Happy New Year!! As we return to work, hopefully feeling rested and rejuvenated as a result of some much needed and deserved “downtime”, we are given the gift of a New Year, a special time in our annual academic cycle that is replete with so many choices and opportunities! It is a fresh page by which to begin anew, a chance to accept new challenges. During my holiday break, I typically reflect on what I want to accomplish in the near future and establish my goals to get there. Many of us do this, and we often refer to them as New Year’s Resolutions, which may include such things as learning a new skill (e.g., how to cook), reaching a personal achievement (e.g., run a marathon), or maybe establishing an improved financial position (e.g., save a little bit more each month). Goals and resolutions are similar, but also distinct and different. For the purposes here, I am talking about goals. We all know as leaders that goals need to be “SMART” (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound) if they are to be meaningful and within reach.
Whether you are a current campus leader, or someone that is just beginning a leadership journey, I have some ideas for how to improve your leadership capacity so that you can use your unique skills and talents in the most influential way possible (the simple definition of leadership – exerting a positive influence!). Here, I present four simple leadership goals with some concrete ideas for pursuing them.
- Seek out Feedback: The gift of feedback is a wonderful thing! I recently engaged in a 360 degree feedback process and learned a tremendous amount about myself. Yes, receiving feedback is a risky endeavor, but we can only improve in our work and how we show up if we get insight into how we are doing. If you do not have access to a formal 360 process, ask your supervisor to give you some specific feedback (which they should be doing already, by the way!), as well as your colleagues or your own direct reports, if you have any. It may seem uncomfortable at first, but if you do it consistently, you will come to greatly appreciate it. And, you may be surprised at all the POSITIVE feedback you will hear! To be an effective leader, one needs to have a healthy dose of self awareness.
- Become Engaged with Others: Berkeley is a community of passionate, driven, intelligent people. We have so many ways to become engaged with others on campus. There are a plethora of Communities of Practice in which to get involved, like the Cal Assessment Network (CAN) or the Berkeley Facilitator Network (BFN). We also have a collection of Staff Organizations, too, like Alianza, the Berkeley Staff Assembly, or LavenderCal. All of these organizations bring together people who have a common interest while providing a venue for learning, collaboration, awareness of campus resources, and support and empowerment. If you do not already belong to a Community of Practice or a Staff Organization, make it a goal to join one this year. If you do already belong, make it a goal to step into a leadership position within the organization. To be an effective leader, one needs to have a supportive and active community.
- Be a Student of Leadership: Increase your learning on important leadership concepts by reading about leadership, listening to podcasts, watching TED talks, attending conference presentations or simply engaging in conversations over lunch with fellow students of leadership. For something more structured, consider enrolling in a course through University Extension, like a course in the Student Affairs Certificate Program (sorry…shameless plug!), or participate in the Next Opportunities at Work (NOW) conference in July. Any and all of these opportunities will enable you to grow your knowledge and awareness of critical leadership topics.
- Get a Fresh, Clean Perspective on Things: We all can get stuck in our own worldview from time to time. I have found that effective leadership requires having the capacity to see issues, problems and solutions from different perspectives. How do we get perspective? For me, I like to journal. This allows me to unpack prickly problems and explore through writing all sorts of ideas and solutions. I have also used my mentors to talk about issues that I am facing in my work. The Berkeley Staff Association has a vibrant and successful mentoring program right here on campus. Maybe just taking a walk on our beautiful campus can enable us to see things from a different – and enlightening – view. When was the last time you took a ride to the top of the Campanile? Seeing the beautiful Bay Area can also help open one’s mind.
These four items are just some simple ways that I believe can make each one of us a better leader. I encourage you to adopt one or all of these as a SMART goal for yourself and you take new steps on your leadership journey!