Leadership Lab

Being a leader takes practice. We’re excited to share our latest experiments and lessons learned.

Rachel Parsley
Friday, October 13, 2017

Bicentennial Rotunda
Photo by Rachel Parsley

On October 6, 1817, Thomas Jefferson, then Rector of UVA’s Board of Visitors, James Madison, member of the Board of Visitors, and James Monroe, then fifth President of the United States, ceremoniously laid the Cornerstone of the University of Virginia near present day Pavilion XII.

200 years later, on Friday, October 6, 2017, over 20,000 UVA students, faculty, staff, alumni, and their family and friends, as well as members of the Charlottesville community, gathered on the historic Lawn to witness a birthday party of epic proportions.

The Bicentennial Launch Celebration that evening marked the official start of ongoing events to commemorate the founding of the University of Virginia.

I attended the celebration, along with my daughter. She is, at the age of five, a mini, self-professed Jefferson historian, so there’s no way she would have let me miss it! We were thrilled to watch the performances, hear the music, and witness such a spectacular presentation of two centuries of UVA stories. It was an absolutely incredible evening, which included a variety of culture, arts, history, and special guests.

A highlight of many in attendance was an incredible, projection mapping technology that brought to life some of the most influential events in the history of the University, right on the south side of the Rotunda.

Among it all, I was especially struck by one very poignant remark:

“We are all the ink of the future yet to be written.”

UVA’s history, its legacy, and its future, belong to all of us. We are all a part of it. Whether we know it or not, the work we do, the discoveries we make, and the pride we show for our great University each and every day will create the stories that those 200 years from now will celebrate, commemorate, and ink into the indelible history of UVA, hopefully, with another big birthday party on the Lawn.

You can read more about the Bicentennial Celebration, and see pictures and videos, here and here.

Hoo's Well
Friday, October 6, 2017

Everyone has a friend that they love to be around because they are genuinely a positive person. Typically, we like to be around these types of people because when you’re around a positive and happy person, their mood and expressions will begin to uplift your mood as well.

However, current research is telling us that a positive attitude goes far beyond smiling at someone as they pass you on the street or feeling good when you have a good day at work. Yes, these things are still important – but it has been shown that when you see more joy, contentment, and love, you will also see more possibilities in your life and open your mind to new opportunities!1

Positive psychologists have seen trends that suggest positive thinking can build skills such as social and creative skills, as well as help individuals cope with times of stress and during hardships.2 A study at a hospital in Denmark found that patients with a more positive attitude/mood were 58% more likely to live at least five years longer.3

Consider adding a few of the following tasks into your daily life to increase your personal positivity:

Meditate daily
Start your morning off with meditation. Remember last month when we mentioned the book The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod? Well he, as well as many others, recommend starting your day off with a little daily meditation. Meditation is a great way to refocus, set intentions for the day ahead, and to reduce stress before the day even begins.

Write down daily positive experiences 
At the end of each day, take five minutes to write down three positive experiences or three things you are grateful for from that day. Check out the “5 Minute Journal” app for daily reminders and journal space right on your smartphone!

Help others
Studies have shown that people who volunteer tend to be happier than those who do not. Volunteering is a great way to give back to your community, spend time meeting new people, and get together as a family.

Schedule time to do something you enjoy each day and HAVE FUN
It is so easy to let our days fill with to-do lists, work, and chores. Focusing only on things you have to do, deadlines, and the obstacles in the way is a sure-fire way to get stressed, overwhelmed, and let negativity into your life. Instead, spend time with your family, play outside, read a good book, dance to your favorite song, or anything that makes you happy. Don’t forget to have a little fun!

Increase your positivity this month by giving back or getting involved. Check out the Hoo’s Well Schedule for volunteering events and ways to get active in the community! Visit the Health & Benefits Expo on October 11th at Newcomb Hall from 8:30am – 2pm for more ideas and activities to benefit your well-being.

Diane Ober
Friday, September 29, 2017

When I was in elementary school, there was consistent talk about how much things would change in a future work world as we eagerly anticipated timesaving technology and greater efficiencies. In my memory, we were assured that by the time I was an adult we would be working only 4 days a week, which meant of course, a 3-day weekend! Even in my 9 year old imagination, this sounded promising since it meant more time off to play, be with family, read, do errands, etc.  So even as a young child, I dreamed of a healthy work life balance.

Here it is, 30 years later after a lifetime spent in 9 am-5 pm careers, and a standard flexible, shortened or creative workweek seems more in its infancy than it was at 9.

Recently I read an article that gives a good overview of the consequences of continuing to insist on the 40 hour a week professional life. You can read the article from the online “Business Insider” here.

To me it is no surprise that in the U.S. (where we work more hours and take less time off than the workers take in any other developed country in the world) it took scientific research to begin to explore the benefits of more flexible work hours.

For example, K. Anders Ericsson, an expert on the psychology of work, compiles research on what is required to build expertise. Ericsson found that “practice makes perfect”, but only if we spend shorter blocks of time practicing. When pushed past shorter time limits we form bad habits that take away from our goal of perfection, i.e. social media, reading the news, chatting with colleagues, etc. (sound familiar)?

Of course, not all work is well suited to flexible time schedules, but I am encouraged that even large companies like Amazon (see article) are experimenting with shorter workweeks and finding employees responding productively and effectively.

This has been brought home to me in the last several weeks by talking to two professional millennials. One is my daughter who has a demanding community-organizing job and who consciously tries to keep her workweek at 40-45 hours so she has time for her personal, away-from-work life. Another is a young colleague who is dedicated to working a (negotiated) 4-day workweek because personal and family time is also important!

I applaud these young women and am excited to see the move towards a more flexible, and therefore more creative and productive, workweek.

Perhaps when their children are in elementary school there will be more options for creating a healthy work/life balance and the more balanced future we were promised when I was in elementary school will be coming more clearly into practice!

Tonia Duncan-Rivers
Friday, September 22, 2017

Occasionally, I’ll review TED Talks in hopes of finding something interesting or useful. The other day I stumbled across the talk, ‘How to Gain Control of Your Free Time’ by Laura Vanderkam. I was intrigued! I mean, who doesn’t want to gain control of their free time? I was lamenting to a friend last week about how quickly time is passing. Seriously, it’s fall already! Where did summer go?

I was especially interested in this topic because I teach time management. In full disclosure, I have my own time management issues. Remember my blog about procrastination from March 24?

Anyway, I was curious if I would hear something different from what I say in class or better yet, learn a new strategy or two. I always begin my class by saying that we have 24 hours per day, 168 hours per week and that time management is managing our lives; it’s managing the expectations that we place on ourselves and that others place on us.

Well, Laura Vandekam mentions how we have 24 hours per day and 168 hours per week too, only she takes it a step further. She says the numbers are empowering and she breaks it down. I’ll stop here because I don’t want to give too much away.

Take a few minutes to watch How to Gain Control of Your Free Time. I believe you will find that it is well worth 11:54 of your day.

Larisa Hinton
Friday, September 15, 2017

Did you just get promoted to a manager role?

Being promoted is an exciting transition, but it can also be a nerve-wracking one. This is especially true if you are now managing people who used to be your peers. You need to establish your credibility and authority without acting like the promotion has gone to your head. You’ll also need to handle the changing dynamics of relationships with your former peers, and build relationships with your new group of peers – other managers in your organization.

Know that you’re not alone. Michael Watkins, author of The First 90 Days, says that if you take a typical group of mid-level executives and ask if they’ve ever been promoted to lead their peers, 90% of them will say yes. But just because you are one of many, doesn’t make it an easy process.

You can expect a variety of reactions from the positive to the negative. You’ll have colleagues who are excited to see you advance because you understand their job and can increase the team’s visibility. You’ll want to build on these positive reactions by listening more than you talk, taking action to show you care, and focusing on solutions not problems.

Unfortunately you’ll also experience negative reactions rooted in unfair expectations, doubt, and jealousy/resentment. These are a natural part of the process and the more we’re aware of them, the better we can prepare. Being proactive turns negatives into positives and facilitates team building.  

Come join the CLE for our class called Making the Leap from Peer to Manager on October 13.  We’ll delve into this topic and identify actions you can take to position yourself for success in your new role as a manager.

Hoo's Well
Friday, September 1, 2017

I used to envy the people who could get up and accomplish over half of their to-do list before my alarm had even gone off in the morning. I would visualize myself getting up early, drinking a cup of coffee in the quiet of my home, and being productive. I used to want the life of a morning person. Now, I have it.

We’ve all heard the expression “the early bird gets the worm,” but is it actually true? Are early risers more productive than those who sleep in? The answer is yes; early risers really are more productive than night owls because they tend to be more proactive, research says. According to a 2008 Harvard study, those who woke up earlier were more likely to value actions such as spending more time creating goals and taking charge of their lives2. Research has also shown that waking up early helps you maintain a healthier diet and exercise routine, improves your quality of sleep, and can result in an overall increase in mood1.

However, even with the promise of increased productivity and improved general wellness, the problem for most is in the actual act of transitioning to become a morning person.

I began my transition to become a morning person with the help of the book “The Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod. Elrod explains how it helped him personally have the best year of his life.

Here are a few of the most successful tips I have gained over the last two years of finding my “miracle morning”:

  1. Just get up – instead of pressing snooze, or reading email in my bed, as soon as my alarm goes off I stand up, brush my teeth, and drink a glass of water.
  2. Exercise – I have found that if I exercise in the morning, not only do I start my day with a new level of energy, but I can’t let my end-of-the-day excuses hold me back from my fitness routine if I’ve already gotten my 30 minutes in for the day.
  3. Fall in love with breakfast – I can’t tell you how many times I have to bribe myself to get out of bed for that hot cup of coffee and a delicious morning meal.
  4. Start small – instead of trying to get up an entire hour earlier and then crashing the next day/failing on the first try, start by getting up in ten-minute increments. Rise earlier and earlier each day until you reach the goal time you wish to wake up each morning. This will help your mind and body adjust to the earlier start time. Remember, the earlier you rise, the earlier you should head to bed to ensure you get enough sleep to rest and refuel your body!

Need some morning motivation? Check out Hoo’s Well’s schedule for early morning classes and programs that you can attend! Put your “extra” minutes toward the Fall Fitness Challenge. Earn up to $500 for completing three steps toward your good health. Details available at www.hooswell.com

Rachel Parsley
Friday, August 25, 2017

If it’s not on a list, it doesn’t exist. At least not in my opinion.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve made a list out of almost everything; for simple things, like groceries and errands and, of course, “to-do” items at work and for chores around the house. I’ve made lists of items to pack for travel, lists of songs I like, lists of things I want to accomplish, lists of places I want to check out, lists of recipes to try, and even lists of names while I was expecting my daughter.

To the chagrin of myself and I’m sure others, I’ve even made lists about lists. I organize my lists into categories, with headings and columns, and, in the case of the grocery store, I make my list in order of the aisles, for efficient shopping. I make so many lists, even my four-year-old has gotten in on the game (see picture!)

I am well aware that my list-making is a bit excessive, and at times, frankly, a bit obsessive. I also realize that not everyone relies on lists like I do. Honestly, I’m a bit envious of those who can organize their lives, tasks, and thoughts in their heads alone.

These days, it’s tough to find enough time in the day to get simple tasks done, while simultaneously juggling work, family, friends, pets, our health, activities, etc., and still find time for ourselves. This kind of hectic lifestyle, which, unfortunately, most of us lead, can lead to stress, becoming overwhelmed, and, finally, exhaustion.

List-making is one way I’ve found to cope with the demands of everyday life. If I can write items and tasks down, plan it out in an organized fashion, see it in front of me in black-and-white, and check items off (the most satisfying part of it all – fellow list makers, are you with me?), I simply feel more calm, productive and accomplished.

Lists can be used in a number of ways; they can be used to to keep track of tasks, ideas, or thoughts. Lists don’t have to be organized in any particular way; they just have to make sense to you!  Lists can help you save time, get organized, set goals, improve productivity, save money, reduce stress, and simply just help you put thoughts down on paper.

In addition to creating efficiency in everyday life, lists can also help us reach our goals. According to a study at Dominican University of California, once you put pen to paper on a goal, you are 33% more likely to actually achieve it. Writing it down makes you motivated to accomplish the task, and it also makes you more accountable for it.

So, what’s the next item on my “to-do” list? Read Paula Rizzo’s book, Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed. Rizzo is an Emmy award-winning network TV producer, author, and productivity expert who blogs at Listproducer.com.

Carolyn Cullen
Friday, August 11, 2017

Ever feel like something’s amiss with a process but you’re not quite sure what that is? Or maybe you do know, but it seems daunting to pursue changing it? I recently attended the Network for Change and Continuous Innovation (NCCI) Conference, and the breakout session titled Move It! for process improvement caught my attention.

In this case, Move stands for “Mini Opportunity, Valuable Effect,” and was presented by Angela Knobloch from Notre Dame. A Move It! session takes just 90-minutes, and then there are two check-ins by Angela – one at 20-days post event and one at 45-days post event – where she ensures the team is moving forward with the action plan they created in the 90-minute session.

The purpose of a Move It! session is to have a quicker, easier approach to address less complex process problems, and to plan specific actions to implement immediately after the session. Angela employs the SIPOC model for process mapping. SIPOC stands for Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, and Customers. This model is a quick way to structure how a process is currently occurring as well as to map how it should be occurring. 

Once the issues have been identified, it’s time to establish priorities for action. Using a simple X and Y axis, you begin plotting priorities based on low to high impact and low to high effort. Something that yields a low impact but requires high effort, for example, should be avoided because it produces a low return and crowds out time that could be better spent elsewhere. Alternatively, something that requires low effort but yields high impact should be immediately focused on by creating an action plan with due dates and an assigned owner.

Finally, Angela recommends using the SCAMPER technique when generating solutions. SCAMPER stands for Simplify, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to Another Use, Eliminate, and Reverse/Rearrange. The questions to ask are, “What could we…,” “And what if we…,” and “Or what if we…” By asking these probing questions, you dig a little deeper each time, and come up with multiple solutions to iterate.

How often do we practice getting a little better every day at a specific task? That’s what continuous improvement comes down to, when you think about it. The next time you find a current process frustrating, consider using a Move It! session to create action!

Hoos Well
Friday, August 4, 2017

Common conversations are centered around running out of time, having too much on our plates, stress from deadlines and projects, and dreams of the way we’d live our lives if we “only had more time;” leading us to fear that we are missing out on what each day has to offer. We all know time management is a key skill to being successful in the workplace. Time management isn’t just about getting things in on time. It is an important factor in our daily lives and affects our overall wellness by helping us stay calm, focused, and working toward our goals.

So, how can we make sure we are budgeting our time, not only in order to continue our productivity at work, but to allow ourselves time to experience each day to its fullest? How do we make sure that we end each day with a completed checklist, as well as having spent time doing things we love, with the people we love? 1

  1. Focus on time you DO have: Instead of focusing on what you don’t have time for, think about how much time you DO have. Utilize your breaks and free time wisely. Do you want to add in some exercise after dinner, but typically settle down and catch up with your kids? Take a family walk to talk, catch up, and create healthy habits as a family.
  2. Get good sleep: Sleep is not only important for energy for the next day, but it also helps decrease stress levels, repair and restore muscle and energy after exercising, and helps your mind reset from the previous day’s work. Make sure that you sleep at least 7-8 hours per day.
  3. Start early: Research has shown that early risers tend to be more productive throughout the day in comparison to those who sleep in. Try getting up 30 minutes earlier each morning and complete a few tasks on your list before your day starts. Finding time for exercise early on in the morning can give you more time after work to spend time with family and friends!
  4. Make habits out of daily tasks: Focus on making habits out of everyday tasks so they don’t seem as time consuming and happen a bit more naturally. If you want to start eating healthier as a family but don’t have time once dinner hits, make meal prepping on Sundays a habit. Work together as a family in the kitchen to get things prepped for the week ahead. That way, when busy nights come up, you are ready to go!
  5. Don’t forget the weekend: The weekends comprise eight to ten days of your month. Make them count! If you know you have a busy week coming up, try to get some of those time-consuming tasks out of the way on Saturday or Sunday before your week starts. Preparing for the week ahead allows more time to focus, and can reduce stress and anxiety.


Need help figuring out how to eat healthier as a family or how to successfully meal-prep? Hoo’s Well offers one free nutrition consultation each year with a registered dietitian. Call 434.243.4749 or email hwnutrition@virginia.edu to learn more.

Rachel Parsley
Friday, July 21, 2017

I once saw Thomas Jefferson in a box. Of course, it wasn’t the real Thomas Jefferson. It was the 1860 Alexander Galt statue of our University’s founder. It is a 6 foot, 2.5” inch, life-sized, likeness made from four tons of white Italian marble. Given as a gift to UVA in 1861, the statue has always called the Rotunda home.

In 2012, when renovations of the Rotunda began, the statue was removed and temporarily relocated elsewhere on Grounds. This marked only the third time in its history that the marble monstrosity was moved from the building.

Last fall, while leading a Grounds for Success orientation tour, I happened to pass by as it was being loaded into a crate for return to its rightful location in the Rotunda. I stopped to watch for a moment as the workers carefully and delicately determined how to transport this valuable, fragile, and incredibly important symbol of our University. I later realized that just by happenstance, I had witnessed a part of history.

More than any other University in the nation, UVA bears the imprint of its founder. Since the Cornerstone was laid in 1819, the Lawn designed and built in the 1820’s and classes first held in 1825, Jefferson and his leadership legacy has been involved, in some way, since day one.

The Rotunda is often used as a symbol of the University, and for good reason. Jefferson designed it to be the “heart of UVA” and to many, this remains true even today.

Construction of the Rotunda began in 1822 and opened in 1826, shortly after Jefferson’s death.

In 1895, the Rotunda was gutted by fire. The Rotunda’s bell rang across the city of Charlottesville and townspeople, as well as students and faculty came running. They started a bucket brigade, trying to put out the blaze.

Students bravely ventured into the burning building and desperately tried to save whatever they could. The statue, then located in the third floor Dome Room, was hauled down a staircase on a mattress, amidst smoke and flames.

After the fire, there was a major remodel and many structural and aesthetic changes were made. It was remodeled again in the mid-1970’s, during which time it was returned to Jefferson’s original three-story design.

Today, Galt’s statue of Jefferson stands once again in the Rotunda’s entrance lobby on the second floor, greeting guests as they enter from the terrace level. If you look closely, you can still see grey smudges of smoke from the 1895 fire on the folds of his cloak. There are chips in the marble, thanks to his mattress ride down the staircase.

The statue’s gaze is fixed straight ahead. It looks through the clear, glass floor-to-ceiling doors, across the Lawn and onto the University.

Though it is just one small symbol of our founder and of the history of UVA, I find myself transfixed and amazed by it. Each time I lead a tour, I think about the 150+ years the statue of Jefferson has stood guard in the Rotunda, and about all the events it has witnessed during that time.

As the University of Virginia embarks on its third century, the Galt statue will serve as a poignant and lasting reminder that in a way, Thomas Jefferson continues to oversee and serve as a leader of it all.