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.

Motivational Monday Round-Up

Do you find yourself struggling to feel motivated? Todd Bradley, Senior Learning and Organization Development Specialist in HR Organization and Professional Development, is here to help. 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: Positive Influence

Todd offers ideas to help you create positive influence and feel more in control. Learn how to change your perspective using the “art of thinking.”

Motivational Monday: Keep Moving for Stress Reduction

Reminding us that people do better when they feel better, Todd recommends we “keep it moving” to reduce stress.

Motivational Monday: Reflection

When facing challenges and the anxiety that can accompany them, it can be helpful to reflect on the common ground we share with those around us.

Motivational Monday: Responding to Change

Todd discusses the rapid change we’re currently experiencing and how we can better equip ourselves for being in the “hot corner.”

Visit the MSU HR YouTube channel to view additional Motivational Monday videos as they’re posted. You may also find benefit in the resources below, which expand upon the ideas featured in Todd’s videos:

HR Source blog posts

elevateU online courses

Rapid Change: Making Your Way Through

This is a guest post by Jennie Yelvington, Program Manager, HR Organization and Professional Development.

Prior to the pandemic, we lived in a time of rapid change. Megatrends like globalization and technological advancements have resulted in a world that is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous (VUCA). Some find this reality to be exciting, some find it threatening, and now all are faced with the new challenges brought by COVID-19. We are called upon to navigate uncharted terrain and that isn’t easy. Leading through this time and beyond requires strong self-awareness and self-care, along with taking care of those in your charge. Here are some points to keep in mind:

Choose Where to Expend Your Energy

Worry can feel very active and spending time in that space can seem like you are working on something productive; in reality, you are just burning through energy that could be better spent. When you notice yourself worrying about what might happen or stewing about something that happened in the past, stop and ask yourself, “What can I do about it now?”

Consider your Sphere of Influence:

Graphic representing one's sphere of influence. Three circles are centered on top of each other. The smallest circle in the middle represents "control," the next biggest circle represents "possible influence but no control," and the largest circle represents "no control."
  • No Control. If there is absolutely nothing you can do to change or influence the situation, your work is to assess whether you can learn from it, then let it go and refocus on something else. This would apply to things like the weather and essentially anything that has happened in the past.
  • Possible Influence but No Control. If there is a step you can take that may influence an outcome, person, or situation, determine what action you can take to maximize that influence, follow through, and then let it go. Resist the temptation to convince yourself that worrying about it means it is within your control. Release.
  • Control. If the issue you are wrestling with is completely within your control, you are likely looking in the mirror. You have control over your decisions, attitude, and behavior. What self-care practice can you initiate? What can you learn? What can you do to support someone else?  What action can you take that you’ve been putting off?

Prioritize Work for Yourself and Your Team

The priorities you have now might be very different from what they were a month or two ago. Re-evaluate everything on your plate on a regular basis. Is it all still a priority? Are there other items that have bumped higher on the list? What changes had you planned that can now be postponed or slowed because of new priorities?

It is essential to look at time and resources to see if your goals are realistic within the timeframes set. Sometimes, particularly during a crisis, it can be difficult to do this as there are numerous essential projects that have to be done, but don’t just rely on that assumption. Think it through, engage in conversations, and problem solve ways to avoid burning out yourself and others. Consider these additional change strategies from Forbes.

Coping with Change Overload

As outlined by American Management Association, “Since all people respond differently to change, it’s also crucial to consider how to deal with change overload. This can manifest itself in many ways, including employees feeling excluded from the change process, expressing concern over unrealistic timelines, feeling overwhelmed by what they perceive as too many changes coming too quickly, poor engagement, concerns about insufficient resources, and more. Those leading change must proactively establish guidelines for dealing with change overload, and strategize new ways to gain buy-in, remove silos, communicate openly, and eliminate barriers.” Access the American Management Association’s free guide on The Manager’s Role During Change.

Learn from the Journey

As we move through this unique time, don’t lose sight of all that you’ve learned and contemplate what will be useful to bring forward. Have you or other team members learned new skills or developed a new way to collaborate? Did you create a new approach to an old problem? Did you seek input and address a new issue you hadn’t anticipated? Make sure that you document that learning and think about what will be useful as we move past this crisis. Necessity is the mother of invention, so don’t let all that important, creative work go to waste.

Approaching change in an intentional, thoughtful and strategic way can help you and others stay steady and healthy during the experience and beyond. All of us hit points of resistance at times. That is normal and something that can be learned from and worked through. As Socrates said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” It will be exciting to see what we build together as MSU moves forward.

Sources:

Managing Change-How to Navigate COVID-19 and the Changes to Come. (2020, April 22). Retrieved from https://www.amanet.org/articles/managing-change-how-to-navigate-covid-19-and-the-changes-to-come/

Connected Through Crisis: Why an Interdependent Approach to Leadership is Vital

This is a guest post written by Jennie Yelvington, Program Manager for HR Organization and Professional Development.

We are part of a large, complex system and a network of teams has stepped up to address the multitude of issues that have arisen at this time. It is clear that no one unit or individual can solve these problems on their own. It’s not enough to just embrace that concept theoretically. We are called to share knowledge and build connection so that we can be as responsive as possible at this critical time. 

Here are action steps for you to consider:

1. Focus on Problem-Solving vs. Blame

When information changes at a rapid pace, mistakes will be made by you and others. That is our current reality even though we do our best. Be kind to yourself and others by moving quickly from the initial emotional reaction to a focus on problem-solving and the next steps. In many ways, we are learning as we go, and having a mindset that encourages learning from mistakes with less fear of failure can be helpful. Check out this upcoming elevateU Live Event on May 13 called The Get Better Mindset to learn more.

2. Maximize Strengths

As you go about assigning work at this time, think about who would most easily be able to carry out the work without having to dramatically expand their skillset. Everyone is dealing with a lot right now and efficiency will increase if we line up work in this way. When people do need to take on new tasks that have a learning curve, think about whether there are other colleagues who can help them get up to speed quickly and without judgment.

3. Reach Out to Colleagues

Connecting with colleagues across our networks is important for several reasons. First, it is a morale booster just to make that connection and share experiences. Beyond that, it may fuel new ideas, create opportunities to work together on projects and allow for sharing information regarding needed resources and the changing landscape.

4. Make Sure People Have What They Need

Gallup research late last month showed that only 52% of workers strongly agree that they feel well prepared to do their work. When you connect with your team and your boss, make sure you are sharing critical updates, reviewing material and equipment needs, connecting people with educational support like elevateU, and clarifying expectations in this unusual time. People may not just tell you if they don’t know how to do something. Make it safe for them to have the discussion. Equally important, don’t forget to check in on how they are holding up emotionally during this challenging time. Feelings such as grief and anxiety are common and empathy and compassion from a leader goes a long way.

5. Provide Context

Whether you are talking to your team, your leader, or other colleagues, it is helpful to share context. Starting a new project? Let others know why and what you are hoping to achieve. Assigning a new task? Be sure to share what problem you are trying to solve or need you are trying to fill. Asking your boss for resources? Let them know the impact you anticipate and how it will align with priorities. Sharing this information is likely to generate new ideas, prevent wasted time, and help people feel motivated to be involved.

6. Make Decisions without Certainty

In this rapidly changing time, we can’t stand still. Decisions need to be made without knowing exactly how the long game will play out and getting input from subject matter experts on your team and elsewhere can really help. Focus on doing the next right thing and be prepared to pivot as needed.

7. Deliberate Calm and Bounded Optimism

In the article Leadership in a crisis: Responding to the coronavirus outbreak and future challenges the authors highlight two important leadership characteristics. “Deliberate calm” refers to the ability to stay steady in a fraught situation and think strategically about how to navigate. It requires humility and being fully present. “Bounded optimism” refers to confidence combined with realism. Excessive confidence despite obvious difficulty results in a lack of credibility and being dismissive of people’s experience. Instead leaders should acknowledge the challenges while expressing confidence that we can find our way through together, and then listen when others offer ideas. Side note: in order to be able to do either of these, you need self-awareness and good self-care strategies. Taking care of yourself helps you to stay steadier and take better care of others. Consider utilizing the many emotional wellness resources available from the MSU EAP and Health4U.

This time calls on us to shift from being fiercely independent and siloed, to embracing interdependence and collaboration. With a shared appreciation for each other’s capabilities and experience, and an eye to how we can best help each other forward, we can meet the challenges before us today and into the future. Perhaps psychologist Erik Erikson said it best: “Life doesn’t make any sense without interdependence. We need each other, and the sooner we learn that, the better for all of us.”

The following books in elevateU may be helpful:

Sources:

D’Auria, G., & De Smet, A. (2020, March). Leadership in a crisis: Responding to the coronavirus outbreak and future challenges. Retrieved from https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/leadership-in-a-crisis-responding-to-the-coronavirus-outbreak-and-future-challenges

Harter, J. (2020, April 17). How Leaders Are Responding to COVID-19 Workplace Disruption. Retrieved from https://www.gallup.com/workplace/307622/leaders-responding-covid-workplace-disruption.aspx

Taking Care of Your Team and Yourself During the Pandemic

This is a guest post written by Jennie Yelvington, Program Manager for HR Organization and Professional Development.

There are many issues leaders need to be aware of in this unprecedented time in order to help themselves and the people they lead stay as steady and effective as possible.

Issue 1: Uncertainty
Most like to have a sense of control over their work and lives. Many may react to the vast number of unknowns we are currently facing with anxiety, foggy brain, irritability or fear. Leaders can help allieviate these feelings in the following ways:

  • Over-communicate. Have regular check-ins, forward relevant emails to your team (for example, many of the DDC announcements) and send your team emails summarizing non-confidential information from your leadership meetings.
  • Be honest. Tell employees what you don’t know. It is vitally important to share information, but often in times of rapid change, you honestly won’t have all the answers; reassure them that you will share information as soon as it is available.
  • Be transparent, clear and concise about challenges, then engage the team in problem-solving mitigation strategies.
  • Remind them of what isn’t changing. What aspects of the work and team are unchanged? Even broad statements like our commitment to safety, teaching and research will serve as reminders and can help guide people. Reassure them that this time of tremendous uncertainty will pass.
  • Encourage people to be kind and offer grace to each other. Expect the same of yourself. A bit of empathy goes a long way.
  • Celebrate victories. Did someone learn new technology? Meet an urgent deadline? Facilitate an important collaboration? Recognize and celebrate these victories, even the small ones.

Issue 2: Connection
Some people are completely isolated in their homes, others are working on-site but without coworkers and most are under high pressure with family and other demands. All can feel lonely and overwhelmed. The following tips encourage connection:

  • Remember everyone. Connect with everyone on your team regularly, along with essential stakeholders. This situation will end at some point, and re-entry will be smoother if everyone still feels like a vital part of the team.
  • Treat everyone with respect and set that expectation with your team. Sometimes it’s easier to be uncivil when communicating virtually, which makes it even more important to be explicit in your expectations and to model inclusive, respectful behavior.
  • Have some fun. Staff meetings may involve a specific agenda, but don’t forget to also check-in to see how people are doing, not just what they are doing. Try to send a funny (work-appropriate) meme via chat, share an uplifting story or offer a word of encouragement. Groups across MSU have started virtual coffee hours, networking opportunities and more to stay connected. What could you initiate with your team to stay connected?

Issue 3: Decision Making and Empowerment
It can be daunting to make decisions when there are so many unknowns, yet a lack of decision making can cause significant problems. The following guidance may help:

  • Let MSU’s mission, departmental goals and your principles guide you. We must do the best we can with the information we have and understand that a different decision may be necessary tomorrow if new information comes forward.
  • Trust your team to use their expertise to figure things out. It isn’t necessary to have every answer before starting something. Allow people to bring their energy to tackling problems and supporting each other. Check-in regularly, provide parameters and offer support.
  • Identify allies and constituents that you need to stay in touch with as you make decisions. Think systemically. Who else could be impacted by this? What unintended consequences could arise? Who else might contribute important information? More than ever, this situation has highlighted our interconnectedness. Don’t go it alone.

Issue 4: Perspective
While sugar-coating or denying reality is not helpful, you can acknowledge challenges and still stay positive. John Maxwell said, “The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” Consider the following:

  • Talk about what is going well, not just the challenges.
  • Encourage people to utilize their strengths and help each other.
  • What opportunities are available for your team? Some could develop new skills, document or improve a process, create a new program, or take on a project they previously didn’t have time for. Others might have a chance to clarify priorities or boundaries or develop a habit of better self-care.
  • Acknowledge that there will be days with low productivity. We’ve never been through anything like this before, and we are all doing our best. Some days you might be highly productive, and on others, it might be a victory to do the bare minimum and get through the day.

We are all part of MSU. Being kind to ourselves and others is essential as we adapt to the current situation. Eventually, we will be back with lessons learned, and perhaps lasting changes as we move into the future. For now, connect with others, consider utilizing the MSU Employee Assistance Program for additional support, and reach out to Organization and Professional Development if we can help with skill-building, leadership challenges or team effectiveness. Most of all, take care of yourself, your team and your loved ones. You’ve got this.