Tag Archives: Teamwork

50 Leadership Resolutions for Student Life Professionals

list of resolutions on blackboard with three blank, numbered sticky notes

As we begin a new year, it is good to reflect back on what we have accomplished while also examining areas we can improve upon going forward. Here are thoughts to consider as you develop your own resolutions related to your work in Student Affairs.

  1. Modesty is key; be humble.
  2. Open your mind and listen more.
  3. Seek out feedback while implementing changes.
  4. Engage in positive thought for encouragement.
  5. Help yourself by helping others succeed.
  6. Forward thinking encourages positive change.
  7. Embrace and foster a shared vision.
  8. Nothing is impossible when you put trust in yourself and others.
  9. Recognize the value and talent in quality staff.
  10. Make data-driven decisions.
  11. Self-motivate to stimulate creativity.
  12. Get out of your head and into the now; live fully in the moment.
  13. Don’t pop bubbles; think outside of your own bubble and inside others.
  14. Challenge yourself to examine issues from multiple perspectives.
  15. Re-evaluate your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT).
  16. Set attainable and result-driven goals for you and your team.
  17. Focus your energy around creative collaboration.
  18. Encourage on-going and engaged teamwork and development.
  19. Don’t like something?  Then change it.
  20. Check your attitude at the door, while holding that door open for others to shine.
  21. Give more than you receive.
  22. Use that which you receive efficiently.
  23. Be honest with yourself.
  24. Practice transparency with others.
  25. Simplify daunting tasks; let go of some rigidity.
  26. Manage your time efficiently; prioritize.
  27. Be good to and take care of yourself.
  28. Encourage collaborative problem solving.
  29. Discover something new about yourself and others.
  30. Smile, laugh, and then laugh some more.
  31. Do the footwork it takes for the team to be successful.
  32. Don’t settle for the quick fix, find a long-term solution.
  33. Take value in the presence and work of others.
  34. Be innovative while encouraging team synergy.
  35. Patiently respond rather than immediately reacting.
  36. Always give the best you possible.
  37. Learn to say NO when you are overwhelmed.
  38. See opportunity where others see uncertainty.
  39. Empower those you lead by embracing change and unconventional thinking.
  40. Focus on your strengths by leaving your weaknesses.
  41. Breathe deep and let go of lingering frustrations.
  42. Be yourself and let others see the real you.
  43. Be deliberate and reach out to those you lead.
  44. Inspire others to exceed your expectations.
  45. Maintain a healthy balance of positivity and honesty.
  46. Acknowledge and address problems straight away.
  47. Emerge from uncertainty stronger than you went in.
  48. Seek out opportunities to learn and grow as a professional.
  49. Look back to remember but forward to inspire.
  50. Listen to and accept constructive criticism.

What specific resolutions are you working on related our profession? Please share your comments below. If you liked this article, please Like and/ or  Share it on Facebook and Retweet on Twitter. 

5 Ways to Give on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is that one special day each year to express love and friendship with the people in your life.  This is also a perfect opportunity for your campus organization to spread love and friendship in your community through volunteering, donating, and participating in charity work.

1. Organize or attend a V-Day Event. V-Day is a world-wide movement created to end violence against all women and girls. Click here to read more about V-Day. See how the University of Cincinnati has organized their V-Day Event this year.

2. Collect new and / or unopened perfume, bubble bath, lotions, and make-up. Any kind of feminine luxury item that a person in crisis could find comforting will do. Donate these items to a women’s shelter. “College Feminist Connect” posted an article describing their call to Action: Break-up to Make-up.

3. Maybe your closet is overflowing with Valentine Teddy Bears or other stuffed animals given to you by all of your admirers. Organize a “Teddy Bear and Friends” stuffed animal drive. Donate the assortment to a homeless or women’s shelter where there are bound to be children that can take comfort in a cuddly toy during a time of need. Here is how Connecticut College and Amherst joined forces in their Teddy Bear Drive to benefit a local Children’s Hospital.

4. If you have creative flare, you can make Valentine cards and centerpieces to take to a senior care facility. Here are several links with great craft ideas: Family Fun, Kaboose, Martha Stewart, All Free CraftsOrigami, Candy Free Cards, Valentine’s Day Messages. Talk to coordinators at the senior care facility to work out specific needs at the facility. For instance, candy may be off limits do to dietary regulations.

5. Many hall councils and other campus organizations sell some kind of flowers, candy-grams, or Valentine wishes. Here is a social media take on a traditional idea: Sell Facebook-grams or Twitter-grams on your organizations page or account. For a nominal fee (like $1.00) students can place orders prior to the holiday. Post or tweet the Valentine wishes and donate the money raised to an animal shelter like the ASPCA. Here are some examples of Valentine SMS.

What are some ways your campus organization gives back to the community on Valentine’s Day or any day during the year?  Our readers want to know. Please share your comments below!

Happy Valentine’s Day 2012 from StudentLifeGuru.com.
We LOVE our readers!
@studentlifeguru @reslifesynergy @mhelfrich98

6 Leadership Lessons from “The Walking Dead”

There is an awesome show on AMC called The Walking Dead, which is on Sunday nights at 9:00 PM (EST). The series is based off of a comic book (graphic novel) series of the same name. The show is rife with action, suspense, character development, and of course…walking zombies! (hence the title of the show). While the series is based on a fantastic premise of a zombie apocalypse, there are some real leadership lessons that can be learned from the show’s protagonists.

1. Be Prepared. As the characters learn quickly in the show, they need to be fully prepared in order to navigate around and avoid the zombies. They scavenge for supplies, create a plan of action ahead of time, and try to avoid the walking dead as much as possible.

So how does this relate to campus leadership? For instance, if you are planning a campus event you will not only want to layout plans for the day of the event, but you will want to create a game plan for the days and weeks leading up to the event as well as any wrap-up following the event. Think about ways you can keep track of schedules to keep your team moving toward the ultimate goal. Make assignments clear and establish deadlines.

2. Have a “Plan B.” The show would not be suspenseful and worth watching if there weren’t situations in which the characters end up trapped in zombie-filled cliff-hangers. However, they always seem to find a way out (granted, if they didn’t find a way out, there wouldn’t be a show to continue!) As is the case with #1 above (“Be Prepared”), you can never be over-prepared in planning for the unexpected.

When the day of your big event comes and your entertainer is stuck on the highway because his car broke down or the day of the big outdoor carnival the weather man is calling for three inches of rain, what is your back-up plan?  Brainstorm some “what if’s” ahead of time and decide how your group will handle some predictable situations. There are some things that you just cannot plan for. However, you can be resourceful and adaptive.  Seek guidance from your advisors and administrators.

3. Understand that Everyone Has Different Motivations. Obviously the main motivation for the characters in the show is to stay alive and to avoid the walking dead. However, there are the underlying motivations that drive the characterization: Sheriff Rick Grimes always needs to be the hero; Deputy Sheriff Shane Walsh is eager to win the affection of Rick’s wife, Lori; and Dale Horvath attempts to be the “father-figure” to establish his own legitimacy within the group.

Some of your team members will be completely devoted to the cause, some may be looking for a resume boost, some might be student workers, and others may be there to simply fullfill disciplinary requirements. Although all of your team members may have different reasons or motivations for being involved, they are still your greatest resource. By working with your team, you will discover their abilities and be able to manage the workload while playing to the team’s strengths. Maintain clear expectations, be fair with assignments and rewards, and find ways to keep the work fun and interesting.

4. Be an Advocate for All of Your Team Members. Rick Grimes always seems to be there for the people in his group. He cares about their safety and does his best to look out for those in the group that may not be as hardcore as he and Shane are. Be consistent and fair with all team members. Being a good leader means not playing favorites with friends over other group members. Include the entire team in achieving goals by considering members strengths and delegating attainable objectives. Reward your team with praise, notes of thanks, or small treats. Find ways to get your group recognized on campus or through national organizations for your achievements.

5. Realize That You Cannot Do It All By Yourself.

As illustrated in the show, Rick more often than not needs to rely on the members of the group in order to get out of zombie-filled situations. As a leader you are aware that “the buck stops here” and ultimately you are responsible for getting the job done. That does not translate into “No one else can do this as well as me.” Utilize your human resources. By allowing your team the ability to have input in creating goals, tasks, and scheduling, they will demonstrate more accountibility for the work. Promote one of your group members to “task master” and make that person responsible for keeping track of timetables and objectives.

6. Don’t Give Up!

“The Walking Dead” is compelling because it leaves you excited to see the next show. Rick and his group never give up against the zombies, which always ensures another show. Likewise, your group should always press on despite adversity and challenges. Be resourceful, be constructive, be adaptive, be collaborative, and most importantly, don’t give up until the goal is achieved.

What are some other leadership lessons you’ve spotted from “The Walking Dead?” Please feel free to share your comments.

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Being the “Fulcrum” of Teamwork

On Tuesday, September 13, 2011, a BMW pulled in front of a young man riding a motorcycle near Utah State University. The young man, Brandon Wright, had to lay down his bike in order to avoid hitting the car head-on. Unfortunately, he slid under the car and the motorcycle started on fire. Shortly after the crash, a man emerges and attempts to deadlift the BWM himself to free the young man trapped underneath.

Realizing that he cannot lift the vehicle himself, the man calls upon bystanders to help. Four men and one woman run over to the car and attempt to lift it. This second try does not work.

The man rallies more people to come and help instructing them to tip the car over on its side. Approximately 10 more individuals rush to assist, including a couple of construction laborers working nearby.

Finally after a final effort, the group is able to tip the car over enough so one of the construction workers can grab Brandon’s foot and drag him from the burning wreckage. You can view the complete video footage by clicking HERE.

The gentleman that rallies everyone together to accomplish this rescue serves as a perfect example of what I call the “fulcrum of teamwork.” A fulcrum is an individual that supports capability for action or plays a central or essential role in an activity, event, or situation. Providing the impetus for action and inspiring teamwork is the hallmark of being a leader.

While you will not normally face life or death situations like this one everyday, you can however be the fulcrum of teamwork within your own organization on a daily basis. Leaders are not simply bystanders who wait for things to happen around them. They are strategic, decisive, and act quickly to create results. It takes courage to be the fulcrum of teamwork, and if practiced enough, it can become a habit.

What are some other notable examples of the “fulcrum of teamwork” that you can share? Likewise, what are some personal examples in which you were the “fulcrum of teamwork” with your own organization?

10 Ways to Burn Bridges in Student Affairs

Rarely, if ever, are we as student affairs professionals formally taught how to navigate the politics behind working in the field. As is the case in working with people in any career, learning how NOT to burn bridges is a important skill that we all can benefit from. Below are “10 Ways to Burn Bridges in Student Affairs” and how to adequately navigate yourself away from being called a trouble-maker:

1. Refuse to understand and embrace the culture of your department and institution.

We all become indoctrinated with the culture of the schools we grow up in, particularly our undergraduate institutions. Yet as we move onto different institutions for our graduate degrees and new professional positions, we can face completely different types of environments. Being able to adapt to new environments and people who have already established careers there can be challenging. It is important to take it slow and learn the culture of your new department and the institution as a whole. You can be perceived as threatening and making negative judgments about their program, particularly if you try to implement ideas from your previous institution too quickly. Create allies and collaborators before attempting to create programmatic changes. This is not to say that you cannot do your best and bring positive change to the department you work for, but take the time to understand the lay of the land before trying to make sweeping changes. Pushing too hard too quick will cause problems.

2. Speak negatively of colleagues at regional and / or national conferences and meetings.

The student affairs profession is a “small world,” and you will certainly have lifelong connections with individuals in the profession. This means that there is a good chance that you will have interactions with people you currently work with after you leave the institution and also have interactions with folks you have yet to work with. With that being said, you must remember that you are a student life staffer wherever you go. Keep in mind that there are ears everywhere when you go to national and regional conferences and meetings. Someone that overhears your negative comments can potentially be an important colleague or employer in your future.

3. Speak negatively about your colleagues and / or supervisor.

If you have something to say, say it directly to the individual in question in a private setting. People do not know how to change their behavior(s) unless you tell them. No one really wants to hear your complaints (unless of course your colleague or supervisor is doing something illegal, but there are proper forums for that on campus to file a complaint). Not to mention that there is a good chance that your criticisms will get back to your colleague(s) or supervisor at some point anyway in some shape or form. As was the case with #2 above, it is better to bite your tongue rather than have your tongue bite someone else (particularly your supervisor!) You may not necessarily get the result(s) that you want if you do have a private discussion, but at least your loyalty and professionalism cannot be questioned.

4. Attempt to outshine your colleagues in all that you do.

While this may come to a surprise to those of us who are “achievers” as defined by Strengths Finder, being competitive can actually be seen as a threat in many cases. This is particularly true if it is known that you are trying to make a point that you are more capable than your colleagues. Rather, bring your colleagues on board for some “competitive collaboration,” and raise the bar while including them in the process. This way you are not perceived as being “you-against-the-world” in your endeavors. As was stated in #1 above, create allies and collaborators to help you. In this regard you will most likely be seen as a leader in the department rather then a trouble-maker or know-it-all.

5. Use students to further your own personal agenda.

In many cases, students will emulate the causes and passions of their mentors and supervisors. This can be a positive learning experience for students, particularly when the cause is related to strategically-created student learning outcome efforts. However, this can be a dangerous proposition when the cause is solely for personal gain or vindictive reasons. Students should not be caught up in the personal conflicts and politics between full-time staff members that can often occur. Those outside of the drama looking in will quickly judge you for involving students in affairs they do not belong. This is not good for you, nor the department you work for.

6. Never admit that you are wrong.

We all have something to learn from our mistakes. While it can extremely difficult to admit that we are wrong or that we have made a mistake, acknowledging our shortcomings will go a long way with our colleagues. Remaining steadfast to a notion that everyone else does not agree with will not earn the hearts and minds of others. It takes courage to step back for a second and consider a new perspective that you do not necessarily agree with. Likewise, there is something to be said for someone who can admit that a decision or choice they made did not work.

7. Jump the chain of command.

Not only is this one of the quickest ways to burn a bridge, but it is also one of the quickest way to lose your job. Your superiors are you superiors for a reason, and you must respect that (whether you like them or not). Jumping over your supervisor’s head to speak to their supervisor (or even higher in the chain of command) will seriously call your loyalty into question. (This should go without saying, but you may have to do this in the case of illegal activity). If you are not getting the results that you want related to a decision or project, you must find another way in which to readdress the issue. (See #3 above). If you do not like what is going on, you can either change yourself, change your boss, or change your job!

8. Fail to follow “the lines of loyalty.”

This goes along with #1, #2, #3, and #7 in a global sense on campus because you may not know whom is connected to whom. Many individuals can be connected to one another outside of those divisional and departmental lines as defined by the institution. Just because someone on the other end of campus has nothing to do with your supervisor from a departmental standpoint does not mean that they do not already have a relationship in some shape or form with them (or anyone else in your department for that matter). Understanding the behind-the-scenes “lines of loyalty” is crucial as you can create allies or know whom to avoid (particularly if they are trouble-makers). Associating yourself with a known enemy of the department will invite problems. When in doubt, keep your mouth shut and stick to trusted allies.

9. Fail to practice humility.

A little bit of humility never hurt anyone. People want to be around others that are fun to be around, are good  listeners, demonstrate integrity, and are inclusive with others. Additionally, change the things you have direct control over and leave the rest alone (See Stephen Covey’s “Circle of Influence – Circle of Concern” in the The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). “The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One that Isn’t” by Bob Sutton is a great book on this subject that I highly recommend, particularly if you find yourself in this scenario at your workplace.

10. Leave an institution / position on a sour note.

Colleagues and co-workers will remember more about your exit from the job than when you first started. While you may not be leaving under the best of circumstances, leaving gracefully is always the best practice. On the other hand, burning every bridge on your way out the door with negative comments and / or actions will really cause you yourself more emotional distress than your intended audience.

What is a “bridge” you’ve seen burned during the course of your student affairs career, and what was the lesson learned?

Create a Vision Others Will Want to Follow

All effective leaders have intangible qualities such as charisma, taking risks, and transparency.  In addition to these qualities, effective leaders create a vision that others want to follow. These leaders not only live their vision, it defines them. Whether you are a student government president, a resident assistant, or a student organization leader, your vision for the group can be a make or break determinant.

Below are three concepts to keep in mind when creating your vision:

1. Think Big

Use your kindergarten teacher’s words of wisdom: DREAM BIG. Painting your picture of the future should not have stick figures and other small images in it. Rather it should be like da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Michelangelo’s painting in the Sistine Chapel, grand and awe-inspiring.

When you are brainstorming ideas and goals for the year or into the future, think about what the end is going to look like and how you want that picture painted. Now you’ve got your vision, now it is time to unveil it.

2. Communicate Your Vision to Others

As a student leader, it is imperative that your vision is communicated clearly to your group. Your vision needs to excite, and reaffirm why people are following you. In order for action towards your vision to happen, you must also create a sense of urgency within the group.

Communicating your vision to the group can be accomplished in many different forums, including leadership retreats, meetings, advertisements, and information tables. Here are some tips when presenting your vision:

  • Keep it clear and on point. Nobody likes to listen to someone ramble. Set clear expectations and goals for your group and communicate them to everyone. Track and communicate the group’s progress regularly.
  • Have fun. If people see that you are having fun, they will want to be a part of it. Purposely plan fun activities for your team members regularly. One of the biggest reasons people stay involved in clubs and organizations is because it’s fun for them.
  • Engage your audience. People take a part in what they help to create so keep your members engaged in the process.
  • Publicity should be colorful and clear. Use all media sources possible, such as Facebook, Twitter, campus publications, campus radio, and any other means to spread the vision of your organization. 
  • Be open to constructive feedback. Get your members involved by seeking feedback, including constructive criticism. Someone’s feedback can be a positive seed for progress.

 3. Build Bridges Toward Your Vision

Realistically, you cannot get from A to E without going through B, C, and D; you cannot simply achieve your vision in one giant leap.

As a student leader, it is important to achieve goals and view them as smaller victories toward your vision. Here are three main types of goals you should set for your organization:

1. Procedural Goals – goals that bring structure to the group like starting on time, ending on time, following established meeting protocols, and having members in attendance.

2. Directional Goals – goals that give direction towards the vision such as a new marketing plan or the completion of a service project.

3. Milestones – goals that are a true group accomplishment and should be celebrated. Examples include earning a prestigious award, presenting at a national conference, or raising a large amount of money for a local charity.

Having a vision is a necessary part of the success of a leader and their organization. Leaders need to think big when creating their vision and must communicate their picture of the future. A vision cannot come to fruition without smaller victories and milestones in the form of goals. As a leader, it is important to find your area of passion within the organization and create a vision based on this passion. If your vision lacks passion, clarity, and direction, the members in your organization will be hesitate to jump onboard.

Steve Knepp is currently finishing his first year as a full-time professional in higher education. His areas of interest include residence life, student government, and student leadership development. Steve earned his B.S. in Elementary Education from Bloomsburg University and his M.A. in College Student Personnel from Bowling Green State University. His hobbies include camping, golf, and traveling. You can follow Steve on his blog at http://steve0709.wordpress.com

Creating Team Confidence (Free Activity Sheet)

Inspiring team member confidence should be an important part of a “Leadership Evaluation.” Team members need to have confidence in one another, be able to discuss easily ideas with one another without hesitation, and foster a sense of confidence among all of the members of the team.

As the team leader, creating “purposeful” conversations centered on team issues are symbolic in that you are setting the stage for what is an appropriate way to express thoughts and ideas in an open and respectful manner. If you create a team culture in which teammates solve problems together without unnecessary conflict or without always having to have the team leader intercede, everyone can concentrate on the actual mission and vision of the organization.

Here are some recommendations on how to create a team culture of confidence and communication:

1. Recruit team members that already embody the ideals of your organization’s culture.

2. Purposefully match team members on projects so they can experience “wins” together for good progress.

3. Hold regular team-building exercises during team meetings in order to demonstrate important team lessons. (Don’t simply have ice-breakers or other exercises just for the sake of having an activity; have a real purpose behind it.)

4. Be a role model for your team. Always be positive (but not fake), and speak well of your team everywhere you go.

5. Make it fun! It’s not all about work. Take your team on a fun outing in order to spend social time with one another.

Click for a free Colleague Discussion Activity sheet. Please feel free to share it.

How are you inspiring confidence among your team members?