Does it spark joy?
I love seeing how Marie Kondo’s work is inspiring so many people to tidy up their homes and get rid of objects that don’t “spark joy”. Having clutter weighs us down. Holding on to old possessions we don’t use, doesn’t make any sense. Marie inspires people to let go of what needs to be released.
In a way, my work as an executive coach in higher ed. is similar because I empower my clients to re-evaluate old beliefs, old assumptions, and old habits, to identify what needs to be eliminated or transformed. Although, I admit it’s not as simple as asking yourself if something sparks joy! I know that year-end reports, employee evaluations (the tough ones), and many other job responsibilities don’t spark joy in your heart, but they are necessary. However, you can still get rid of many things that weigh you down.
Do you really have to do this?
Think of the aspects of your job that you don’t enjoy or that you wish were different. Rather than keep doing the same things because they have become habits (or traditions on your campus), question old assumptions. When you evaluate the way you do something, ask yourself three questions:
#1 What outcomes do you wish to create?
#2 Is it working? (meaning, are you creating the outcomes you seek?)
#3 What would be a better way (e.g. more effective, more productive, faster, or simply more enjoyable) to get it done?
For example, you may be going to some meetings only because you feel obligated, but your presence doesn’t add enough value to the group or to your job to justify the hours spent (wasted?) there. If the outcome you seek is simply to nurture professional relationships with people there, realize that you have other ways to accomplish that.
You may be able to have someone else represent your department at those meetings, and you can socialize by having lunch with some of your peers. In fact, having conversations in a relaxed setting, with no agenda, and where nobody is taking minutes, will be more conducive to strengthening relationships than rigid meetings you find useless.
Don’t guess other people’s feelings and needs
When I work on time management and organization with my clients, one powerful way to find tremendous opportunities to change things without hurting anyone’s feelings is to ask people what they want. It seems obvious, but trust me, higher ed. leaders almost always make assumptions about what they think is best and are very surprised when they fact-check.
Here is an example. You would be shocked if you knew how often I hear something like this “I meet with my staff members one-on-one every week because I want to be accessible and I want them to know I care” only to discover that it is far too much and people strongly dislike having to spend so much time in meetings. They would rather have this time available to get their work done. Unnecessary meetings don’t make people feel valued. They make them resentful that they can’t use their time better.
On the other hand, I often hear the opposite such as “I am not a micromanager and I trust my staff, so we only meet when they ask for a meeting or when I have something specific to share with them.” Their hands-off approach may cause errors and delays in their department because of the lack of communication, unclear expectations, and low accountability. They may find themselves spending significant time fixing problems that could have easily been prevented by showing more leadership. They may also lose valuable team members who choose to go work for someone else who shows more interest in their work and appreciation for their job performance.
Question your beliefs too
When people are afraid to make significant changes, it is because they think too much about what they might lose (which may or may not be true) and not enough about all of the benefits they can gain.
If you had a crystal ball and could see that change was the right thing to do, and you were going to be successful, what would you change? Really think about this and write a few bullet points.
Now, since you don’t have a crystal ball and we know there are both risks and opportunities in change, briefly give a voice to your fears. What do you fear might go wrong? You have to face your fears to make them disappear. You can almost always find a solution to solve or even better, prevent, issues you can foresee.
For example, you may be frustrated with an outdated process you’ve had for decades and you’d like to use a new technology to streamline it. What’s stopping you? If you are afraid people will have a negative attitude, remember that you have the power to influence them by presenting the idea in a positive light and giving them all the support their need (e.g. training) to learn to use it. Remember that short-term discomfort is worth it, because the long-term benefits will be life changing.
Let’s do it!!!
I invite you to question old decisions and old habits and consider new ways to do your work. It will be an eye-opening experience and you’ll be glad you did it. If you’re not sure where to start or if you are afraid that you might be resistant to change, let me help you. I am not adorably soft spoken like Marie Kondo but I promise we’ll make progress fast and have fun in the process. It’s time to eliminate things that waste your time, things that don’t add value to your work, and transform what can be done better and faster. Let’s do it! Click here to schedule a complimentary call with me.
About the author: Dr. Audrey Reille has empowered thousands of professionals through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking engagements, and online courses. Audrey is the go-to coach for leaders in higher education administration. She empowers them to thrive by reducing stress, optimizing strategies, improving professional relationships, and developing a strong and empowered mindset.