Leadership Lab

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

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!


Lindsey Reese
Thursday, December 29, 2016

The new year is right around the corner. What are your leadership goals for 2017? Get some inspiration from ten CEOs on how they plan to improve their leadership style. Check it out HERE.

Samantha Campbell 
Friday, December 16, 2016

I recently attended the Exceptional Assistant Network (EAN) graduation ceremony where UVA’s Assistant Vice President of Human Resources, Bryan Garey spoke. He talked about Zig Zigler and the power of owning your choice. So I started thinking…

 “You have a choice.” Powerful words to live by. No matter what, you always have a choice. You can choose to be happy, and you can also choose to be unhappy. The situation doesn’t control you. You create the situation based on how you choose to deal with it.

Doesn’t that make you feel empowered? To live a life knowing you are in control. We all know those times when life throws you a few curve balls. It can be difficult to see through to the other side, but you will get there one way or another, so why not choose to be happy - or kind, or thankful?

Often, I hear people talk about all the things they don’t have and how different their lives would be if they only had those things. Well guess what? You are in control of your life. The grass is always greener - until you realize that you have the best soil on the street, right in your own yard. You already have the tools to live that amazing life you talk about.

First things first, be thankful for the wonderful things you do have – a warm place to lay your head at night, a refrigerator with food in it, a job that pays you money so you can support yourself and your family. All of these things are good. When the first negative thing happens - you get a flat tire, a bill you weren’t expecting, you get sick - the next moments define your future. In fifteen years, will you remember these inconveniences? If you choose to be unhappy and miserable, will it make the situation better? Most likely, it will not. What if you choose to be thankful, or grateful, that maybe that flat tire kept you from getting into a bad accident, or that extra bill will help you get out of debt faster, or when you got sick that your body needed time to rest (and catch up on your favorite TV show!) and heal so you can be 100% in the present?

Take a look at this graphic I found, comprised of results from more than 40 research studies on gratitude. Pretty interesting!

Of course everyone’s life might be “better” with a million dollars, but if you only concentrate on the things you don’t have by saying how much better your life would be with them, then you will miss out on all of the things you do have. You might not realize the power and life-changing energy you contain within yourself, and it’s so simple. It’s also free. It’s the power of choice; the positive power of good, and we all have it.

So how will you choose to feel today? Tomorrow? Next week? It feels good to feel good!


Theran Fisher
Friday, December 9, 2016

It’s hard to believe that 2016 is coming to a close. There seems to be a general disbelief that it is December and soon we will be taking time off for the holidays and to ring in 2017. Perhaps we have a distorted sense of time because our work has not slowed down – if anything, it is speeding up. Maybe it’s because we don’t feel ready for the year end. For me personally, I struggle to fully grasp the date on the calendar simply because this year has been one of continuous change; it’s hard to put a bow on that which you never fully got your arms around in the first place.

Now, I like change. I can see the opportunity in it and enjoy a challenge, so I do not wish to convey that 2016 has been a bad year. Quite the contrary, it has been a wonderful year full of growth for our team and has offered opportunities to celebrate each other’s accomplishments and transitions. Here are just a few of the highlights from the past twelve months.

New faces! Over the past year we welcomed Samantha Campbell, Rachel Parsley, and Jess Hench to our team. It has been wonderful watching them integrate with the team and add their voices to our work.

New opportunities. 2016 started off a little rocky as Tamara Fleming, the CLE’s previous Director, announced her departure from UVA. Tamara was instrumental in the formation of the CLE and a wonderful colleague and friend. Holly Heilberg was also a key member of the CLE who celebrated her retirement this summer. We were saddened to see both of them go, but are tremendously happy for them as they take advantage of new opportunities.

Shaping our future. More recently, members of our team transitioned to the Ufirst project team, working to develop the future of Human Resources at UVA. We are grateful that Leslie Andrus, Heather Humphrey, Diane Lahue, and Carolyn Cullen are still a part of the University and are working to make it a better place.

Professional development. Over the course of this year we have made an intentional effort to develop ourselves and our programs. We’ve engaged with our colleagues from other parts of the University in joint trainings, added new programs, and continued to improve existing ones.

A new look. This year we launched our new website and created new marketing materials. We continue to add new features and find new ways to reach our audience, like this blog, the Leadership Lab.

Of course, there has been so much more worth celebrating over the past 12 months, and we will take time to do so at our Team’s annual retreat. We’re also eagerly looking to the future and anticipating what 2017 will bring. I sincerely hope you will join us and be a part of the CLE’s year to come.