Leadership Lab

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

Diane Ober
Friday, June 23, 2017

We all know what safe space is, right? We articulate it as an environment that allows us to discuss controversial topics with honesty, sensitivity, and respect. We use safe space frequently in our CLE classes as a way to ensure participant confidentiality and encourage honest sharing. Recently I learned of a new way to frame how we talk about controversial issues. It’s called brave space, and we now incorporate this in our classes and workshops on diversity and inclusion.

But let me back up a bit and tell you how I learned about this idea and why we are using it.

Currently the CLE offers two classes, Multicultural Fluency and Growing Deeper: The Power of Privilege, which have been popular both as open enrollment classes and as workshops for our learning groups, and for UVA teams and departments.

The Multicultural Fluency class was created by Tabitha “Tab” Enoch from Student Affairs and John Alexander from Shanti, both of whom have been facilitating this for more than three years. The class lays the groundwork for exploring the crucial topic of diversity and inclusion as employees at UVA. The need for this exploration and training continues to grow, which is reflected partially by the increasing requests for this workshop from departments and schools. As such, Tab, John, and I realized we needed to expand our small group to include more people who could assist with creating and delivering classes and workshops about diversity and inclusion. To this end, we gathered a group of four other UVA staff to discuss, explore, and in particular, to lend expertise to professional development opportunities for staff and faculty.

In one of our first meetings, a new member named Val shared an article with us, From Safe Spaces to Brave Spaces by Brian Arao and Kristi Clemens. At its core, brave space recognizes that difficult conversations rarely mean being free of discomfort or difficulty and that labeling space as “safe” encourages staying in an “I’ll agree to disagree” position which does little to foster real understanding or learning. When exploring and learning about diversity and inclusion, we must create ground rules that encourage us to stretch our understanding and comfort zones to see things from another’s perspective. The honesty, sensitivity, and respect that are invoked by “safe space” remains vital, but the exploration is deepened as we encourage ourselves to be brave as well.

This slide we use in our classes helps rephrase the environment we wish to create:

Moving from Safe to Brave

Making the change to brave space seems to resonate with our class participants and helps in diving deeper into the topic, which of course helps in learning!

By the way, we call our group of seven staff from around Grounds, Hoos Brave!  I’m very grateful to be a part of a group that allows me to continue educating myself about diversity and inclusion issues in our culture and in our University and whose members assist in creating and facilitating classes and workshops for us all.

I encourage you to attend these classes and practice being a brave Hoo!

Thank you to the rest of the Hoos Brave team!

Tabitha Enoch
John Alexander
Valencia Harvey
Daniel Fairley
Faran Saeed
Jess Dollar

Larisa Hinton
Friday, June 16, 2017

We often think we’re delegating when we ask someone to do something for us. But delegation is more than simply assigning tasks. Real delegation is asking someone else to be accountable for results. You’re giving the responsibility, along with the authority, to do what’s needed to take action and get the job done.

There are three parts of this process: who, what, and how.

Who you are delegating to is an important consideration. You need to take into account their experience, abilities, strengths, and professional development needs. What involves matching the assignment with the appropriate person, not just choosing the closest person at hand or the person who always says ‘yes’. And the how – you need to give clear expectations of what you want, communicate boundaries and requirements such as budget and deadlines; but not the nitty gritty details of how to do it.

Because we feel we can accomplish the task best, delegating may feel uncomfortable at first.  Maybe you don’t want to overload your colleagues, or think you can get it done quicker yourself, or you simply like the task and don’t want to give it up. These reasons can send messages of ‘I don’t trust you’, or ‘I’m a control freak’.

Keep in mind that delegating doesn’t mean abdicating responsibility. Involving others helps them grow professionally and although it may be true you can do it better or more quickly yourself, the time and effort you spend up front will be worth it in the long run.

For some great tips, take a look at the Delegator’s Dozen: A Preparation Checklist included in this SHRM article.

Carolyn Cullen
Friday, June 9, 2017

I recently read William Bridges’ Managing Transitions and co-facilitated a workshop with Bryan Garey on change and transitions for a cohort program I manage. In the book, Bridges talks about how change is transactional but transitions are psychological. He introduces a model that may seem paradoxical on the surface; namely, that transitions always start with an ending and end with a beginning. This premise makes sense when you think about it: a change, especially a transformational one, always starts by stopping the current practice and ends by starting the new. Furthermore, the ending represents a loss, including how people knew they were successful and how they were rewarded, and therefore it must be acknowledged and processed.

In between the ending and the beginning is the neutral zone, which is the land of the most opportunity, according to Bridges, and therefore is a powerful step in the transition process. This zone occurs after most of the loss has been acknowledged and processed, and the impact of the beginning is just starting to take shape. It’s when people can either start to get excited about the change or it’s when they decide they must resist the change. This zone is also when those who decide they aren’t on board with the change often decide to leave the organization.  

I have been through many organizational changes in my career, and have seen the neutral zone first hand (though I didn’t know it had a name at the time).  Based on my experience, the neutral zone is indeed the land of opportunity. Organizations who seize on the opportunity to show people what’s in it for them with regard to the change stand to reap the most benefit, both for the organization and the employee. Change is hard, to be sure. But, positively managing the transitions of change is what can make or break the change effort.

What changes are you currently experiencing? How are you managing the transitions? How do you think you’ll harness the power of the neutral zone?       

Samantha Campbell
Friday, June 2, 2017

Q: What song would you sing at karaoke night?
A: Save Tonight by Eagle-Eye Cherry.

Q: What does leadership mean to you? 
A: To me, leadership means responsibility. It means having the ability to listen, inspire, empower, and encourage others.

Q: Your favorite place to eat in Charlottesville?
A:  Bodo’s.

Q: What is your proudest/greatest achievement outside of the professional realm?
A: Learning to listen to my inner voice, my amazing little daughter, and moving to Hawaii on my own to pursue my education.

Q: What are three things you love about UVA?
A: The sense of community, the architecture, and the gorgeous gardens.

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: Basically anything awesome from Goodwill.

Q: Why did you choose your profession?  
A: Graphic design gave me the opportunity to share my artsy, creative side with others. It was something that I was always interested in, and it came somewhat naturally for me.

Q: What are you usually doing on the weekend or during time off?
A: Making jewelry, doing photography sessions, gardening, and most of all, spending time with my husband and 2 year-old daughter.

Q: What is the best advice anyone ever gave you?
A: My mom has always been supportive of me. From the day I could hold a crayon, she encouraged me to do what I love, no matter what. She would always tell me: Look at the birds of the air- they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them…Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. She helped me to understand that it’s better to live a life full of doing what you love then to do what everyone thinks or tells you to do. When you live a happy life, everything else is taken care of.

Q: What about you would surprise us?
A: I was dance club president in college and loved performing in front of large crowds- just don’t ask me to do any public speaking!

Jess Dollar
Friday, May 26, 2017

There are many common quotes out there about change, like “The only person who likes change is a wet baby.” These quips make a point, but they paint change in a negative light. I prefer the quote attributed to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus:

This phrase reflects change as a constant, without suggesting that it is negative. A river continues to flow, moment to moment. From afar, it may appear to stay the same. But slight changes are taking place constantly, reshaping the river a little at a time. It might look the same each day, but if you were to leave and come back after a year or two, you will notice some significant differences.

Change is not bad, but it can definitely be difficult, especially when a large change happens in a short time period. Daniel Goleman, known for his work on Emotional Intelligence, suggests that we can actually change how we respond to change (see article here). We can learn to adapt by practicing mindfulness and developing our Emotional Intelligence.


The practice of mindfulness is about focusing on the present moment, rather than worrying about the past or the future. When we practice meditation or mindful breathing, we can ease our fears and concerns about what the change will bring, and return our thoughts to the present moment. If we recognize that change is happening all the time, all around us, then we are not so thrown off by it.

Emotional Intelligence

Goleman explains that adaptability is one of the competencies of emotional and social intelligence. This skill allows you to “quickly adjust to new situations and handle multiple demands.” When you are adaptable, you are more comfortable with uncertainty. Emotional and social intelligence can help us better understand ourselves and others, so that we can more smoothly process change and help guide others through it.

One great tip that Goleman offers is to frequently seek out new situations and experiences. When you step outside your comfort zone, you expose yourself to uncertainty and learning. When you do this often, you become more adaptable to change.

When reading Heraclitus’ words, it is easy to focus on the river – the external thing that is changing around us. But the second part of the quote is very important: “he is not the same man.” We so often focus on the change itself that is happening to us or around us, but we often forget that we are changing too. We are learning every day and having meaningful life experiences that shape our perspectives. When we seek out professional development on topics like Emotional Intelligence, we can continue to grow and shape ourselves. We can increase our adaptability and better prepare ourselves for the many changes we will encounter.

Related CLE classes to help you grow and navigate change:

Leading Others through Change

The Steps of Change

The Emotionally Intelligent Leader

Lindsey Reese
Friday, May 19, 2017

May is always an exciting month –spring weather is here, people are making their summer travel plans, and students are gearing up for graduation. This spring is especially exciting and significant for me because I’ll be one of those students who will don a cap and gown and receive a diploma today.

I’ve been fortunate to spend the past two years pursuing a M.S. in Organization Development and Knowledge Management at George Mason University. It’s been an exciting and challenging journey – one in which I learned as much about myself as I did about my field of study. This outcome was a bit surprising for me, yet extremely fulfilling and energizing.

My program’s curricula was strongly rooted in the idea that a successful OD practitioner needs to have a great deal of self-awareness.  In order to effectively partner with others to help them overcome challenges in their organization, you have to be fully aware of your strengths, weaknesses, biases, and values. All of these factors combine to create the lens in which you view the challenge, diagnose the underlying issues, and help the client discover steps to solve the problem. 

The idea of using the self as an instrument is relevant to all leaders, not just those in OD. Yet, so often the important leadership competency of self-awareness is overlooked. This may be due to our competitive societal culture – someone may be viewed as weak or incompetent if they acknowledge their weaknesses or admit to not knowing something. But when leaders are honest with themselves and have a consistent focus on building stronger self-awareness, the benefits are powerful.

Having a solid awareness of your strengths and weaknesses gives you a starting point for planning your professional development. Your strengths and developmental challenges may shift over time, but a leader who consistently sets aside time to reflect on their performance and assess their behaviors is typically more adaptable and effective in their role. Showing openness and vulnerability can also help to build trust, thus improving the quality of your connections with others. When leaders acknowledge that they don’t have all the answers, they also send a message to their team that it’s ok to make mistakes, ask questions, and request help from others. These behaviors help to promote a culture of learning within the organization.

So how do you develop a stronger self-awareness? In the article, The Self as an Instrument – A Cornerstone for the Future of OD, Mee-Yan Cheung-Judge recommends various ways to improve self-knowledge and awareness:

Develop lifelong learning habits

  • Continually develop and enhance competencies that are important in your role
  • Develop relationships with peers to talk through challenges and discuss different perspectives
  •  Actively seek feedback from others
  • Take responsible risks that stretch your professional comfort zone and proficiency

Work through issues of power

  • Acknowledge personal issues around power and control and recognize their emotional triggers
  • Clarify your personal values and ensure your actions are aligned with those values

Build emotional and intuitive self-awareness

  • Use your personal and family history as a source of strength
  • Identify your fears, blind spots, and comfort zones. Use your emotional comfort (or discomfort) as data in making decisions

Commit to self-care

  • Organize your calendar to include time for reflection and recharging of your intellectual and emotional energy
  • Schedule regular time-off and truly disconnect from work
  • Use meditation or other practices to develop and maintain inner awareness
  • Engage in hobbies and activities that you enjoy
  • Ensure you set aside time to socialize and spend time with those you care about

By incorporating some of these activities and behaviors into your routine, you should find that you’re more comfortable, confident, and effective in your role. Modeling these behaviors may also encourage those around you to do the same.

As I walk across the stage today to receive my diploma, my formal educational journey may be coming to a close, but my journey on the path to greater self-awareness will surely continue. I hope yours does, as well.

Mark F. Dunn
Friday, May 12, 2017

During his TEDx Wilmington talk, Robert Staub delivered his learned benefits of exhibiting “Daily Acts of Courage.”  During the talk he shared that courage “develops the cardiovascular system of the soul,” mentioning that when we demonstrate courage, we give ourselves positive energy and expand our ability to do more.  As he shared the seven types of courage, I noticed that many of them referred to interpersonal behavior, which led me to think about the courage needed to manage relationships by effectively giving and receiving feedback.

During a recent discussion with a group of mentors, I had an exciting opportunity to discuss the importance of giving and receiving feedback as a foundation to building a culture of engagement and high performance.  Over my life and career, I have experienced many types of teams, some good and others not.  Each team has its’ own culture, and those that are positive all included opportunities for investment in both positive and constructive feedback. 

For many of us, delivering effective feedback is something that requires practice and repetition.  One must truly demonstrate courage and caring for the other person by entering that space with them to do this well.  To provide some structure the next time you need to deliver constructive feedback, here are some key steps to follow: 

5 Steps to Delivering Constructive Feedback:

Step 1: Show your intent is positive and identify a common goal

Step 2: Describe specifically what you observed and the impact of the behavior

Step 3: Ask the other person to respond (and listen with an open mind)

Step 4: Discuss possible solutions

 Step 5: Agree on next steps

During this discussion, one of the mentors asked, “What if the 1 on 1 conversation doesn’t work?  What if the person doesn’t respond?”  When this happens in my world, I gradually increase the intensity of my feedback until behavior change occurs. 

The Feedback Intensity Scale: (begin at #1 and progress as needed until behavior change occurs)

1. 1 on 1: You speak directly with the person

2. 2 on 1: After delivering the feedback privately, you bring a leader or someone of influence into the discussion.  Sometimes the individual may receive this better from another peer.

3. Team on 1: If negative behavior continues, bring focus to the team and develop team agreements on behavior that lead to success.  Often we spend too much time focusing on the 10% of a team that does not want to change versus the 90% that are committed to building a successful team environment.  Let the team’s behavior create an opportunity for change.

4. Organization on 1: The organization’s policy on behavior and performance will come into effect over time. The leader of the team will have a team that agrees to operate at a high level and will have many examples of behavior that is not aligned with both the team’s and organization’s values.

When I shared these concepts with the mentor group, they quickly moved into action, considering how they could help their protégés and teams develop.  Now that you have read this advice, consider the following:

1. How can you help your team move towards success by utilizing these feedback tools?

2.  What courage type do you need to develop to make #1 occur? 

3. Would you be willing to work with your team in creating an agreement to practice effective feedback?

4. What happens to your team if you do not demonstrate the courage to do this?  

Samantha Campbell
Friday, May 5, 2017

Q: What song would you sing at karaoke night?
A: My “go-to” karaoke song is “Africa” by Toto.

Q: What does leadership mean to you? 
A: Leadership is knowing your strengths as well as your limitations. Leadership is constantly challenging yourself and striving to become better; teaching others as well as learning. Leadership is staying organized, remaining calm and positive and overcoming obstacles. It is asking good questions, contributing to a team in any way you can and thinking outside the box. Leadership is being a person others can look up to and learn from.

Q: Your favorite place to eat in Charlottesville?
A: My favorite Charlottesville restaurant is Tavola.

Q: What is your proudest/greatest achievement outside of the professional realm?
A: Without a doubt, my greatest achievement outside of my professional life is raising my four-year-old daughter, Charlotte Rose. She is an amazing kid and I am so very proud of the person she’s becoming!

Q: What are three things you love about UVA?
A: I love the people I work with, walking the beautiful Grounds and learning about UVA’s rich traditions and history.

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: No.

Q: Why did you choose your profession?  
A: Prior to my role as Training Administrator for the CLE, I worked in advertising, marketing, and communications. I was looking for an opportunity to completely switch professional gears, and become involved with an organization that would really challenge me and help me learn a variety of new skills. I have especially enjoyed my experience as a Grounds for Success Orientation trainer; it has piqued my interest in training and development, an area in which I hope to continue!

Q: What are you usually doing on the weekend or during time off?
A: On the weekends, you’ll find spending time with my daughter, Charlotte, our dog, Lola, and friends or family. I like taking day trips, museums, going to the beach or a winery, and having a good cup of coffee while reading People magazine. I love listening to music, going to concerts, being outdoors, and watching movies. I also enjoy baking and trying new recipes.

Q: What is the best advice anyone ever gave you?
A:  You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

Q: What about you would surprise us?
A:  I am originally from North Dakota and saw the ocean for the first time when I was 22!

Rachel Parsley
Friday, April 28, 2017

I am a new member of the CLE’s Exceptional Assistants’ Network (EAN) Seminar Series group learning program. During the first session of the four-day series, we discussed how to develop a leadership presence and mindset.

For me, the biggest takeaway is that it is important to remember that the opportunity to be a leader is all around us, every day, and in many ways. You don’t have to be in a management or supervisory position to spearhead a project, suggest ideas, or contribute as a leader to your team environment.

When asked to define our role in the workplace, many of us would answer in a way that just describes the tasks we do, and in a way that doesn’t consider all things we do that are “outside of our job description.” These are the ways that we, consciously or not, set ourselves apart from our colleagues, and are the things that, in turn, make us leaders.

Simply greeting folks with a smile, encouraging them to do their best, collaborating with them, thanking them for their efforts, or offering your help and suggestions are small things we can all do to become  leaders. Actions like these can set the tone for someone’s entire day, or for their experience with your department. Whether your interaction with someone is their first, last or is ongoing, it’s your responsibility, as a leader, to make it positive and productive.

Leaders ask questions of themselves and of others; communicate assertively, yet effectively, and are active listeners. Questions could challenge, indicate empathy, ask an opinion, or ultimately, offer help.

Leaders express feelings and emotions properly. They let others know they are valued and important. They extend their appreciation, demonstrate a willingness to work with others, and offer trust. This helps build constructive relationships. Leaders also establish credibility: they do what they say they are going to do!

A leader acknowledges their own strengths and challenges. Most of all, leaders aim to be their authentic self, and reflect their values in decisions and actions.

To be a leader, you must be ready and willing to take on challenges. No matter what the situation, all it takes is the motivation to go above and beyond what is expected of you.

Check out the chart below: “What Great Leaders say to Highly Engaged Teams” for some simple phrases you can use to support and motivate others, contribute to your team, and take ownership of your work. You’ll be well on your way to living life as a leader!

Lindsey Reese
Thursday, April 27, 2017

Stress. The very word is enough to make me feel a little anxious and to get my heart beating faster. Let’s face it – so many of us feel overwhelmed by what we have on our plates. Personally, I feel like I’ve been going nonstop for the past few months trying to balance a full-time job, graduate school, family commitments, social engagements, and my own wellbeing. Many of you are faced with even more competing priorities and obligations. So how can we better manage stress in our lives?

When one of my professors recently showed the Ted Talk by Kelly McGonigal “How to Make Stress Your Friend”, it really hit home for me. I’ve always considered stress a bad thing. I’ve heard plenty about the negative effects that stress can have on your health and even on your relationships with others. I had never considered that a moderate level of stress may actually be helpful. McGonigal’s research shows that the way we view stress is actually what makes it harmful or beneficial.

Are you interested in learning how stress can help you feel more connected to others and can actually promote self-growth? If so, I encourage you check out McGonigal’s 15-minute Ted Talk or her book, The Upside of Stress.