness Services, notes, “DiSC® training helped me see my colleagues from a different point of view. Understanding their personality styles allowed me to assess my communication style and gear interactions towards their strengths.”

DiSC® for Teams

OPD also hosts unit-specific DiSC® sessions, which can improve engagement, collaboration, and overall quality of a team and organization.

Lisa Duffey, Executive Staff Assistant and Graduate Program Assistant in MSU’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, shares, “Our team took advantage of the work-from-home situation to do some professional development and team building by taking the DiSC® assessment and having OPD help us understand the results. We learned about our own behavioral tendencies and those of our coworkers as well as ideas about how to facilitate teamwork and approach each other when things are awkward. It was an excellent opportunity for growth as individuals and as a team.”

Interested in learning more? Register for an upcoming Everything DiSC®: Behavioral Styles at Work session in the EBS Portal, or contact or 517-355-0813 to schedule a DiSC® program for your department.

The Three Steps to Positive Personal Accountability

Written by Andrea Williams, MSU HR Organization & Professional Development

When many of us think of accountability, we associate it with negative connotations such as stress or even fear. We’re used to hearing about “accountability” as a disciplinary measure when something’s gone wrong. Because of this, many of us don’t understand what accountability actually entails, why it’s important, or where it starts.

The first step toward fostering positive, personal accountability, as well as a culture of accountability in the workplace, is to understand and redefine what true accountability means. Accountability doesn’t mean punishment. Rather, accountability is an empowering factor, not a consequence, and involves a willingness to accept responsibility for your own actions. In other words, making clear commitments that — in the eyes of yourself and others — have been kept.

Accountability vs. Responsibility

Although they’re sometimes used interchangeably, it’s important to make the distinction between accountability and responsibility. Having clear definitions of responsibilities in the workplace is essential but going a step further to be personally involved ensures better results. When you make the choice to go beyond your responsibilities with feelings of ownership, involvement, and engagement, you are then in a position of personal and positive accountability.

Accountability is a broader concept than responsibility — it’s something you do to yourself, not something that someone does to you. As such, accountability starts with you. No matter what your role at MSU, when you work toward personal accountability, you model the positive behaviors you want to see in your team and organization.

Create a Personal Accountability Framework

Accountability is not a one-time or occasional thing; it’s an everyday activity that applies to and benefits everyone. Take a simple and positive approach to establish ongoing personal accountability by following these three steps.

Step #1: Set SMART, HARD Goals

To begin, ask yourself the questions: What are my priorities? What am I passionate about? What do I want?

Establish a definite direction and clear, measurable goals that align with what’s important to you to keep motivated and achieve better follow-through. Ensure your goals are formulated to achieve results by using a combination of the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely) and HARD (Heartfelt, Animated, Required and Difficult) goal-setting frameworks described in this When SMART Meets HARD: Setting Goals that Matter article.

Step #2: Develop an Action Plan

Once you have established a SMART, HARD goal, develop an action plan to bring it to fruition.

  1. Identify limiting factors – It could be a shortage of time or resources, a lack of buy-in, or any other number of issues. Be realistic about any limitations and prepared with potential workarounds.
  2. Remove obstacles – Very few obstacles are insurmountable. Think first about the biggest obstacle you’ll likely face in reaching your goal. How can you overcome it?
  3. Divide your goal into subgoals – Utilize the SMART and HARD frameworks for your subgoals to give yourself the best chance of success.
  4. Plan actions for each subgoal – What are the specific, actionable steps you’ll take to reach each subgoal?

Step #3: Manage Priorities and Energy to Achieve Your Goals

It’s essential to recognize that time and energy are finite resources, and it benefits you to intentionally prioritize how you use both. When moving forward on your path to personal accountability, categorize the tasks that will help you complete your goals into three categories and assess the time and energy they require:

  1. Maintenance tasks – These are the routine tasks that must be done for your day to run smoothly (e.g., answering messages, maintaining your calendar). Avoid becoming overinvolved in these tasks or becoming distracted while doing them. Develop strategies to help. For example, schedule specific times during the day when you check and respond to your messages and have an effective system to keep information in order.
  2. People tasks – Whether it’s a meeting, interview, or social interaction with a colleague, these activities often require high emotional energy, so be mindful to pace yourself.
  3. Creative and analytical tasks – These can be anything from time spent developing a presentation to researching suppliers to analyzing data. This work typically requires significant time and energy, so ensure you plan out sufficient periods for these tasks during the days and timeframes that make the most sense for your work style and preferences.

Follow-through is a critical component of personal accountability. To avoid stalling out before your goals and commitments are realized, protect your time and prioritize activities that keep your physical, emotional, and mental energy reserves high.

Interested in Learning More?

Personal and team success are closely linked to positive accountability. When you take actionable steps to demonstrate personal accountability, it can generate a strong impact on not just performance and results, but also your personal and team satisfaction. Find additional resources around the topic of accountability, including short videos and courses, using MSU’s free online resource, elevateU.


Skillsoft Ireland Limited. Developing a Personal Accountability Framework. Retrieved February 10, 2021 from

Skousen, Tracy (2016, April 12). Responsibility vs. Accountability. Retrieved February 10, 2021 from

Tredgold, Gordon (2017, September 14). 7 Truths About Accountability that You Need to Know. Retrieved February 11, 2021 from

Organizational Change as a Pathogen: An Analogy for Leaders

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

As we continue to navigate the current normal, we must also move forward. Budget constraints, retirements, realignments and other changes are just a part of life in every organization, even in non-pandemic times. Even though changes may be substantial, we retain people, systems, processes, facilities, and our shared understanding to create our new reality. Change may be rapid, but generally, it is also incremental.

In the article The University Immune System: Overcoming Resistance to Change an unusual, yet useful, analogy is described of change in complex systems. Think of implementing change in organizations in a similar context as the immunological response to a pathogen introduced to the human body. No relationship exists between these two systems on the surface; however, the parallels can illustrate the difficulties of introducing and making change stick.

Reacting to Change

As change is introduced within your team, staff and faculty may resist change, often affecting operational and financial realities. Even when a change is likely to produce benefits, there will be resistance expressed in various ways. Change is relative to each individual and how individual team members affect the system in their response to change. The resistance lies within the innate response of the system to change, and this resistance has been referred to as the “institutional immune system.”

In comparison, an invading pathogen needs to infect a host to carry out its mission, and the body will then marshal its forces to fight against this change. In an organizational sense, change is that threat, and the people in the system can form a response that reacts or overreacts to a threat, be it real or perceived. This response to the threat—the new idea or change—is designed to maintain the status quo and reduce unknowns and unproven risks.

Effective Leadership in Times of Change

There are many barriers present in an organization preventing the adaption of change. We can overcome these barriers—these intrusions to the system—by anticipating and being prepared. Have several strategies at the ready to foster acceptance of the change intended to improve the organization. These strategies include:

  • Improving leadership development skills around change and communication.
  • Recognizing and focusing attention on effective communication.
  • Effective rewards for new expectations.
  • Pacing/timing changes realistically.

Leaders should take the time to plan strategies for individuals’ varied responses—those who are eager, those who take a “wait and see” approach, and those who are slow to accept change. These strategies will help reduce the threat of change and improve adaptation.

Follow the steps below to support the implementation and acceptance of change within your team:

  1. Plan for change as a system of people, process, and culture.
  2. Embrace resistance as natural and not personal.
  3. Give the “why.”
  4. Establish open, two-way communication.
  5. Celebrate the wins, regardless of how small.

Collectively, we will not be returning to our previous, pre-COVID state, and attempting to do so would hardly signal progress toward the future. Resistance is a natural defense mechanism. Your challenge is to be mindful of different strategies and appeals for the different members of your team to effectively work with the resistance and move forward together.


Gilley, A., Godek, M., & Gilley, J. W. (2009). The University Immune System: Overcoming Resistance to Change. Contemporary Issues in Education Research, 2(3), 1-6.

Motivational Monday Round-Up

The new year is in full swing! While resolutions are made with the best intentions, it can be hard to maintain high spirits as time progresses. If you find yourself doing the same old routine and those new year’s resolutions are a distant memory, Todd Bradley, HR Learning and Organization Development Specialist, is a great source of motivation to get you back on track.

Todd’s Motivational Monday videos are a monthly series of short videos that began during the summer of 2020. These videos were designed to motivate and inspire MSU employees, exploring topics like rational thinking skills, emotive skills and more for both professional and personal development. Visit the MSU HR YouTube channel to view Todd’s full series of Todd Talk videos.

Motivational Monday: Problem Solving 101

Todd outlines a foundational approach to problem-solving in our everyday challenges.

Motivational Monday: Strategic Critical Thinking

To sharpen rational thinking skills, Todd shares quick and easy ways to enhance strategic thinking and influence long-term success.

Motivational Monday: Emotional Intelligence

In this video, Todd explores the different facets of emotional intelligence and ways to boost it both professionally and personally.

Motivational Monday: Gratitude

Todd ends this series with a video on gratitude and the benefits of expressing it in our lives.

Visit the MSU HR YouTube channel to view Todd’s full series of Todd Talk videos.

Resources and Upcoming Courses for HR Professionals

Are you a Human Resources (HR) professional at MSU? Whether you handle HR processes in your college or unit on a regular or infrequent basis, the following training opportunities and resources will help you stay up to date on relevant topics.

Upcoming Live, Virtual Courses:

Please Note: you may use available educational assistance funds to pay for the following courses through HR Organization and Professional Development (OPD):

  • Certified Human Resources Specialist (CHRS): In this virtual offering of the five-session series, participants will receive fundamental knowledge to be a successful HR professional. Pass a take-home exam to achieve CHRS certification. Course Dates: February 2, 9, 16, 23 AND March 2.
  • Advanced Certified Human Resources Specialist: As a Certified Human Resources Specialist, you know how important it is to stay abreast of changes in employment and labor laws. This CHRS follow-up program has been designed exclusively to help Certified Human Resources Specialists to stay up to date on important employment and labor law changes, discuss hot topics in HR management, learn how to apply best practices, and continue to build your professional network. Attend Advanced CHRS and earn 14 continuing education credits towards CHRS recertification. Course Dates: March 3 AND 4.

CUPA-HR Free Courses

The CUPA-HR website has a variety of courses available for free that you can register for, including a CUPA-HR: Boot Camp self-paced e-learning course that offers a higher education perspective on essential HR topics. Find all the CUPA-HR courses on the Knowledge Center CUPA-HR website.

Not yet a CUPA-HR member? Select Register for any of the linked courses on the CUPA-HR site, then choose Create a New Account in the Sign In section. Be sure to choose Michigan State University as your Organization to enjoy free membership and course access.

Free HR elevateU Resources:

The free elevateU online learning platform for MSU employees has a variety of resources on human resources topics. After you login to elevateU, select The Library in the top navigation, then Business Skills from the dropdown menu, followed by Human Resources in the sidebar. Subcategories on this page include HR Certifications, Engagement and Retention, Diversity and much more.

In particular, we recommend the SHRM-CP/SCP: HR Competencies series, which identifies and discusses the eight behavioral competencies critical for HR professionals. These include Ethical Practice, Leadership and Navigation, Business Acumen, Relationship Management, Communication, Consultation, Critical Evaluation, and Global and Cultural Effectiveness. 

Upcoming Virtual Professional Development Courses

Whether you’ve jumped into the new year with a list of goals to work on or need a little inspiration, HR Organization and Professional Development (OPD) has a variety of online, live courses to help you. Find a list of upcoming courses sorted by topic below. You’ll see some familiar course names now offered in a virtual format, alongside some newer courses like Managing Employees Remotely and The Power of Habit.


Customer Service

Human Resources



  • Managing Employees Remotely – January 20: Shifting to remote work has required changes in our perspectives and approaches to work, and successfully managing employees in this environment means strengthening new and different skills. Learn more about how to do just that in this new, one-hour virtual course.


  • Query Studio – January 27: Query Studio is an ad hoc reporting tool that can be used to produce queries against enterprise data (HR and Finance) as well as additional data that has been added to the dimensional models in MSU’s enterprise data warehouse.
  • Records Management and Retention at MSU – February 25: Learn the rules, regulations, and strategies to help manage university records. Class will cover both electronic and print documents.

Personal Development

  • Everything DiSC: Behavior Styles at Work – January 14: Everything DiSC® helps you build more effective working relationships based on an understanding of different behavioral styles.
  • The Power of Habit – February 23: In this course you will learn how habits are created and how to replace undesirable habits with productive ones. You will learn how to spot your habit loop, turn bad days into good data, and create habits that get the results you want.

You can find all the current virtual Organization and Professional Development courses on the HR website. Class enrollment is completed within the EBS Portal. Employees may use available educational assistance funds towards course fees (if any).

Mentorship Resources and Tips

Over the past year, the workplace has changed dramatically with most of us working remotely and dealing with rapidly changing priorities. As we say goodbye to a challenging year and look forward to 2021, take some time to reflect on your experiences with co-workers over the past year; they may influence the goals or skills you choose to work on moving forward.

Do you admire a colleague’s ability to patiently manage a project during this period of rapid change? Or maybe you have a co-worker with a talent for staying on task and engaging team members during virtual meetings? Many of the qualities you appreciate in others are skills that anyone can develop with proper coaching through mentorship.

Beyond developing your skillset, mentorship is an opportunity to broaden your network and ability to see issues from multiple points of view. Among the many things we’ve learned this past year, one key take-away is how important cross-team support and collaboration is to creative problem-solving and innovation, especially during crisis.

Whether you’re looking for a mentor or you’d like to become one, the following articles written by Senior HR Professional Kathie Elliott can help you get started:

  • Mentoring in the Workplace: Think mentorship is just one-on-one help from a more experienced colleague? Think again! There are many mentoring structures to choose from, depending on the goals of the mentors and mentees. Identify which structures may help you in your career.
  • Finding a Professional Mentor: Finding the right mentor can make a big difference in your career. Once you find a potential mentor, how should you approach them? Find ideas for turning a current professional relationship into a mentorship.
  • How to Become a Mentor: You may want to consider becoming a mentor if you have experiences and skills to offer. Even if you are early in your career or new to your position, you still have knowledge to share. Find steps to take to be ready when a mentorship opportunity arises.

Additionally, as you think about the goals or skills you want to work on and how mentorship could play a role in achieving them, consider tying them to your Performance Excellence goals (for support staff). For more information about how to set yourself up for success as you identify goals, check out this When SMART Meets HARD: Setting Goals that Matter article.