Top 5 List – Ways To Be A Better Leader

Much has been written about the different ways to lead a  business or lead a team. Unfortunately some leaders underestimate the importance of leadership skills. Some leaders just don’t think it’s important or they value marketing, finance, sales, technical or other skills more highly. And other leaders simply don’t grasp what it takes to lead others in their own business or as part of a larger team – unable to judge how much others look up to them for leadership.

It’s rare to find a leader who truly cares about the people who work for them and knows how to grow a successful team or business. While at the same time building a loyal, productive, happy and empowered team. Here’s a short list of 5 things (plus a few things) that experts in the leadership development field have shared that will help leaders become better at growing their teams or their business.

Clear expectations – Everybody needs clear direction from the leader about where the business is going. Too many leaders believe that such things are self-evident. Expectations need to be articulated early and often.

Be consistent – Great leaders provide consistent messages. These leaders also make reasoned decisions without appearing to be arbitrary. This doesn’t mean they don’t change their mind. When they do change their mind they clearly communicate the reasons for the change going forward.

Relentless communication – Great leaders stay in constant contact with the people they lead. They don’t just check in from time-to-time via email or wait for others to come to them. They provide information, ask questions, and seek opinions. This does not require endless meetings, but it does require a measure of skill to make communications clear.

Seek input – Some leaders think that they have all of the answers themselves. Even if that’s true, the great leaders will still seek input from others. Successful leaders are decisive – they don’t put things off or offer half-decisions that leave people wondering what they’re supposed to do.

Avoid overload – Many teams and businesses may find themselves in the fast-paced environment with high intensity similar to that of a startup that feels like a 24/7 job. An environment with a significant number of emails and urgent projects debated all hours of the night and on the weekends, can overload a team quickly. Sometimes that goes with the territory. The great leaders are the ones who are sensitive to it and find ways to relieve some pressure by keeping meetings to a minimum and making them highly efficient.

BONUS: Culture – Great leaders recognize that most people want a work environment that’s about much more than simply earning a paycheck or collecting a bonus. Great leaders surround themselves with people who have mutual respect for each other and care about one another on a personal level. These great leaders recognize people as individuals not just as workers or staff members.

BONUS: Show gratitude – Great leaders live by the practice of “praising publicly and criticizing privately”. It’s amazing how gratitude and public praise can lift others and spur them to do more or to take on more. People simply want to be appreciated. Leaders who show appreciation by offering praise or gratitude will in return foster a team of individuals who are loyal and willing to go the extra mile to help the group be successful.

BONUS: Help others be successful – this is one of the fundamentals of great leadership. It’s one thing to praise people and quite another to constantly be on alert about what guidance and resources they need to be successful. It starts with leaders caring about others’ success as much – if not more – than they care about their own.


Say No To Being Time Poor

Like many, I’m time poor. (I actually think I may be bankrupt.) But, I’m learning a few powerful lessons during this stress test (known as the Global Pandemic) that I’d like to share.

Before You Commit to Anything, Get Clear on Your Priorities. You might think it’s crazy to take on all of these things that we do and I do agree, I’d also like to offer that all of these activities must be aligned with our top priorities. For example:

  • Family
  • Professional Development
  • Support & Service To Employer (and community)

For the record, I’ve said “no” to things recently, to make room for my “yes” replies When asked if I want to get involved in anything new, I say, “let me think about it” before I agree to move forward. Clear priorities give me guidelines on whether I should say “yes” to anything new.

You Can’t Do Everything. We all have limitations. What I’ve learned is that I can’t be everywhere at once, I don’t always make the best decisions, and there are others willing to step up and help when asked. To manage, we have to delegate and empower. Sometimes it’s hard for people to give up control as they assume more responsibility. You can delegate authority, but not responsibility. When you delegate authority, you give people autonomy – something we all crave. Any task that has been delegated can be a great learning opportunity for someone else.

Sometimes Good Enough Is….Good Enough. We’re all busy and in the greater scheme of our lives, things matter but maybe not as much as we think. When you’re busy, how you allocate your minutes is critical. During the week, there are things I spend time on and things I don’t. There are things that I perfect, and there are things I choose not to. In your world, you know when you’re trying to make perfect things that don’t matter. The key is being able to recognize when good enough is really good enough.

For all of us, we strive to feel full lives. I’ve given up on the idea that life can feel balanced – is anything ever really balanced?


Online Faculty Should Be Present In Class

In general, effective teaching requires that faculty be present with their students. When faculty are teaching in-person they don’t leave their students. In fact, in a traditional classroom setting faculty engage their students in a number of ways. For example, by answering questions, offering explanations, asking questions, providing leadership and guiding them through the course. Many faculty may arrive early to get ready for class and even stay afterwards to talk 1:1 with students who may need extra support. The bottom line is, these faculty are present and available to their students.

For many faculty who began their careers in traditional classrooms and have made the transition to online courses, being present in the class has been a challenge. Without a regular block of time to meet students in the classroom, prepare content and review student work many faculty may go several days without being present in a class.

A colleague of mine shared a simple suggestion for faculty that may be looking for opportunities to be more present in their online classes. This suggestion was to create a very basic calendar and consider how many hours a week is spent teaching them in person course. Perhaps it’s 10 to 15 hours a week if combining actual in-person classroom time with the time that’s needed for preparing content and grading assignments.

The idea here is to schedule the same amount of time to be present and engaged in the online class. Here are some tips that will help faculty be more present in their online courses:

Weekly announcements – this is a great way to provide an overview of what is expected during the week. This can be done in a couple different ways including a basic email or an informal video. For faculty that are comfortable with an informal video, a video of 1 to 2 minutes is suggested.

Response time – clearly articulate at the beginning of the class and during every weekly announcements that any questions that are received via email or through a question and answer discussion area will be replied to in a specified time frame. Most faculty report that they are comfortable responding to students in 24-36 hours.

Availability – holding regular Office hours and scheduling Time with students by appointment are both going to let students know that you’re available and willing to help if need be.

Discussions – be involved, engaged and talk with students in discussion forums available in the class. This is critical when working with students who have never participated and online class previously. Many faculty members make the mistake of assigning discussion items without clearly explaining or modeling what the expectations are.

Something to consider…faculty who self-report being more present and engaged in their online classes, also report having students who are more present and engaged in the class.


Top 5 List: Ideas For Training Faculty

Training faculty often falls within the scope of work of those that practice instructional design and/or educational technology. This training can be challenging when it comes to the use of new digital technologies and tools. While some of my colleagues over the years have expressed how challenging this can be, I find that to be just the opposite of my experience. The training should focus on several strategies and this will lead to an effective and efficient outcome for all of those that are involved. Here are couple things to consider:

Relationship building – this strategy will offer the opportunity to apply newly acquired knowledge directly into daily practice. Building a professional relationship allows the person doing the training to better understand the baseline knowledge and comfort level of the individual receiving the training. This allows open communication that can lead to possible opportunities for collaboration in the future.

Staying informed – research is a very important part of training. To research the latest trends in higher education, instructional design and learning in general can serve as a starting point for training development. Many times faculty are not able to articulate what they need because they don’t know what the options are.

Walk the walk – the person conducting the training should have an inside scoop on what is involved in teaching courses prior to conducting any training. A key ingredient will be that the trainers have first hand knowledge of the entire process of building a course: designing, developing, implementing, assessing and revising.

Build bridges – instructional designers have the opportunity to view a variety of courses across different disciplines. This offers a unique perspective and can often serve as a bridge between faculty members. Many times faculty would like to collaborate across disciplines but they’re just not aware of what others are doing. Sharing information across disciplines will benefit all involved in the process.

Leadership – successful instructional designers that do training proactively support faculty and allow faculty to share experiences with each other. One of the ways to do this is to establish an online faculty learning community within the institution. In this space ideas can be shared in an effective manner. Once established,  some of the things it can be shared include job aids, quick tips, best practices and other digital tools to increase efficiency and improve student outcomes.