New and In-Person Fall Professional Development Courses

With the contagious energy from students starting a new year of learning and the Educational Assistance benefit resetting with the fall semester, now is a perfect time to consider your professional goals and how you can work toward achieving them. HR’s Organization and Professional Development (OPD) department is excited to offer a variety of new and in-person programs this semester to support your learning and development.

Registration is now available in the EBS Portal for both in-person classes and virtual courses to provide expanded options and best meet your learning needs and preferences.* View all current in-person and virtual OPD programming on HR’s website and learn about highlighted courses below.

New Fall Courses

Facilitating Process Improvement | Tuesday, October 18, AND Thursday, October 20 | In Person

Strengths Based Leadership | Wednesday, October 26 | In Person

Mitigating Bias in Hiring | Tuesday, October 11 | Virtual

Crucial Conversations for Accountability | Wednesday, November 2, AND Thursday, November 3 | In Person

Additional In-Person Courses

All in-person OPD programming will be held in East Lansing.


Grammar Refresher | Wednesday, October 19

Crucial Conversations for Mastering Dialogue | Wednesday, November 16, AND Thursday, November 17

Conflict Management and Non-Escalation  | Tuesday, December 6, AND Wednesday, December 7


Building Cohesive Teams | Wednesday, October 12

Performance Management for Hybrid Teams | Tuesday, December 6

Managing and Leading Across Locations | Tuesday, December 13

Personal Development

Creating and Sustaining a Positive Workplace  | Wednesday, October 12

Ready, Set, Change | Thursday, November 17

Identify and Maximize Your Strengths  | Tuesday, December 13

Register for OPD courses in the EBS Portal today! Questions? Contact Organization and Professional Development at


Image by jannoon028 on Freepik

Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

When you think of upskilling — learning new skills — at work, what comes to mind? Perhaps learning new software or working toward a certification or degree. There’s no question that many in-demand skills are technical in nature, but there’s also a critical need for what are sometimes described as “soft” skills, particularly strong emotional intelligence (EI).

EI allows us to build and maintain relationships and influence others — important skills no matter your position and area of work — and research has found people with greater EI tend to be more innovative and have higher job satisfaction than those with lower EI. Using emotional intelligence in the workplace can improve decision-making and social interactions, and enhance your ability to cope with change and stress.

The good news is that, like technical skills, soft skills such as EI can also be learned and improved.

Emotional Intelligence: What It Is

To strengthen your emotional intelligence, it’s important to know what it entails. Most definitions of EI include the following components:

  1. Perception and expression of emotion — Noticing your own emotions and picking up on the emotions of others as well as the ability to distinguish between discrete emotions.
  2. Using emotion to facilitate thought — How you incorporate emotions into your thinking processes and understand when and how emotions can be helpful for reasoning processes.
  3. Understanding and analyzing emotions —The capacity to decode emotions, make sense of their meaning, and understand how they relate to each other and change over time.
  4. Reflective regulation of emotion —An openness to all emotions and the ability to regulate your own emotions and the emotions of others to facilitate growth and insight.

Measuring Your Emotional Intelligence Skills

Do you find you relate to either of these statements?

“I want to improve my EI skills but don’t know where to start.”

“I already have strong emotional intelligence skills. This isn’t an area I need to work on.”

As is the case with any skill, we all have varying levels of aptitude when it comes to EI and may feel overwhelmed about where to begin.

One interesting study found that 95% of participants gave themselves high marks in self-awareness. However, using more empirical measures of self-awareness, the study found that only 10-15% of the cohort was truly self-aware. Consider the following characteristics typical of people with higher and lower EI skillsets as one way to better gauge your skillset:

Potential indicators of higher EI:

  • Understanding the links between your emotions and how you behave
  • Remaining calm and composed during stressful situations
  • Ability to influence others toward a common goal
  • Handling difficult people with tact and diplomacy

Potential indicators of lower EI:

  • Often feeling misunderstood
  • Getting upset easily
  • Becoming overwhelmed by emotions
  • Having problems being assertive

It’s important to note that these potential indicators can also stem from other causes and vary significantly depending on the day and situation.

Learning and Developing Emotional Intelligence

Research indicates that as little as ten hours of EI training (i.e., lectures, role-play, group discussions, readings) significantly improved people’s ability to identify and manage their emotions, and these benefits were sustained six months later.

No matter your current EI skillset, it may be helpful to try the following exercises:

  1. Notice how you respond to people — Are you judgmental or biased in your assessments of others?
  2. Practice humility — Being humble about your achievements means you can acknowledge your successes without needing to shout about them.
  3. Be honest with yourself about your strengths and vulnerabilities and consider development opportunities. Even though it might make you cringe, it’s helpful to get others’ viewpoints on your emotional intelligence. Ask people how they think you handle tricky situations and respond to the emotions of others.
  4. Think about how you deal with stressful events — Do you seek to blame others? Can you keep your emotions in check?
  5. Take responsibility for your actions and apologize when you need to.
  6. Consider how your choices can affect others — Try to imagine how they might feel before you do something that could affect them.

Interested in further increasing your EI skills? Check out the resources below to get you started.

Additional Resources

elevateU Featured Topic: Emotional Intelligence | Short videos, self-paced online courses and more

Essential Skills for Navigating Challenging Times | Free, instructor-led offering from MSU Health4U | Eight-session series begins July 12

Everything DiSC: Behavior Styles at Work | Instructor-led offering from HR Organization and Professional Development | July 20 or October 20

Creating and Sustaining a Positive Workplace | Instructor-led offering from HR Organization and Professional Development | August 25

Identify and Maximize Your Strengths | Instructor-led offering from HR Organization and Professional Development | September 21


OPD Course Spotlight — Identify & Maximize Your Strengths

“What will happen when we think about what is right with people rather than fixating on what is wrong with them?” ― Donald O. Clifton

How do you build better relationships at work? Find the right role to fit your talents? Have powerful, constructive conversations? Living your best life begins when you tap into your unique talents. Learn to Identify & Maximize Your Strengths in an upcoming workshop with HR Organization and Professional Development.

Identify & Maximize Your Strengths is currently open for registration in the EBS Portal for Wednesday, September 21, or Tuesday, December 13, 2022, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.

Before this workshop, you will complete Gallup’s CliftonStrengths online assessment to determine your natural patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. Then, attend the 4-hour Zoom session to receive your customized assessment results and participate in a series of structured discussions and reflection exercises to develop a deeper understanding of yourself and increased appreciation for others.

“Identify and Maximize Your Strengths is an introduction to the CliftonStrengths framework in which participants will take the assessment and review their results to explore what they naturally do best, identify the impacts of those talents on their work and relationships, and determine how to further develop these areas to be most successful,” explains course co-facilitator, David Robinson, Learning and Development Professional for MSU Infrastructure Planning and Facilities.

Lean Into Your Strengths

Often, when we think about learning and development, we’re working on our “weaknesses” — areas that could use improvement. One unique aspect of this workshop is its focus on your existing strengths. Discovering your strengths is just the beginning. Applying and investing in them sparks real change and growth.

Danielle Hook, course co-facilitator and Learning and Development Manager for MSU HR Organization and Professional Development, shares, “Identify and Maximize Your Strengths guides participants from the initial understanding of their results through the identification and implementation of strengths-based actions. It is through these actionable steps that we see the deeply meaningful impact of a strengths-based approach to the development of individuals and teams. Using the CliftonStrengths framework, we celebrate the unique talents and contributions of individuals as well as the diversity within our teams.”

Check out a preview of what you can expect from the CliftonStrengths assessment and Identify & Maximize Your Strengths:

Ready to Sign Up?

Register for an upcoming Identify & Maximize Your Strengths session in the EBS Portal by selecting the Courses for Employees at MSU tile under My Career and Training. Contact OPD at with questions about this workshop or inquiries regarding hosting this program for a group.

Developing a Continuous Learning Mindset

As the climate of rapid change and the nature of our work continues to evolve, our professional goals and expectations are becoming more dynamic and less predictable. Learning new technology and systems is often part of these changes. Although there are many factors over which we have little to no control, we can gain both confidence and competence by taking ownership of our professional development, whether it be related to technology or anything else new and unfamiliar. Choosing to adopt and strengthen a growth mindset is a key factor in understanding and adapting to new technology and can help you expand your existing personal capabilities.

The Growth Mindset

If you happen to be a caregiver for school-age children or have experience in education, you’re likely familiar with the emphasis on a growth mindset for students. The reality is that encouraging a growth, or continuous learning, mindset is just as important for adults. To develop a continuous learning mindset, it’s important to first recognize its characteristics:

  • Skills and intelligence are grown and developed
  • Concern is focused on learning and growing
  • Effort is necessary to learning
  • Mistakes are learning opportunities
  • Challenges are obstacles to be overcome

The Benefits of a Growth Mindset

Research has shown that adopting and utilizing a growth mindset at work leads to higher levels of satisfaction and engagement. When you invest in your own learning, growth and development, you typically become more involved in your work and demonstrate a greater interest in and capacity for innovation and collaboration. This can lead to being viewed favorably by supervisors and leaders and can increase your likelihood of new and expanded career opportunities and advancement.

Those who embrace lifelong learning and bring a growth mindset to their careers are more likely to take on new challenges and are typically better able to cope with disruption and adapt to change — key skills in today’s workplace. These attributes will serve you well, enhancing your career development both now and throughout your learning journey. 

Develop a Growth Mindset at Work

Understanding the components of a mindset dedicated to continuous learning is one thing but taking action and applying this knowledge to your job is critical. This requires steps including:

  • Recognizing and monitoring your own mindset
  • Sharing your mindset
  • Providing feedback for others’ growth
  • Striving for continuous team improvement

Ways to Take Action

One common obstacle to developing a growth mindset and embracing both new technologies and continuous professional development is the feeling of not knowing how — or where — to start. Below are ideas and resources to further your understanding of the growth mindset along with ways you can help ensure your success.


  1. Just anticipating that you’ll enjoy the learning is important. Bring a positive and open mind to any new project and treat everything as a potential learning and development opportunity.
  2. Find the right resources for your learning process. Whether you learn best on the job, through instructor-led classes, or via self-directed learning, discovering and utilizing the resources that work best for you is key.
  3. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Overwhelmed by options or feeling discouraged? Reaching out to trusted members of your team and your supervisor can provide support and new insights into ways you can increase your knowledge and continue your professional development.
  4. Share your learning with others. When you share what you’ve learned, it hones your skills in a greater way. This can happen in many different forms, from writing a how-to guide for your team to simply sharing new knowledge in a department meeting.

Recommended Resources

Live, Virtual Courses

MSU IT Training Courses

Process Mapping Series

Ready, Set, Change!

Identify and Maximize Your Strengths

elevateU Learning

Becoming a Continuous Learner (13-minute course)

Developing a Growth Mindset (24-minute course)

Microsoft Office 365 Learning Resources

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

Updated October 17, 2022

Hopefully you’ve had the opportunity to look at MSU’s strategic plan, which was shared last year. 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.

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 on 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 action 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 it 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 for additional information and resources.

Useful Courses for All Employees

Everything DiSC: Behavior Styles at Work | October 20, 8:30 a.m. to Noon | Zoom

Maximizing the Spartan Experience | November 8, 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 | Zoom

Identify and Maximize Your Strengths, Part 2: Unlock the full 34 | November 2, 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. | In-person

Ready, Set, Change! | November 17, 8:30 a.m. to Noon | In-person

Identify and Maximize Your Strengths | December 13, 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. | In-person

Courses Designed for Supervisors and Managers

Strengths Based Leadership | October 26, 1:00 to 4:30 p.m. | In-person

Strategic Planning | November 15, 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. | Zoom

Crucial Conversations for Accountability | November 2 and 3, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. | In-person

Performance Management for Hybrid Teams | December 6, 9:00 a.m. to Noon | In-person

Managing and Leading Across Locations | December 13, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. | In-person


When SMART Meets HARD: Setting Goals that Matter

Increased engagement. Improved performance. Greater job satisfaction. We can all agree these are desirable states for ourselves, and if we’re supervisors, for our employees as well. Goal setting, when thoughtfully conducted, is a primary way we set up ourselves and others for achievement, innovation and fulfillment. So, how do we create meaningful goals? Goal-setting methodologies like the SMART and HARD frameworks can help.

Setting Goals

At MSU, goals are often established as a component of Performance Excellence, with clear performance goals and objectives identified and communicated at the beginning, as well as throughout, the performance process. Goals identify what is expected and create ways to strive for improvement and growth.

There are two types of goals to consider: performance goals and development goals.

  • Performance goals are typically short-term objectives that could be accomplished in a fiscal year and are related to current position job duties.
  • Development goals are related to a skill or knowledge area that will be strengthened. They might include training or experiences that will help the individual develop further into their role or career.

In other words, performance goals are something you will achieve, and development goals are something you will learn. Whether the goal is related to performance or development, it should support the mission of the university, your department and/or a specific project or program.

Making Goals SMART

To create meaningful goals, one approach is to make the goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.

  • Specific: well defined, clear and unambiguous; specifically defining what’s expected to be done/delivered. 
  • Measurable: specific criteria for measuring progress toward accomplishing each established goal.
  • Achievable: requires effort — a stretch — but are not impossible to achieve.
  • Relevant: goals are related to the department’s mission and/or a specific project or program.
  • Timely: the time frame is clearly defined or progress toward achievement is tracked at regular intervals.

For example, an initial goal to Complete report on time could be reworked as a SMART goal by adding an action verb and specific details. The goal then becomes Complete finance report, without errors, by COB on the first Friday of each month. SMART goals follow achievable and realistic guidelines and typically make it easy to demonstrate whether a goal ultimately is reached.

The potential downside? With a primary focus on being realistic and achievable, SMART goals may encourage us to “play it safe” and work within set limitations, which can feel counterproductive and uninspiring in the current culture of innovation and boldness.


If you or your employees find yourself lacking motivation when using SMART goals, try creating goals that are HARD: Heartfelt, Animated, Required and Difficult.

  • Heartfelt: achieving the goal will enrich the lives of others (e.g., customers, the community); attachment can be formed to the goal on a deep, meaningful level.
  • Animated:vivid picture is created of how it will feel when the goal is achieved; the results and impact of the goal can be visualized, and a strong emotional connection is established.
  • Required: a sense of urgency is present, and we want to take action right away; the goals are necessary to help our organization.
  • Difficult: new skills must be learned, and we’re challenged to stretch beyond our comfort zones for success.

The potential downside? Setting HARD goals typically cannot be done with the speed and simplicity of creating SMART goals, leading to a greater time and energy investment.

Creating Goals that Matter

If you find the goals you set are not leading to the results you want, try utilizing the SMART or HARD frameworks or, even better, apply elements from both to create goals that drive and engage fully. Creating “stretch” goals makes our objectives vital to the university and allows us to drive innovation and boldness. Whether you prefer SMART or HARD, strive to create goals that don’t just look good on paper but leap off the page to truly inspire.


MSU Human Resources. Goal Setting Tips. Retrieved August 15, 2020 from

Murphy, M. Are SMART Goals Dumb? Retrieved August 18, 2020 from