[Today’s Tuesday Reading is from Chris Corrente, Manager of Student Solutions at the University of Notre Dame. He is a MOR alum. Chris may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
A recent conversation with some fellow MOR alumni caused me to reminisce about my own MOR journey in 2019. As I reflect upon it, I think of my MOR journey as building a wallet - a container filled with valuable tools, techniques and perspectives that I find useful at various points in my day. Here are the top three items in my “MOR wallet”:
If you are going to do something, be “all in”
When I was first presented the opportunity to be part of the MOR program, I was honestly not sure I wanted to do it. While I appreciated the vote of confidence from our leadership team to recommend me for the program, my initial response was lukewarm – it sounded like a lot of time/work, and the thought of doing something to stretch myself sounded rather uncomfortable. I am tremendously grateful I did not follow my initial reaction and gave myself some time to think about it – otherwise, I would have missed a wonderful opportunity to grow and meet awesome people.
Once I decided I was going to enroll in MOR, my philosophy from that point forward was: “if I am going to do this, I am going to be all in.” For me, being “all in” relates to the theme of presence, which has remained in the forefront of my mind since my first MOR workshop. At the time, I realized I was often in meetings with my laptop trying to multitask and not focusing on the conversation, which was not only a waste of my time, but disrespectful to others in the meeting. Following that first workshop, I focused on being fully present in the moment – if I am invited to a meeting and determine I cannot delegate attendance to someone else, then I need to be “all in” at that meeting. No multitasking on my laptop and no other distractions. Whether in a meeting or just having a conversation with someone, I should make that interaction my focus for however long it lasts. As the 3rd of the 4 I’s indicates: I should invest in that interaction.
Do fewer things "great" rather than a lot of things "OK"
One of the biggest challenges I suspect we all face is that the demand for our time consistently exceeds our capacity. For the past 2 years, the demands placed on our team at work has been the heaviest I can recall in my time at Notre Dame. While our team was able to get the work done, the need to bounce back and forth between tasks, during a time characterized by uncertainty, created a rather stressful work environment and jeopardized the quality of the end-product.
For four months in 2019, I was part of a project team tasked with determining how to drive transformational change in our HR department, and the project required me to invest two full days a week. While fitting this in with my other responsibilities was challenging (but helped me further practice delegation), the amount of work we were able to achieve during this project by having that focus time and “think time” simply reiterated to me its importance. (As a side note, many of our discussions during this project focused on the culture of Notre Dame and how we need to address that in driving transformational change -- “culture eats strategy for breakfast” was certainly at the forefront of our conversations!)
As leaders, we need to determine the right things our teams should be working on. We also need to know when to say “no” to requests (or perhaps a better way to handle requests as noted in the book “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” is to say “Yes -- what other task should I deprioritize?”). We need to give ourselves and our teams “think time” to ensure the work we are delivering has our full attention and can be delivered with the desired quality. We need to “stop starting and start finishing” -- that is, fully complete one major initiative before moving on to another. This also helps ensure you can be “all in” with whatever task you are working on. The MOR practice of Monday planning has helped me with this, as each Monday morning I create my “5 for 5 list” (the 5 key objectives I need to complete over the 5-day work week) and then use defensive calendaring to ensure I have time to complete those objectives.
“Take care of yourself…and each other”
The above quote is how Jerry Springer always ended his TV talk show (my college roommate was a huge fan of the show, so it was often on in our dorm room in the afternoon). That quote has certainly resonated with me recently, as in the time since I began the MOR program 3 different members of our team missed significant time at work due to health issues. It was a reminder that while work is important and we all want to be successful, we should never lose sight of the fact that there are more critical things in our lives and in the lives of our teams. We need to take time for self-care and for supporting others when they need us.
It brings to mind the guiding principles our former CIO at Notre Dame provided us:
1. Take care of yourself so you are able to take care of your family
2. Take care of your family so you can contribute at work
3. Take care of your work so you can take care of your family and yourself
For me, the past 2 years have been years full of change. The above items are the main three takeaways that I hope to keep with me in my “MOR wallet” as my journey continues.
I came across this quote from a book by Karen Kaiser Clark that I think encapsulates my MOR experience and provides some guidance for the future:
"Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely."