Leadership Lab

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

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.  

Jess Dollar
Friday, February 17, 2017

Our CLE team recently had our annual retreat, and it included a fun trivia game to get to know each other better.  One category was ‘When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?’ The answers got us talking and laughing!  Our childhood dreams included professional violinist, ice cream maker, talk show host, travel writer, news anchor… and even a horse!  We had all these different ideas when we were young, and now here we all are working in the Center for Leadership Excellence.  How did that happen?

Of course, along the way to our current careers, each of us held many other jobs too.  Some of them were directly connected to our college majors or career goals, but others came up along the way and just sort of happened.  For me, I went from my first teenage job as babysitter to camp counselor, resident advisor, elementary teacher, ropes course teambuilding facilitator, academic advisor, college instructor… and now I am a Learning & Development Specialist at UVA.  This windy path is in contrast to my grandparents’ experiences, who had lifetime careers in one place.  You know, the generation who asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

For a little while, I was concerned about my circuitous career path.  Will I look like a job-hopper?  What do these things have to do with each other?  Will I ever find my ‘dream job’?  And then I saw an amazing Ted Talk by a young woman named Emilie Wapnick.  She spoke about people just like me who had traveled many paths and explored several career options.  And instead of calling them lost souls or job-hoppers, Emilie used the term ‘multipotentialites.’ Suddenly it clicked!  I’m a multipotentialite! 

Once I adopted that title for myself, I felt quite liberated.  I have learned to embrace the fact that my circuitous career path is not a flaw, but an asset.  It provides a well-rounded perspective on life, gives me a wealth of knowledge to draw from, and keeps me renewed and energized as I focus on new passions. 

As I was thinking about this topic, I came across a great LinkedIn article by Michaela Alexis, who encourages us to celebrate career diversity. She wrote, “If I never let go of my first dream job, I'd still be a can of beans.”  I love this!  Michaela suggests moving beyond the idea that we define ourselves by our job titles.  She encourages us to not get ‘stuck’ in a career, but rather that we can continue to grow and change throughout our lives. 

So what does your path look like?  Have you found the dream job and stuck with it all along, or have you explored many options along the way?  In fact, you may even have had several dream jobs along the way!  This is what I love about working at a university.  There are so many different things happening here, and we have room to stay in one place but continue to grow.  There are wonderful resources available, like tuition benefits for academic courses or – I’m biased here – you can try the great classes offered by the CLE! 

UVA might not be able to help you become a can of beans or a horse, but it’s a great place to be if you’re a multipotentialite!  What will you learn next?  

Lindsey Reese
Friday, February 10, 2017

What’s your response when someone says, “Can I give you some feedback?” Do you run for the nearest exit, hop in your car, and never look back? Do you say “sure” as you prepare yourself to bite your tongue? Or do you welcome it as an opportunity for growth? I think many of us, including myself, have a tendency to take the first or second approach. When did feedback become a dirty word? How can we shift our mindsets to be more open and accepting of receiving feedback from others?

Employees who are receptive to feedback and who openly solicit it create opportunities to improve their self-awareness and overall performance. Additionally, interpersonal feedback is also a key ingredient in building relationships with others.

If you want to shift your mindset to be more open to receiving feedback, here are a few suggestions:

  • Assume good intent: If someone gives you constructive feedback, assume that it is coming from a good place and that he/she truly cares about your growth and development.
  • Use feedback as a way to connect with others: If you receive constructive feedback, view it as an opportunity to find a mentor or peer who can help you improve.
  • Own the feedback: Don’t write off the feedback or get defensive. Feedback provides you with an opportunity to understand how others perceive you. Use this information to identify specific actions you can take to improve.
  • Start small: Asking for feedback doesn’t have to be a big event. Find opportunities in your day-to-day activities to solicit feedback from others. The more you ask for feedback, the greater your comfort level will be with receiving it.
  • Be transparent about what you are working on: Share your challenges and areas of opportunity with colleagues you trust. Ask if they can observe your behavior and provide you with feedback based on your areas of focus. Check in with them periodically to track your progress.

There’s no denying that receiving feedback can be awkward, but it is a crucial part of how we learn and develop as professionals. If you’re willing to give it a go, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of feedback and techniques for building a feedback-rich culture, check out the great suggestions in this article.

Samantha Campbell
Friday, February 3, 2017


Q: What song would you sing at karaoke night?
A: Gloria – Patti Smith’s version.

Q: What does leadership mean to you? 
A: Big question! To me, leadership means empowering yourself and others to contribute to a common cause in meaningful ways.

Q: Your favorite place to eat in Charlottesville?
A: Alley Light.

Q: What is your proudest/greatest achievement outside of the professional realm?
A: For now, I’d say leading a gentle life without intentionally causing harm. I hope my greatest achievement is yet to come.

Q: What are three things you love about UVA?
A: The serpentine walls, the camaraderie, and it’s where I met the love of my life.

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: Sea shells, sea glass, and alebrijes (Oaxacan wood carvings).

Q: Why did you choose your profession?  
A: People fascinate me. I love finding out what makes them tick, learning from them, and sharing my knowledge. Working for the Center for Leadership Excellence is the perfect place for me!

Q: What are you usually doing on the weekend or during time off?
A: Weekends are for relaxing, hanging with friends, and spending as much time as possible with my dog, Koko. Time off is for travel!!

Q: What is the best advice anyone ever gave you?
A:  Tell the truth with kindness.

Q: What about you would surprise us?
A:  I have a pony! An ornery, little pony that came with our house when we bought it.

Bryan Garey
Friday, January 27, 2017

This ain’t your Dad’s HR!    

While no one can predict the future with any reliable degree of certainty, I’d like to boldly state that Human Resources in 10+ years will look very different from today.  Just like “HR” didn’t exist 25 years ago (remember “Personnel?”), the current way HR works will change and, I believe, so will the perception of HR.

And, on the subject of perception, HR ranks among the lowest of the administrative functions, right above audit and just below compliance.  When you see HR in the media… remember Toby from The Office?  Catbert from Dilbert?  Enough said.

So, how will HR look, 10 years out?

  1.  No more transactions!  Ok, transactional work will take place, but this will be done quickly and easily through simple apps.  Any HR work in this area will be in quality control and trouble shooting.
  2.  Welcome Center.  From hire to preboarding to onboarding to early days, HR will steward new employees into the organization, helping to introduce culture and history and facilitate relationship building with other employees and the organization.
  3.  Data hub.  Managers will come to know HR as the place to go for helpful employee and workplace data, from current state information to predictive analytics.
  4.  No longer HR!  Not sure what we will be called, but the time has come to rebrand the function.  Google calls it “People Operations” and while that may not be the new name, look for change…employee success, people affairs, maybe even personnel?  Not!
  5.  Embedded in the organization. The long sought after “seat at the table” will be a given as executives will not think twice about “people operations” as being critically important to organizational success.

Change is happening in HR, not just at UVA, but everywhere.  And, though my predictions may not hit the mark, you can bank on a different, more dynamic function; it will be one that helps drive organization success, not just support it. 

What a great career choice for 2017 and beyond!


Carrie Baker
Friday, January 20, 2017

I’ll never forget my first experience with Grounds for Success. I was a new employee about to start my first full-time job at UVA. As a graduate of the University, I wondered what this would be like - taking a tour of Grounds now that I was an employee, especially sharing this experience with other new employees, some of whom were seeing the Lawn and Rotunda for the first time. A lot of the information shared was familiar, though I did learn some new facts and of course made new connections. But what really made an impression on me was the facilitator.

I can recall her face very clearly in my mind. More specifically, I can recall what I saw on her face that day, it was a look that I recognized from the faces of fellow students or faculty members when they talked about the University, it was a look of pride and love. And that resonated with me. The tour ended in the Rotunda where she took us up one of the staircases and stopped in front of a half-circle window. 

There, she told us the story of the last time Mr. Jefferson rode his horse down to the Rotunda from Monticello, near the end of his life, and how he sat quietly in a chair at that window, looking out over the Lawn and his University. After a while he got up, mounted his horse, and returned to Monticello, where he passed away not long after. She choked up as she told the story, and then she wondered aloud what he must have been thinking about as he sat there gazing out that window. It almost seemed she was asking that question to herself just as much as she was to the larger group. I got caught up in the emotion myself and I couldn’t help but wonder – does she have this same reaction every time she leads this tour? Does she genuinely find this much joy telling the same stories and leading the same tour time after time? Either way, it moved me. 

I took this picture during my own new employee orientation in 2013.

With that experience fresh in my mind, I went on to start my new job at the University. I felt proud to be an employee at UVA, especially after learning in GFS that it is statistically harder to land a job at UVA than to be admitted as a student. A couple years later, I took a new job in central HR. At a staff meeting, I learned that a representative from my new team traditionally would serve as one of the GFS facilitators and that they were looking for a volunteer for the upcoming year. I had no idea that this was an option for me, I figured this role was only reserved for employees from the training and development team. I jumped at the chance to be a part of something that had made such an impact on me and hoped I would have the opportunity to do the same for future employees.

This year, I have had the privilege of being a GFS facilitator. Each time I stand in front of a group of new, fresh-faced employees, I am reminded of that feeling I felt on my first day, and I am honored that I can help shape their first impressions of the University. I recall my GFS facilitator, and I can only hope that I radiate the same type of energy, pride, and love for UVA that she did. I know one thing for certain - each time I facilitate GFS, I come away with a renewed appreciation for my job and I am reminded why I love this University so much. And I can answer that question I posed to myself during my orientation – I know that my facilitator must have found genuine joy in facilitating, because I have found that same joy.

This picture is from one of my first times facilitating GFS.


Rachel Parsley
Friday, January 13, 2017

At the start of each New Year, as many of us do, I make resolutions. Some have stuck with me, and many (too many!) have fallen by the wayside. As another new year rolls around, I’ve decided this year’s resolution is to explore and further define my professional purpose.

Purpose is defined as “The reason why something is done. An object or end to be attained; an action in the course of execution.” Simply by definition, it’s clear that we all likely have a great many purposes, because we have many things to do, many reasons to complete them, and many goals to reach.

All of the things we do each day in our personal life, our professional life, our hobbies, with our families, and with the people that surround us, play a role in one, if not all, of our purposes.

You could say my purpose is to be a daughter, sister, mother, aunt, cousin, friend, or co-worker. My purpose might be as a baker, organizer, coupon-clipper, meatball maker, singer, reader, traveler, or wine lover. My purpose could be as a listener, a talker, a joke teller, a consoler, an analyzer, a writer, an adventurer, an event planner, or a brainstormer. And the list goes on and on…

I know that I am good at and enjoy all of those things. They provide a sense of purpose for me in my personal life and some spillover to my professional life too. Defining your purpose from a personal perspective is relatively easy. It’s just the things that come to mind when you’re asked to describe yourself on a very basic level: who you are and what you like to do. It’s interesting that by default, that just by being you, personal purposes are established.

It is a bit harder, I think, to define your professional or career purpose. This is especially true, for instance, if you’re new to your role, if you’re working on things that are challenging or are outside of your area of expertise, or if you made a major career change after many years of working for the same department or company.

Think about it this way: professional purpose, at its core, is a combination of what you love, what you’re great at, what you’re paid to do, and is something that the world needs.

Graphic: stgeorgeutah.com

What you love. Passion should definitely play a role in your job. It might be that you absolutely love working with the public, drafting correspondence, brainstorming, or managing a budget. More than likely, you won’t love every aspect of your position, but what you like most about your job is likely your passion and that overlaps with:

What you’re great at. This incorporates not only what you love about your position, but also what you do best. Perhaps your favorite part of the workday isn’t making spreadsheets or replying to emails, but they are areas in which you excel and are ways in which you are able to contribute to your team. Your passion for what you really like to do combines with what you’re great at, which makes your profession, and that overlaps with:

You are paid for it. They say that if you find a job you like, you’ll never have to “work” a day in your life. It also goes without saying that most people need to work and be paid for their work. A profession you enjoy and are good at and are paid for naturally becomes your vocation. That overlaps with:

The world needs it. The world needs a variety of talents and skilled workers to keep going. Your career should be one that leads or supports an effort you feel strongly about. This becomes your mission and becomes part of what you love.

It’s not easy to identify a core or sole purpose in life, let alone in your professional career. In our roles at work, we serve many purposes, and those purposes are ever-changing. It’s sometimes easy to forget how we got where we are in the career world, and once we’re there, it can be hard to remember from day-to-day how to challenge ourselves, learn new things, and take on new tasks.

This year, my resolution is to focus on my central professional purpose. To be mindful that although I have many purposes in life, I also serve many purposes in my career. I am grateful to have a job that I love, that I’m great at (if I do say so, myself!), that pays me fairly, and that allows me to contribute to the needs of the world. I enjoy going to work every day; my job challenges me, excites me, and keeps me on my toes. My passion for my position is furthered even more because my personal and professional growth is encouraged and fostered.

I invite you to reflect on your professional purpose. It’s something we don’t do very often, but we really should. Oftentimes, we simply just keep going through the motions day after day and don’t stop to think about all the reasons we’re in this world and doing the work we do. Allowing yourself a moment to reflect upon why you’re in the role you are, what you truly enjoy about it, and to acknowledge what you’re really good at, as well as to note the contributions you are making to your profession, is an enlightening and encouraging reminder that you have true purpose.

Samantha Campbell
Friday, January 6, 2017

Q: What song would you sing at karaoke night?
A: “Don’t Stop Believin'" by Journey

Q: What does leadership mean to you? 
A: To me, leadership means translating a vision into reality by influencing and empowering others.

Q: What is your favorite place to eat in Charlottesville?
A: It’s too hard to pick just one so I’m naming several – Tavola, Mas, Continental Divide, Monsoon Siam, and C&O.

Q: What is your proudest/greatest achievement outside of the professional realm?
A: Being close with my parents and my brother.

Q: What are three things you love about UVA?
A: The history, Grounds (especially in the Fall), and the variety of events offered.  

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: Does wine count?

Q: Why did you choose your profession?  
A: I love working in an environment where I can interact with different people, exchange ideas, and learn new things.

Q: What are you usually doing on the weekend or during time off?
A: Right now, a lot of my weekends are spent in school because I’m working on my MS in Organization Development and Knowledge Management. On my free weekends, I enjoy taking advantage of everything Charlottesville has to offer – visiting vineyards and breweries, going to the City Market, going for a walk or a hike, and eating at different restaurants. If I have more time off than a weekend, I love to travel.

Q: What is the best advice anyone ever gave you?
A:  Live a life true to yourself, not the life others expect of you.

Q: What about you would surprise us?
A:  I’ve never had the chicken pox. Don’t worry - I got the vaccine!