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Mid-Year Academy Practicum Report
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I learned a great deal in my first week at the leadership program, and was impressed at the way it was structured. With many conferences, the binder goes up on the shelf to collect dust. The structure of this program required participants to follow up on what they learned and record their progress--through journaling, meeting with a mentor, and filing this report.

To support my growth in this program, I selected a woman who is recognized as a leader in the Capital Region. She formally worked at the college where I now work, and attended the Academy at Maricopa. She is now a Senior Vice President for the Capital District YMCA and is known for her development skills--an area I am expected to take over here at the college. I have met with my mentor and reviewed my professional development goals with her, and have also discussed individual issues with her as they arise.

Finally, I wrote regularly in my journal. The journaling was a beneficial experience, and helped remind me of my goals and to make connections between leadership theory and real-world issues.

In this report, I will address my Individual Professional Development Plan objectives in each topic area and the events in my professional and personal life that allowed me to observe, practice, and measure my progress.

Topic: Complex Role

Objectives:
  1. Begin to follow personal mission statement, focusing on spending more time for relationship-building, both personally and professionally. Specifically, I have set objectives to call at least one friend once a week, call my mother two times a week, show interest and converse with one employee before 10 a.m. for a personal conversation, and schedule evening/weekend time with a friend at least once per month.
  2. Create a climate in my department such that all my direct reports answer "yes" to the first seven questions in the core elements of an effective workplace. They will be surveyed just before I finish the leadership program.
Application and Progress:
  1. I have become more conscious of how I use my time at work and have spent more time building relationships at work with face-to-face interaction and attendance at events. At the beginning of the workday, I more frequently walk around the office to greet my staff, and also have made visits more frequently to staff who work in other buildings. I also have made an attempt to attend more ceremonial and cultural events at the college to interact with others and to support others on campus. For one of my struggling staff members, I scheduled a face-to-face meeting to discuss a project she was working on instead of simply responding to her e-mails to me on the subject. One of my great challenges is my overreliance on e-mail, so I have to constantly remind myself to rely more on phone calls and face-to-face interactions.

    On a personal level, I have started to reach out more to friends (and prospective friends) to make plans outside of work. My personal life has become more enriching as a result, and I feel I have begun to build a solid support system for myself. I also have put leadership tenets to use in another part of my life—I was recently elected president of a non-profit board. The board was full of strife when I took over, due to the autocratic and imperious nature of my predecessor, and I think I have successfully begun to ease the tensions by taking each member out to lunch (individually) to listen to their concerns and to attempt to gain consensus--and to truly listen--on every issue, major and minor. I don't necessarily take up meeting time to gain consensus on issues, but do so through memos and board "surveys."

    I have found that this leadership program complemented another program I was involved in this spring— in April, I completed the Dale Carnegie course. During that course, I also had to commit to improving both professional and personal relationships and had to report back on my progress in remarks to the class. The two courses have been synergistic and I am pleased at the progress I made. Having said that, I know that my introversion is a challenge I will always be dealing with. To truly succeed in my management position and to expand my role at the college, I will need to always be cognizant of this personality characteristic and challenge myself to move beyond it whenever possible.

  2. Not applicable until the end of the leadership program.
Topic: Behavioral Styles

Objectives:
  1. Begin to be more aware of others' behavioral/work styles and respectful of other styles and points of view.
  2. Become less driving and self-critical. Stop "whipping" myself to keep up the workload that I have created for myself. Consider whether all workload is truly necessary. Leave by 5:30 p.m. 80 percent of the time, bring less work home, and delegate some proofing to others.
Application and Progress:
  1. One of the biggest "a-ha!" moments I had at the leadership weekend was about being respectful of differences and others' points of view. Since that week in Utica, I have noticed that I am far less judgmental of others. In the past, I was very judgmental of people who I perceived didn't have the same work ethics I did, or who didn't "achieve" as much as I thought they should. I now realize that perhaps my perceptions were unfair and did not take certain things into account--varying personalities and work styles, and extenuating circumstances. Virtually no one "bothers" my anymore, and I see value in everyone. I have made a point of reaching out to folks that I "looked down on" in the past, and it has improved my work life a great deal. This was not a change that came gradually--it was a change that immediately clicked as a result of the training. I thank you for giving me that insight.

    I encouraged two of my staff members to attend training at which they took a personality inventory. These were two individuals who have clashed in the past. I think because they didn't value their differences. They work together much better now. All of my staff have been given a personality/behavioral inventory to complete in time for a strategic planning retreat that we have scheduled for late July.

  2. On my second goal, I am very pleased with my progress in meeting two of the three goals, and have not made as much progress I would like on the third. As soon as I started journaling, I immediately began to meet my "leave by 5:30" goal. Since I was literally writing my departure time in the journal each day, I felt the need to be accountable to myself. I also began to take less work home (generally reading, since I get so many work-related periodicals), and have begun to set aside time in the office to get the reading done. It is interesting to note that I am still as productive as I used to be, despite putting in fewer hours.

  3. On the third point, delegating proofing, I have not yet felt confident enough in my staff to be able to do that. I have a policy here that no press release or publication goes out without my review and approval, and I have found over the years that I have a far more exacting eye than anyone else in my office. We have many lengthy publications (Continuing Education bulletins, etc.) that require an "eagle eye," and I have presided over too significant an improvement to let it slide. I am still hopeful that I can train or hire an employee who shares my editing skills, but it has not happened yet (unfortunately). I am beginning to feel disaffected and burned out from my time with the "red-pen" and I hope I can find a workable solution to this.
Topic: Team-Building

Objectives:
  1. Articulate a shared vision/common purpose. Define departmental goals.
  2. Create a shared agenda for weekly staff meetings and distribute it ahead of time.
  3. Recognize my staff and others on campus for good work and helpfulness.
Application and Progress:
  1. My staff and I have been busily preparing for an all-day, off-site strategic planning retreat. I have hired a facilitator, and he and I have put together an ambitious schedule for the day that includes team-building and strategic planning. The retreat is scheduled for July 25th. Unfortunately (or fortunately!) we may need to reschedule that date due to the impending arrival of my two adopted children from Russia. It is looking as though my husband and I will be in the midst of traveling home from Russia on that date. My staff, however, has been looking forward to the day, and we have talked a great deal about what we plan to do that day, and we have been doing a lot of "pre-planning" work. They each have a packet of paperwork that they need to prepare in advance of the day. I hope to be able to report on the day in my year-end report.
  2. My second objective was easy to accomplish, and I took care of it in my first week back. Before the leadership week, I would prepare the agenda each week for our Thursday morning staff meeting and distribute the agenda as they walked in. Now, I e-mail a draft agenda to everyone on Tuesday, and ask them to submit their agenda items to the secretary by Wednesday at noon. The secretary then distributes a final agenda to everyone via e-mail by the end of the day Wednesday. The meetings have improved as a result, and staff members have contributed meaningful items to the agenda for discussion. It also helped to give staffers more control over their environment and allowed them to be more prepared to discuss the issues at hand. I also added an item to the beginning of each agenda for "good news," and--although I sometimes feel corny about it--I think it has gone over well.
  3. The recognition goals have been perhaps the most successful--and most fun--to implement. I have always enjoyed recognizing people who do something special, but since February I have definitely "kicked it up a notch!" I don't overdo it, but I have thanked people in a variety of ways--with e-cards, with e-mails (copying their bosses), thanking people verbally in front of their colleagues and/or supervisors, and by sending handwritten notes sent to their homes. The response has been fantastic. People have been thanking me for my "thank-yous." As one staff members said, "I appreciate being appreciated."

    I also suggested to my staff that we institutionalize a way to thank others on campus who go above and beyond the call of duty. We have had a lot of fun developing a program called "Communication Kudos." The graphics department designed a colorful certificate and all of us in our area signed it. Then we wrapped a Kudos bar in the certificate and the secretary wraped it with a colorful ribbon. The person who nominated the person for the recognition then delivers it in person. So far, we have honored five people, and certificates are in the works for two more, and the recipients are always thrilled to be recognized.

    I also just came today from a luncheon that I suggested that the president throw for a group of people on campus who planned an event at our new baseball stadium. I asked my graphics department to design a certificate of "presidential recognition for distinguished performance in philanthropic fund-raising." Again, people were thrilled to be noticed and recognized by the president.

    This has been the easiest goal to implement, as it is so much fun to recognize and honor people who do good work.

Topic: Strategic Planning

Objectives:
  1. Encourage the college to prepare a strategic plan.
  2. Begin to pre-plan the creation of a departmental strategic plan, with the goal of a retreat in July and a draft plan by 8/31. Discuss as part of pre-planning, which external constituents to include in the planning process.
Application and progress:
  1. I talked with the president very soon after I returned from Utica about the college's lack of a strategic plan. He made it clear that it is not a process he wished to embark on. I consider that matter to be closed, and don't foresee that I will be making any progress on that issue.
  2. My department has been pre-planning for a July 25th retreat since I returned from Utica (see detail above). We have been surveying and interviewing external constituencies with mixed success. Our request for feedback was ill-timed, as it was toward the end of the academic year, but there was little we could do about the timing. Although we may need to reschedule the July 25th date, I still hope to have a draft departmental strategic plan by August 31.
Topic: Managing Conflict

Objectives:
  1. I will no longer engage in parking lot commentary.
  2. I will reflect on how I have dealt with conflict in the past, and use the four "R's" approach with work-related conflicts.
Application and progress:
  1. Wow! When I returned back to work after my week in Utica, I was astounded to discover how much "parking lot commentary" goes on! It just blew me away. It appears to me that this is one of the primary ways that human beings bond.

    I am extremely conscious of it whenever it arises, since it is one of my objectives not to participate in that activity. I am pleased with my progress on this - I almost always resist when the opportunity arises. This is my difficulty, and I have found myself asking my mentors for guidance on this: Thinking of alternate things to say when someone tries to begin a "parking lot" session with me. I need to build an arsenal of methods of redirecting the conversation.

  2. I haven't found myself in much conflict since February, so I haven't really been able to implement the four "Rs," but I have been forced to try to mediate and resolve conflict between others. For one conflict, between one of my staff people and a staff person in another department, I scheduled a meeting in March with them to discuss the issue. In the past, I would have avoided such a meeting at all cost! Although I was quite nervous, I talked to them about the need to respect the other person's work style and point of view. I told them that I personally liked both of them and that both of them were hard-working and had the best interests of the college at heart. I even copied some of the pages from the leadership binder and talked about what I learned about conflict at the workshop. (including the page of tips that included the tip to attempt to see the issue from the other person's point of view). Although I was unsure at the time whether it was successful, no subsequent issues have percolated up to me from them since then, and another meeting participant congratulated me afterwards and said he learned a lot.
Topic: Enhancing Performance

Objectives:
  1. Be more mindful of differences in skills and talents, and that each person is unique. Be less territorial, and realize that multiple perspectives can make an end product richer.
Application and progress:
  1. This describes the "a-ha" experience I described earlier in my report. I feel like I have made much progress in my interaction with others who have different personality and work styles. I intend in the coming six months to be more cognizant of varying styles within my own office, through the analysis we do at our staff retreat, and I hope that all of us can be more respectful of diversity once that analysis is done.
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