Leading Through Uncertain, Rapidly Changing Times

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

March brought unprecedented change to this large, often slow-moving organization, and it is easy to see why it might feel overwhelming at times. Each day brings new information and impactful changes that leaders must influence and enact without much warning. Additionally, each of us must manage adjustments in our personal lives. Making a proactive effort to take care of yourself will be critical to handling these times effectively with your staff. Staying calm, forward-thinking and encouraging requires you to not allow yourself to become depleted.

You know what this involves: get enough sleep, eat nourishing food,  exercise, and do other things that help to sustain you. If you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll have no capacity to take care of your team and the organization. I am confident that this upheaval in our daily routine will change us in ways we can’t yet imagine and perhaps for the better. Creativity and innovation are often born out of times when we can no longer do “business as usual.” In addition to doing the work of the day, don’t forget to bring humanness to your leadership with these tips for success:

  • Be patient with yourself and others as we navigate this new terrain and recognize gains made, however small.
  • Acknowledge and grieve losses, sharing empathy and compassion as we find our way through.
  • Strengthening our connections is more critical now than ever, so help each other to learn new technology and overcome barriers. Share knowledge and seek help from your peers across the organization.
  • Make an extra effort to connect with your team. Utilize Microsoft Teams to hold daily virtual meetings, share information and provide encouragement. Or just pick up the phone.
  • Learn something new as a team. Have team members “host” the ideas.
  • Stay connected with people who cannot work remotely. They are important to the overall success of your organization and when things get back to normal, you will need them. Think about how you can stay connected in new ways. Try mailing letters or cards.
  • If you are a higher-level leader, providing support for your Chairs and front-line supervisors is critical. Make sure you are connecting with them on a regular basis.
  • Create structured meetings for all and consider one-on-one meetings and small project/team meetings to enhance communication. It’s OK to just “talk.” It is vital, more than ever, to increase positive interactions.

The following paradoxes outlined in the article Leadership Confidence in Times of Uncertainty by Dave Ulrich may be helpful to consider:

  • Avoid the extremes of either over-reacting or under-reacting or as a thoughtful sage once said, “run with patience.”
  • Care for both the individual and the organization.
  • Balance the need for decisive action (be bold) and the need for thoughtful value-based decisions (be calm).
  • Respond to the short-term challenges of the moment and anticipate and plan for the long-term implications.

Along with the obvious challenges, this is also a time of great opportunity if we can remain open. In the Forbes article, Leading In Times Of Uncertainty: How To Engage Optimism And Focus When Nothing Seems Predictable, H.V. MacArthur reminds us that we have a number of options that uniquely present themselves at this time, including:

  • The ability of your team to experience the flexibility that comes from using remote work options.
  • Opportunity for team members to catch up on work and upcoming deadlines.
  • Time for your business to do proactive planning and strategic thinking.
  • An opening for up-skilling team members through training and development.

Eventually, this crisis will pass, and we will move to another new normal. Focusing now on how we are taking care of ourselves, each other and the organization will influence how we come out on the other side. We have been encouraged by the compassion and determination expressed by our colleagues across the organization—continue that good work. While you’re at it, consider sending us your thoughts and suggestions on what is working well so we can share them more broadly at ProDev@hr.msu.edu.

Sources:

MacArthur, H. V. (2020, March 17). Leading In Times Of Uncertainty: How To Engage Optimism And Focus When Nothing Seems Predictable. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/hvmacarthur/2020/03/16/leading-in-times-of-uncertainty-how-to-engage-optimism-and-focus-when-nothing-seems-predictable/#5ebb3fed47e2

Ulrich, D. (2020, March 12). Leadership Confidence in Times of Uncertainty. Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/leadership-confidence-times-uncertainty-dave-ulrich/?trackingId=2Xa4HAlp8xcOpEp3RFH/DQ==

Managing Remotely: Leading the Way in the New Normal

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

As many of us adjust to working remotely, the situation also requires a thoughtful, strategic approach from managers. Communication to and within a team is more critical than ever, especially since the landscape continues to change at a rapid pace. People may be feeling unsure, anxious about using new skills, and not quite up to speed as they juggle home and work responsibilities. This can also lead to team members being on edge with each other. It is critical that managers set a tone of clarity, compassion, patience, cooperation, and problem-solving (versus blame). 

VitalSmarts also recommends the following strategies to help managers keep things on track during this unprecedented time: 

  • Frequent and Consistent Check-ins. Check-in frequently and regularly with remote employees. The cadence of the check-ins can vary from daily to bi-weekly to weekly but should always be consistent and entail a standing meeting or scheduled one-on-one.  
  • Face-to-Face or Voice-to-Voice. Insist on some face time with remote employees. When in-person meetings are not possible, try video conferencing technology or pick up the phone to ensure colleagues occasionally see one another’s face or hear one another’s voice.  
  • Exemplify Solid Communication Skills. You cannot overemphasize the importance of general, stellar communication with remote teams. Be a great listener, communicate trust and respect, inquire about workload and progress without micromanaging, and err on the side of over-communicating. At times it can be ok to have a conversation over the phone, and then email out the details to confirm people are on the same page with you. 
  • Explicit Expectations. When it comes to managing remote teams, be very clear about expectations. This is especially important now, because the “rules” of work have suddenly changed. Never leave people in the dark about projects, roles, deadlines, etc.  
  • Be Accessible. Be available quickly and throughout the day, letting people know when you will not be available. Go above and beyond to maintain an open-door policy for remote employees—keep your calendar up-to-date and use multiple means of technology (Microsoft Teams, email, phone, text, etc.). Remote employees should be able to count on you to respond quickly to pressing concerns.  
  • Mix Up the Tech. Try to use multiple means of communication to connect with your remote workers. Don’t just resort to phone or email but get familiar with video conferencing technologies and a variety of services like Microsoft Teams or Zoom. Get skilled at setting up and running meetings using these technologies, as if this was going to be your new reality moving forward.  
  • Prioritize Relationships. Team building and camaraderie are important for any team and remote teams are no exception. I challenge you to go out of your way to form personal bonds with your remote folks. Use check-in time to ask about their personal life, families, and hobbies. Allow team meeting time for “water cooler” conversation so the whole team can create personal connections and strengthen relationships. 

Encourage team members to help each other with technology and other challenges and be sure to recognize people for their effort. Additionally, remember that benefit-eligible MSU employees have access to elevateU, an online learning resources with courses, videos, books and more. There you will find ideas for group activities (look for the Team Talks link under MSU highlighted programs, then look at the Custom tab), learning related to a variety of content areas that could align with development plans, and thousands of books and videos to accelerate learning. Be sure to share with your team what you are learning as well. Learn more about elevateU for professional development while working remotely.

Job of the Week – Human Resources Manager

This week’s job of the week is a Human Resources Manager (#621712) for MSU Human Resources. This position is seeking an individual with strong leadership and analytical skills to manage the academic operations employment team.

The responsibilities for this role include overseeing hiring and other employment action processing for all faculty and academic staff populations, serving as a member of the Solutions Center management team, and supporting any Solution Center team areas as needed due to absence or emergency situations. Additional responsibilities of this role include engaging in continuous process improvements in areas of responsibility and overseeing staff in administration of special academic review processes such as reappointment, promotion and tenure reviews, and specialist reviews. 

The ideal candidate would possess knowledge equivalent to that which normally would be acquired by completing a four-year college degree program in a human resources area or a related degree; 3 to 5 years of related and progressively more responsible or expansive work experience in management and data base system analysis and maintenance; or an equivalent combination of education and experience.

For more details on the responsibilities of this position, and to view all our current postings, visit careers.msu.edu. Internal applicants should access postings through the Careers @ MSU tile in the EBS Portal.