Reframe Failure to Increase Success

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

Types of Failure

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

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

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

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

Ideas for Action

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

The Blame Game

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

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

Ideas for Action

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

The Importance of Leaders in Building a Learning Culture

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

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

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

Ideas for Action

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

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

Sources

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

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

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

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

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

Performance Excellence Strategic Goal Setting: Tips for Supervisors

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

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

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

1. Create a unit vision statement.

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

Ask yourself:

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

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

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

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

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

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

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

5. Ensure an ongoing feedback loop is maintained.

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

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

Related Resources

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

Instructor-led OPD Workshops

Performance Management for Hybrid Teams

Managing and Leading Across Locations

Strategic Planning

HR SourceLive Blog Posts

Adapting Your Goal-Driven Approach During Times of Change

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

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

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

Sources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2) Track and Document Your Accomplishments

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

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

3) Schedule Regular Check-ins

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

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

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

4) Contribute Toward Your Review

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

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

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

5) Utilize Your Resources

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

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

Recommended Resources

Performance Excellence Resources for Employees

PE Tips and Tools for Employees

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

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

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

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

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

OPD Courses for Employees

Adjust Your Work Approach for Success During Challenging Times

Written by Danielle Hook, Learning and Development Manager for HR Organization and Professional Development

This past month has many of us experiencing the feeling of “…this again?” Frequent and unexpected changes to priorities, workspaces and expectations can make productivity and focus feel impossible. Perhaps you find yourself working from home with small children (again), adjusting to staffing changes within your team or experiencing feelings of burnout or languishing.

In addition to requiring greater patience and flexibility, we’re finding ourselves called upon to take an alternative approach to how we normally complete our work. Whether you feel like you’re stuck in a pandemic time loop, where each day blends into the next, or you’re struggling to manage your time and projects while in a state of uncertainty, there are a few simple steps that can help guide your work approach during this time.

Have a Plan

If there is a chance you could find yourself pivoting quickly to accommodate a change in your work plan — your child’s daycare closing, a new colleague, uncertainty about whether you’ll be working in-office or remotely — a loose plan can make the transition a little smoother. The reality is that no amount of planning can fully alleviate the physical, mental and emotional drain many of us feel when faced with this much uncertainty. However, with a bit of intention, a sudden change in circumstances can become an opportunity instead of an obstacle. Having a structure in place that allows for adaptability and accounts for your specific circumstances can provide you a clearer path should things change unexpectedly.

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

Align Expectations With Attainable Goals

Consider how you would define success during this period of time. Identify what might indicate success and align your expectations accordingly. Set truly attainable goals, both personally and professionally. Think about the types of activities or tasks you could reasonably make progress on under the circumstances in which you’re working. Of those things, is there something you can work on that might even bring joy or satisfaction?

Read related article: Adapting Your Goal-Driven Approach During Times of Change

Choose Work That Fits Your Circumstances

This requires some insight into your strengths and work style. Consider the nature of the various tasks on your to-do list. Where possible, prioritize those which hold the highest likelihood of success within your current context. Your supervisor may be able to help with reprioritization and appreciate being informed of your plans. Here are some examples of this differentiation.

  • Some individuals will find the most success with independent work that allows them to engage in spurts and intervals. This work can easily be left and returned to without consequence.
    Examples: drafting documents, working with data and metrics, developing strategy, processing forms.
  • Others may find success using this time for engagement. Making calls and participating in discussions can be a great use of time for someone with busy hands who can’t be in front of a computer.
    Examples: an informal project check-in, idea generation discussions, one-on-ones with your team.
  • Is there a way you can use this time to catch up on things not often prioritized but still important?
    Examples: Cleaning up an inbox, managing or reorganizing documents, getting caught up in Teams.
  • Alternatively, sometimes there are things that can be set up now that benefit your future self.
    Examples: Did you know you can use the Quick Parts feature in Outlook to store templates for email content you use repeatedly? Or, that with Microsoft Planner, you can set up multiple tasks lists, assign them to yourself and others, assign due dates and more? Consider drafting and scheduling email communications that need to be distributed at a future date.
  • Professional development is another option to expand your skillset and engage in learning around the topics that mean the most to you.
    Examples: Virtual courses through HR Organization and Professional Development, Health4U, and IT Training, self-paced elevateU learning programs, professional podcasts, audiobooks, and live webinars.

Additional Resources

It is worth recognizing that each individual situation is unique, and solutions are never one size fits all. Some resources to help guide you through this period are included below, and know there are many additional services available to you as an MSU employee if you’d like further assistance, including Organization and Professional Developmentthe WorkLife Office, the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and Health4U.

Adapting to Change

Rapid Change: Making Your Way Through (blog post)

Strategies to Thrive Through Change (2-minute video)

Determining Your Work Style and Strengths

Everything DiSC: Behavior Styles at Work (3.5-hour Zoom course)

Identify and Maximize Your Strengths (4-hour Zoom course)

Mental Health

Mental Health Matters: Resources from MSU (blog post)

Recognizing and Managing Stress During Times of Change (blog post)

Motivation and Focus

Are You Procrastinating? Increase Motivation and Take Action with These Simple Steps (blog post)

The Art of Staying Focused (on-demand, 30-minute virtual course)

Working from Home with Children

Best Practices for Working at Home with Children

Things to Do to Keep Kids Active, Engaged and Learning While Home

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

As we say goodbye to another year filled with unexpected challenges, now is a great time to take stock of how you’re feeling at work and pinpoint areas you’d like to improve on or change. If you don’t know where to focus your time, start by reading What’s Your Plan: Six Steps to Align Your Goals with What’s Important to You. You’ll learn how creating a personal strategic plan can provide a “vision and structure for your professional life and an anchor for you to connect with during periods of change.”

Sometimes, we set goals that may sound good on paper but aren’t super meaningful on a personal level, which sets us up for failure or significant stress as we try to achieve them. Take some time to clarify what you value most – such as life/work integration, better time management, or meaningful work – so you can focus your time strategically and succeed.

Common Work-Related Goals:

Review the common work-related goals below to see if any resonate with you and use the articles and learning opportunities provided to help you reach them.

What would you like to work on this year? I’d like to…

As you think about what you want to work on in the coming year and beyond, consider tying them to your Performance Excellence goals (for support staff). For more information about how to set yourself up for success as you identify goals, check out this When SMART Meets HARD: Setting Goals that Matter article. 

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

Hopefully you’ve had the opportunity to look at MSU’s new strategic plan, which was recently shared by President Stanley. The plan, MSU 2030: Empowering Excellence, Advancing Equity and Expanding Impact, provides a framework and vision for the university that puts people first, prioritizing the success of students, staff and faculty while focusing on key areas of growth:

  • Expanded opportunity.
  • Advanced equity.
  • Elevated excellence.
  • Strengthened community.
  • Strengthened stewardship. 

Most units and departments at MSU also have strategic plans in place to guide their work—perhaps you’ve led or been a part of creating one of these plans. The next step is to make a personal strategic plan to guide you as an individual.

Why Have a Personal Strategic Plan?

One way we measure success at MSU is through goal setting and attainment, often using the Performance Excellence framework. Creating a personal strategic plan can be an extension of this goal-oriented process, providing a vision and structure for your professional life and an anchor for you to connect with during periods of change and as new opportunities arise.

A personal strategic plan will help ensure your professional goals and actions are aligned with what matters most in your life. With the recent release of MSU’s strategic plan, now is a perfect time to create or update your own plan.

Six Steps to Strategic Success

Your personal strategic plan will likely include career goals (e.g., ongoing development in your current position or preparing for a different role), finances, health and professional relationships. The Center for Association Leadership recommends a six-step process that can serve as a starting point for creating your individual plan.

  1. Find time. Even if it’s just ten minutes you set aside each day, take a step away from your day-to-day duties and responsibilities and envision what you want to accomplish.

  2. Clarify your values. What matters most in your life? Many of us find it easy to identify the first few priorities—perhaps family, health, happiness—but you may need to dig deeper for the purposes of a personal strategic plan. Think carefully about everything you truly value and want to honor. Consider areas such as relationships and connectivity at both personal and professional levels, recognition or greater influence, time, flexibility, life/work integration, personal growth, new challenges, and meaningful work.

  3. Create your mission statement. No need to overthink or be intimidated by this step. Simply write a brief statement—just a sentence or two—based around the values you want to honor. This is not intended to redefine who you are or remain static as time goes on. Rather, it serves as a reminder of your life’s and your work’s purpose and can be a touchstone you can use to help guide your behavior and inform your decisions.

  4. Do a SWOT analysis on yourself. A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis is typically done in conjunction with a new project or goal, but we don’t always take the time to examine these aspects of ourselves as individuals. What are your personal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats? Can a close colleague or mentor provide you with honest feedback regarding these areas? In our current environment of rapid, ongoing change, what are the opportunities and threats that may apply to your plan?

  5. Create your goals. Identify SMART and HARD goals that align with the core values you identified. Your goals can be broad, but your action steps should be specific and time limited. Be realistic about what you can accomplish and prioritize what’s most important to you. Typically, three or four goals with one or two actions steps for each is a manageable target each year.

  6. Determine the support you need to stay accountable. Identify a friend or colleague as an accountability partner to help you stick to your plan, and agree on a regular time to check in. Schedule a time weekly, biweekly, or monthly to review your personal strategic plan on your own and modify as needed.

Align Your Personal Plan with the Larger Picture

Take the time to compare your personal strategic plan with the plans of the university and your unit. Where do they intersect? Where do they diverge? Are there ways they could better align, leading to greater job satisfaction and performance?

Focus on what is within your control, as opposed to things you cannot control, such as the economy or what your coworker does or does not do. Take daily actions, no matter how small, to create real, meaningful change and be sure to celebrate your successes! Realize that some changes happen quickly, while others take much longer. The key is to be patient with yourself and know you are moving in the right direction.

Below are upcoming Organization and Professional Development (OPD) courses that can help you better identify your key values and goals to create a personal strategic plan that’s right for you. OPD is also available at prodev@hr.msu.edu for additional information and resources.

Useful Courses for All Employees

Everything DiSC: Behavior Styles at Work | October 28, 8:30 a.m. to Noon | Zoom

Identify and Maximize Your Strengths | October 28, 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. | Zoom

The Power of Habit | December 1, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. | Zoom

Courses Designed for Supervisors and Managers

Strategic Planning | October 13, 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. | Zoom

Everything DiSC: Management | November 4, 8:30 a.m. to Noon | Zoom

Sources
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/create-your-personal-strategic-plan-six-steps-ashka-wirk

https://www.asaecenter.org/association-careerhq/career/articles/career-management/create-your-personal-strategic-plan

Adapting Your Goal-Driven Approach During Times of Change

Whether the goals are short-term or lifelong, SMART or HARD, goal setting is a key component of our professional lives. At MSU, we go through various aspects of the Performance Excellence process throughout each year—from annual reviews to performance planning and everything in between—with goals as a primary benchmark against which we measure accomplishment.

If you’re accustomed to setting and meeting goals as a barometer of success, the COVID-19 pandemic has likely thrown you for a loop. Perhaps you had goals this past year that were impossible to achieve due to COVID-19 restrictions. Maybe you’ve had to relearn how to manage your daily tasks, let alone your goals, due to major changes in your workspace, be it on campus or virtual. It may benefit you to take the time to reexamine your approach to setting and meeting goals—whether for yourself or, if you’re a supervisor, for your employees—and how that may have shifted due to the pandemic.

Goals Are Tools, Not Anchors

To move beyond the countless disruptions and redefine who we are in our everchanging world, goals remain a crucial element to help us maintain purpose, focus and motivation. However, the rapid changes over the past 18 months have served as an important reminder that our goals should serve as tools, not anchors.

Goals can be powerful things, and the pursuit of them may drive you to do your best work and accomplish what might have previously seemed unattainable. While focusing on your goals may lead to success, focusing too single-mindedly on a goal and becoming overly attached to the outcome of your work can put you at risk when forces outside your control are unstable and unpredictable.

Instead of viewing a goal as a fixed North Star that keeps you stubbornly set on a specific endpoint, no matter what the circumstances, try instead to view your goals as flexible targets that allow for adaptability while still providing a framework and path toward achievement.

Own Your Goals

To benefit the most from your goals, never let your goals own you. You have the choice and ability to adapt your plans and goals and detach from the outcomes when necessary. This doesn’t mean being disinterested or disengaged but rather reprioritizing and not allowing any one goal or outcome to give you your sense of worth.

When we can release our own expectations about how things are “supposed” to be, we can engage with what’s actually happening and work to achieve our goals in ways that better align with the circumstances we can’t control. When you become too attached to an outcome that’s out of your hands, you risk missing the benefits of all the hard work you’ve put into reaching your goals if the end result isn’t quite what you planned.

Re-align Your Priorities

If you’ve found your professional identity has become upended during the pandemic, it may be helpful to examine your priorities and revisit your goals. You may be working from what organizational psychologist, Dr. Tasha Eurich, describes as a flawed goal-outcome formula in which you’re too attached to outcomes that are fully or partially out of your control.

Eurich notes that the pandemic has led to many of us losing parts of our identity that once defined us, which can be profoundly destabilizing. Unplanned changes to the routines that helped us navigate our days, our work location, or our ability to accomplish our goals may have us questioning who we are and how the world works.

Give yourself and your colleagues grace as we navigate this uncertainty and work to realign our priorities with our goals in ways that offer adaptability and healthy challenges. It may be helpful for supervisors and employees to review previously established goals through the lens of “goals as tools, not anchors” and see if any adjustments can be made to lead to greater engagement and effectiveness.

Additional information about Performance Excellence at MSU, including goal setting tips, a professional development impact map, and an expectation development worksheet, is available for both employees and supervisors. Looking for additional guidance? Contact Organization and Professional Development at prodev@hr.msu.edu to learn about other upcoming opportunities.

Recommended elevateU Resources

How to Build a Learning Mindset (2-minute elevateU video)

Insight: The Surprising Truth About How Others See Us, How We See Ourselves, and Why the Answers Matter More Than We Think  (elevateU book summary)

Live Event: The Power of Insight: How Self-Awareness Helps Us Succeed at Home and in Life  (Recording of 60-minute elevateU live event presented by Dr. Tasha Eurich)

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

Tips to Establish and Maintain Healthy Boundaries

There’s much talk about burnout lately, and with good reason. Studies show that job stress is by far the major source of anxiety for American adults and has escalated progressively over the past few decades. The employees who are generally the happiest and most productive, no matter the external circumstances, are those with firm boundaries.

Although setting healthy boundaries is a crucial part of life, it’s not easy for many of us. Establishing and maintaining boundaries—be they mental, emotional or physical—is a skill set and, like any skill, it needs to be developed. If you’re not used to setting limits, you might feel guilty or selfish when you first start out. Here are tips to help you set and stick to healthy boundaries to protect your time, energy and well-being.

1) Audit Your Existing Boundaries

Start by taking some time to examine your existing boundaries, or lack thereof, to help provide clarity around where you need to set different or stronger limits. Take note of when people or situations cause you stress and anxiety. If you find yourself feeling angry, resentful or guilty when you interact with certain colleagues or perform specific aspects of your job, that’s a red flag that you may need to set a firm boundary or communicate it more clearly.

2) Redefine Your Boundaries

Once you’ve examined your existing boundaries, it’s time to determine your new and improved boundaries and top priorities. Think about what needs to occur to best protect your time and general well-being. Consider your priorities both at and outside of work. Whether you’re trying to advance at work or just get through your to-do list by the end of the week, prioritize the tasks that will help you get there. This can help you become more aware of situations in which your existing boundaries are not working and allow you to discover how you can better allocate your time and energy.

3) Communicate Your Boundaries

Boundaries can vary greatly from person to person, so it’s important to set clear expectations and confidently communicate them with your team. Easy ways to better protect your time could include putting a note in your email signature stating the specific hours during which you answer emails and blocking off time on your calendar to ensure you can get to your top priorities.

4) Set Consequences

Once you communicate and start to stick to your established boundaries, don’t be surprised or disheartened if you find others initially respond negatively. This is usually a sign that your boundary is necessary and working effectively. Prep for these situations by visualizing your boundaries being crossed and imagine how you’ll react. Then, when a moment like that arises, you’ll be able to handle it rationally versus emotionally. When a boundary gets violated, address it immediately. Calmly reinforce your limits in the moment rather than wait.

5) Say “No”

Are you the type of person who says “yes” to every request at work, regardless of your existing workload and capacity to take on more? Learning to say “no” is a powerful skill that helps you enforce your boundaries and keep your goals a priority. Saying “no” can be a challenge for many of us because it seems negative—something that may bring harm to our career or alienate us from our colleagues—but “no” works in the opposite way. It allows for clarity and communicates your top priorities and commitments to others. If you say “yes” when you do not mean it, you will follow through with resentment, often leading to poor work quality, weakened relationships with colleagues, and feelings of stress and overwhelm.

Setting healthy boundaries that are right for you will help define your individuality and show others situations for which you will and will not hold yourself responsible. Remember that it’s equally important to respect the boundaries that others have set for themselves. Take small steps to set and maintain boundaries and respect the boundaries of others by communicating clearly and consistently, gaining clarity for yourself and holding firm to your areas of focus. The process will become easier and easier as you practice these skills.

Find resources below to get you started, and know there are many additional services available to you as an MSU employee if you’d like further assistance, including Organization and Professional Development, the WorkLife Office, the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and Health4U

Upcoming OPD Courses (Live, Online Format)

Everything DiSC: Behavior Styles at Work | September 22

Identify and Maximize Your Strengths | October 28

The Power of Habit | October 20

SourceLive Articles

Burnout: How to Avoid It and What to Do if You’re Experiencing It

Unplugged: How to Disconnect from Work and Enjoy Your Vacation

Sources

https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinecastrillon/2019/07/18/10-ways-to-set-healthy-boundaries-at-work/?sh=4628a9267497

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2021/04/06/how-to-set-professional-boundaries-to-protect-your-time/?sh=2890f032e36b

https://mint.intuit.com/blog/early-career/setting-boundaries-at-work/

https://positivepsychology.com/great-self-care-setting-healthy-boundaries/

The Three Steps to Positive Personal Accountability

Written by Andrea Williams, MSU HR Organization & Professional Development

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

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

Accountability vs. Responsibility

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

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

Create a Personal Accountability Framework

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

Step #1: Set SMART, HARD Goals

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

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

Step #2: Develop an Action Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interested in Learning More?

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

Sources

Skillsoft Ireland Limited. Developing a Personal Accountability Framework. Retrieved February 10, 2021 from https://www.inc.com/gordon-tredgold/7-truths-about-accountability-that-you-need-to-kno.html

Skousen, Tracy (2016, April 12). Responsibility vs. Accountability. Retrieved February 10, 2021 from https://www.partnersinleadership.com/insights-publications/responsibility-vs-accountability/

Tredgold, Gordon (2017, September 14). 7 Truths About Accountability that You Need to Know. Retrieved February 11, 2021 from https://www.inc.com/gordon-tredgold/7-truths-about-accountability-that-you-need-to-kno.html

Upcoming Virtual Professional Development Courses

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

Communication

Customer Service

Human Resources

Leadership

Management

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

Operations

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

Personal Development

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

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