Leadership Lab

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

Carolyn Cullen
Friday, September 16, 2016

On Wednesday night, we hosted a reception at The Fralin for the newest executives who have joined UVA, plus Deans and Vice Presidents. We were lucky enough to see the Andy Warhol exhibit that night (it closes September 18th - so hurry before it’s too late!) and three things became clear by the end of the evening: we have very smart and talented employees at UVA; these employees are doing tremendous work that’s making a difference for our students; and creativity and innovation are all around us here at UVA.

I know we all know these three things, but how often do we actually take time to reflect and appreciate them? Time is a precious commodity, and sometimes it’s hard to find the time to explore what’s in our own backyard. But just as Andy Warhol impacted pop art, these newest executives are already impacting UVA.

I met folks from all areas of the University who bring dynamism, a different perspective, and big ideas to their roles every day. A few minutes were just enough to pique my curiosity about my own contributions. When was the last time I pushed the boundaries of my own thinking, let alone the impact of my role? That’s what Warhol did. He pushed the boundaries of pop art by taking iconic images and reimagining them. At the time, it was very cutting-edge, and it continues to be so today.

We know we already have the best of the best working at UVA, and these newest hires are reinforcing that standard. We impact our students – even if we don’t work with them directly – by the work of those who have taken great care of this institution over the last nearly 200 years. We are charged with preserving a tremendous legacy while at the same time advancing that legacy for the next 200 years.

What will your legacy at UVA be? Do we even think of our jobs in these terms? If not, should we?

Theran Fisher
Friday, September 9, 2016

One of my favorite aspects of my work with the Center for Leadership Excellence is helping others explore their personalities. Our personalities are our outward facing selves, the way in which our values, fears, and ego drivers manifest themselves in our day-to-day actions and preferences. Since leadership is rooted in self-awareness, learning about our personality is often a fun and easy way to begin developing our own leadership style.

Perhaps the most widely known – and misunderstood – aspect of our personalities is introversion and extroversion. The common misconception is that those with a preference for introversion are shy and don’t like to socialize, while those who prefer extroversion are outgoing and talkative. In reality, introversion and extroversion describe two things: how we prefer to engage with the world and how we recharge our psychological batteries. Those with a preference for introversion prefer to engage with the world through thoughts and ideas and recharge by processing information quietly in their own heads. Folks who prefer extroversion tend to engage with the world through action and recharge by engaging with others through either an activity or socializing. An over simplification would be to say that introverts think to speak, and extroverts speak to think.

I happen to have a very strong preference for introversion, yet my job requires me to spend a great deal of time speaking in front of others (i.e. extroverting), whether it be facilitating a class, leading a meeting, or guiding a conversation. I enjoy extroverting, and think I am pretty good at it, but as an introvert, it is mentally tiring. After a long day of facilitating, I need time to be alone and recharge.

Gaining a better understanding of what introversion and extroversion really mean and how different people express their preference can be hugely beneficial to your team. You can gain a better understanding of why people behave the way they do, what you can do to support them, and how to appropriately challenge them to either introvert or extrovert when needed.

Heather Humphrey
Friday, September 2, 2016

Next week, we will welcome Jess Hench to the CLE team. Jess is a Learning and Development Specalist and we are excited to have her. Get to know Jess below.

Q: What song would you sing at karaoke night?
“What’s Up?” by Four Non Blondes

Q: What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership is about discovering the potential in people and helping to unleash that potential. This happens by inspiring and encouraging people, helping them discover their strengths, and providing opportunities for them to act on those strengths so they can live up to their true potential. 

Q: Your favorite place to eat in Charlottesville?
Brazos Tacos (mmmm……tacos….. what was I working on?)

Q: What is your proudest/greatest achievement outside of the professional realm?
When I was 16, I rode a bicycle from Seattle, Washington back to my home state of Connecticut. It took nine weeks, and we crossed about 4,000 miles. It helped me realize that I can achieve anything if I set my mind to it and put in the work to do it, and it became the first of many lofty goals that I set out to accomplish.

Q: What are three things you love about UVA?
My family has lived in Charlottesville for a long time, but I’m newly a resident myself, so I’m just getting to know UVA in a whole different way. 1. I love the way UVA is the hub of this community, providing events and opportunities for all residents of Charlottesville. 2. I love how beautiful it is, and I look forward to getting to know Grounds through the seasons. 3. I love how it’s a modern university, yet grounded in tradition.

Q: Do you collect anything?
I collect teapots.

Q: Why did you choose your profession? 
I have always been a teacher at heart, and I have taught in many ways in many places. I spent several years teaching elementary school, have taught college students. I have worked with adults in various training and learning settings, and I also worked as a teambuilding facilitator at a high ropes course. I love having opportunities to inspire people and to bring out the best in people. I am excited to join the wonderful CLE team and to work with members of the UVA community. 

Q: What are you usually doing on the weekend or during time off?
Spending time outside hiking, running, or gardening. Also enjoying the great live music and awesome food of Charlottesville. During longer breaks, I love traveling and exploring new places.

Q: What is the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Use your strengths to help others.

Q: What about you would surprise us?
A:  I’ve spent most of my life in school!

Theran Fisher
Friday, August 26, 2016

The Center for Leadership Excellence focuses on development. It’s baked into everything we do: leadership development, skill development, and organizational development. Development is the most often used word in our office. Yet like everyone else, we get so wrapped up in the deadlines and details of our work that we let our own development slide to the bottom of the ever-growing To Do list.

But we are trying to be more intentional about our own development. We recently spent two days training with our friends and colleagues from the Health System’s Learning and Organizational Development team. We learned new skills, refined existing ones, and had fun collaborating.  We also gained valuable insight into what it’s like to be on the receiving end of professional development. Insights that we need to keep in mind as we continue our work of helping others develop, such as . . . .

  • Development can be scary. Practicing new skills and changing existing behaviors can be awkward and uncomfortable; especially when you are doing it in front of others.  Since our training focused on facilitation skills, we were constantly getting up in front of one another (and the camera!) to speak. Even for those of us who facilitate all the time, it can be nerve-wracking.
  • Development takes time. If you want to improve and learn new skills, you can’t simply read a book or receive feedback. You have to put in the time to learn, practice, and ingrain new behaviors. Stepping away from our offices for two full days was tough, but worth it.
  • Development requires focus. During our two days, my mind often wandered back to my inbox and the work that was inevitably piling up. In the afternoons I’d start to get tired and regress to old and familiar behaviors. I had to focus intently to remain present and learn.
  • Development is fun. Being around other folks committed to their own learning and gaining new tips and tricks is just fun.

We’re taking what we’ve learned and incorporating it into our work. We hope it makes a difference. We also hope you’ll take the time to focus on your own development and take part in one of our programs. We’d love to hear how we’re doing.