Culture Building: It’s On All of Us

Written by Jennie Yelvington, MSW, ACSW, Program Manager, MSU HR Organization & Professional Development

The topic of workplace culture often comes up when people are unhappy, or significant problems have occurred. Leaders get blamed, and we wish for the proverbial magic wand that will transform a troubled culture into a good one. There is no doubt that leaders have a vital role in setting the tone, practices, and behaviors that shape a culture. According to a 2019 research from the Society of Human Resource Management, “58 percent of employees who quit a job due to workplace culture say that their managers are the main reason they ultimately left. And the cost of this turnover? $223 billion in the past five years” (Mirza, 2019). Leaders can be underequipped to step into that responsibility in a meaningful, conscious way, and as a result, may also look up and down the chain for someone to blame. When no one takes responsibility for the culture, the accepted norms of behavior in an organization contribute to its deterioration. When all take responsibility and work in concert with informed leaders, transformation is within reach.

What can we do to help ensure MSU develops and maintains a culture that lives up to the University’s ideals and best serves its mission? The NeuroLeadership Institute (NLI) points to three key variables that make all the difference:

  1. Priorities. Leaders may have different priorities for their area of oversight, but what are the priorities for our institution at large, and how do the two intersect? We can start by looking at our mission statement, identified values, and strategic plan (all of which are currently being evaluated). These foundational priorities are particularly important in times of significant change when we need to be flexible and adaptive to a situation that seems to shift by the minute. It is also essential to act rather than waiting to see what priorities are determined by others. Take advantage of opportunities to have influence where you can. For example:
  • Use this link to let the Strategic Planning Steering Committee know what you think is important as MSU moves forward.
  • Let the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Steering Committee know what your priorities are by clicking here.
  • Provide input to the Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct Committee here.
  1. Habits. Our ideals and beliefs are important, but actual behaviors are what change a culture. We must ask ourselves, what habits do we need to embody to reinforce our stated values and priorities? For example, if we say that having a safe, inclusive workplace is a priority, what actions do we consistently take to make that happen? Habits related to this topic might include:
  • Speaking up to remind someone to follow safety guidelines and/or thanking someone who reminds you to do so
  • Directly addressing the use of stereotypes and derogatory language
  • Inviting those who are being ignored to share their perspective
  • Seeking out diverse opinions to broaden one’s own perspective
  • Saying “thank you” and honestly considering the constructive feedback someone provides you
  • Expressing empathy to those who share a painful experience
  • Demonstrating civil, respectful behavior to all, regardless of level, title, or perspective

In some cases, moving something from being an idea or belief to an actionable habit takes practice and skill-building. In fact, the habit of being a continual learner can magnify the other habits you identify as priorities. Training and other learning activities can support the creation of new practices. NLI has found that “scaling learning by giving people managers small bites of compelling content to share with their teams a few minutes a week” has resulted in significant behavior change (Rock, 2019). To try this approach, check out Team Talks in elevateU, which provides a discussion guide (under the “custom tab”) and video for key topic areas.

  1. Systems. Systems are basically how the work of the organization gets done. They can be formal, like policies or defined processes, or informal, “it’s just ‘how we do things around here’”. If systems don’t change with the desired culture, they will become barriers to creating the habits that further our priorities. For example:
  • If we say that having a diverse workforce is a priority yet continue with the same recruiting and hiring practices we’ve used in the past, nothing is likely to change.
  • If we say that we want a culture in which speaking up about problematic situations is the norm, but we don’t hold offenders at all levels accountable, or reporters are retaliated against, people will not speak up.
  • If we say strong leadership is the key to a healthy culture, but we don’t have a systemic method to set and measure expectations or strategically develop our leaders, we are leaving it to chance.

We need to analyze our systems to see if they reinforce our stated values and make changes as required (Weller, 2019).

Perhaps a good starting point is striving to understand the current culture. While not necessarily easy, given how decentralized MSU is with a variety of subcultures, we do have information that provides direction, such as the 2019 KnowMore@MSU Campus Climate Survey results. We can also be thoughtful about our own experiences and observations. The article, 5 Simple Ways to Assess Company Culture suggests reflecting on the following questions:

  • What didn’t go so well last year?
  • Were there any cringe-worthy moments?
  • What is the one thing your organization was worst at last year?
  • What did we learn from our mistakes?
  • What lessons can our organization leverage?
  • What could our organization do differently over the next 12 months?
  • What break-through moments did we experience last year?
  • What is holding our organization back?
  • What can each of us do to be more helpful to the team?

The mission, values, and priorities established organization-wide must be informed by and reflected throughout the organization’s breadth (Thiefels, 2018). Individual leaders at all levels then have a responsibility to connect those dots and make it real for all in the important work they do and interactions they have. All of us, regardless of role, have a responsibility to each other and to making the organization the best it can be. Together We Will.

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” -Barack Obama

Sources:

Murza, B. (2019, September 25). Toxic Workplace Cultures Hurt Workers and Company Profits. Retrieved August 4, 2020 from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/toxic-workplace-culture-report.aspx

Rock, D. (2019, May 24). The Fastest Way To Change A Culture. Retrieved August 4, 2020 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidrock/2019/05/24/fastest-way-to-change-culture/#4f0c85f23d50

Thiefels, J. (2018, April 24). 5 Simple Ways to Assess Company Culture. Retrieved August 4, 2020 from https://www.achievers.com/blog/5-simple-ways-assess-company-culture/

Weller, C. (2019, June 20). The 3 Key Components of Behavior Change. Retrieved August 4, 2020 from https://neuroleadership.com/your-brain-at-work/priorities-habits-systems-behavior-change

Tips for Creating an Effective Remote Work Schedule

Whether you’re now working from home during this time period alongside your family members, or if you’ve got a furry friend by your side begging for your attention, working remotely can be a challenge. Stepping out of your daily routine at the office may be bringing added stressors to your work life as you try to effectively manage your workload from home while adjusting to new methods of collaboration with your coworkers. 

Figuring out what works best for you during this time is far from easy, but after already practicing working away from campus these past few months, many MSU employees have been able to find ways to bring structure and efficiency into their remote workdays. We asked employees to tell us what tips, tricks, or tools they’ve been using to help them effectively succeed at remote work, and here are some common themes we found.

  1. Utilizing flexible work hours where possible

Some employees have been able to coordinate a flexible work schedule with their supervisors that helps the employees as they work remotely.

“Since COVID-19 and working from home, I start my workday at 7:30 a.m. I also take a 30-minute lunch and these two easy changes allow me to finish my workday at 4:00 p.m… I feel very blessed to have some control over my workday schedule.” – Jackie Hohenstein

“A lesson from this remote work is, work does not necessarily have to be 8-5. Work needs to get done, but depending on your preferences and home situation, perhaps starting at 6 a.m. is better, or resuming at 8 p.m. As long as the work gets done, schedules can and should be flexible.” – Rick McNeil

“I learned in a training that working at your peak performance hours leads to better productivity. For example, if you’re a morning person, you work better and complete more during your peak times. I also found that stepping away from the computer for five or 10 minutes every two hours keeps your momentum going. Overall, I like the new things I have learned becoming a remote worker.” – Natasha Williams

  1. Build Breaks Into Your Schedule

As Natasha mentions above, taking breaks keeps the momentum going. Other employees agreed that building breaks into their schedule helps them work remote more successfully.

“Working from home means that when I’m working, that pretty much means I’m looking at a computer screen. In the office, meetings used to give my eyes a break but now most meetings are on Zoom or Teams so I’m looking at a screen even then. I try to give my eyes a break by getting up from my seat and away from the computer for at least a few minutes every hour or so…I make myself take a lunch break every day where I’m not looking at my computer or phone screen. I also still take notes and brainstorm in a notebook, so that also gives me a screen break.” – Courtney Chapin

  1. Continue Your Regular Morning Routine

“One thing I have done to combat “quarantine fog” is to try to stick to my normal work schedule while also integrating time to care for my child and animals every couple of hours. Sometimes this extends the workday, but I have found I am better able to focus on my work after I have taken the dogs outside and played with them for a little bit. In addition, my 10-year-old daughter and I have been using our time in quarantine to have some good quality ‘talks.’” – Mary Keyes

  1. Keep Track of Your Workload

“I keep a document that I plan my work for the coming week on Friday. During that workweek, I keep track of the things I accomplish and the new things that come up that need to be done. I leave future action items on the list. I find this to be more effective than a paper list.” – Renee Graff

  1. Limit Distractions in Your Workplace

“Set aside a work area and leave work in the work area.  Don’t invite it into other areas of your home life.” – Jayme Miller

After hearing from other MSU employees, it is clear there are many ways to navigate remote working schedules. However you go about working remotely, looking to other coworkers or your supervisor for guidance can be one of the most helpful ways to ensure future success for yourself and your team.

Maintaining Employee Engagement During COVID-19

In a matter of months, our world has changed drastically due to COVID-19. Everything about our work lives, home lives and social lives is now different as much of our day-to-day interaction with others is now done virtually. For many, navigating the changes between in-person to online work has been no easy task. Working remotely with little in-person communication can make it difficult to recognize what the purpose of your work is or remember the goals your team has put in place. As employees continue to work remotely, it is important to make time to check in with yourself and your team members about these things to maintain a strong sense of employee engagement within your virtual team to ensure continued success.

What is Employee Engagement?

But what is employee engagement exactly? Employee engagement is the emotional commitment an employee has to their work, their team’s goals and their company’s mission. To inspire this emotional commitment, you must first understand what drives it. Engaged employees tend to feel like:

  • They have a purpose at their company
  • They are aware of how their work helps them grow
  • They understand how they impact others

However, many people tend to have different definitions of employee engagement that include employee happiness or employee satisfaction. Although these things are not what defines employee engagement, both employee happiness and employee satisfaction are still important elements in the larger ecosystem that drives engagement. This means to support this emotional commitment from employees, organizations have to create a strong, cultural foundation to be able to achieve high levels of employee engagement.

Why is it Important?

Whether you realize it or not, employee engagement can ultimately have one of the biggest impacts on your organization’s goals. The difference between a team of engaged employees and a team of disengaged employees could be what’s creating problems within your team’s productivity and quality of work.

During this time of remote work due to COVID-19, reaching high levels of employee engagement seems to be an especially large challenge for many. With employees away from the office and their coworkers, it can be very easy for them to become disengaged from their work or see the purpose in doing it at all. While it may seem impossible, there are still many things team leaders can do to help combat high disengagement levels during COVID-19, even while working remotely.

Tips for Maintaining High Employee Engagement While Still Working Remotely

  1. Develop a sense of purpose at work

Successful, engaged teams are made up of employees that have a sense of purpose. To develop this sense of purpose for employees within their work, try reminding employees how important each of their roles are to your team’s goals at team meetings to help them understand the impact of their efforts.

  1. Offer professional development opportunities

Employees should be able to expect a range of learning and development opportunities from their employers to be able to stay engaged and invested in their roles. To inspire engaged employees that want to grow and improve, try searching for and reminding employees of professional development opportunities that you come across.

  1. Give recognition and rewards

A powerful way to improve employee engagement is to recognize and reward employees for their successes. To elevate your employee recognition, try tying it to real and frequent rewards to build more engaged employees.

New Supervisor Resources

Whether you’re new to a supervisory role or an established supervisor who would like to sharpen your skills, there are many resources available to help. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Become Familiar with Your Responsibilities within Performance Excellence

As you become familiar with your responsibilities for employee goal setting and annual performance reviews, start by going through the online supervisor content regarding the Performance Excellence process. Then, take the 35-minute MSU Performance Excellence Supervisor Course in elevateU and visit the Related Learning section, which includes short videos and challenges on topics such as goal setting and difficult conversations.

Utilize the MSU HR Website

Check out the Administrators and Supervisors area of the HR website, with a particular focus on the toolkits and processes sections. Here, you’ll find information that supervisors need to know about benefits, leaves, hiring, and more. Also, be aware of Support Staff Rules Governing Personal Conduct of Employees.

Familiarize Yourself with Union Contracts

Be sure to read through the union contracts of the people you supervise.

Take Advantage of elevateU Online Learning

Explore the free courses, videos, and books in elevateU designed for new managers.

Visit the HR Source Blog

Read the series of timely leadership blog articles that have been published over the past few months.

Explore the Perspectives of MSU’s Executive Team

Check out President Stanley’s website, as well as podcasts and Spartan Fireside Chats with various MSU executives to better understand the university.

If you find you have additional questions or needs as you continue your professional development as a supervisor, reach out to MSU HR’s Organization and Professional Development department at prodev@hr.msu.edu or 517-355-0183.

Navigating through Crisis to Reinvention

Written by Jennie Yelvington, MSW, ACSW, Program Manager, HR Organization & Professional Development

Months into the COVID-19 crisis we have learned a great deal about the importance of resilience, agility, and supporting others as we navigate rapidly changing demands. The skills and mindset demonstrated by people at every level of the organization helped us move through the initial shock and make essential changes. As we move forward, with ever-shifting variables, it seems that a traditional change management perspective is inadequate. There is no clear end, and the normal we knew before won’t likely return. That reality calls on leaders to attend to rapidly changing demands of the crisis, while also considering what reinvention will look like for our institution. While stressful, this provides an interesting opportunity for all of us to reshape our organization; leaving behind the practices and systems that don’t serve us and generating new ideas for a better tomorrow.

The authors in this Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) report warn, “leadership teams will be tempted to avoid taking bold action and having the toughest conversations and will retreat to the closest thing to the status quo that they can find — but that will leave the organization weaker and less prepared for the future than it should be” (Pasmore et al., 2020). There are many things we will have to do to help assure safety in the coming year. The question is, will we be able to stretch beyond mere compliance to take strategic steps to bring the organization forward in a significant way? All of us have a responsibility to that end, and leaders must be prepared to forge the path ahead in the following ways.

  1. Build Trust

This recent Deloitte article notes “trust is a catalyst of recovery” and reminds us that “resilient leaders need to inspire their teams to navigate through these significant COVID-related uncertainties. But great leadership requires even greater followership—and followership is nurtured by trust” (Renjen, 2020). Relationships are more important now than ever, and the actions we take with our colleagues, students, and community will either serve to strengthen or diminish trust. Transparency, candid communication, empathy, and compassion are vital to creating a sense of safety. With increased trust, people are more likely to step into the unknown and further innovation, something that is desperately needed at this time.

  1. Provide Direction

It is imperative that leaders provide a north star so that all individuals involved understand where they are heading. While the situation continues to change and responses need to be flexible, a visible commitment to values, a vision for the future, and a drive to deliver on our mission can help guide decision-makers and help others see the opportunity in the crisis. In addition to direction, CCL points out that leaders need to assure there is also:

  • Alignment: effective coordination and integration of the different aspects of the work so that it fits together in service of the shared direction; and 
  • Commitment: People who are making the success of the collective, not just their individual success, a personal priority (CCL, 2020).

Reviewing the CCL article “Direction + Alignment + Commitment (DAC) = Leadership” will help you to assess and strengthen all three in your team.

  1. Collaborate Inclusively

Leading through hardship and uncertainty requires a humble approach that acknowledges we need the skills, ideas, and energy of all our people to move forward as effectively as possible. Our tradition of protected silos will not serve us in this new world. We must learn to share ideas, work together to solve problems, and stop reinventing the wheel. According to global organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry, “Now, more than ever, organizations need innovative thinking and ideas-sharing across the business. Inclusive leaders can create a safe space, regardless of what is happening externally, where people can feel accepted and empowered to give the best of their talents” (Korn Ferry, 2020). To reach that goal, we must examine our biases, reach outside of our comfortable circles, and actively listen and honor the perspectives of others.

  1. Develop Yourself and Others

Strong leaders know that ongoing learning and development are key to meeting changing needs effectively; this is particularly true today. This Forbes article “4 Must-Have Skills For Leaders Post-Covid-19” notes “large numbers of workers may never go back to the office permanently. Managers who can not only get the best possible results out of their teams when working remotely but also show they can still act personably with employees and ensure team morale is high will be sought after” (Forbes, 2020). Strong engagement, communication, and technology skills are critical as we navigate this ever-changing terrain. Relying solely on the knowledge that has gotten us through in the past will not carry us forward. Demonstrating ongoing learning and expecting the same of your team is critical, both for the organization and individual careers. According to Gallup, “The impact the right employee development process can have is massive —Gallup finds that organizations that have made a strategic investment in employee development report 11% greater profitability and are twice as likely to retain their employees” (Ratanjee, 2020). In addition to training programs, formal or informal coaching, stretch assignments, and learning cohorts are key, particularly during budget shortfalls.

A newly released Academic Impressions report highlights that “adopting a systemic and intentional approach to developing the capacity of that workforce is a strategy for strengthening the institution’s capacity and resilience both during and after a crisis” (Academic Impressions, 2020). More broadly, the mindset we take as individuals and as an organization is important. “As the sector reels from unprecedented challenges, leaders can respond with either a ‘scarcity mindset’—reacting passively to factors outside their control, such as state budgets, demographic shifts, or a pandemic—or a ‘growth mindset,’ focusing on those factors within their control, leveraging the full skills and capacity of their academic workforce to find new solutions, networking and engaging actively across the sector to identify and share strategies for confronting both persistent and new challenges, and investing and reinvesting in their people” (Academic Impressions, 2020). As with any crisis, there are unique opportunities to strengthen our organization; we can make the most of those opportunities if we humbly work together in new ways, toward a unifying vision.

Sources:

Academic Impressions (2020, May). Why Professional Development is a Strategic Priority During a Time of Rapid Change. Retrieved July 17, 2020 from https://www.academicimpressions.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/pd-report-ai-2020.pdf

CCL (2020). Direction + Alignment +Commitment (DAC) = Leadership. Retrieved July 17, 2020 from https://www.ccl.org/articles/leading-effectively-articles/make-leadership-happen-2/

Forbes (2020, May 28). 4 Must-Have Skills for Leaders Post COVID-19. Retrieved July 17, 2020 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/imperialinsights/2020/05/28/4-must-have-skills-for-leaders-post-covid-19/#2e778106ca1b

Korn Ferry (2020). Leading through a crisis. Retrieved July 17, 2020 from: https://www.kornferry.com/challenges/coronavirus/leadership

Pasmore et al. (2020). Turning Crisis into Opportunity: Preparing Your Organization for a Transformed World. Retrieved July 17, 2020 from https://www.ccl.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/turning-crisis-into-opportunity-center-for-creative-leadership.pdf

Ratanjee, V. (2020, April 30). 3 Ways to Continue Employee Development When Budgets Are Cut. Retrieved July 17, 2020 from https://www.gallup.com/workplace/309284/ways-continue-employee-development-covid.aspx

Renjen, P. (2020, April 22). The essence of resilient leadership: Business recovery from COVID-19. Retrieved July 17, 2020from https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/economy/covid-19/guide-to-organizational-recovery-for-senior-executives-heart-of-resilient-leadership.html

Motivational Monday Round-Up

During these times of remote work, it can be hard to find motivation, especially after a holiday weekend. If you are one of the many struggling to get a bit of pep in your step this week, you are in luck as Todd Bradley, Senior Learning and Organization Development Specialist in HR Organization and Professional Development, is back with more Motivational Monday videos! Designed to encourage you during a time with many stressors and unknowns, Todd’s Motivational Monday videos provide quick and easy inspiration to start your day off right or get you back on track during a mid-afternoon slump.

Motivational Monday: Motivational Enhancement

To enhance motivation, Todd explores the stages of change and transition.

Motivational Monday: Maximizing the Spartan Experience

Todd shares his tips on how to positively maximize the Spartan Experience during these times of great challenges.

Motivational Monday: Enhanced Communication

Todd outlines how to ask the important questions to improve communication in the work place.

Visit the MSU HR YouTube channel to view additional Motivational Monday videos as they’re posted. You may also want to check out Todd’s previous videos in May’s Motivational Monday Round-Up.

Leading by Example

Written by Jennie Yelvington, MSW, ACSW, Program Manager for HR Organization and Professional Development.

As we contemplate a gradual return to work and the return of students in the fall, there is much to consider. New processes, new protocols and new challenges all impact our culture and how we move forward together in that transition. In times of change, leaders set the tone and their behavior conveys messages, intentional or not, about the importance of decisions made, and our values as an institution. This is considerable pressure, given that the same leaders are also dealing with the change themselves. Navigating this terrain isn’t easy, but as the title of this Harvard Business Review article suggests, Like it or Not, You Are Always Leading by Example. The article asks leaders to consider: what things do you consciously model, emphasize and communicate, and why? Does it have an impact on behavior? What influences what you choose to emphasize (your boss, values, etc.)?

Here are some strategies to consider as you pave the way.

  1. Model Self-Certainty Amidst Uncertainty: Changes occur daily, and the current situation leaves little that is predictable, which can leave many feeling considerable anxiety. Self-certainty isn’t being a “know it all”, rather it means to be grounded in values and confident in your ability to work together with others to find solutions no matter what the future holds. This helps to reduce anxiety and lead to better problem-solving. Leaders are encouraged to reflect on the tone they are setting. The Forbes article Leading Through Uncertainty: Six Ways to Navigate the Unchartered notes, “think of yourself as an emotional barometer, setting the emotional temperature for those in your charge, giving them cues for how they should respond.”
  2. Model Empathy and Compassion: This may not come easily to all (even if they feel empathy and compassion) but modeling it at this time is critical. As outlined in the Yale Insights article Leading Through COVID: Manage Your Team with Empathy, “people who are scared are not going to be productive or move in any kind of cohesive direction. The human thing, the kind thing, is to start every conversation with the simple question: ‘How are you? I just want to check in on you.’ Right now, showing empathy is the most important thing you can do for productivity, performance, innovation, retention—for any meaningful outcome.” Also remember, you are setting an example for your team, encouraging them to do the same for each other.
  3. Model a Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI): If you say DEI is important to you but laugh along or ignore microaggressions (or macroaggressions), people learn a lesson about your priorities and sincerity. Do you honor preferred pronouns? Have you educated yourself about the experiences of marginalized communities? Are you considering that COVID-19 has impacted people differently depending on a multitude of factors? Note that pretending that the DEI issues don’t exist or impact our colleagues, students, and the communities we serve also sends a message about who you are and what you represent; and remember, as an MSU leader you are a representative of the organization.

    The organization also has a responsibility to back up that individual leader in their efforts to address these issues, which speaks to the values and courage of both the person and the organization’s practices and policies. Do both help to create an inclusive, equitable space for all people to thrive? These actions need to be thoughtful and intentional if we have any chance of having an engaged, inclusive workplace. The Forbes article, 5 Reasons Why Diversity and Inclusion Efforts Fail, states that a leader’s efforts must go beyond the organization’s “needs for compliance and start working to gain that respect by actually recognizing and listening to the people whose respect you want to earn and unique differences you desire to value.” Leaders not only have a responsibility for their individual behaviors but also to push for policy and process changes that align with the stated values of the organization. It doesn’t happen without the concerted, prioritized actions of individuals over time.
  4. Model Accountability: Doing what you say you’ll do, and what you say is important, will impact how much people listen and follow through. If you say that you expect others to speak up and address issues, but you tend to avoid conversations that are difficult, you likely won’t have credibility. If you announce that everyone is required to wear a mask in public spaces but fail to clearly address it when people don’t comply, the bar will be lowered and safety potentially at risk. For help in having these conversations in a productive way, check out these brief videos from Vital Smarts.
  5. Model Self-Care: We’ve all heard about the importance of taking breaks, getting exercise, connecting with others and refraining from working around the clock. The extent to which leaders demonstrate self-care skills impacts their team members. Even if you don’t expect your team to work beyond their stated hours, if you are sending emails in the middle of the night you have set an example that they may wonder if they need to follow. According to Gallup, “when a manager is thriving in well-being, their direct reports are 15% more likely to be thriving in well-being six months later… managers don’t need to become triathletes to demonstrate their commitment to physical well-being. Rather, managers should authentically display and share their personal well-being practices – providing verbal and non-verbal examples of well-being in action.” Encourage your team to practice good self-care, let them know why it’s important, and demonstrate the same.

Leaders cast a big shadow, impacting organizational practices, policies, and culture. In these volatile times, it is particularly important to go beyond the ideas of theoretical leadership notions and intentionally assure that your actions are having the intended impact. Find others who will provide you with honest feedback and make a plan to commit to your own learning journey across time. It requires considerable work, but it is incredibly gratifying to see the difference that effort can make.

Sources:

Bock, L. (2020, May 12). Leading through COVID: Manage Your Team with Empathy. Retrieved June 18, 2020, from https://insights.som.yale.edu/insights/leading-through-covid-manage-your-team-with-empathy

Grenny, J. (n.d.). How Do I Say That | Crucial Skills by VitalSmarts. Retrieved June 18, 2020, from https://www.vitalsmarts.com/crucialskills/category/how-do-i-say-that/?from-minicourse-page

Llopis, G. (2017, March 29). 5 Reasons Diversity And Inclusion Fails. Retrieved June 18, 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/glennllopis/2017/01/16/5-reasons-diversity-and-inclusion-fails/

Nelson, J. (2020, June 12). The Manager’s Role in Employee Well-Being. Retrieved June 18, 2020, from https://www.gallup.com/workplace/236249/manager-role-employee.aspx

Schrage, M. (2017, April 21). Like It or Not, You Are Always Leading by Example. Retrieved June 18, 2020, from https://hbr.org/2016/10/like-it-or-not-you-are-always-leading-by-example

Warrell, M. (2020, April 09). Leading Through Uncertainty: Six Ways To Navigate The Unchartered. Retrieved June 18, 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/margiewarrell/2020/03/08/leading-through-coronavirus-how-those-in-charge-can-navigate-the-uncertainty-with-calm–courage/

Performance Excellence Resources

Do you have a Performance Excellence annual review and/or planning meeting coming up soon? Performance Excellence is a collaborative process between MSU support staff and their supervisors that ensures employees are continually developing their skills to contribute to the success of the university. Employees should be meeting regularly with their supervisors to discuss their Performance Excellence development plan and goals for the year. This encourages everyone to stay engaged and allows goals to be adjusted if needed. Whether you are an employee or supervisor, we have resources to help you get the most out of the Performance Excellence process.

Conducting Annual Performance Reviews During Remote Work

Many MSU employees are working remotely during this unprecedented public health situation and the following guidance should help supervisors continue to conduct annual performance reviews. If you are unsure whether you should be conducting annual performance reviews, please contact your HR representative.

Virtual Annual Performance Review Guidance

Steps to Complete the Review

  1. Follow the usual steps to prepare for the Annual Performance Review discussion and the Performance Planning for the next performance cycle. Find tips to prepare here.
  2. Follow your unit’s defined process for performance reviews. Complete all internal unit requirements and procedures as directed.
  3. Provide a copy of the completed review form to the employee prior to the meeting. We recommend sharing the form with the employee in advance of the meeting by email, so they have time to prepare for and fully engage in the discussion. At a minimum, share your screen during the virtual meeting so your employee can see the completed review form.
  4. Hold the Annual Review meeting using remote collaboration tools. Find tips to prepare here and tips to conduct the meeting while working remotely below:
    1. Conduct the review using video chat options to allow for a more personal connection with your employee. MSU has great collaboration tools available.
  5. Complete the Performance Planning Form for the following performance cycle. Find tips to prepare here.
  6. Schedule regularly occurring times for ongoing coaching and feedback throughout the next performance cycle.

Find Tips and Tools on the HR Website

Find additional tips and resources for conducting and completing the Annual Performance Review during this period of remote work on the HR website. There is a wealth of information available about Performance Excellence on the HR website including:

  • Detailed info about the process
  • Required training
  • Learning opportunities to help meet performance goals
  • Related forms
  • Tips and tools for success

Visit the Performance Excellence webpage and then select whether you’re looking for resources for employees or supervisors.

Questions? Contact the HR Solutions Center at SolutionsCenter@hr.msu.edu or 517-353-4434.

Inclusive Leadership: Starting with Self-Reflection

Written by Jennie Yelvington, MSW, ACSW, Program Manager for HR Organization and Professional Development.

Central to being a leader at MSU is understanding that furthering diversity, equity and inclusion is a priority that is imperative to the university fulfilling its mission. Simply understanding, however, is not enough. All of us must take an active role in continuing to work towards a more diverse and inclusive community. In a recent response to the killing of George Floyd, President Stanley noted:

“We are committed to building an inclusive environment here at MSU, one that recognizes and respects people of all backgrounds and experiences. However, this commitment must be manifested in ways that extend well beyond words.”

President Stanley

Our commitment includes the work of both the individual and the collective; of behaviors, practices and policies that work together in an impactful way. Thankfully, we have a talented Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Steering Committee (learn more about this committee and their vision here) that will be identifying recommendations going forward. In the meantime, start with the following questions for self-reflection related to these six themes to help reveal where you are on the path to being an inclusive leader:

  1. Belief: Do you wholeheartedly believe everyone is created equal? Regardless of differences in skin color, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, workplace hierarchy, support staff vs. academic staff, attire, etc.? Your honest answers may help with the next question.
  2. Awareness: Are you aware of the conscious and unconscious biases you had or have towards others? We all have them, so the question isn’t “if” you have bias, but where you do and what you do about it. Authors of the Harvard Business Review article The Key to Inclusive Leadership add that to be meaningful, bias awareness must be tied to two other traits:
    1. Humility – a willingness to acknowledge your vulnerability to bias and ask for feedback on blind spots and habits; and
    1. Empathy/perspective-taking – striving to understand others deeply and leave them feeling heard.
  3. Boldness: Are you honest with others about your shortcomings or misperceptions? Are you willing to have uncomfortable conversations or do reparative work if you make a mistake? This work does not occur without mistakes, but we must have the courage to do it anyway.
  4. Curiosity: Are you open to unlearning and relearning from others? Do you take the time to do your own research and learn about experiences others may be facing? Do you really know what it means to actively be a good ally? As leaders, we need to build diverse relationships, ask regularly for honest feedback and make adjustments as needed.
  5. Action: Are your behaviors and actions towards others aligned with your belief in equality? Believing in something theoretically is a start but has little meaning if your actions don’t consistently back it up. In developing inclusive cultures, leaders must address forces that dehumanize at personal, systemic and institutional levels. Don’t sit back waiting for others to take action. Make the changes that you can and speak up to exercise your influence.
  6. Commitment: Do you consistently hold yourself and others accountable to a culture of inclusion? The article Inclusive Leadership in Higher Education Today reminds us that “the inclusive leader works to support others’ identities, fosters understanding, respect, and dignity, and works to build a sense of mutual responsibility for and commitment to cultivating an inclusive, supportive, and impactful experience for all.” Do you speak up when you notice microaggressions? Do you actively seek the opinions of people in meetings who are being marginalized? Do you push for diverse hiring committees and candidate pools? Think about different ways that you can actively expand your commitment and take related steps.

As noted in the white paper Getting Real About Inclusive Leadership, “companies can’t add diversity to the mix of a team and expect that people will automatically collaborate, connect, resolve conflicts, or innovate as a cohesive unit. Aiming to improve your company’s demographic diversity (e.g., gender, ethnicity, ability) without also aiming to improve employee experiences of inclusion is not good for employers or employees. To generate exceptional outcomes, people need to work in an inclusive atmosphere where they can belong, contribute, and thrive.”

With perseverance and humility, we can continue to work on these issues and help MSU to be at the forefront of positive transformation.

Resources to Help:

elevateU Resources:

Podcast: Help Me Understand – Episode 8: A Conversation About Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. JK talks with Jessica Garcia, former MSU faculty member and CEO of Hummingbird Solutions, LLC, a diversity and inclusion consulting firm.

Sources:

Arnold, N. W. (2020, May 22). Inclusive Leadership. Retrieved from https://www.higheredtoday.org/2020/05/20/inclusive-leadership/

Bourke, J., & Espedido, A. (2020, March 6). The Key to Inclusive Leadership. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2020/03/the-key-to-inclusive-leadership

Jenkins, R. (2018, June 12). 6 Questions That Reveal If You Are an Inclusive Leader. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/ryan-jenkins/how-to-be-an-inclusive-leader-in-6-steps.html

Kendall, F. E. (2003). How to Be an Ally if You Are a Person with Privilege. Retrieved from http://www.scn.org/friends/ally.html?fbclid=IwAR2y_9Z615-XMXhfsaZ4P9lJ2EvgTXjZNamdmj8ru_eQdot0bzwAUnzC4qs

Stanley, S. L., & Sullivan, T. A. (n.d.). Message to the campus community on the shocking events in Minnesota. Retrieved from https://president.msu.edu/communications/messages-statements/2020_community_letters/2020_05_29_Letter_on_Minnesota_events.html?utm_campaign=standard-promo&utm_source=msulinkedin-post&utm_medium=social

Travis, D. J., Shaffer, E., & Thorpe-Moscon, J. (n.d.). Getting Real About Inclusive Leadership: Why Change Starts with You. Getting Real About Inclusive Leadership: Why Change Starts with You. Catalyst. Retrieved from https://www.catalyst.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Getting-Real-About-Inclusive-Leadership-Report-2020update.pdf

Communicate with Impact: Tips for Leaders

Written by Jennie Yelvington, MSW, ACSW, Program Manager for HR Organization and Professional Development.

Communicating effectively is always an important skill for leaders to demonstrate, but in this time of massive, rapid change it is more critical than ever. The basics, such as clarity, transparency, and being intentional about what you want to convey, all hold true. Authenticity, along with displaying empathy and compassion, will boost the impact of anything you communicate. Here are a few additional pointers that can make a difference:

Consider Your Audience

Executives generally get information first and the amount people know about high levels decisions tends to decrease the further down the hierarchy their position lands. Before sharing information with staff, think about what they have been briefed on so far and start from there. Remember that issues you have been dealing with for some time may be new to others, and they may need a minute to work through their reaction. Also, provide information (if able) regarding what the journey has been to get to that decision. Gaps in communication tend to fuel distrust and make it difficult for employees to take needed action; it’s hard to fix what you don’t understand.

Provide Translation

As a leader, it is important to share (nonconfidential) information you receive that would help your employees better understand the broader context of what is happening within the university. Having this understanding can help people make the sacrifices and changes needed with less resistance. Aside from being insulting, the “because I said so” approach doesn’t help people move forward. So, for example, forwarding that DDC email can be very useful; but that isn’t enough. It is also important to explain how that information relates to your employees. We have been so decentralized that often people see themselves in the vacuum of their unit or even their particular job. Drawing the lines between high-level decisions and their work helps people to understand the broader system and how their role fits. They still may not like decisions that are made, but it is easier to accept what you understand.

Once isn’t Enough

Communications specialists can affirm that if you truly want something to stick, you must repeat the message multiple times, in multiple ways. Leaders need to heed this lesson. If something is important, sending one email isn’t enough. People are inundated with information, so if you want something to stand out make sure you utilize multiple avenues. Send that email, but also weave it into staff meetings, clarify understanding in one-on-one’s, and tie it to other initiatives. Also, if it is important, make sure you utilize language that reflects that it is a priority, and why it matters.

Watch Out for Bias

Bias awareness is always important, and in this time of video conferencing, the potential pitfalls are numerous. While it is common to hear that we are “all in this together,” individual experiences during the pandemic can be vastly different. Socio-economic differences are highlighted in video (unless backgrounds are used), people may be experiencing grief due to sick or deceased loved ones, others may be completely alone and struggle when they hear coworkers discuss family fun. In a recent MSUToday article, MSU professor Amy Bonomi suggests we “approach conversations with sensitivity to differences. Instead of opening with the typical “tell us what your lives are like during shelter in place,” consider framing a question around what participants are noticing about communities around them.”  She also recommends challenging microaggressions. “This can be done by naming microaggressions on the spot or addressing them privately. It is important to share how the microaggression affected you and may have affected others and to provide tools for improving skills.”

Clarify Expectations

When you share information, be sure to clarify if action is needed, and if so by whom and when. Don’t expect people to read your mind, or that they will be clear on exactly what they are empowered to do in response to a need. Also, consider the extent of the need. Is this a simple action? Is it a full-blown project that needs to be managed? If so, what else do people need to know? Is there a budget? Are adequate resources available? Are there deadlines? Will other stakeholders potentially be impacted? Finally, think about whether your staff members currently have the skills needed to be successful. Are they experienced with project management? Are they capable and willing to handle potentially difficult conversations? Many skill-building resources are available at no cost through elevateU and you can reach out to Organization & Professional Development (prodev@hr.msu.edu) for help with development planning.

Emphasize Shared Responsibility

Leaders have a responsibility to share information and communicate effectively, and they should make it clear that employees also have a responsibility to seek information and stay informed. Most have internet access and can be expected to check email at set intervals, read updates from President Stanley and other executives, and periodically check the MSU 2019 Novel Coronovirus site for updates. This shared responsibility allows all to be more prepared for coming changes and increase the likelihood of innovative responses from every level of the organization. Never write anyone off regarding their ability to contribute meaningful options for addressing the issues we face.

There are many effective strategies that leaders and teams across campus have been using to stay on top of changes in this challenging time including things like daily huddles, weekly video conferencing, virtual coffee hours to strengthen relationships, and utilizing Spartan365 to chat, meet, and share content. Leaders are also encouraged to network across the university to share best practices and new ideas. One of the great things about working at this university is that we have many opportunities for shared learning and support. Together, we can do this.