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Sometimes Professional Development Goals Just Don’t Happen

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It’s August 5th. I haven’t written a blog since May. We have a baby “due” in a week. I’m running on all cylinders to get my day time job, all my volunteer responsibilities (including chairing a large scale association committee), and a consulting project done.

With all of this, I can’t help but feel a little bit of failure. It is a failure that I have manifested in this pile:


This is my professional development reading pile that I’ve more or less collected since March. It was my summer reading – journal articles, monographs, reports, and even a whole book (which I at least have skimmed). It was my plan to stay on top of my career long practice of reading as much of the resources that come my way about this field of higher education and student affairs. I’ve never skipped (at least skimming) an entire issue of the research journals from all Associations to which I belong. The pile includes topics which with I am familiar and also new topics about which I want to learn. Reading has been pivotal to my professional development.

And I failed at it.

Or did I? I’m not sure. Maybe I’ve just had to rethink things. Maybe this isn’t an “I’m so busy – whoa is me” blog post. Maybe it’s really a “I’m rethinking – good for me” blog post.

Looking ahead, I know I will have to rethink my professional engagement outside of work. I resigned a committee role last week. I’m wrapping up that large scale association committee chair project. I have two other volunteer roles that I may have to skate through at least for a few months. I’m going to have to do what I can but not necessarily what I want on consulting projects. I’m deeply committed to staying on top of my CAS involvement but even in that role I’m going to need some patience for a little bit. I’m working collaboratively on a book and a monograph chapter (neither project I am rocking at the moment). Finally, there’s potential that my dissertation will finally see an article come to light – if I can take the time to revise as explained by a journal editorial board.

And that’s just for the things OUTSIDE of my job, which has become more demanding and exciting than ever before. By nature of what I am now doing, I am learning new and different things.  However, I know I need to wrap up or at least get things to a place that when Baby Bureau comes I can take a little time away and enjoy my life. This means cocurriculars and it means work.

Again, maybe this is a rethinking blog, not a whining student affairs “I’m so busy” blog.

I have to think about if I failed at my professional development goals or I had to change them to meet the demands of work and life. I wonder how often others examine how their needs for professional development have changed. For the first time in 18 years, I won’t attend the AFA Annual Meeting in December (more for personal obligations than for not seeing value, but still). I don’t plan on submitting workshop proposals for NASPA or ACPA, which means I likely may not be able to go to either of those conferences. I am also wondering, what would it look like to do my job REALLY well? I’m good at my job, but what if I focused on really doing my job exceptionally well and taking some of the time I’ve used to do other things to improve my practice in my primary professional role? That last question alone is a COMPLETE shift in thinking for me.

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering “why did you take the 30 minutes to write the blog when you have so much other stuff to do” and you might even think “stop complaining and get on with what you have to do”. You’re a bit correct in that I could have done something else, but I felt the need to share the story because I bet someone else feels the same kind of dissonance around changing their approach to how they experience life as a student affairs professional. There’s a chance that someone else, like me, was feeling like a failure.

There’s also a chance that someone else, like me, decided to take these feelings of failure and to view them as a potential triumph in our effort to examine what we need to do versus what we’ve always done. It’s time to put that pile away and realize that things are changing for me. I’m kind of excited for that process. We’ll see how I do.

What professional practices do you need to change?

What professional goals do you have that might get in the way of doing what you do now really well?




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Category:  Ethical Foundations ,Personal Foundations ,Philosophy of student affairs professional development     

Infusing Daring Greatly into our Practice of Caring Greatly

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There’s a lot of talk about transforming student affairs practice – we need to move the needle from routine to impactful. At the recent ACPA conference we were challenged to dare greatly  – a concept I believe in and feel compelled to act on. While our field has been taught to CARE greatly – convey a sense of compassion and empathy for the students with whom we work – I’m not sure the general field of student affairs is ready to DARE greatly. Collectively, I believe:

We’re not doing enough to demonstrate our contributions.

We’re not doing enough to end negative behaviors.

We’re not doing enough to create a work/life balance that makes sense.

I wonder what needs to happen to move the needle. What would make student affairs practitioners capture the moment and dare greatly?

Don’t get me wrong. Lots of people are doing amazing things: Changing lives and influencing students. People are trying to make a difference. This isn’t a condemnation, but rather an examination of what could change if we aim to dare greatly versus only care greatly.

Daring greatly might mean taking some of the following risks to become better professionals in this important field:

Using assessment to influence our work and infusing tactics to collect evidence of our contributions. We’d spend less time on hoping we’re making an impact and more time on finding ways to determine so as a natural part of our work. Our advising and helping tactics would infuse assessment into them, asking common questions, documenting our answers, using themes to determine strategies for improvement. We would take the leap to transform our work, all the while still conveying care and commitment.

Using different approaches to issues of alcohol, drugs, hazing, etc. Students know it’s against the law – who cares. How about we get more creative and talk about the way these things undermine our relationships. Students seem to like each other by and large – there is some level of care there – maybe appealing to a sense of compassion for others might move the needle to end extreme and negative behaviors. We’d teach students how to take the risk. We’d support them through their enactment of the interventions we developed together.

Being more intentional with how we approach our work. We don’t need to be everything to every student. We need to convey care and concern. We need to handle their needs, but we do not need to lose ourselves as we seek to help them find the answers. Most life/work balance issues I’ve seen come as a result of caring greatly – certainly not a bad quality in a human being – but when we dare greatly, the way we demonstrate care may change.

So many good people work in student affairs. There is such a commitment to helping students. However, for us to dare greatly, we must be clear that our frameworks for practice must change. We must make progress on the things that we continue to push to the margins and we have to figure out ways to move the needle from routine to extraordinary. As we focus on change of our environment, we too will change. We’ll become more competent at demonstrating care while also daring students and ourselves to be all that we can be.

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Category:  Advising and Helping ,Assessment Evaluation and Research ,Ethical Foundations ,Frameworks for Increasing Competence in Student Affairs     

The Ongoing Search for Student Affairs Competence: Becoming the Well-Rounded Student Affairs Professional

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The search for competence: it’s the framework I have used for this blog since its inception just over a year ago. The ongoing quest to be our best is a part of a career in student affairs. Through the simple search for competence we actually can become better and more confident in our work.When we become better we are more equipped to serve our students. The best student affairs professionals I know put students first, but they don’t sacrifice their own learning: they are deeply committed to ongoing professional engagement and development.

However, I believe that the majority of student affairs professionals do not focus on developing the entire set of skills and prefer often to focus on only a few at a time (and possibly only a few at all). I am convinced that our pursuit to be really good at one thing will ultimately be a downfall in modern-day student affairs work. We can’t afford for you to rock at advising when your understanding of legal issues is dismal. We can’t afford for you to be a great supervisor but have zero concern with assessment of your programs.

Student affairs is an ironic field: those who come into the field through a student affairs preparation program, are typically taught to be generalists but new professionals often go into functional area positions that are specialists such as residence life, advising, fraternity/sorority life, and career development. While our generalist skills might come in handy now and then, we default to what defines us as specialists: advising residents in your learning community, helping students schedule their classes, aiding leaders in managing complex organizations, and counseling students as they determine potential career paths. We focus so much on specific skills that those we don’t (or choose not to) use routinely just go by the wayside. The best athletes practice all parts of their game and work all parts of their bodies – therefore, shouldn’t the best student affairs professionals practice every part of ours?

Enhancing our competence in all areas of student affairs work requires an intention that many student affairs professionals lack: as we are so responsive to the demands of our students, we often forget to take the time to determine pathways for strengthening our competence and confidence in all the skills necessary to student affairs work. We are not bad professionals for this, in fact if the metrics that people around us care about is how accessible we are to students, then you might be perceived well; however, are you truly developing the competence you need to interact with all of those students? What skills would make you even better at serving your students?

Well-rounded student affairs professionals are important to our field. We have to create environments in which all staff are clear that expertise in an area is good but some level of understanding in all areas is expected.

At the University of Memphis, we have been intentional about creating a framework for ongoing professional development. All training sessions tie back to the ACPA/NASPA Professional Competency areas. Next week we will have our annual Spring Break Professional Development Challenge; participants are encouraged to take part in as many sessions as they can fit into their week (it is spring break) and each session addresses at least one of the 10 professional competencies. I love this week and almost 40 of our staff must also appreciate the opportunity because they have signed up for at least one training!

It’s our hope that this intention will help our staff realize what they know now, what they need to know, and how they can fill the gaps between what they are expected to do and their current skill set. To help others, I have highlighted those I find to be most engaged in their work and ongoing professional development in our weekly newsletter. We can all learn from examples and aspire to be like those who are the most focused on high levels of professional engagement and ongoing development.

We also have developed an individualized professional development plan, using the Competency areas, that can be used to help staff figure out how to accomplish their professional goals. The value of professional development has become an ethos here: coming down from our VPSA, through her AVPs and permeating the director/associate dean level.

Personally, I believe we can do even more! I’d love to see all staff be held accountable for demonstrating at least the basic level of the ACPA/NASPA Competency areas. What if we had to prove annually that we worked on one attribute within the  basic level of each competency area? What if our work was evaluated on our demonstration of each competency level? It would require a high level of intentionality and we’d be laser focused on being the best we can be in order to make a difference in the lives of students. We have to be more intentional to become the well-rounded student affairs professional we are needed in modern day higher education.

What are your professional goals? What competencies do you need to work on to reach your goals? How would you rate yourself in each of the 10 Professional Competencies?

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Category:  Advising and Helping ,Ethical Foundations ,Frameworks for Increasing Competence in Student Affairs ,Human and Organizational Resources ,Leadership ,Multicultural Competence ,Personal Foundations ,Philosophy of student affairs professional development     

Sometimes change sticks, and sometimes it hangs there for a bit and slides down the wall

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When spaghetti is ready it will stick on the wall. When it’s not, it just slides down, indicating to the chef that more time is needed. It’s an interesting analogy to the concept of change.

Change happens all the time. Each of us are likely engaged in some change effort right now. I’ve led some change initiatives and have been fortunate to be involved in lots of discussions that involve “making a change”. I tend to like change.

However, change can be really uncomfortable, particularly when people don’t know all the facts. Those in the highest positions are trying new things – seeing what sticks. Leaders have good intentions to be transparent – discussing issues, positing approaches, suggesting systemic change approaches. Transparency is by and large the best tactic…BUT, people read into messages and decisions. Sometimes transparency breeds speculation, particularly in times of significant change.

The rest of us are asked to respond to ideas that might come across as etched in stone when they’re nothing more than a passing conversation between two people who have decision power. When ideas are thrown out there they have implications as people struggle to work through logistics of implementing new and different ideas only to find out days (maybe hours) later that it was only an idea. Those tasked with implementing the change ideas are going to spend a lot of time answering the questions of nervous staff who feel threatened or at risk. It’s obvious that saying “give it some time and we’ll know for sure” is not an effective spin strategy.

It’s almost like we need some way to know what’s a change that is sticking and what is a change that is up for discussion. Perceptions of idea traction can be deceiving. Really, we should just assume that nothing is finalized until someone says it is.

What we all should take from change initiatives is that leaders are looking to address financial, structural, political and other forces that are at play. Those things keep happening around us and leaders must respond by indicating they are working toward improvements and change. Problem is that the rest of us have to take a wait and see or hold on tight while we change directions yet again.

How do you perceive change? What aspects make you feel uncomfortable? When have you seen change stick well?

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Category:  Frameworks for Increasing Competence in Student Affairs ,Human and Organizational Resources ,Leadership     

How Professional Association Conferences Give Me Life and Drain the Hell Out of Me

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I attended my 18th Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors Annual Meeting in December. I’ve written previously about  how attendance at a functional area association, even one outside of my day to day work and after 18 years of work in student affairs, is still an opportunity to learn about good work in the field of student affairs. In addition to learning, professional and personal relationships I’ve developed through AFA give me a sense of belonging and hope.

All of this aside, professional associations also drain me and give me cause to worry about our field. Here’s how one experience can both enriching and draining all at the same time.

Learning: I attend conferences to learn. I do this in three ways: attend sessions, facilitate sessions, and connect with colleagues to talk about issues. Student affairs association conferences, for the most part, tend to have good content and good facilitators doing the work. I always feel like I’m learning, even in sessions that might be “routine” for me. I have a learning orientation, but….

Not everyone does. Student affairs professionals must realize that we are not at conferences to vacation. Resources are put behind us to participate: Time away from work, money from the dwindling higher education budgets, etc. If I could change one thing about how people approach their time at professional conferences it would be that everyone would recognize this need to learn and then teach others. Additionally, no matter how much fun you have or how many relationships you want to nurture (for personal and professional reasons), attending sessions is tantamount. It is not in question: you go to things, you participate in learning for some significant period of time each day at the conference and then you share what you learned with others upon return.

Relationships: I attend conferences to maintain and nurture relationships. These are  professional and personal and often both. I appreciate those who have mentored and supported me and I try to pass that on to others. I enjoy time talking through issues. I enjoy time at dinner. At the bar. I enjoy time exercising before sessions start. I truly enjoy these relationships, but….

These relationships can be draining: some are terrific and there’s not so much an issue with the relationship but more about the time spent nurturing them. Staying up all night hanging with friends is something that’s particularly challenging if I also want to prioritize my learning. I have to figure out how to spend better time with people rather than less. There are also some relationships I need to spend time on repairing and some that I need to let go of – not for any reason other than I can’t be everything to everyone. My best self never shows up in that scenario.

Because I value supporting others, I find that I spend a lot of time at AFA in particular, but at any conference, I want to mentor and support. This means lots of hallway conversations, coffee and lunch meetings, fitting in discussions between sessions or at dinner, the bar, etc. I won’t stop doing this BUT it is time away from some of my prioritized relationships; can I support others while being supported myself?

Drama: Associations come with drama (don’t even get me started on the ACPA/NASPA consolidation matter) and AFA is no stranger to this. It’s particularly salient in AFA because (1) we’re a relationship oriented function, (2) not everyone plays nice together in the sandbox, and (3) for me, I’ve been so engaged in so many ways that I traverse in different circles, know different things, etc.

I see nothing valuable about unfounded drama. Sometimes the conversations that result from discussions (i.e. the never ending perception of an in/out crowd in professional associations, members’ perceptions of how leaders are doing) can be powerful, rewarding, learning experiences, but…

I have to step away from the drama. I often think I’m not immersed in it, but I become immersed because I respond to it. Because I value relationships, I want to ensure that all have the right information and we all know drama comes from perceptions that something isn’t right and that someone wasn’t involved or didn’t have the right information.

I also wonder if the drama continues to suck the life out of the relationships, how can we make progress? How can we move beyond territory and ownership to shared goals? Prevalent in AFA and any association, this is a real problem in student affairs: are we always truly about the right things or do we let personal hangups influence our work?

So, what does this mean for me and how can someone take this and use it for their own association experience:

1. If I am focused on learning, how can I do this in a way that doesn’t exhaust me. I am less willing to compromise the learning orientation but I also may need to be less involved in creating the learning experiences. Maybe going to sessions or facilitating one or two sessions rather than facilitating five is a good idea for me.

2. If I am focused on relationships, what do I need to do to prioritize the ones that matter most, incorporate opportunities for mentoring and relationship building, and minimize the time spent in interactions that may be valuable/important but not priorities? How can I ensure relationship building occurs and still get enough sleep to prioritize learning?

3. If I am focused too much on drama, or fixing perceptions, I get wrapped up in the things that drain me the most. My investment in professional associations is meaningful and I demonstrate care through my contributions. However, I can’t change the perception of all persons and I need to determine when I have crossed the line between getting involved in meaningful discussions about the future of an organization and the experiences of members and that of being dragged down into drama ridden, mean or spiteful. and often uninformed conversations.

We’ll see how I do. I don’t get as invested in ACPA or NASPA issues and tend to focus my learning and relationship orientations pretty well there. I imagine trying out this new balancing approach to engagement in professional associations, specifically their conferences, will end up with lots of hiccups rather than perfection, but I am committed to trying.

What are your experiences like in professional associations? How do you engage at conferences? What do you love and hate about these organizations?

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Category:  Frameworks for Increasing Competence in Student Affairs ,Leadership ,Personal Foundations ,Philosophy of student affairs professional development ,Uncategorized     

Evolving to Practitioner/Scholar

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Today I sat in on a friend and colleague’s dissertation defense. He did a great job and is now Dr! However, of all his responses today, the one that stood out to me was less about his research and more about his evolution as a student affairs professional.

When he was asked how the process of pursuing the PhD changed him, he indicated that he set out to do the degree because he wanted to move up in the field, eventually becoming a VP. However, while that might still be a professional goal, he explained that the pursuit of the EdD has helped him be more in the moment with his current work as a director. Even more importantly, he described how the doctoral pursuit helped him rethink approaches to work, making him more focused on doing his work BETTER. He explained that better meant more data driven and using the framework of research to approach how he conducts his practice.

He will now listen to conversations differently – as a researcher. The pursuit of the dissertation is about the research but it’s also about how you become better at what it is you plan to do. You do the dissertation to inform your current and future approaches to research, teaching, or general professional practice. It’s nice to hear how this process changed him and how it will inform who he is now and who he becomes. It was nice to see how what began as a means to an end became a lesson in how to approach the present.

How do you frame your work?

How has the pursuit of additional knowledge through pursuit of advanced degrees or participation in professional development activities influenced your approach to work in student affairs?


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Category:  Frameworks for Increasing Competence in Student Affairs ,Personal Foundations ,Philosophy of student affairs professional development     

Increasing our Competence to Influence Student Retention and Persistence

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If you work in higher education in Tennessee, you know that we’re all scrambling to adapt to a new model of funding. We are no longer funded on how many students are here on Day 14 of the semester. As part of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission Complete College Tennessee Act, institutions are now funded based on retention, referred to as outcomes based funding.

We’re feeling this at the University of Memphis as our base funding has been cut significantly over the last five years and we have yet to see the effects of our efforts to significantly increase our retention and graduation rates. We’re on the cusp, but that’s not good enough. We all have to be working toward helping students come here, stay here, and graduate from here. It has to be the job of all, particularly student affairs.

Now, there is evidence that students involved in activities and such are more likely to stay, but I would argue that dispositions have a large influence in those numbers and few in student affairs could provide evidence that students perceive their programs influence the decision to come and stay here. Furthermore, student affairs professionals have to more strongly connect their work to the goal of retention. You might work with the Student Programming Board, serve as a hall director, coordinate programs for identity groups such as students with disabilities, or run the student union but you’re not doing your job here in Tennessee unless you think your primary job is to influence retention and graduation.

We should each examine how the ACPA/NASPA Professional Competency areas connect to retention. Consider some of the following examples:

Through developing skills in advising and helping, how are we strengthening our conversations to incorporate questions about decision to stay, influence of involvement in staying, engaging student leaders in helping their peers to persist and graduate?

Looking at the different skills in equity, diversity, and inclusion, do we have the competence to support students from diverse backgrounds considering the facts that might influence their decision to stay (e.g. first generation status, campus climate issues for LGBT students).

If we are committed to the competency of student learning and development, are we creating experiences and connecting students to opportunities to become engaged in activities/programs/services that connect their in-class learning to their out of class learning, thus strengthening the perception that college, in its entirety, helps them become something they aspire toward.

There are few meetings anymore that I am in that we aren’t discussing how student affairs contributes to retention. These meetings have made me think more and more about how I should be developing the skills needed so that when I interact with students I can meet their individual and group needs and connect them more strongly to the institution, in the hopes they will stay and graduate.

What kinds of things are you doing to push the needle up on retention?

Does your student affairs division have a culture in which staff identifies that they directly influence retention and they are working toward increasing retention and graduation rates?



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Category:  Uncategorized     

What student affairs professionals can learn from the series finale of Breaking Bad

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Since last night’s finale, I’ve had Breaking Bad on the mind. It may be one of the best television shows I have ever watched. When I was driving to work this a.m. I was thinking of all I had to do this week and then my mind went back to Breaking Bad. At some point this morning, it occurred to me that some of the lessons from the series finale can be applied to student affairs. Mild spoilers are included, but nothing too revealing.

1. Deliver on your promises without compromise. Throughout the season, Vince Gilligan (creator, writer) has promised to wrap up stories in a way that would be satisfying. The series finale did this and there’s really no unanswered questions remaining. It occurred to me that this is similar to how we should approach annual planning, reporting and assessment processes. As we develop goals as departments and divisions, we should ensure these goals drive our work (much as resolution drove Gilligan to write the finale as he did). Realizing these goals and documenting the processes used is a vital part of demonstrating leadership in student affairs work.

2. Examine why it is you do this work (and determine to what extent that’s ok). Without giving too much away, Walter makes a confession to his wife – he had justified his “work” because it was for his family. Last night, he admitted it was because it made him feel alive and valued. Why do you do student affairs work? Is it because you define yourself through how students value you? Or is it because you aim to add value to the lives of students? There’s a difference. Consider your personal foundations, what drives you to do this work?

3. There is calm after the storm. Two episodes prior to the finale (Ozymandias), the world comes undone for Walter and other characters. It was arguably the best hour of the show I have watched. However, the final two episodes don’t live up to the pace or drama of Ozymandias (though PARTS of the finale feel as edge of your seat awesome). During these two episodes things were wrapped up, relationships were examined, Walt went into and came out of hiding, etc. The pace was different and I think many audience members may have felt let down. Well, we shouldn’t.

Many of us who work in student affairs take a breath after a large scale event and to some extent we might miss the activity and interactions around the event. What we should do is come to value the times when we are not driven by someone else’s agenda and develop our own – get caught up on other projects, develop reports, document program successes. All things we can do better in our student affairs work.

I believe we can learn a lot from a show like Breaking Bad (not to mention the anti-drug campaigns that are very helpful). I think pop culture teaches us about who were are and allows us to reflect on what we should and could do. What are lessons you’ve learned from Breaking Bad? Other shows? Music? How do you apply those in your work?



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Category:  Frameworks for Increasing Competence in Student Affairs ,Leadership ,Personal Foundations     

As you develop that strategic plan, realize it will likely fail

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I am a big fan of strategic planning. I think it’s vital. I’ve been a part of a few dozen efforts either as a participant or consultant. They’ve been vital to my professional development. They’ve helped me make mortgage payments.

But I have found that most strategic planning processes will fail.

There’s some danger in me saying this, but I have seen it too often. So, considering I have said that it is vital but it is also prone to failure, why do you bother? Well, the key is knowing what needs to be done differently. Here’s what I’ve seen happen when it goes well and is done right.

1. There are multiple champions. In previous posts I’ve written about infusing awareness across functional areas to increase the attention on developing competencies. This blog post focuses on the leadership competency of the ACPA and NASPA Professional Competencies. People believe that leadership equals LEADER, but what I’ve seen is there is a need for many to lead and to do so from wherever they are in the organizational chart. The same is true with strategic planning. There has to be at least one really good champion and multiple parts of the cheering squad on board. Take the time to invest people to champion attention to the strategic priorities of your organization.

2. It’s not so much a plan as a philosophy. People love to see the final plan but in this case the process is as important as the product. Additionally, the implementation is more than just attention to the document. There has to be an ethos of strategic THINKING, not just PLANNING. As you develop the document engage people in discussions about how to anchor the changes in the culture. How can you create an environment in which people think mission, vision, values, goals FIRST and then launch into action every day?

3. The laundry list doesn’t work. I’ve been as guilty as anyone in thinking “we need to get it all on paper so everyone knows our plans and how they fit in”. Actually, too much of a good thing is simply too much here. Focusing on a few key actions to help facilitate the strategic priorities is better than brainstorming a list of several. For example, if your strategic priority is to retain students then having four to five action items, broadly written, can be better than having 20 very specific ones. You can flush out the specifics when you develop operational plans. In fact, give your broad items off to a separate committee to develop operational plans. Think of it as the Myers-Briggs spectrum – big thinking vs. detail oriented. Strategic thinkers have to go wide. Operational planners need to go deep.

4. The plan is seen as static or unchangeable. People like to think 5-10 years in strategic planning. I’m not sure that people can create a road map to the future with that long of a distance in mind. I’d go three at most. It’s like saying that you’re driving from New Hampshire to California (which I have done) and the map you create in New Hampshire will not and cannot change. Life throws things in your way. Strategic planning is no different. Yes, mission, vision, goals/strategic priorities/objectives, values may all stay the same but actions and especially how you operationalize those actions through tactics should be revisited annually. Therefore, strategic planning isn’t a thing you work through every five years; because you’ve adopted strategic planning as a philosophy (see number 2) you then take time throughout each year to revisit, reaffirm and revise.

The leadership competency has a strong focus in ensuring the planning process occurs and taking the time to think with innovation about the future. What can you do to ensure your next planning process doesn’t fail? How can you create a culture of attention to the plan? These are questions I plan to ask when I’m next involved in a planning process.

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Category:  Leadership     

When Bad Assessment Happens to Good Student Affairs Assessment Professionals

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Recently, I’ve conducted some bad assessment.

Two surveys on different occasions in which there were issues that any basic assessment professional should catch.

I’ve let a survey go out that has double barreled questions!

That same survey had political implications, asking controversial questions within a tradition laden population. It wasn’t for work or for formal research, I reasoned. So, I didn’t take the time to do the survey right and get people bought into asking the questions.

Another survey was pretty well done and had many eyes on it, but I realized the challenges of administering a home-grown survey using both paper and electronic modes. There were issues printing at natural question or page breaks. I printed eight versions before I got it perfect. Then I used print job seven for making copies and provided participants with an instrument in which three questions were hard to read because the words were cut in half – if only I had that extra .25 of an inch on the sheet.

Reality is that even I – someone who does assessment, and likes to think he does it well – can have those bad days. Even the best at developing instrumentation and protocol should involve others in the review and development. It is vital to examine political implications of assessment before “just putting an idea out there to see what people think”. No! Stop! Don’t do it. Don’t just put the survey out there just to see what they say. There are implications. Think about whether the implications are worth handling after the survey is sent out (even to a convenience sample of friends on Facebook).

It reminded me that we all have to be working toward maintaining and increasing our competence and confidence daily. We can backtrack. We can let things slide. Designing a poor survey likely won’t end up being the biggest tragedy around but there’s implications that must be addressed. I should have known better. People expect more from me.

What are the skills you need to improve/maintain that will make a difference in how others perceive you?

What are the mistakes you’ve made when aiming to do something you’re good at but ultimately you failed miserably?

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Category:  Assessment Evaluation and Research ,Ethical Foundations ,Personal Foundations ,Philosophy of student affairs professional development