Skip to main content

Leading From Wherever You Are

| April 4, 2023

by MOR Associates

[Today’s Tuesday Reading is from Joseph Caudle, HR Service Delivery Developer, University of Notre Dame and MOR program alum.  Joseph may be reached at [email protected] or via LinkedIn.]
About a year ago, I was approached by one of the senior leaders in my IT department about a leadership opportunity he thought I would be interested in. Before meeting with him, I racked my brain to determine what management role he had opening up in his department and how I could best prepare for a conversation with him about the role. I’d been managing a team for several years and was sure I’d be talking with him about another management role, but I just couldn’t figure out what management changes would be happening in his team.
When the time came for the meeting, I could tell he was a little nervous to discuss the role, and I soon found out why: the role wasn’t a management role at all, but was as an individual contributor. The leadership came through what I could be working on: implementing a new system for our university’s HR department that would impact everyone who works here. No small task at all.
At first, the prospect of leaving management was something I was concerned about. What would it mean for my career prospects? How could I continue to hone my management skills? What would happen to my current team? And then I realized, none of these questions were looking at the opportunity itself and how it related to my leadership journey. By focusing on myself and my immediate surroundings, I had gotten lost in the weeds rather than getting up on the balcony. A quick mindset shift meant that I was able to look at the opportunity very differently.
Rather than asking about the impact of a job change on me, I could ask about my impact on my university and how I could be a leader in a new role. Implementing a new system for HR really could have universal impact. Not only that, but as a primary representative of IT for HR in the project, I would need to keep my focus on the big picture on a regular basis. What sort of future state for this system would allow different departments to work together better? How could detailed implementation decisions simplify existing processes to make the lives of faculty and staff better? What relationships could I build through this that would strengthen the ties between IT and HR?
I eventually went for the job and was hired for it, and I’m so glad for the change. Each day in this job has given me an opportunity to further develop the leadership skills I learned through my experiences with MOR, and that’s not by accident. A practice that I’ve developed through the course of this past year is a daily leadership check-in with myself. Regardless of how simple of a task I feel I’m working on, I ask myself “How does this relate to leading at the university?” I may be deep in a database view for hours at a time, but I can remind myself that by making sure the data I’m providing to our employees is right, I’m enabling everyone, from our service staff to our president, to see information about themselves and their relationship to the university that would have required an email or phone call to HR previously. I might be working on an intricate workflow that routes tasks from one area to another, but I can recall that it means that every time the process I’m working on is carried out, it will happen the same for each person that needs it.
I really think the practice of a daily leadership check-in is something that anyone in any role can add to their routine. If you aren’t already making a check-in like this, give it a try. If you are, and you have a team of staff, try encouraging them to try it out. It doesn’t necessarily change the work someone is doing, but it can change the mindset toward that work and help in realizing that an essential part of any job is leading from where they are. And that mindset change can have a drastic impact over time on the work that is done.
A few weeks ago, I attended a university-wide town hall meeting. Our new VP of HR was one of the primary presenters and I was looking forward to what she would say about the project I’ve been working on for the past year. We’re very close to launching our work for the whole university, so I knew she’d have something to say. Near the end of the presentation, she made a mention that she was very excited to announce that our new tools would be available to everyone in a little over a month and was hoping everyone would find them helpful.
As I was leaving, I rode in the elevator with a colleague with whom I’d served on a committee who works in a different division of the university and who hadn’t been a part of the project. This announcement was the first time she’d heard of our work. When I told her I had been working on the project, she asked what exactly it would mean for people working here. Because of my leadership check-in, I had two ready examples of how it could impact anyone in new and exciting ways. Apparently, I picked two particularly great examples, because her response was an enthusiastic “That’s amazing!” and she gave me a big hug as we parted. Obviously, not all work is going to have the same enthusiastic response, but thinking regularly about the impact of my daily work was the main reason I’d had the examples I chose.
Taking a few minutes each day to remind yourself or your teams about the broader impact of their work can be a great way to maximize your organization’s resources and can help develop relationships across your organization by keeping the broader impact of your work at the top of your mind.

This Week’s Survey

How do you generally remind yourself of how your work relates to leading at your institution?

  • I have a similar daily leadership check-in.

  • I use weekly planning practices.

  • Others regularly help me see how my work connects.

  • I do a variety of other things.

  • I don’t regularly spend the time to remind myself.

  • From Last Week
    Last week we explored high levels of voluntary turnover and the opportunity it presents to build your dream teams of tomorrow.  We also explored this topic one year ago, here are the results from both years:

    30% of us have had no turnover (13% in 2022).
    26% of us have had 1-5% turnover (38% in 2022).
    23% of us have had 6-10% turnover (28% in 2022).
    21% of us have had more than 10% turnover (21% in 2022).

    The impacts of the Great Resignation are real, broadly and locally for so many of us.  While far fewer of us experienced any turnover in our teams this past year compared to the year before, those who did were more likely to experience a much greater degree of turnover than the prior year.  This could suggest turnover is more likely in teams where others are finding new jobs as well.  As we think about current members of our teams as well as new hires, we need to help them fulfill their passions through developing the mastery they seek, providing the autonomy they need, and connecting them to the bigger and broader purpose of all we do, as discussed in today’s reading.