Leadership Lab

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

Erin Erickson
Tuesday, April 25, 2017

April is Stress Awareness Month. Here are a few tips to help you de-stress this Spring:
  • De-clutter your space to create a calm, organized work environment. This will help improve productivity, focus, and stress levels.
  • Get moving! Exercise has been shown to help reduce stress by releasing endorphins, a feel-good chemical that will boost your mood!
  • Breathe! Need somewhere to go? Talk to your department about adding a Wellness Room for a safe space to sit down, relax, and de-stress.

Samantha Campbell
Friday, April 21, 2017

I recently watched a video that was part of the Supersoul Session series. It featured psychologist Shawn Achor, who talks about the science of happiness and the issue with the current formula for happiness and success. I was immediately interested in the topic, and pleasantly surprised with his quick sense of humor. (Although, I suppose someone who specializes in the science of happiness would naturally be funny!)

You may be familiar with this formula: “work harder = become successful = be happier.” It has been instilled in many people from a young age. Lately, I’ve been having an internal conflict with this way of thinking. Why do we need to work harder in order to be successful? Why does happiness need to be so hard to obtain? Now, I’m not saying that working hard isn’t a good thing. I worked hard to buy my first home, to raise my daughter (especially through the continuous and everlasting sleepless nights), to be good at my job, and to be a good person, but is that the only way to achieve happiness?

I started thinking: how is my life different when I’m happy? When I’m happy, I believe I’m enjoyable to be around. I’m much more inspired, creative, and productive, and things often come to fruition more easily. What would life look like if we followed our bliss and put happiness first? It would be a revolution of humanity as we know it, and I believe it’s starting now. We are stretching, pushing, creating, and growing our minds, and we’re changing how we function in this world. This stems from the urge to pursue greater happiness. It is bubbling at the surface, waiting to overflow from the cast iron pot we live in.

It’s a positive way of mind, and it’s extremely contagious. I love the “experiment” Achor did during his talk, where he speaks of mirror neurons and how easy it is to spread happiness to others. I’m interested in trying his 21 day challenge: every day, for 21 days, write down three things you’re grateful for and see what positive differences occur in your life. I’m going to give it a try! Will you? Watch the video.

Theran Fisher
Friday, April 14, 2017

As you read this post, I am in the middle of nowhere. Well, I’m somewhere, but that somewhere is over 2,000 miles away from Charlottesville and a mile in the ground. Presently, I am rafting my way through the Grand Canyon. I don’t say this to boast or highlight that I’m on vacation; I bring it up as a way of talking about perspective and rejuvenation.

I live a fairly predictable life. Some might consider it routine, others might call it a rut, but my day-to-day activities don’t vary all that much. For the most part, I don’t mind; after all, being able to anticipate my schedule and develop patterns of behavior helps to reduce decision fatigue. However, predictability can also result in a lack of creativity and critical thinking. It can make it more difficult to try new things and discover improvements to our work. Without a change in our routines, we can easily get locked into a certain perspective, making it difficult to recognize opportunities and generate new ideas. Sometimes we need to challenge ourselves and shake things up, and sometimes we just have to get away.

Of course, what getting away looks like is up to you. It may be as simple as taking a walk, engaging in a hobby, or talking with someone outside of your field. It might be spending time with friends and family, reading a book, or meditating. I personally enjoy being outdoors, and I have been reading about the benefits of being in nature to boost creativity and happiness. Ultimately, though, it’s about the end result, not how you get there. Research shows that even just taking a short break during the workday increases motivation, concentration, and energy.

I’m curious to hear how you like to get away and keep a fresh perspective on your work. Feel free to send me an email and let me know, but don’t expect a response until I get back from the river!

Samantha Campbell
Friday, April 7, 2017

Q: What song would you sing at karaoke night?
A:  That’s tough - - I like different kinds of music. I’d probably sing just about anything or at least try. I’ll admit that I like some of the same music that my son likes and I even sing along sometimes, that is, until I Google the lyrics!

Q: What does leadership mean to you? 
A:  Leadership is the ability to inspire others to share your vision and do their best work.

Q: Your favorite place to eat in Charlottesville?
A:  I don’t really have a favorite restaurant in Charlottesville but I love Mexican food!

Q: What is your proudest/greatest achievement outside of the professional realm?
A:  No question, it’s my son, Micah. I am so proud of the respectful young man that he has become. His former teachers always talked about how respectful he was, even in elementary school. I am so proud that he’s still that way today.

Q: What are three things you love about UVA?
A:  The Grounds, the prestige and my colleagues

Q: Do you collect anything?
A:  No, not really, but I guess you could say yes if you consider that I’ve kept every card that my husband and son have ever given me. I also still have many of my son’s baby clothes and he’s 22 now! It’s just hard to part with some things.

Q: Why did you choose your profession?  
A:  I sort of fell into my profession. I had planned to be a TV anchor but I started my first job at my alma mater as an admissions counselor/recruiter to be near my college sweetheart Lorenzo (whom I married later). It’s hard to believe that my entire career has been in higher education.

Q: What are you usually doing on the weekend or during time off?
A:  Every weekend I try to carve out time for myself and of course my family. I also do the usual weekend errands and I watch the HGTV channel every chance I get. I love the home repair shows! I’d love to have my own set of power tools!

Q: What is the best advice anyone ever gave you?
A:  To ALWAYS be kind to EVERYONE!

Q: What about you would surprise us?
A:  I used to sing in a band when I was in high school! We performed at a few concerts for teens in our community and on a local radio show. I even won a couple pageants and sang as my talent.

Diane Ober
Friday, March 31, 2017

In November 2016, the Department of Facilities Management was awarded the Outstanding Workplace Education Partnership Award for the University’s GED and ESL program from the Virginia Association for Adult and Continuing Education.

As a partner and sponsor of this program, the Center for Leadership Excellence (CLE) was invited to attend the award ceremony and deliver an acceptance speech. CLE team member Diane Ober, who coordinates the program with Facilities Management and the Adult Learning Center, gave the following speech at the ceremony:

One of the students in our program contributed a poem that was published in the Thomas Jefferson Adult and Career Education Group 2016 book, Voices of Adult Learners. This is an excerpt from April Poteet’s poem Learn, Live, Life:

“Education will never leave you, betray you, or lie to you…It will be a reflection of what greatness you can achieve and who you can be.”

I am Diane Ober and I work for the Center for Leadership Excellence, which is part of University Human Resources at UVA, and here is our vision as stated on our website:

“The Center for Leadership Excellence (CLE) believes in the University’s culture of shared leadership – the idea that everyone is a leader, regardless of position. Whether you’re looking to develop your skills, your leadership, your career, or your team, we’re here to help by providing a large selection of classes and custom programs.”

One of the University HR’s vision statements reads “the University is a wonderful place to work if you want more than just a job: it’s a place to build a career, a place to make a difference.” We sincerely mean these wonderful words and we work very hard to make them possible for our staff; but many come to their jobs facing difficulty in “growing a career,” or believing they have the resources to move ahead in title, position or salary.

My goal and what I see as my most important job at the Center for Leadership Excellence is to help create, coordinate, and implement classes and workshops for the individual learner at UVA, wherever they are and of whatever status in their work world. With this intent and with support from the CLE, UHR, and Facilities Management, we are able to help coordinate what the Thomas Jefferson Adult and Career Education Group does, four days a week, for eight months of each year. This is to work closely with UVA staff who wish to improve their reading, writing, and English speaking skills and perhaps prepare for and take the GED exam.

I believe that for many employees, this is the foundation for believing in themselves, and having the confidence to plan career goals. If I can be a small part of that I have done my job. I thank Facilities Management and Susan Erno and all her staff and teachers for being a bigger part of it, too.  I’d like to close citing another employee/student Said El Hachimi El Idrissi. In this piece, Why is Education So Important?  he quotes former President Obama whose words beautifully reflect the work we are involved with and believe in:

“Every single one of you has something that you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide”.

Tonia Duncan-Rivers
Friday, March 24, 2017

Recently I was thinking about how quickly time is passing. It’s hard to believe that we’re already approaching the end of March. Lamenting over this made me think of all the things I would like to do but never get the chance to do. When I get in this mindset, all bets are off. I put off doing what I need to do and do what I want to do instead! Let’s just say I put the “Pro” in Procrastination! There, I said it! I know what some of you are thinking, especially those of you who have taken my Time Management class. In full disclosure, I always admit that I, too, have time management challenges!

You would probably agree that when we procrastinate, the pressure of completing our task mounts, and we often find ourselves stressed, feeling guilty and mad at ourselves for procrastinating in the first place. Procrastination is more than not doing something; it’s not doing something and feeling bad about it.

There are numerous reasons we procrastinate, but a few that come to mind are lack of interest or time, poor work habits, unclear guidelines, fear of the unknown, and the desire for perfection. If you have no interest in what you are doing, then it’s going to be hard to get started. As for lack of time, we often start a task and realize it’s going to take longer than expected, and then we procrastinate completing it. When it comes to poor work habits we must remove anything that distracts us. Unclear guidelines and not being certain of expectations can lead to procrastination too; always seek clarification so everyone is on the same page. Fear of the unknown is another reason we procrastinate. It causes avoidance. It can be scary to try something new, but if we try to think of it as an opportunity to learn and grow, it becomes a little easier. Finally, there is the desire for perfection. Sometimes we delay starting something because we want a perfect result. We may even find ourselves using “what if” scenarios. And of course, there are times when we just don’t want to do what we need to do. Guilty as charged!

According to the American Psychological Association, approximately 20% of the population suffers from chronic procrastination. While most of us are not chronic procrastinators, we pay a stiff price on occasion - - think late tax returns! So what can we do to squash procrastinating?

Tip #1.   Just Do It! 
Easier said than done, I know. We all recognize the Nike catch phrase Just Do It! What’s interesting is the Nike symbol appeals to many generations; it speaks not only to our desire to succeed but also to our inclination to procrastinate. Try to pick one thing that you need to do and do it! Envision yourself as a strong, well-trained athlete if you have to. Be disciplined! Focused! Think Nike!  Just do it!

Tip #2.   Reframe the Task
Sometimes we have to get in the “right” frame of mind to tackle a task. Try reframing the situation - view it as a challenge, a chance to learn something new or a chance to do something different.

Tip #3.  Practice the Swiss Cheese Method
Whenever you have a project or many tasks to do - - think bite sized pieces! Break down larger tasks into smaller tasks, set deadlines, and reward yourself when tasks are completed. Remember, a bite or two a day equals several bites a week and eventually equals a completed project or task!

Tip #4.  The 10-Minute Rule
If you commit to working on something for just 10 minutes, you may find that the task is not that bad, and 10 minutes may lead to 20 minutes, then 30 and perhaps even finishing the task. The objective is to start and commit to 10 minutes - - The result may surprise you!

Tip #5.  Eat a Frog First Thing Every Morning!
If you eat a frog first thing every morning, then you’ll be more productive. Eating a frog refers to doing the worst thing first. Think about it, you do many smaller tasks first, but you have the dreaded huge task looming in the back of your mind. It can be exhausting just thinking about it. By the way, what happens when you’re facing two frogs first thing in the morning? You eat the ugliest one first! In other words, you do the most dreaded task of the two! For more ideas, you may want to read Brian Tracey’s book, Eat that Frog: 21 Great Ideas to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time.

Tip #6.  Create an audience
Select an accountability partner to keep you on track; ask your partner to check in with you on your progress. If you want to make it fun, make a bet that you will complete your task or project by a certain date and time. Offer a free lunch if and only if he/she checks on your progress along the way.

Tip #7.  Good Enough is Good Enough
Do not try to do everything perfectly; aim for progress not perfection. It’s okay if you don’t have what you need from others to start a project - - work on your part now and add the other pieces later. It is so easy to think everything needs to be a certain way before starting, but that’s just not true.

Tip #8.  When all else fails . . .  Take a Deeper Dive
Sometimes there is an underlying root cause as to why we procrastinate. Ask yourself if you feel overwhelmed or afraid of something. Think carefully about your situation and be honest with yourself.

I don’t want to leave you thinking that procrastination is all bad. Did you know that you could procrastinate responsibly? Responsible procrastination is delaying the start of your task and returning to it later. Returning is the operative word here! I’ll be honest; it’s tough, especially if you’re having fun, so discipline is necessary. If you try this, you’ll likely find that you’re more productive and focused. Try it! You may be surprised!

Larisa Hinton
Monday, March 20, 2017

How do you react when you’re in a conflict situation with another person? Do you want to win, yield, delay, bargain, or find a solution that benefits both of you?

Conflicts are part of everyday life, both at work and at home. To a large degree, conflicts are predictable and naturally arise as we work on complex projects in which we’re significantly invested. People generally perceive conflict as a struggle that creates negative emotions. However, it can provide a positive opportunity for change and improvement.

Despite the uncomfortable feelings it may stir up, conflict isn’t necessarily an aggressive confrontation or argument. It can often be a simple difference of opinion. The distinction lies in the importance of the issue and the amount of energy you put into it. If we stay alert to the possibility of conflicts and develop skills to deal with them, then we’re more likely to view conflicts as productive learning experiences.

We each have unique backgrounds, experiences, and approaches to various situations. Conflict resolution begins with understanding and validating the other person’s point of view. This understanding helps create the opportunity to achieve effective conflict resolution together.

As part of my role in the Center for Leadership Excellence, I facilitate a class called Managing Conflict, using the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI). The TKI involves taking a behavioral assessment that identifies your typical approach to conflict situations. The five approaches in the TKI are Competing, Collaborating, Compromising, Avoiding, and Accommodating. Each represents a set of social skills and each is useful in certain situations. In the class, we delve into the implications of each style and assess conflict scenarios. The more we learn how to successfully deal with conflict, the better equipped we are to help others do the same. If this topic interests you, come join the CLE team on March 30th to find out more!


Samantha Campbell
Wednesday, March 8, 2017

CLE facilitators, Jess Dollar and Rachel Parsley, led a tour of Grounds as part of Grounds for Success Orientation on March 7, 2017. Welcome, new colleagues! 


Samantha Campbell 
Friday, March 3, 2017

Q: What song would you sing at karaoke night?
A: A Scottish folk song called The Skye Boat Song, but actually I can’t imagine doing karaoke!

Q: What does leadership mean to you? 
A: A leader is someone who knows him/herself and team members well enough to let each person bring their strengths to the mission. Characteristics are compassion, caring, reading people well, intelligence, and passion.

Q: Your favorite place to eat in Charlottesville?
A: MarieBette and Bizou

Q: What is your proudest/greatest achievement outside of the professional realm?
A: My husband and I have raised our two children to grow into the wonderful, caring, smart, and thoughtful independent adults they were meant to be.

Q: What are three things you love about UVA?
A: The history, the Academical Village, and the opportunity for exploring and offering my own interests and gifts.

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: Rocks from far off places that I or friends have visited.

Q: Why did you choose your profession?  
A: I have had several professions in my adult life. I am drawn to exploring whom I can be and what I can offer that makes the world a better place or makes an individual life better.

Q: What are you usually doing on the weekend or during time off?
A: Reading, watching movies, singing shape note music, traveling, being with my husband and pets, and visiting family.

Q: What is the best advice anyone ever gave you?
A: Try to understand and accept people just as they are.

Q: What about you would surprise us?
A: I love to dance really crazy!

Carolyn Cullen
Tuesday, February 28, 2017

You’ve likely heard about 360° assessments, but have you ever participated in one? This kind of assessment gathers feedback from your peers, managers, direct reports, and others who have seen you in action, typically at work (although you may also gather feedback from folks outside of UVA). At the same time your raters are taking the survey, you also complete the same assessment as the ratee. The resulting report gives you a 360° view of your strengths and development opportunities. Perhaps the most important thing to know about 360° surveys is that they are anonymous and confidential, which is vital. As the ratee, you won’t know who has completed the survey, with the exception of your direct manager (assuming you have only one). It’s important for the raters to know they can be truthful while also being helpful.

Once you receive your survey results, you can see if there is alignment between your view of your strengths and opportunities and those of your raters. If not, you can usually drill deeper in your final report to see if the misalignment is coming from one particular audience (i.e. your peers), so you know with whom to direct your efforts.

After you’ve had time to reflect on the results, it’s time to come up with a plan to focus on the areas of opportunity selected for you. But how do you convey that you’re doing that? It’s not like you’ll walk around with a sign saying, “I’m now more approachable” or “I’m now more open to others’ input.” Putting your 360° feedback into an action plan typically involves small tweaks rather than holistic changes. Think about it as turning a dial up or down one click instead of turning it from one to 100.  

Taking a 360° can be an important step on your leadership journey, though it does require you to be a bit vulnerable. But don’t you want to know if you’re being as effective and impactful as you intend? And if you find that you’re not, developing your action plan to improve likely means making some little changes that will have a big impact.