New Year, New Blog Site

Hello! Thanks for reading my posts over the years.  I have recently changed blog sites.  Please visit my new site and please consider subscribing to my blog.  If you subscribed to this blog via a wordpress account you are NOT automatically subscribed onthe new page.

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Halfway to 70: 

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Have a great day!

Ann Marie

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The Last 30 Days

January is a time for new beginnings and yet the next 30 days are the end of a journey that for me began 4 years and 5 months ago.

I remember going to class on the first day of my doctoral program feeling like a million bucks. This, I thought, is going to be fun. No biggie. I know how to be a student!

That was also the day the glass shattered and my previously held notions about being a doctoral student faded away. I have always had a healthy amount of self-confidence and yet this is a process that has made me doubt myself to my core–my abilities, my writing and my intelligence–on a daily basis.

One of the faculty members told me that the smartest people don’t necessarily graduate but the students who consistently work hard and persevere will make it to the finish line.  I kept that in mind during the really tough times–like when I put my hard copy of chapter two (full of red ink and edits) under my bed and didn’t touch it for three months because I felt so demoralized.  I also remembered her wise words when I moved to Oregon two days after my final class.  Far away from my classmates and my professors I had to find the internal motivation to keep making progress from 2,200 miles away.

As I approach the finish line I recognize that I have learned a lot about myself in the process.

1–I struggle with self-confidence when asked to present my original work: This may not make a lot of sense to people who read my blog or have seen me present at a conference but it is absolutely true.  I am 100% confident in those other kinds of venues but when it comes to scholarly research, this program has made me question if I actually belong in the academic arena which is just as painful for me to write it as it is to read it.

The truth is, I don’t want anyone other than my professors to attend my dissertation defense next month. I know this is usually a time for family and friends to come and celebrate the moment they say “Congratulations Dr. Klotz!” but to me, this whole process where professors question every detail of your work is incredibly difficult-and I would prefer that those closest to me not be a witness to that.  I am being honest with myself and trying to survive the last hurdle with as much grace and confidence as possible.

2–I have learned to embrace my idiosyncrasies: I live my life fairly consistently (my close friends are rolling their eyes and laughing at this one!) I like to wake up at the same time, eat the same things and set up a to-do list for my life and my work every day. I love itineraries and schedules.

Those same (dare I say rigid??) practices have tremendously helped me to set up systems to write and edit consistently. It was also a common theme amongst my interview participants–they are able to manage their incredibly complex lives and schedules in a similar way. Their stories actually made made my (some may say ‘odd’) ways seem normal!

3–It truly does take a village:  I ran my very first race in June of 2012–just ten days after I moved to Oregon.  I barely knew anyone and I certainly didn’t know anyone who was running this race.  As I sprinted towards the finish line, I heard my name being yelled.  Who could that be? I wondered.  Turns out, some of my new colleagues had seen that I was doing this race on social media and they came out to support me.  “Everyone should have a cheering session,” my colleague later said to me.

Similarly, in the marathon that is getting a terminal degree, the “cheering section” is also a necessary component.  I know that it is because of the outpouring of belief and support in me that I was able to move forward when I honestly thought I couldn’t write one more word.

This next 30 days are like starting mile 25 of a marathon for me.  While the challenges are far from over, I can see the finish line, and it is beautiful.

What journeys are you beginning or ending in 2014?

Follow me on Twitter: @annmarieklotz

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Mentorship in Practice

There are a number of resources available on finding a mentor. A simple Google search will point you in a good direction. Less abundant are personal accounts that describe what that mentorship relationship looks like when actualized – particularly in our profession. As such, we thought some might find value in our thoughts as we reflect on our mentorship relationship over the past year. For formality sake, we are Ann Marie Klotz (said mentor) and Matt Bloomingdale (said mentee).

How did your relationship form?

AMK: We first met as colleagues where I was a Residence Hall Director and Matt was in his graduate program and working as an Assistant Residence Hall Director. I did not supervise him in any capacity, I just always admired his intellect, confidence and follow-through. Despite his penchant for wearing a Nebraska baseball cap, I found him to be mature beyond his years.

Matt: AMK and I worked together at Ball State University while I was starting my graduate work. When I first arrived, I didn’t yet have a supervisor and she was one of the first professionals that I sought advice from until the position was filled. We collaborated on a common reading program she chaired and always appreciated her drive and the high expectations she had for herself and those she worked with.

How was the relationship formalized?

AMK: Matt and I have kept in touch over the years, but a few years ago he asked me to present a program with him at a regional NASPA conference and we realized how complimentary our styles were. We each brought different specific strengths to the table and have always been very honest with each other in terms of feedback.

In 2013, Matt asked if we could formalize our relationship and I asked him a lot of questions to be sure I would be a good fit for him.  I wanted to ensure that I could give him what he was looking for and I also wanted him to understand what my expectations of him would be, too.  These kinds of relationships are reciprocal and we should actually both benefit from our relationship.

Matt: About three and half years ago, AMK called and asked why I wasn’t more involved. I told her I was involved in plenty. She coerced me into applying to be a NASPA KC Representative which required me to attend the NASPA 4E conference. Since I was obligated to attend the conference, I told AMK that she was now obligated to present with me.

One of the things I recognized in working with AMK is that she has several strengths that I think correspond to my areas for growth. There are elements of her professional path that mimic future steps in my professional path. It is nice asking advice of someone who has recently experienced what I am now experiencing. This does not mean I always take her advice – but it is certainly nice having context from someone who has an intimate understanding of what I am experiencing. To be honest, I’ve always considered her a mentor, but thought it was important that she also have the choice to have me as a mentee.

I think formalizing the relationship is key and often overlooked. I think there are those that we think of as mentors, but perhaps have not taken the time to formalize this relationship. Asking AMK opened up a number of conversations regarding goals and expectations that we otherwise would not have had and it certainly has made our relationship more fruitful.

What does your relationship look like on a day-to-day basis?

AMK: This was one of the first questions I asked Matt when we were talking about formalizing our relationship.  I wanted to understand what he wanted from me in terms of time and in what way—phone, Skype, etc.–he preferred to communicate. We connect in some way—phone, text, email a few times per week.

In a simple phrase—we help each other to achieve our goals.  Matt is currently building a website for my speaking and consulting endeavors and I have written articles for his blog and assisted with his job search preparation. We are mindful of how our skills can push each other to move forward.

Consider this text exchange from last week:

Matt: The Student Affairs Feature 2.0 is going live tomorrow.

AMK: It’s January 1st.  Most people are hungover this morning.  You are publishing a book today.  You should be so proud of your labor of love.  You are remarkable!

Matt: You have to say that.

AMK: I surely don’t have to say that.  It’s just the truth.

Matt: Minority opinion, I’m sure, but thanks regardless.

AMK: Stop cutting yourself down—you need to quit that before you start in your new role. You are teaching people how to treat you.  Choose your words carefully.

Matt: Fair enough.  I’m *freaking awesome!

*He didn’t really say freaking, but this is a family show.

AMK: Matt recently received a promotion and so we have been chatting about how he will be perceived differently.  We are working on how he can still be his authentically, humble self while owning all of his success.

Matt: I think it’s rare if a day or two goes by in which we don’t connect in some way (via email, text, or occasionally Twitter). Often, I read something that gets me thinking and I use her as a sounding board before I jump on it. Some days, it’s telling her that her latest Facebook post was a little ridiculous, other days it’s asking for career advice.

What I appreciate about AMK is she’s always asking the next question. For example, I’ll tell her I have an upcoming interview. I think most would ask if I feel prepared. AMK asks when are we going to schedule a practice interview. There is a higher level of investment. I think she sees my successes as our successes. Not in a narcissistic way, but rather because she is so invested in my success that she can’t help but take it a little personally when I fail or take some ownership when I succeed.

I think there is this perception that because I’m the “mentee” and she’s the “mentor” that I’m always asking for advice and she’s always the one giving advice. But, I was surprised how often those roles are reversed. In a way, it makes sense. Any other type of relationship would be selfish, no? Certainly, I tend to ask advice of her more than she asks of me, but there are a number of times when I receive a text or an email (we both despise voice messages) where she wants me to review a blog post or get my perspective on something.

What do you consider to be your role/responsibilities in this relationship?

AMK: Sounding board, gentle pusher, sometimes not-so-gentle pusher,
advocate, cheerleader, and coach—all depending on the day and the circumstance.

Matt: Being open-minded to growth and challenges. Communicating what is going on in my professional life. I certainly feel an obligation to follow-up on the things she asks of me. If I’m asking her for assistance and she requires something of me to fulfill my request, it finds itself high on the priority list. It’s interesting. Because of the personal relationship we have, one might think that it would be easier to put these things off – that she would be more understanding – but in many ways I feel as obligated to her as my supervisor.

What do you ask of each other?

AMK: I ask for Matt to think big and dream bigger.  I ask for follow-through 100% of the time. That may seem very basic but it isn’t.  We also make a good team because we have similar thoughts on the importance of contributing to the advancement of the field.  If he is critical about something in Student Affairs I will ask him to consider how he can contribute to making it better in his small corner of the world.

Matt: Goodness. Everything? Certainly most of our conversations are profession-based. But, I think we are both personally and professionally invested in each other. I ask for a lot of advice. I ask for her to share her experience. I ask to be challenged. In fact, I knew AMK would challenge me to do things that few others would – certainly more than I would challenge myself. Ultimately, this is what made AMK most compelling as a mentor.

What do you expect from each other?

AMK: I expect him to stretch himself professionally all the time.  I see a part of my role as helping him to increase his professional confidence.  I expect that he continues to get what he needs from our relationship and if he isn’t, then we need to honestly talk about it.  I expect that he feels comfortable to challenge me and that he feels that I am a safe place to confide his professional struggles and aspirations.

Matt: Investment. Asking someone to be a mentor is a lot to ask. This is one reason why I think it’s important that these relationships are formalized. If you fail to do so, expecting the level of investment that I expect from AMK would likely lead to disappointment. There is a level of sacrifice that we expect of each other. We both know it necessary for our relationship to meet it’s fullest potential. If you are not willing to sacrifice for the other person, you relationship will be limited.

What does a good mentorship relationship require?

AMK: Consistency, honesty and a real commitment to their goals and future aspirations.

Matt: Honesty. Investment. Consistency.

How do you give each other feedback?

AMK: Honestly and right away. No holds barred. That works for us.  He tells me that I need to take more risks with my blog posts.  I tell him he needs to own his success instead of giving away all of the credit every time.  We consider the feedback and decide what, if any, changes we might make.  But we have a high level of respect for each other even when we disagree.

Like the time I told him he was absolutely crazy for breaking up with his girlfriend.  They are now married.

Matt: We sugarcoat nothing. Neither of us is worried about how the other perceives us. There’s not a lot of saving face. When we have something to tell the other, we say it, and deal with it. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this.

How do you prioritize your relationship?

AMK: If I have ten text messages or calls that I need to get back to, he will always be one of the first I respond to. I feel a sense of obligation to make sure I can support him. I also recognize that Matt needs a diversity of people who will help him professionally and I am only one part of his support network. As time goes on, Matt may decide that he no longer needs me in this capacity and that is absolutely fine. But for now I am really enjoying seeing his star rise.

Matt: When something exciting happens the first person I call is my partner. The next is AMK. I ask a lot of her – I recognize this. She makes sacrifices in order to serve as my mentor. In turn, I need to make the same sacrifices. Recently, she asked me to help her with a project. I didn’t think of it as a favor. I thought of it as an obligation. In turn, I think she feels the same obligation when I ask things of her.

We have both benefitted tremendously from this relationship because we are personally connected and professionally invested in each other. It works for us. Matt will still keep wearing his Nebraska hat and AMK will still post some things on Facebook that might cause Matt to shake his head. But we are fierce supporters of each other and felt compelled to write this blog post in the hopes that it might help you to understand how we have chosen to operationalize a relationship that helps us to move towards becoming better versions of ourselves.

Each mentoring situation looks differently—how have you operationalized your relationship?

AMK and Matt B 2

Follow us on Twitter @mbloomingdale & @annmarieklotz

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Adios 2013

Dear 2013,
You were a year of amazing highs and gut-wrenching lows. Does anyone else feel me on this?

I saw friends all around me deal with extremely challenging situations with family, finances, illness and workplace struggles.  2013, it seems, was not kind to everyone.

Let’s be clear and put this in perspective.  There are people in the world going through far worse atrocities but when challenging things are happening to YOU, all logic goes out the window and self-preservation kicks in.

As an eternal optimist I channeled all of my energy into bringing positive energy, people and activities into my life this year, especially during the rough patches. I think you learn a lot about yourself during times of struggle. I often wonder if we are raising and working with a generation of students who lack coping skills because no one has ever really told them that there will be times of incredible struggle.  Who is talking to them about how they they will have to lean into the discomfort instead of running away and/or self-medicating t0 ease the pain of the situation?

So I tried to take my own advice and did my best to lean into the discomfort. It’s not fun.   I failed a lot.  But in doing so I learned a great many things about myself:

1–I learned how to keep reaching out, even if you have been snubbed.  Sometimes the third time isn’t the charm, it’s the eighth.

2–I discovered that venturing out to try the things I have always been scared of isn’t just empowering but it also made me realize that the list of things I am actually scared to do decreased exponentially.  And that IS empowering!

3–I recognized that while nothing is really certain in this life, the ONE thing I know for sure is that–no matter what–I will always be OK. Knowing that, and truly believing that, creates an incredible sense of peace and stability.

4–I’ve learned that no single event, action or person can truly destroy you. But it can still knock you down hard. Getting up–swiftly and bravely–often requires something more than just your belief in yourself.  Often it is family, friends and faith that allow you to stand tall once again.
5–I’ve learned that uncertainty is OK.  As a die-hard “Type A” personality I even struggle to write those words!  But when life doesn’t go the way you planned, you have a choice to either let that stop you or keep moving forward on a slightly altered path.  I choose the latter because picking the former means you are giving that situation the power to limit your dreams and I simply refuse to do so.

In yoga class tonight we were doing this pose where you are balancing with your hands on your mat and your legs climbing up the back wall. You hold the pose and then do push-ups while having your feet still up on the wall. The instructor came over to me and said “Wow, I would never guess by looking at you that you have that kind of strength!”

I smiled to myself.  I never would have guessed that either.  And that might be my greatest lesson of the year.
What has 2013 taught you?
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Holiday Streak 2013

Most folks know that my mantra is to “always say yes.”

So when Ray Gasser created a new running challenge on the Nike+ app and invited me to join I didn’t hesitate. This “holiday streak” challenged participants to run at least one mile a day from Thanksgiving till New Years Day. I typically run 4-5 days a week so this will be fairly easy, I initially thought.

It isn’t. With the colder temperatures, end of term busyness at work, holiday travel, time with family and friends, and finishing my dissertation it has already been quite difficult and we are less than two weeks into this 35 day challenge!

Highlights include:

I had to limp to finish my mile the first couple of days after running the Seattle half-marathon on December 1st.

I ran five laps around a Target on the day after Thanksgiving in order to get my one mile in for the day. I joked with Ray that if I ended up on the 6:00 p.m. news as the crazy lady on Black Friday that I was going to publicly blame him 🙂

I live in a town that saw zero inches of snow last year but suddenly on December 7th I found myself gingerly running three miles on fresh powder after a record-breaking 8-inch snowfall.

But I am still hanging in there. I have faithfully laced up everyday at 5:00 a.m. or 9:00 p.m. depending on the day. One of the biggest lessons I have learned from my dissertation research on female college presidents is that consistency is often key to their success.  They are disciplined, focused and reliable. They have maintained those characteristics by employing daily tactics to create a routine for their work and lives outside of work.

People often tell me that they are surprised that not a single President (I met with ten) cancelled, re-scheduled or was late to meet with me. I was too, until I heard more about how they structure their time and schedules.  Seven of the ten explicitly talked about how they work out every morning, without fail. Typically their workouts occurred between 4:00-5:00 a.m. and their days often don’t end till well into the evenings. If they can do all that, certainly I can fit in at least one mile a day!

Running continues to teach me so many lessons and this holiday streak has reminded me of the power of commitment.

Oh, and if you see me running laps around O’Hare airport on December 18th feel free to join me 🙂

Have you ever committed to a certain routine for a specified amount of time? What did you learn from it?

Follow me on Twitter: @annmarieklotz

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My Holiday Wish

In 7th grade I was doing the things other kids my age typically do–I was involved in clubs at school, liked hanging out with my friends and was looking forward to our upcoming middle school dance.

Unlike other seventh graders I was going to a dermatologist’s office 3-4 times per week to get anywhere from 20-60 shots of medicine in my face to combat the cysts that seemed to keep popping up on my face.  This cycle would continue through my high school years and I often joked that I saw my doctor more than my own family.  My dermatologist, David, told me to never give up hope and that we were going to find a way to to make me feel and look better.

Those middle school years are challenging for nearly everyone but having a very visible skin disorder on your face when you are twelve is beyond mortifying.  While the shots were painful, the judging eyes of my peers on my swollen face hurt me much, much more. I can’t blame them–we were kids–but that it is something I couldn’t understand back then.

I have continued to struggle with this issue ever since although two rounds of the very powerful drug Accutane both at 14 and at 27 have largely helped manage it.  I still have visible scaring but to me that is a blessing compared to the alternative.

One day a couple of months ago I was on a run, actually counting my blessings and feeling grateful when my phone rang.  It was my dermatologist–after all I had been through with him we remained close. He told me about a girl named Gina who was battling a similar skin issue.

He was about to administer her shots one day when she started sobbing.  David gently asked her if she was in pain.  “Noooo,” she wailed, “but I’m just so sad because I’ll never be pretty.”  Her skin disorder had made her feel ugly and unworthy.

David told her he would be right back and went to his office to grab my holiday card to him from last year.  “Do you see this woman? Do you think she is pretty?” he asked her. “Yes,” she replied.  He continued to tell her how I was just like her as a kid and how I grew up to be happy and healthy.

Gina and I have since become phone buddies.  She calls or texts when she is struggling with feelings of unworthiness and excitedly tells me about the good things that are happening, too.  I plan to meet her in person when I go home to Detroit in a few weeks.

Yesterday, I had some head shots taken and I posted a couple of the pictures on Facebook. As friends made kind comments about them I hoped in my heart that Gina would someday grow to love her imperfections and be cherished by others just as she is.

That is my holiday wish for Gina

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Why Are We Not Talking About Wellness?

Our field is in trouble.

In order for our field to continue to recruit and retain the healthiest, happiest, best role models for our students and staff we must make wellness a top priority.

Student Affairs reflects the same struggles with obesity, stress and illness that is a problem across America.

It’s not about being a triathlete or a size 2; it’s about a commitment to eating right, working out, getting enough sleep, creating and maintaining important relationships that sustain you, finding a spiritual center (however you define that), and approaching each day with passion and energy that naturally occurs when your mind, body and spirit are nurtured.

There are a lot of reasons why we don’t talk about personal wellness. We don’t want to hurt peoples’ feelings. We don’t want to make assumptions about their medical conditions, physical limitations or personal struggles. I empathize with those concerns. Life can be hard and we must be kind to each other.

However, our field promotes a culture of gluttony, glorification of busyness, sleep deprivation and martyrdom. We are not brain surgeons, folks. We work in higher education. There has to be a way to get the work done in a reasonable number of hours AND make your own wellness a top priority.

Our field is in trouble.

In the wake of recent articles about the mental health of higher education professionals I’m on a mission to talk about this more openly. I’m keenly aware that I am opening myself up to intense critique. Minus my high school years, I have always been at a healthy weight, I don’t have obesity in my family and I am able-bodied. As a single woman, I do not have the time constraints of a family and I am in a senior-level role that allows me a certain level of flexibility. This affords me a level of privilege in this discussion, but I don’t believe it prevents me starting the dialogue and encouraging others to consider how we can motivate our field about how our personal decisions around wellness affect our professional life.

I aspire to hire healthy people. I want to know how you manage your overall wellness. How do you navigate those days where there are about a million competing priorities and student issues draining your time and energy? It’s about your ability to make wellness a priority, maintain a positive attitude, and have enough energy to sustain you each day. We should be asking those kinds of questions in on-campus interviews. It isn’t a question of “can they do the work?” It’s “do their daily decisions allow them to sustain the same level of energy, passion and follow-through to KEEP doing the work, even on the tough days?”

Our field is in trouble…so let’s take steps to improve!

What can we do?
1) Be a little intrusive: Why aren’t we talking about wellness in our 1-1’s with staff? Because it feels too personal? Personal decisions around wellness can impact work performance so why don’t we talk about these things in a proactive way? If we care about our staff holistically this is one component of that type of care. Let’s openly share recommendations and suggestions for doctors, dentists, therapists, etc. If we work in communities that care about the wellbeing of all people these kinds of conversations support the employee as a whole person.

2) Be keenly aware of your coping mechanisms and employ them as necessary: We all know the things that make us feel better. A ten minute phone call with a friend, a quick walk to clear our head, practicing meditation or having a moment of prayer can do wonders for our spirits in a very short amount of time. Listen to your body and mind and make the time to employ those strategies when appropriate.

3) Create healthy options and/or eliminate desserts at banquets and conferences: Not only would this save on overall food costs/registration expenses, but it sends a clear message that wellness is a priority and we will lead by example by making catering decisions that support this value. When making decisions at mealtimes we should be asking ourselves “Is this helping or hurting my body?” Is this something that will help me to be mentally alert, physically strong and contribute to expanding my capacity to be my best self today?

4) Provide opportunities for staff members to be physically active: Whether your office creates a standing appointment to walk at lunch, provides free pedometers to track activity or creates an incentive to join a campus or community fitness center, the opportunities to build community and/or receive an incentive for making healthy decisions can be powerful motivating forces for people to make time in their day for physical activity.

5) Kick people out of their offices: I’m only half-joking. Pay attention to how much your staff are working and if people seem to be overly stressed/not functioning well tell them to take some time off. No email, no calls, just time away. Especially in entry-level positions, our new practitioners may not always be able to self-regulate their workload and can really benefit from mandated leave, even if it is just for a few hours.

Wellness contributes positively to retention, satisfaction and overall happiness (Cotner-Klinger, A., 2012, Rath & Harter 2010) and as leaders in the field that must be a call to action. We have a responsibility to recruit and hire the very best people to work with our students. In the wake of hearing more and more about mental health struggles, self-harm and depression in our field, this issue continues to not only be one that we could talk about with employees, it becomes one that we absolutely should be talking about.

I am committed to talking about this and continuing to create strategies to help our students and staff feel good, healthy and happy at work. I’m in. Are you??

Follow me on Twitter: @annmarieklotz

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The Difference Maker: Capacity-Building at Work

Two people assume Director-level roles with a similar scope and size of institution in the same year. They graduated from strong masters programs and they came up through the professional ranks in higher education in traditional ways. They are universally liked and have similar skill sets. They have good co-workers and get along with their supervisor. Six months into their new roles, one person is completely floundering and the other is flourishing. So what is the difference-maker in this situation?


It is your professional capacity to successfully add more work to your plate that is a key indicator of career progression.

At entry and mid-level roles there is always a lot of work to be accomplished. Student issues. After hours events. Crises management. However as you move up the ranks your supervisor will not monitor your workload or limit the scope of your projects nearly as much as when you were first starting out in the field.

Having an increased capacity means that you will never assume that something is going to be taken off your plate by your supervisor. Instead it is up to you to manage your current workload, delegate when appropriate, and add new responsibilities often while managing the same level of success in completing those duties.

Five years ago a colleague and I made a documentary about women in higher education. We interviewed Donna Carroll, the president of Dominican University. When I asked her what strengths she possessed that made her an ideal person to be a university president she responded instantly.

“I have always known,” she said, “that I have a very large capacity for getting work done.”

I was surprised by her answer. I thought she would say she was a skilled fundraiser or possessed a strong financial mind but instead of focusing on skills or tasks she focused on the process of working.

Since that day I have talked with others in our field about this concept of “capacity” and wondered if each person has a set-point (meaning that they either have a large capacity or they do not) or if there are actual capacity-building techniques could help a person increase the amount of work they can produce. After careful thought I have identified four key areas that I believe are capacity-building strategies:

1) Creating strong organizational process to manage your day: There are about a million different ways to organize your work–to-do lists, planners, electronic calendars, setting reminders on your phone, etc.—however people who have high levels of work capacity have consistent processes that guide their day, manage their time and signal when their goals for the day have been accomplished. This includes any personal appointments, family commitments or anything else that needs to get done during the course of a single day. People with high capacity may have set days or times for errands, volunteering in their home communities and working on special projects. They are rigid with adhering to those set times. They always make sure they are on-time to meetings, events and activities because they always have a plan B (and C and D) when life’s little surprises occur.

2) Recruit, hire, maintain and promote an exceptional team: In order for everyone to increase their capacity, a high-level team must be created or else you (and your other team members) will be constantly working to compensate for their lack of productivity. The most important thing we do in our jobs is recruit and hire the most talented people we can find. Take that responsibility seriously. Recruitment is a 365 day a year process—it’s not just when you happen to have an opening in your department. Keep lists of folks who excel in particular areas in your professional field and create relationships with them. When an opening becomes available you’ll have a well-developed list of people to consider and recruit.

Conversely, know when you have to counsel someone out of the role who is no longer helping the goals of the team and/or their abilities do not align with their current position. This is a painful process and the dignity of the person must be preserved at all costs however an unwillingness to address a toxic or non-functioning staff member can cause serious damage to even an otherwise strong team.

3) A commitment to wellness: Eating well, exercising, getting a consistent amount of sleep and being spiritually centered (whatever that may mean to you) impacts your capacity. Another important part of this is the phrase “on a consistent basis.” If these components of wellness are a part of your daily routine they will lead to long-term capacity-building. The ability to wake up well-rested, fuel your body with things that will maximize the functions of your brain and body, and focus on particular tasks are all benefits of a healthy lifestyle. A key indicator of increased capacity for work is stamina—the ability to continue your work past your typical stopping points.

4) A commitment to a blended life: Capacity is increased when you can kill two birds with one stone. Many folks in higher education have enthusiastically embraced this concept. When you take your partner and/or children to a program on campus, is it considered work time or family time? It’s both. When you work on an article for a professional journal on a Saturday is it work time or personal time? It is both. By re-framing your life to simply be just that—one blended life—then you can focus attention on all areas without feeling a need to compartmentalize them.

Some of these areas may take years to perfect but I believe they are good steps towards increasing your productivity both at home and in your professional life. If not consciously developed, I believe that a lack of capacity-building can stall your career progression and can impact your happiness.

What are some capacity-building techniques that you employ in your daily work?

Follow me on Twitter: @annmarieklotz

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So You Have a Mentor…Now What?

We talk a lot about mentorship in higher education but it almost always focuses on 1) why you should have a mentor, 2) how to find one or 3) the research that indicates mentorship has strong professional and personal benefits.

What we spend less time discussing is how to foster and sustain that relationship once it is established.

What if we focused more about how to BE a mentor and (equally important) a mentee?

A few things to consider…

1) What Do You Want from this Person? Guidance? Support? Advice? A (not so gentle) professional nudge? When I think about people who have felt disappointed with their mentor(s) it has been because they didn’t establish what they wanted from the person. They are mentors, not mind-readers. It’s important to state exactly what you are hoping to gain from the relationship.

A newly established mentee said to me this week “I want you to be my mentor because you will push me like no one else will.” So I asked a few clarifying questions like in what ways did he want me to push him? What are his immediate goals and how can I support and assist him in attaining those?

We know the importance of institutional fit and those same rules apply for selecting a mentor. There needs to be a shared investment in the relationship and an appreciation of what each person brings to the table. You can seek out a well-known Higher Education practitioner or professor to be your mentor but if the only thing that attracts you is their prestige then you will be sorely disappointed. Select mentor(s) who have the time, energy and investment in the relationship.

2) Mentorship is Great but Sponsorship is Better: Much of the recent buzz on this topic indicates that mentorship provides good support but sponsorship really helps you to thrive.

So what’s the difference? A mentor tells you, “you should consider going through that door” and a sponsor will push the door open and nudge you through. They advocate for you when you are not in the room. In short, sponsors are invested in your own success in deeply personal ways. Are you looking for a mentor or a sponsor? Clarify your goals before making the ask.

3) Look for Ways to Establish a Two-Way Mentoring Street: So while I am happy to invest in the mentee I mentioned previously he recently said to me “You know, I could really help you re-organize and re-design your blog page.” He has skills that I do not possess and so by offering to help me we are establishing a relationship where we each benefit from the talents of each other. This give and take is the new way to look at mentorship and it is one that is sustainable and a total win-win for everyone involved.

4) Define How Your Relationship will Operate: Perhaps it is more organic, i.e., “I’ll call you when I need you” or maybe you need more structured time like a monthly phone check-in. There is no right or wrong way but it is important to clarify expectations from the start.

5) Create a Personal Board of Directors: No one person can give you everything you need. Diversify your group of trusted advisors based on the different areas of your professional portfolio. These can be folks at your experience level, above or below. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that they have expertise in an area you want to grow in. Having a team approach allows you to gain multiple perspectives and find folks who have particular areas of strength.

@EdCabellon calls me when he wants to bounce ideas about the doctoral research process and in turn I call him when I need assistance in the area of social media and technology. I look to @VijayPendakur when I am seeking insight on issues of diversity and justice and I have @CissyPetty, @TBump and @JPKirchmeier on speed dial when I need career advancement advice. When I need someone to keep it real I look to @DSchmidtRogers. When I am looking for ways to impact the entry-level experience I have no shame in asking superstars like @RayTennison, @RachAho and @Dav_Velaz to help me. Who can support you in all of the areas of your professional life? What do you have to offer them in return?

6) Pay It Forward: Most people went into higher education at the encouragement of a mentor, advisor, supervisor, etc. People are retained in this field because they have created a strong network of colleagues and allies. Continue to give back the mentorship, sponsorship and support and our field (and in turn our students) win every time. Be generous with your time. You never know much a phone conversation, email exchange or in-person conversation can provide someone with exactly what they need.

What are your thoughts about mentorship in higher education? How can we do better at this?

Follow me on Twitter @annmarieklotz

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The Mayer Effect

I recently read this article about Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and I found it an unfortunate reminder that even women who make it to the “top” (depending on your own definition) are still plagued by issues of sexism and constant critique in ways that different from their male CEO counterparts.

Her feminine style and appreciation for fashion causes critics to describe her as a “princess” and her desire to seek perfection in every detail labels her as “robotic.” Yet, if she were to show up in pants and a sweatshirt she would be lambasted as unfeminine, childish or not ready for the role meanwhile the aforementioned attire is the daily uniform of Mark Zuckerberg (CEO of Facebook) and he is praised for his causal and authentic look.

An insistence on perfection is typically praised in the great minds of our day (the article references Steve Jobs as an example) but yet this very same quality looks different on Mayer. While I admire Mayer tremendously I don’t envy her uphill battle of trying to stick to the recipe that has made men successful all over the world meanwhile knowing that this formula doesn’t appear to work well for women.

Her confidence, belief in her decision-making process and insistence that the right people be at the table (and if they aren’t she will make structural changes—i.e. fire them) are emblematic of successful business people, however these qualities in Mayer irritate the very people who were calling for change in the sinking ship that was Yahoo.

What does this mean for how leadership is viewed in higher education? Plenty.

1) It is better to be respected than liked: There is often a strong emphasis placed on “likeability” in our field. Yes, it is important that people be willing to collaborate and work with you. My measuring stick of hiring new people is “Do they have the skills to do the job and do I want to take them to lunch?” If so, my gut says “hire them”—everything else is trainable. However, I believe it is important to be respected more than liked. Let the work ethic, innovation, production and newly-created initiatives be a stronger indicator of workplace success.

Mayer is successful at Yahoo because she understands this. Her largely unpopular decisions (like cutting the program that allowed many employees to work remotely) is having huge gains for her with the companies’ top talent. As the article states: “If [Mayer] hadn’t come in, all the smart people would have left.”

How often do we not hold folks accountable simply because they are “nice?” How often do we minimize the success of others because we don’t like their disposition or because they aren’t seen as part of the “in” crowd at work?

2) Consider if the critical feedback you hearing about people is really about their skills or more about who they are—gender, race, sexual orientation, etc.: Leadership looks different on Mayer because of her gender, and it looks different on President Obama because of his race. Both are critiqued in different ways because they represent different visual (as well as socialized and cultural) ideas about what leadership in their role should look like.

What does that mean for a woman who works with campus facilities or is a Vice President for Finance? Or a person of color who is a university President?

Our preconcieved notions of what a person in that type of role should look like, act, do, etc. contibutes to the backlash that trailblazers (like Mayer) often receive.

3) Consider if the problem is really a personal one or a structural one:

To advance as an administrator, the path is often described in 3 ways:
To move up, move out (change jobs, move around, etc.)
Obtain another advanced degree
Work more hours, volunteer for extra projects

What does this model mean for women who choose to have a family? How does this recipe for career success fit into the other areas of their life? For some women it simply doesn’t which is why we have a mass of women at mid-level who are unable or unwilling to move up because of the choices they may have to make that impact their personal obligations. Women’s career paths are not linear- they are circular-but fitting that circle in the box of higher education is a challenge for any women who seeks a senior leadership position.

When a woman like Mayer breaks through those barriers it looks and feels odd to people and she has been attacked in ways that a male peer with her same talents, skills and abilities would not.

The lesson we can learn from Marissa Mayer’s story is that it isn’t simply good enough to have females in executive-level positions. Structural and environmental shifts must occur by people who are truly invested in seeing a variety of diverse leaders in our organizations. Without this change, women may continue to opt out of seeking these opportunities or if they do actually obtain the corner office someday their tenure in these roles may be short.

I’m pulling for you Marissa, and women everywhere who seek to not be defined by their gender expectations but rather by their ability to get the job done in their own unique way.

What do you think about how women’s leadership styles are perceived in higher education??

Follow me on Twitter: @annmarieklotz

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