Leadership Blog Series: Ready to Lead

Written by Sharri Margraves, Director for HR Organization and Professional Development

How did you know you were ready to lead? What inspired you to take that first step? What is your mission as a leader? Who helped you see you could be a leader and who helped you along that path? I’m curious about the journey that brought you where you are now as a leader, and where you want to go in the future.

In my case, I didn’t think about any of this when I first started in a leadership role. My first job out of college was as an APSA level 10 supervisor at MSU, and I was just happy to have a position in my field. So, armed with my dietetics degree, off I went into “institutional food service” as a personnel supervisor. Thankfully, I was able to attend a six-week training program before being assigned to my permanent spot.

The joke was on me because I was sent to that training unit just a few days before the start of the fall semester. Let’s just say that I decided to immediately start looking for another job! In that first year, the colleague who made my job bearable quit, another experienced colleague was experiencing a personal crisis, and our supervisor was demeaning and unethical. Then, one day I came into work, and the supervisor’s office was cleaned out—something was about to change.

Senior leaders began coming to the unit daily, and an interim leader was assigned. I took on new job responsibilities and challenges. The climate we operated in was hectic and unsettling, but I found a groove. I encountered many challenges the first year but was seen by others as a leader. I certainly made mistakes and missteps all along the way (I still do), but I was given a chance and found people who cared and were willing to help me learn. My experience showed me the rewards of being kind and helpful to new people. I was also given the gift of recognizing lousy leadership and the impact it can have.

Throughout my career as a leader at MSU, I’ve made it a point to take on stretch assignments and do all I can to continue to grow—public speaking was particularly hard. I figured if I kept growing, I would be able to help others be successful too.

Here’s what I’ve learned: Encouraging and empowering others will help our needed leadership talent grow. Always be on the lookout for talent—hire people better than you and model positive leadership by refining their gifts and talents. Find others that need a chance and the grace to grow into the leaders we need, whether they are individual contributors or supervisors.

Leadership Resources from OPD

MSU offers and continues to develop resources to support leaders and managers at all stages of their professional journeys. HR’s Organization and Professional Development (OPD) launched the New Leader Development Series in January 2021, designed to give new leaders a survey of different topics related to both leading and supervising/management. More than 70 people will be making the connection with this fall’s cohort. Although this next series is full, consider the January 2023 cohort for you or members of your team.

OPD is also excited to announce a new leadership workshop and the return of a re-engineered course that’s been extremely helpful to MSU leaders: Strengths Based Leadership and Crucial Conversations for Accountability (previously titled Crucial Accountability), both available for registration in EBS for fall dates. Check out the recent HR post Learning and Development Resources for Supervisors for additional courses and other resources to help you grow and advance on your leadership path.

Are there resources not currently offered by MSU that you feel would be useful to your growth as a leader? What support would help you feel ready to lead? I’m interested in your story and what could make a difference in growing MSU’s leaders. Feel free to comment below or contact me directly at margrave@msu.edu.


Photo by Christina Morillo: https://www.pexels.com/photo/three-woman-having-a-meeting-1181626/

Leadership Blog Series: The Value of Meaningful Work

Written by Sharri Margraves, Director for HR Organization and Professional Development

Have you had the opportunity to engage recently with a project or team that inspired you and connected you to the larger significance of the leadership work you do here at MSU? One of my favorite teams I had the opportunity to work with over the past couple of years is the team for “Creating and Sustaining a Respectful Workplace” which jointly developed the series of the same name. The magic in this project was how everyone involved recognized that the problem we wanted to address was complex and more extensive than any single department could attempt to resolve. Creating this series together was cathartic as well as synergistic as we leveraged our growing trust and each person’s expertise.

The series was offered through modules for all leaders at MSU because we realized administrative and academic leaders did not always understand their roles and responsibility to the organization in shaping the desired culture and being accountable for the results. Commitment to helping MSU move forward to fulfill our promise as a premier institution remains at the core of this team’s focus.

We were reflecting on the challenges of work — namely the compounding pressures of behavior issues, finding great candidates, disengagement, burnout, and how leadership impacts all of these. Participating on this organic team greatly enhanced my work life, resilience and engagement, especially during the pandemic, and reminded me of the critical importance of meaningful work.

Discover Meaningful Work for Yourself

Meaningful work does not have to be one big project; often, small opportunities can make all the difference to our work lives, help stem the “great resignation,” and enhance our collective wisdom to help make MSU a great place to work.

Recent research focused on working populations around the world found the most powerful predictors of retention, performance, engagement, resilience, and inclusion in employees’ answers to these three questions:

  1. Was I excited to work every day last week?
  2. Did I have a chance to use my strengths every day?
  3. At work, do I get a chance to do what I’m good at and something I love?

Within the “Creating and Sustaining a Respectful Workplace” collaborative team, the group saw the greater purpose behind creating resources helpful to staff and faculty throughout the organization. The personal impact of creating something that transcended our work gave many of us a renewed sense of purpose and engagement — particularly during very challenging circumstances when the work is stressful and thankless. Trust was built through a series of circumstances, and trust contributes to greater resilience and engagement.

Help Your Team Discover Meaningful Work

The truth is, we are not going to love everything about our work. However, if we can continually commit to building trust in our teams and help ourselves and others connect our work with what we love and value, we will reduce burnout and increase engagement. These sound like lofty goals, but strengthening this approach with your team can be as simple as committing to ask your direct reports and teams these four questions regularly:

  1. What did you love about last week?
  2. What did you loathe about last week?
  3. What are your priorities for the coming week?
  4. How can I best help?

I am interested in how this deceptively simple activity helps you and your teams. Feel free to use the comments section or contact me at prodev@hr.msu.edu. Looking to dive deeper into building trust and creating meaningful work? Resources to get you started are included below.

Additional Resources


Members of the Creating and Sustaining a Respectful Workplace team included representatives from:

  • Faculty and Academic Staff Development
  • Faculty and Academic Staff Affairs
  • Office of Employee Relations
  • Organization and Professional Development
  • Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion
  • Prevention Outreach and Education
  • MSU Department of Police and Public Safety
  • MSU Office of the University Ombudsperson

Buckingham, Marcus, 2022. Designing work that people love. Harvard Business Review, Vol 100 issue 3, pg. 68-75.

Gladwell, M. 2022.  â€śLove+Work: How to find what you love, love what you do, and do it for the rest of your life. Harvard Business Review Press.

New Supervisor Resources

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

Become Familiar with Your Responsibilities within Performance Excellence

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

Utilize the MSU HR Website

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

Familiarize Yourself with Union Contracts

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

Take Advantage of elevateU Online Learning

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

Visit the HR Source Blog

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

Explore the Perspectives of MSU’s Executive Team

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

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

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.


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==

Upcoming Supervisor Professional Development Courses

As a supervisor or manager, it’s important to keep learning in order to build a successful team and keep your employees engaged. Whether you’re brand new to your leadership role or an experienced supervisor looking for resources to develop your skills, we offer a variety of classes to help you grow in your career. Stay on track with your personal and professional goals by taking one of these upcoming courses.

Fundamentals of Supervision – March 11

Supervisors are a main determinant of overall performance, retention, and morale in an organization. This session will help participants with less than three years of supervisory experience learn fundamental skills to become a successful supervisor.

Communication Strategies for Supervisors – March 12

One of the non-negotiables for successful leadership is being an effective communicator. Many leaders believe they do communicate effectively, but what most leaders do not understand about communicating with their team is that it is not just about what is said. It is about how it is said, when it is said, to whom, did the receiver understand the message in the way it was intended, and on and on. To lead successfully today, leaders must be able to persuade, inspire, listen, articulate the big picture, and create teams of people who buy into and trust the sender.

Manager as Coach – March 12

Successful managers today understand the importance of coaching in the workplace to improve productivity, loyalty, and results. Instead of telling team members what to do, or just expecting them to perform, it is important to guide, discuss and encourage – in other words, coach.  This session is geared to help leaders understand the importance of being a successful coach.

Creating an Inclusive Environment – March 17

While this course is for everyone, it’s especially important for leaders to understand how to create an inclusive working environment. First, you will work to understand and identify categories associated with the various labels we apply to ourselves and others. Second, you’ll consider the ways in which these categories apply to you and how this shapes your interactions with others. Finally, you’ll then be introduced to an exercise designed to enhance self-awareness and bridge connections.

Supervisor Strategies for Performance Planning – March 17

As a supervisor, it is important that you sufficiently prepare and work collaboratively with your employees to make the Performance Planning portion of Performance Excellence successful. In this program, you can expect to learn strategies to link university and departmental priorities to the employee’s role, clarify expectations, write effective SMART goals, identify skill gaps, create a development plan and increase engagement in the process.

Leading Change – March 31

Effective leadership is imperative in times of transition, regardless of the nature or source of the changes you’re experiencing. This session will enable you to understand the phases of change, deal with resistance, build support for change, and communicate more effectively to reduce resistance and build change adeptness in staff members.

Job of the Week – Office Supervisor II

This week’s job of the week is an Office Supervisor II (#623878) for the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine. This position is seeking an individual with strong organizational, interpersonal, and communication skills to serve as the Clerkship Supervisor for the College of Osteopathic Medicine.

The responsibilities for this role include assisting in developing the operational and administrative functions of the program, communicating daily with students and training hospitals, and problem-solving to troubleshoot program consequences. Additional responsibilities of this role include overseeing the student records database, assisting in the planning and presentations at the student clerkship program, and advising students of program requirement completion. 

The ideal candidate would possess knowledge equivalent to that which normally would be acquired  in the first two or three years in college, technical, vocational or business school with coursework in office management and business; one to three years of related and progressively more responsible or expansive work experience in office management, budget preparation, financial and administrative record-keeping and secretarial skills; experience in word processing, spreadsheet, database, desktop publishing, and/or web page design or presentation software; or in performing responsibilities related to the operational activities of the employing unit; and may require one to three years of supervisory experience; 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.