Monday, April 14, 2014

Coaching Buttons will return May 2

I'm finishing up the capstone project in my Master's degree, so I'm planning to take a short break from writing the blog. Coaching Buttons will return on Friday, May 2.

Monday, April 7, 2014

It's easier to interpolate than extrapolate

At EDUCAUSE Connect a few weeks ago, I attended a great presentation about visualizing the future. A key theme was that it's easier to interpolate than to extrapolate.

Let's try an example: Most leaders start by asking where am I now? or what's happened up to this point? then try to answer the question, what's the next move? That's a tough proposition, because these leaders are trying to extrapolate. Where you go next depends on where you are going.

That's why it's often much easier to interpolate, to fill in the gaps from your current location to your destination. Try this exercise instead: What do you want your IT organization to be doing 5 years from now? What does that IT team look like? What is it focused on? What are its priorities? How is it shaped?

Once you've imagined that vision, take a step back. You know where you're going to end up in 5 years. What your next step? Where do you go from here? What are the major milestones you need to reach over the next year, and over the next 5 years, to reach your target?

Experiment with this method as you visualize the future of your campus technology. I used a similar method when I shared a vision of the future of computing, or how technology will change entertainment. It's the same method employed by companies, as they envision their future, then take steps to realize that future. You may remember Microsoft's vision of the future:

In shaping the future of technology, we can imagine what promise the future might hold, then work to achieve it. In technology, we are the drivers of future progression. In campus technology, we are the ones who help shape what is to come. Our job as campus technology stewards, therefore, is to find the new technology that can best benefit our campus, and work to make it happen.

What's your vision of the future of technology?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Leadership lessons from Arnold Schwarzenegger

I sometimes like to find leadership lessons in unusual places. Looking for leadership lessons through the lens of unexpected sources can be interesting and insightful.

Before he was governor of the 12th largest economy in the world (that's California, by the way), Arnold Schwarzenegger featured in a number of films in the 1980s. One example was Conan the Barbarian (1982), a sort of documentary-style drama (or is it a drama-style documentary?) about a young man who overcomes adversity to become a notable presence in the world. At least, I think it was like that. It was a while ago. But there is a narrator.

And it is through this film that Schwarzenegger (as Conan) shares his three leadership lessons, in answer to the question "What is best in life?"

(watch video clip)

Conan's three leadership lessons are actually goals, and framed within a vision that is clear enough so he will know when he has achieved them:
  1. Crush your enemies
  2. See them driven before you
  3. Hear the lamentation
(Also, today is April 1.)

Monday, March 31, 2014

Improved wireless network in Science

It is my pleasure to share the status of our wireless network upgrade on campus. Over the last several months, we have been working to expand the wireless network coverage throughout the Science building. And as of this week, we have activated the new wireless network. You should now be able to connect to the wireless network wherever you are in Science, including faculty offices.

This is only the first part of our efforts to expand the wireless network on campus, based on your feedback about where wireless networking was most needed. We have already started work in the Humanities & Fine Arts building. From there, we also plan to improve the wireless network in other much-needed areas, including the RFC, Moccasin Flower Room, Gay Hall, The Cube, Briggs Library, and Camden.

I would like to thank Mike Miller, Robert Thompson, Dave Savela, and our partners in the Office of Information Technology for their work on the wireless upgrade.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Leadership lessons from Breaking Bad, part 2

A few weeks ago, I shared leadership lessons from Breaking Bad. I picked five of my favorite lessons. I had actually found a few other lessons, but I wanted to stick to seasons 1-4 so to not give anything away from the final season. Since sharing that post, I've received a bunch of emails asking for more leadership lessons from Breaking Bad. So here are the rest of the lessons I gleaned from watching the show. What other lessons do you find?

A review, if you haven't seen the show yet: Breaking Bad is a wonderful program about an educator (Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston) who goes back to professional practice in chemistry, and exhibits particular talent in his field. White partners up with a former student (Jesse Pinkman, played by Aaron Paul) and provides Jesse with remedial chemistry lessons in a sort of mentor relationship. They go into business together, and—without giving anything away—they encounter some "challenges" along the way. They also cook meth. But in a very science-y sort of way. Most of the episodes in the early seasons are about chemistry. In that they feature a lot of chemistry.

(Warning: spoilers from season 5.)

Be consistent

As a leader or as a manager, your team looks to you to model good workplace behavior. A peer mentor of mine reminds new leaders that sometimes "leadership is a performance." So be consistent in what you do. Actively look for ways to demonstrate the qualities you want others to follow. But be cautious about your performance.
Think creatively

When you encounter problems, do you sit and complain, or do you look for ways around the issue? Think outside the box, and find unique, simple solutions to the problems facing you. Whether you are working on a database project, or trying to hide your meth empire money hoard. And I have to admit that Skyler's hiding place was so obvious, I never would have thought of it.
Listen to advice

We don't have all the answers. As a friend and colleague often advises, "the answer is in the room." So be prepared to listen to advice as it comes to you. I find that it helps to start with the phrase "feedback is a gift," which allows me to mentally shift gears so I am prepared for feedback, and acts as a sort of "flag" that gives permission to those around me that it's okay to give honest, constructive feedback.
Watch out for your team

At a recent conference session, we discussed the qualities we like to see in our work colleagues, both leadership and team members. Of these aspects, "trustworthy" came out on top. Be worthy of trust. As a leader, you need to look out for your team, watch their back. No one wants to work for or with someone who doesn't have that trust.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Spring 2014 UMM Tech Hangouts On Air

Please plan to join us online for this Spring’s “Tech Hangouts OnAir!”  The format for this 4-part series is that the workshops will be held online and participants attend from their own desks.  Each session will be recorded to ensure that more people will be able to take advantage of these sessions.

We are looking for volunteers to “Hangout” live with the session presenters.  If you are willing to participate in this way, please contact Pam Gades and let her know.  As these sessions are also being recorded and will be available for anyone from UMM to view the recordings via YouTube, she will need your permission to share the recordings online after the session as well.

Searching the New Articles and Books Tab at Briggs Library
Wed. April 2 – 10am to 11am
Briggs Library recently unveiled a new way to search for articles, books, and multimedia simultaneously. The new search feature includes many (but not all) Briggs Library databases as well as Pounce content. Learn easy search tips and discover who can benefit the most from this exciting new resource.

What’s New in Moodle 2.6?
Thurs. April 3 – 10am to 11am
The current version of Moodle is 2.4.  A new version, Moodle 2.6, was soft-launched on March 1, 2014. (That means you may start requesting 2.6 course sites.) The full release is scheduled for April 27, 2014.  We’ll highlight the most obvious changes rolling out in the new version. This session is primarily intended for faculty.

Google Drive Best Practices
Wed. April 9 – 10am to 11am
Google Drive has changed the way we work. It is a powerful collaboration tool. In this session, we’ll share some best practices in using Google Drive:  uploading, converting, organizing, sharing, searching, and more.

Moodle Tips & Tools – Features You May Not Know About
Thurs. April 10 – 10am to 11am
Moodle has evolved to include more and more features as the updates roll out, and you may not have discovered  them yet.  I’d like to demonstrate some of these lesser-known features and share some tips for using them in your courses. This session is primarily intended for faculty.

Monday, March 24, 2014

You're not as busy as you say you are

Hanna Rosin's recent article You’re Not As Busy As You Say You Are in Slate presents a scenario: we feel overburdened by all the times we have to do. As your day progresses, you begin to feel as if your workload drives your day, rather than you maintaining a balance of "critical" versus the "merely important."

Busyness is a virtue, so people are terrified of hearing they may have empty time, as Tim Kreider wrote in The ‘Busy’ Trap. If you find yourself feeling frantic at your ever-growing mental "to do" list, you may feel that all your tasks blend into each other and a day has no sense of distinct phases. From the article:
Researchers call it “contaminated time,” … The only relief from the time pressure comes from cordoning off genuine stretches of free or leisure time, creating a sense of what Schulte calls “time serenity” or “flow.” But over the years, time use diaries show that women have become terrible at that, squeezing out any free time and instead, as Schulte puts it, resorting to “crappy bits of leisure time confetti.”
The article cites sociologist John Robinson, one of the first people to start collecting time use diaries, in recommending a solution:
Robinson doesn’t ask us to meditate, or take more vacations, or breathe, or walk in nature, or do anything that will invariably feel like just another item on the to-do list. The answer to feeling oppressively busy, he says, is to stop telling yourself that you’re oppressively busy, because the truth is that we are all much less busy than we think we are.
So, how busy are you really? As managers, we may ask our staff to account for their time, so we can report on that effort to others within our leadership structure. (At Morris, we use effort-based workplans.) But we don't ask the same of ourselves. The "common wisdom" is that management time is "overhead," and not tracked. But if we were to be honest with ourselves, are we really that busy, or do we just say we're that busy?