Positive Kindness & the Road to Happy Well-Being (*prize raffle*)

November 14, 2014

Positive Kindness & the Road to Happy Well-

Many of us get caught up in our day to day lives and end up losing track of who we are and where we are headed.  Our well-being often becomes nothing more than an afterthought and we are forced to put more pressing matters ahead of our own needs.  Many of us fail to realize that our well-being is inherently correlated to various aspects of life, including our satisfaction with the past, happiness in the present, and our hope and optimism for our future.  Therefore, it becomes increasingly more important for us to step back and focus on our own well-being so that we are balancing our needs.  Failure to realize the “life-and-well-being-connection” often leads to increasing amounts of stress, unhappiness in both our personal and professional lives, and potentially causing us to completely burn out.  However, engaging in daily happiness and kindness activities can substantially improve our well-being.

Here are six happiness and seven kindness activities you can employ daily to improve your well-being:

Happiness

  1. Re-Evaluate Happiness
  • Ask yourself, what does happiness mean to me?  Develop a solid definition and devise ways to help yourself be a happier person.
  1. Tidy-Up Your Life
  • Organize your chaos.  Whether it is your desk, inbox, computer files, vehicle, etc.  Put things in order, establish new routines, and let things go.  You will feel a huge weight lifted off your shoulders.
  1. Focus on Your Strengths
  • Too often we focus on our weaknesses or those things we are not so good at. Yet we should focus on the areas in life where we are strong.  By focusing on what we do well, we bring the best “US” to the table.
  1. Have a ME First Attitude
  • Do Not confuse this with being selfish, it is solely about appropriate self-care.  Self-care is about taking care of our needs first so that we can, in turn, do good things for those around us.
  1. Let Go of the Little Things
  • Many of us become obsessed with details and forget the big picture.  Let go of the things that you do not have direct control over.  In the long run, you will be better off.
  1. Capitalize on Opportunities
  • Point out the positive and good things that are going on in life.  Make a bigger deal of the positive things rather than focusing on the negative.  React enthusiastically and show great care for the things that display the best of what is going on.

Kindness

  1. Give a Compliment or Say Thank You
  • The simplest compliment or a thank you can go a long way to helping someone, who might be having a bad day, feel better.
  1. Help Others (for free)
  • Take time out of your day to do something for someone else without expecting anything in return.  It will definitely make you feel like you have just completed a marathon.
  1. Pick Up Trash
  • Take 10 minutes out of your day or off your lunch break to walk outside and pick up some trash.  Not only will it make you feel good, it will make your environment healthier.
  1. Hold the Door Open for Someone
  •  This is an easy way to not only be helpful but to show respect for someone else.
  1. Smile or Say Hello
  • Like giving a compliment or saying thank you, smiling or saying hello can truly brighten someone’s day.
  1. Make a New Friend
  • Seek out opportunities to meet new people.  Learn about their interests and make a new friend.
  1. Help Someone Learn
  • Not everyone has an easy time learning, so taking time to help someone learn a new skill, process, or activity will go a long way to improving your well-being.

As leaders and professionals, it is important that we foster the importance of well-being, happiness, kindness, and positivity in those we lead and to encourage those who lead us to embrace the same philosophy. It is important to remember that what we do as leaders and how we act has a direct effect on not only our well-being but that of others. By being positive and incorporating both happiness and kindness into our daily lives we can encourage others to do the same and thus create thriving communities.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”  I encourage you to set your mind on doing what makes you happy, being kind to others, fostering positivity, and focusing on the importance of well-being.

I challenge you to go out each day and while focusing on the positive. Do something kind for someone else.  We want to know about the great things you are doing for others.  Those who reply or share this post or those who tweet #DailyKind14 with a picture of their example of you doing something kind will be entered into a drawing for one of two “100 Ways to Happiness” books by Dr. Timothy J. Sharp.


Surviving Political Game-Playing in Student Affairs

November 5, 2014

Political Game-Playing in Student Affairs

The culture of working in higher education is fraught with conflict, varied personalities, and institution-wide politics. Navigating the political waters of a college or university can be a daunting and, oftentimes, frustrating process. While working in Student Affairs can be a very rewarding experience, it can also be very challenging. Although we’re all in the business of educating students, there are always competing priorities, limited resources, and personal agendas, which creates a chessboard of politics throughout each of our institutions.

When I use the term “game-playing,” I mean it in the negative sense in which individuals use the political landscape of the institution (most times unethically) to further their own agenda to the detriment of others. This is much different than being politically savvy and knowing how to develop relationships and collaborate with others in order to accomplish the goals of your department.

Here are a few examples to better illustrate political game-playing:

  • Unnecessarily carbon copying someone’s supervisor on an email to stir the waters to potentially get them in hot water
  • Planting student “spies” to dig up dirt and  tattletale back
  • Purposely befriending someone’s supervisor on a personal level in order to “conveniently” drop criticisms about that person
  • Sending anonymous communications to the president’s office with untrue allegations about a staffer’s conduct

Despite these type of dynamics, there are many strategies you can use to stay above negative political game-playing, particularly within Student Affairs.

Surround Yourself with Positive Allies – Misery loves company. Negativity and naysayers will certainly bring you down so spend your time with as many positive colleagues as possible. Befriend and partner with those who further the mission and vision of the institution rather than those who attempt to control, demotivate, and sabotage.

Concentrate on Your Students & the Work – Political game-playing takes a lot of time and energy so keep your efforts focused on the primary reason for your being there: the students. Concentrate on developing and educating the students you serve rather than getting involved with needless drama. While doing well can definitely attract undue criticism from jealous colleagues, you can always be confident that you are doing your job and contributing to solutions and not problems.

Don’t Fight Battles That Aren’t Yours to Fight – One of the easiest ways to avoid political game-playing is by only concerning yourself with those projects and tasks that are directly under your purview. Getting involved in issues that simply do not pertain to you opens up the door for undue criticism and potentially making yourself into a political target. The majority of us in Student Affairs do not have tenure so we cannot do and say as we please without potential political consequences. Please understand that I am not dismissing your need to become involved in those issues related to social justice, particularly in regards to the health, safety, and well-being of our students.

Stay Away from Troublemakers – Similar to surrounding yourself with positive allies, keep clear of those individuals who are known to cause trouble and do not seem to have many positive allies of their own. These folks are easy to spot: arguing simply for argument’s sake, lying, pawning work onto others, spreading rumors, and sabotaging projects. As they say, you are the company you keep so spending time with troublemakers can mark you as one yourself.

Don’t Squabble for Kudos – Over the years I have seen many colleagues become nasty people and attempt to stab each other in the back in order to get a pat on the back from the higher up’s. Clambering for kudos always seems to lead to trouble. There’s nothing wrong with being humble and enjoying your accomplishments privately; nobody likes the “teacher’s pet.” Granted, we all want to be recognized for our hard work, but don’t let personal pride become a source of unneeded conflict.

Don’t Compromise Your Values – Most importantly, don’t EVER compromise your values. A majority of the time, political game-playing is going to be unethical, offensive, disgraceful, and in some cases, simply illegal. If you find yourself in a position in which you are often finding yourself having to question directives because of  unethical or illegal practices, seek advice from your human resource department or even an attorney. In a worse case scenario, find another place to work. Yes, I know this is easier said than done, but you want to position yourself at a place that upholds its own mission, vision, values, and fosters your professional integrity.


Training for Jerks: Five Tactics for Handling Difficult Team Members

May 5, 2014

Donny - Adventure Time

Managing difficult people on a staff is very challenging and can suck the life out of an otherwise awesome team. Granted, we all have our bad days and can treat each other in less than a civil manner from time to time, but there are those individuals who are habitually difficult and tactless on a daily basis. In other words, a jerk.

The best way to deal with jerks is to simply not have them on your team. One of the most important pieces of advice I’ve learned when hiring is this: fire fast, hire slow. This basically means to get rid of negative elements on your staff quickly while taking thorough time to recruit, screen, and hire new team members. Now this does not mean to simply boot a staffer that has a differing opinion than you or is having some difficulty with the job.

However, this does mean that you should strongly consider terminating someone if they are chronically negative, disrespectful, and ultimately affecting the mission and vision of your organization. Here are some tactics to consider when attempting to manage and train “jerks” that may rear their heads on your team:

1. TEAM RESPECT AS A CULTURAL EXPECTATION – Make it explicitly well known during the recruitment, hiring, and training phases that respect is the #1 hallmark of being a part of your team. Those applicants and / or current team members who do not display respect among others will not be a part of the team. Your team culture should be shared and celebrated; having positive and respectful teammates should be a part of that culture.

2. CONFRONT QUICKLY – Make it a habit to confront “jerk” behavior when it occurs: Confront, document, and educate. The sooner you handle problematic behavior, the quicker you can get back to business as usual. Not only will the offender get back in line, but others on your team will see that you are holding the standard that you have set, which will be appreciated.

3. REWARD “GOOD BEHAVIOR” - Make it a habit to recognize and reward kindness, civility, and generosity. This can occur during team meetings, publicly via social media, or through personal notes and supervisory one-on-one’s. Publicly acknowledging remarkable displays of positive teamwork will go a long way for continually communicating behavioral standards.

4. TEACH CONFLICT “RULES” – Teaching team members how to manage conflict among one another is crucial. Provide mediation and confrontation training so they are equipped with the necessary skills to respectfully handle disputes and differences of opinion among each other. Additionally, give them instructions for how problems are formally mediated per institution policy so they don’t result to making up their own process and making a bad situation worse.

5. CELEBRATE SUCCESS – Be explicit in what team goals will be celebrated. Minimize status differences among your team, and celebrate goals obtained by the entire team. This helps to emphasize the “we live and die as one” message. Celebrations don’t have to be overly fancy or expensive, such as lavish end-of-semester banquets or award ceremonies. Small and simple celebrations can work just as well (and be more economical and meaningful at the same time!) And, to be honest, don’t simply have the obligatory end-of-year bash. Celebrate successes that are related to the vision and mission of your organization and not “just because.”

Artwork courtesy of Chris Szczesiul. Check out his other awesome artwork!


Being a Servant Leader within Student Affairs

March 31, 2014

image

Last night I had the opportunity to spend time at the ACPA awards reception with a former student who is now an accomplished colleague and a close friend. Opportunities like this inspire me and make me further appreciate the joys of being a Student Affairs professional.

At the convention we heard from both Kohl Crecelius and Erik Qualman about making a positive impact upon others and leaving a legacy. That is the heart of what it means to be a Student Affairs professional and a servant leader. We all have the opportunity to impact people in many life-changing ways. I, like most of you, want to serve others by enabling them to be stronger, more prepared, and to be able to thrive both personally and professionally. Furthermore, I want to influence others to be servant leaders.

Use the time at the convention to connect with others and found how they serve their employees, their institution, their students, and their communities. What are new and innovative ways they are serving others? In kind, share your own successes and even your frustrations and gain some feedback on how you can do better (and more!)

As you explore your own journey as a Student Affairs professional and servant leader, please let me know how I can help you. I am always willing to listen, lend advice, and collaborate.


Why Your Spring Training is Largely Ineffective

January 15, 2014

Why Your Spring Training is Largely Ineffective

Now is the time Student Life staffers are looking for advice and resources regarding spring training for student employees and student leaders. Each college and university has its own tradition regarding how they provide training at the beginning of the spring semester whether its for resident advisors, orientation leaders, student government representatives, and other student leaders. The philosophy behind that training and how its implemented can be very different from institution to institution. In some cases the results of spring training can be largely ineffective.

Here are some questions to consider and strategies to implement as you assess your own spring training program:

Do You Have Loosely Defined Learning Outcomes? What is the purpose of your training? What is it that you want your students to learn as a result of attending your training? Do you have any formal or informal learning assessments to implement during and after your training? Define what you want your students to learn and create your training to teach that knowledge. Don’t simply present random topics loosely related to your department and hope that your students will learn something from it. Create short and simple surveys, quizzes, and / or require a demonstration of some sort so you can determine if they learned what you wanted them to learn.

Are You Are Training for Training’s Sake? Is your training strategically created or are you simply following tradition of what was done in the past? Take stock in the value of your current training practices and assess whether or not you need to need to modify it. I don’t like to waste people’s time, and I don’t like my time wasted. With that being said, create something that is worth everyone’s time. Don’t simply bring students and / or staff back early just for the sake of bringing them back early and force lackluster training content. Also, don’t outsource all of your sessions to guest speakers from across campus who may not add real value to your training just to get a training schedule together.

Is Your Training Actually “Training” At All? Are you scrambling to find activities just to fill the schedule? Is your schedule mostly filled with social rather than educational activities? What would happen if you didn’t have your spring training altogether? Would it truly be missed and have a negative impact on your semester? Have sessions that are impactful, memorable, and directly relate to your daily “business.” Understand that fun activities and team bonding are appropriate as a part of training, but they should not constitute your entire schedule.

*** Photo courtesy of Tomasz Szkopiñski


50 Leadership Resolutions for Student Life Professionals

January 2, 2014

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. 


Santa Claus Must Be a Student Affairs Professional

December 23, 2013

Santa Student Life

Santa Claus is one of the most revered mythical icons that inspires fun, hope, and joy across the globe. Now that the holiday season is upon us, I starting thinking about how we as student life professionals share many of the same attributes as our trusted friend from the North Pole. I feel that Santa Claus could be the perfect Student Affairs professional!

Santa Claus Nurtures and Appreciates Diversity – Santa delivers toys to children all over the world. In order to do this, he must understand all of those cultures and languages. Santa does not discriminate as he spreads the spirit of the holiday to all children. Likewise, Student Affairs professionals serve and help develop students of varied and diverse backgrounds, cultures, abilities, socioeconomic statuses, and a multitude of other differences.

Santa Claus Inspires for Life – We believe in Santa as children, but this only lasts for a short time. However, we continue this tradition with our own families and enjoy the spirit of the holiday for the rest of our lives. The practice of Student Affairs holds this same value for the students we help develop. Students are only in college for a few short years, but the work of Student Affairs professionals will impact them for the rest of their lives. (Those of you reading this are a perfect example of someone who was positively impacted by at least one Student Affairs professional!)

Santa Claus is Everywhere – From midnight to before the break of dawn on Christmas, Santa magically accomplishes the impossible task of spreading excitement across the globe. Furthermore, he is in cartoons, movies, holiday decorations, and most importantly, in the hearts and minds of everyone during the Christmas season. Student Affairs professionals also perform magic throughout the year to assist, educate, and inspire college and university students. We are seemingly everywhere within the university community. Whether we are participating in committee meetings, sporting events, conduct hearings, training sessions, and advising conversations, our mission is to be involved in all aspects of the student experience.

Santa Claus is a Servant Leader – Santa Claus is a shining example of a servant leader. Not only does he serve children all over the world, but he also takes care of and supervises an army of elves and a herd of magical reindeer. Student Affairs professionals are also servant leaders at heart. Our core mission is to develop and serve the students who come to our colleges and universities. We aim to make students more educated and prepared for when they leave us.

How else does Santa Claus embody the spirit of Student Affairs? Please share your thoughts below and “Like” on Facebook and Tweet if you enjoyed this post. Thank you for all that you do and Happy Holidays!

* Awesome Illustration by Norma Andriani


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