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Intentional and Goal-Oriented Career Transitions.

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When I started on my post-doctoral degree career in the early 1980s, I never imagined I would have six different employers along the way, yet, this has been my journey since 1978. My career transitions resulted from intentionality, serendipity, and aspirations. I have always wanted to better myself and achieve, and make a difference in the lives of others. On most personality tests, I score as a “driver,” someone with ambition. I am a driver as an individual contributor and an organization leader, always striving to increase the status quo and raise the success of the organization. I have made my career moves because of opportunities to learn more, take on new challenges, and see what might come. For example, when I left my successful organizational consulting company to move back into higher education, I did so for the following reasons: 1) After 14 years leading my consulting company, I wanted a change. Although I loved Boston, and had family and many friends there, I wanted to expand my horizons. Fortunately, new opportunities manifested. Choices came my way. This led to accepting a faculty position with Arizona State University (ASU) that launched my career as an academic administrator; 2) I left ASU for a new opportunity, leveraging my experiences in enrollment management and master planning. The latter was desirable at my new employer, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). It turned out that my experience leading a consulting company also was on interest to my president. I assumed the leadership of the School of Continuing Education, delivering education to companies and non-profits, similar to what I had done with Empowerment Workshops in Boston. I enjoyed the entrepreneurial nature of this role and the external focus on building the brand and business of the school. I could leverage my experiences in the private sector once again.

This takes me to my current position as president of the Chicago campus of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (TCSPP). I find myself in the most ideal situation. The School aligns with my personal values to advance diversity and social justice through our education programs and community partnerships. Second, I can collaborate with my colleagues to find innovative approaches for education in the future and integration of health and mental health in the workplace. I enjoy the opportunities to establish partnerships in Chicago, domestically and internationally to bring graduate education to more learners. There are likely other possibilities that will merge with TCSPP; it seems like the sky is the limit.

What are my final thoughts on career transitions? Plan, and be intentional. Ensure that the opportunity aligns with your personal values and goals and assesses your competencies. Determine how to adapt your goals in the new work setting, and anticipate cognitive and emotional discomfort. After all, a career transition is identity change and a development process. Use your emotional intelligence and confidence from previous work experiences, and enjoy the new opportunity.

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Leadership Decision Making: Courage and Popularity.

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Category: Academic Insights

Recently, a colleague and I were talking about leadership decision making. We exchanged thoughts about the continuum of decisions, the “easy” to the “difficult” ones.  Giving everyone a longer lunch hour on a sunny day is an easy decision to make for a leader. It is considerate and popular; who doesn’t like a little more personal time in the fresh air?

But then there are situations which demand a leader to show courage. The increasing importance of using social media in educational institutions for communicating with different audiences has meant that I decided to add social media usage as part of my staff’s performance plan in 2011. For a school that is largely successful because of its proactive marketing and on-the-ground relationship-building, social media is more of a necessity than an option.  Was my decision (to add social media usage to employees’ performance plans) a popular decision? I guess it depends on who you ask. Some individuals accept new technology more readily. Simply said, they are aficionados of tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook Twitter, Four-Square and so forth. Others, in spite of providing training and coaching, do not come on board so easily. As a leader, I encourage and consistently send the message that everyone must engage in some form of social media practice. But to some staff, this may seem like top-down legislation. However, I view it as the responsibility of a leader to make and stay with decisions that are important for the overall success of the school.

Perhaps the most challenging decisions I have made as a leader are ones that have involved establishing new business practices, confronting a direct report on their lack of professionalism and performance, or dismissing an individual. I prefer to make data-based decisions, ones that will stand up to scrutiny and second-guessing, although they may not be popular. These are situations when a leader needs to show courage and decisiveness.

Every decision can be viewed from multiple perspectives. But whenever I have had to make popular decisions or ones that required courage, I have always endeavored to exercise my values of integrity and transparency.

As a leader, where does courage enter your daily routine?

 

 

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Empowering People in the Workforce.

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So what exactly does it mean to empower people in the workplace? In Successful Diversity Management Initiatives (1996), I wrote that “Empowerment refers to a sense of personal power, confidence and positive self-esteem. Empowerment involves a process of change that can be achieved in relation to specific goals.” Make no mistake, empowerment of self or others involves thoughtful planning, having actionable alternatives and of course, following through. Did I make the changes or succeed as desired?

The term empowerment is not an all or nothing proposition; empowerment needs to be personalized and contextualized. It can mean giving a new employee support and guidance to meet their first six-month goals. For mid-career professionals, it may mean ensuring they have the appropriate professional development and workplace experiences and exposure to move to the next level in the organization.  For more senior employees an organization wants to retain, a sponsor may identify opportunities and lobby to develop the individual’s talent with new assignments and perhaps other perks.

Contemporary organizations are flatter than ever before making “upward” progress unlikely or very slow at best.  Employees at our school have discussed the limits in upward mobility and their desire to have new career challenges and opportunities.  How can I empower advancement in an educational system where career progression is narrowly defined by years of experience, assuming more responsibility and delivering on goals?

Participation in employee-led work groups like the Green Teams, Wellness Committees, Inclusion and Engagement Committees and reading circles, among other opportunities to continue learning, can get employees involved in leadership activities. I encourage individuals to attend conferences relevant to their work or invite them to attend with me. Finally, because of the flatness of our school, I assign projects that increase individuals’ responsibilities and scope of influence, and then help them be successful.

Organizations and managers must consider how they frame and apply the term empowerment in their organization. Indeed, disempowered employees can be a drag on business goals.  Remember, “Empowerment involves a process of change that can be achieved in relation to specific goals.”

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