Tag Archives: Student Affairs

Staying firm on expectations

I’ve been attending a training lately about helping students and colleagues in crisis.  The sessions have been taught by the head of our counseling office.  Last week we were talking about how to diffuse a situation specifically with the angry or irate person.

She taught us this great mnemonic device:  

  • L: Listen
  • E: Empathize
  • A: Ask Questions
  • P: Paraphrase
  • S: Summarize

Then, as she explained how to use it, she shared with us that at some point in the conversation you will set some expectations of the person.  Maybe you will ask them to sit down or move to a different location…etc.  Then she said: “it is really important that you stay firm on the expectations that you set.”

The light bulb went off in my head as to how many other things this applies to!  While yes, these are great tactics to use when you are trying to calm down a resident/student/colleague in crisis, these are also really great tools to use when supervising.

In my experience, your supervisee’s will respect you more if you are firm with expectations.  This boils down to three big things.

  1. set the expectations – Spend time really thinking through what it is you want out of each interaction/situation.  If you want your staff to send you an email at x time with y information in a specific format, then tell them!
  2. explain them – Take the time before your first 1:1 with a new staff  member to explain to them what a 1:1 should look like (for you).
  3. stand by them – You need to hold your staff accountable to your expectations.  This is really the focus of this whole post.

As we hold our staff accountable, they will respect us more and know how to work with us better.  Part of making your supervisor happy can make you feel better about your job and enjoy what you do more.

Interestingly enough, going back to the L.E.A.P.S. device, that’s a great way to remember and think about active listening – but, that’s a whole different blog post.

How are you at standing firm with your expectations?


Cyber-Bullying: An approach to end/prevent it.

Saw this on FB the other day:

Name Removed:
Thinks that we forget that bullying isn’t just teasing. Yet, that’s what we focus on. I believe its as important to focus on how to be assertive without being a bully. Without that, kids turn into adults who bully-customers in stores and restaurants, colleagues, friends, and significant others. The very same people kids watch us interact with. Stop the cycle. Don’t be a bully and tell people who are – even adults.

When I started at the boarding school (several years ago in a previous life), I was caught off guard by how much bullying occurred & how much it was a concept we talked about during our staff meetings almost every week.  As a school, we had no idea what to do with this.  We were clueless.
In my previous position as a Graduate Hall Director, we found bullying occurs at many different levels — but we see the most of it in the form of students sending nasty messages about or to one another via facebook and twitter.  As an institution (the greater institution of Higher Education),  I feel like we can react to this behavior – but, we don’t seem to have a tool in-place to prevent it.

In my previous-previous life (so, before the boarding school), I worked for Mothers Against Drunk Driving as a alcohol educator.  My job was to travel around the country and both educate k-12 students about the dangers of drinking and driving — and also to work with grass-roots organizing groups of teens trying to curb such behavior in their community.  With these students we talked about a concept called ‘environmental prevention.’ 

For my Environmental Prevention sessions — I went through this explanation called the “dogs and fleas” analogy.  The basic idea is that it is really hard to get rid of fleas.  So, you have to really think about the whole bigger picture & not just give your dog a flea bath every once and a while.  But, even if you flea-bomb your house & wash the dog, your dog might still get fleas from hanging around the neighbor’s animal.
Translating this to alcohol prevention, you need to work with your students on campus to educate them, to provide awesome alternatives across campus, collaborate with the local police to step-up enforcement efforts, partnership with local establishments to enhance carding and reduce selling to underage individuals, and work with the legislators to change laws.  You really attack the problem from all angles.

I’m sure there is a way to combat bullying – specifically cyber-bullying by using environmental prevention.  I have about 1/2 the plan mapped out in my head.  The other 1/2 is still a work in progress.

What do you think? Can environmental prevention be a way to get ahead & help to prevent bullying – rather than merely react to bullying?

No Social Media in the Bedroom!

If you’ve been following me on twitter you might have seen me tweet about this from time to time.  My amazing partner & I decided a few weeks ago to stop playing around on our cell phones in the bedroom.

We, like many people we know, might be playing Words with Friends, checking tweets, browsing facebook, or checking email before bed or right when we wake up.  We both use the cell phone as an alarm to wake us up in the morning (with a perfectly good dual alarm clock sitting next to the bed gathering dust…).

ImageBoth of us, at different times, have been very annoyed with the other at times for being so involved in the cell phone that we ignore the other.

So, a few weeks back we made some rules.

1) No social media in the bedroom.

2) No email in the bedroom.

3) No cell phone games in the bedroom.

4) Answer text messages/cell phone calls is fine (an unsaid expectation is that we don’t initiate those interactions).

Since then we have both slept better.  Since then we have both spent more time connecting with each other & less time being glued to a screen.

With the academic school year starting very soon, & knowing how my job picks up, we are going to continue these rules.  I believe that cell phone addiction has become a problem for many people.  There is no reason that I need to be accessing my email in those first few waking moments of the day (or right before sleep when I should be winding down).  I believe  I need to check my work email before I get to the office, but there is personal time in the morning that does not need to be work-infested.  I need to trust my colleagues to do their jobs and manage the various situations during their duty shifts that lead up to when my work time starts.

What do you think about our new rules? Could you uphold them? I challenge you to try it for a week and see if (& how) your sleep patterns change.

Totally unrelated sidenote, finding a graphic for this post was a challenge.  This graphic just made me laugh and wonder what my readers would say…  This was another failed graphic.  And although this one was very tempting, I decided to go with the one pictured above.


I’ve been attending a training lately about helping students and colleagues in crisis. The sessions have been really interesting. At one point we were talking about how to build trust with individuals who are in crisis mode. One of the tactics the facilitator was explaining was all about how we need to be honest and admit mistakes when/if we made them with such individuals. We talked about this in contrast to the opposite – which would be telling lies, deflecting answers, avoiding topics…etc. The basic premise was all about building trust which would help to diffuse the situation.

I jotted this note down:

Being honest + admitting mistakes = builds trust >>> SUPERVISION!
Obviously triggering in my mind that this also applies to supervision.

For readers who have read my blog a lot in the past, you will know that I love talking about and thinking about how I supervise & how I can supervise better. While I am not going to go out and say that I purposefully deflect or lie to those that I supervise, I do admit that I have been known to occasionally sugar coat things.

As I reflect about this concept, I think about the difference between being honest and admitting mistakes vs deflecting or avoiding topics and how this impacts those that I supervise.

I know when my supervisor (or past supervisors) say “I can’t answer that,” I respect them more. While I still really want to know the answer, I realize that they have heard my question and are being honest with me. I then respect and trust them more.

For those who know me at all, you know that I am quick to admit mistakes. I have no problem telling those that I work with and for that I have messed up. Just the other day I sent an email asking for a piece of information I had already received. Once I figured it out, I was quick to send an apology email – even pointed out that I felt foolish! For me, this is all about being honest with those that you work with.

What do you think about how this concept? Do you feel that being honest and admitting mistakes builds trust, which helps make you a stronger supervisor? How? Why?

This post was posted on http://thesabloggers.org on July 2, 2012.

#oneword 2012

Last year, my #oneword was ‘Strive’ – I shared with you all a great activity that I did with my RA’s and how much fun it was for them to come up with a word & then for me to run with it as the word I wanted to use for myself!

This year, my #oneword is a word I’ve been saying almost daily in my job.  I wish I did this more.  I wish other folks did this more.  I know that I CAN do this more.  I intend on doing this more.

My word for 2012 is ‘Sharing.’  No cool graphic this year to illustrate it (sorry!).

I debated doing ‘Share’ vs ‘Sharing’ – and decided on the verb/action because I want to do more of it this year.

For me there are two parts of this goal:

1) Personal life – I don’t do a good job at sharing what goes on with me with those around me.  I can do better.  This is the bigger part of the goal.

2) Professional life – I work at a large-ish institution within a large-ish department.  I can do a better job at sharing the triumphs of the area that I work in, sharing the ideas/mechanisms that I use in my area, and also at encouraging others to share their great ideas as well.

So, while last year I was pushing others (and myself) to ‘Strive’ to do better — this year, I’m pushing myself and others to be a better part of the community that is ‘Sharing.’

What is your #oneword2012 ?

How could you be better at ‘Sharing’?

Slow down!

Similarly to the Simon & Garfunkel song “59th Street Song (Feeling Groovy)”  I saw this Zits Cartoon and was struck to remind myself (and others) to SLOW DOWN!

 (11.2.11 Zits)

Even though we are neck deep in the week before finals here & it is BUSY! — I still need to take the time to remind myself to slow down.

The other obvious point in this Zits cartoon is the idea of multi-tasking & I love how the parents are just so confused by the multi-tasking concept.  I do believe that as busy as many of us are during this late-fall season… we tend to multi-task more.  I encourage you to take a breath, take a break, and not multi-task.

Going back to our friends Simon & Garfunkel – “Slow down, you move to fast…” really take the time to relax this next few weeks and celebrate as you say “Life I love you! All is groovy!”

1:1 prompts

I tweeted a few months ago a link to a google docs page  where you can see a long list of 1:1 prompts.

This is not coming from a place of me needing more prompts for my 1:1’s — instead, this comes from me flipping through papers from my previous position, and I found a list of conversation starters.  I put these on a list & then invited others to add on.

In my current job, I am in a position where I have one on one conversations with the RA’s that I supervise.  I currently supervise 16 RA’s and one Assistant Hall Director.  The system is set up to where my AHD and I both meet with the RA’s on a weekly basis.  Actually, I meet with each RA every other week, while my AHD meets with the RA’s on the off weeks.  In practice, we each meet with 8 RA’s per week.  It’s a great system.

I want to spend a moment talking about how and why I value 1:1’s.  I believe that so much of what we do as supervisors is to provide opportunities for those that we supervise to be successful.  In the RA job specifically, I help my RA’s to figure out what it is that their role really entails.  These conversations might be processing through a rough duty call or awkward resident interaction; it might be helping an RA understand their role while preforming rounds or planning a program; or it might be helping them to realize they need to be successful in their academics or listening to a challenging moment in their relationship with their significant other.  

As a k-12 teacher, I never had a 1:1.  As a public speaker before being a teacher, I never had a 1:1.  I can actually remember my first 1:1 two years ago with my first supervisor.  I was amazed at how deep our conversation went and how I grew to look forward to these times.

It takes time to develop a meaningful relationship with your supervisor — I believe strongly that about 80% of it is up to the supervisor.

I’ll be the first to admit that I do not have quality relationships with everyone that I have supervised — but, I will defend that by saying that I have tried to connect with each one.

I had a conversation earlier this year with someone I supervised last academic year.   During that conversation, they shared with me that their new supervisor is good, but that they miss our 1:1’s.  With the new supervisor, the conversation is based on going through a list of what this person has (or has not) accomplished in the past two weeks.  Rarely do they process events that happened nor does the conversation spread to topics outside of the work place.

Now, it is not for me to say that this is or is not a ‘good’ supervisory relationship — but, for me specifically with undergraduate students, I think it is crucial that we spend time (as professionals) really connecting with them.  Showing ourselves as vulnerable, learning their passions, and — of course — coaching them to do their jobs better.

So! That’s my two cents on 1:1’s.  What are your experiences? What positive and negative experiences have you had with 1:1’s?

Goal Setting #reslife

What do you want your residents to say about their experience – after living in your building?

I think that’s a great overarching question to ponder at this point in the academic year.  For me, at my new institution, our Grad’s are just now arriving.  Our RA’s arrive in a week – then RA training and residents follow very quickly behind!  Before we blink, it will be October – then December.  Soon it will be way to late to “start making goals for your building.”

So, what are you thinking?

For our building, we are launching a campaign.  I’m not going to reveal it too much at this point – want to wait till I have photos to post and show how awesome it is.  But, think of it as a basic theme that will ignite the residents to take ownership over their space, building community, and help the RA’s in the process of making our building warm and friendly.

Other goals, I want our residents to use tools other than social media to communicate with those around them.  Translated – I want our roommates to actually talk with one another.  Specifically, when roommates are challenged with difficult situations, I know this generation of students turns to their support network (parents often) and passive agressive technology related communication techniques (using Facebook/text messaging) to ‘talk’.  However, they clearly are not talking- instead they are ‘throwing their ideas out’ and never really pausing to see what the other has to say.

Moving from that goal, I want the residents in my building to have enough fun and do well enough in their classes that they realize that the residence hall is a good place.  I want them to want to return, tell their friends about how great the residence hall is, and to encourage incoming students to want to live in the resident halls.  I firmly believe that I picked the best department to work for — thus, I believe that I am set up for success in growing retention in my building.  Or, at least that’s the nice fluffy naive goal I have for myself…

What types of goals do you have for your building? How are you going to accomplish them?  What needs to happen in order for you to know you have achieved your goals? How will you measure that?

Dear my new staff

This is a letter to my new RA staff.

First off- I am so excited to be working with you.  I know that we will have a fantastic year working together.  I hope you feel the same degree of positivity that I have about this.  I know that we have an excellent Senior Staff to work with you.  Between myself,  Jac (the other Hall Director in the building), and our two Assistant Hall Directors — this is a great team to work with.

However, I think the thing I am looking forward to the most is getting to know each of you.  I mean really developing a relationship with you where you feel supported in your job, supported in your life, encouraged, and also challenged.  I am going to hold you accountable to your job here.  I am going to push you to try harder in your job.  I will ask you about your classes.  I will encourage you to study harder and to make sure you are taking the time each of your classes needs.  I will also be challenging you to make healthy decisions in your life.  Perhaps that means I will just push you to accomplish your own goals.  Maybe that means I will work with you to create goals for your future.  I bet I’ll remind you that you wanted to go to the Gym 3 days a week.

I hope that you enjoy your time working with me.  I love my job, I love that I’m doing this job, and I’m loving working at this institution.  I hope we both have fun working in this building together.  I know I have an absurd sense of humor.  I hope you can enjoy it – or at least learn to roll your eyes at me.

I’m also looking for you to challenge me.  If I tell you I’ll have something for you by a certain time – I hope you hold me accountable to that.  Accountability works two ways.

I know that you will come up with some ideas at how to better run our building — I hope you will bring these ideas to me!  I want to hear them.

Now, I’m sure not everything will be daisies and roses.  I am positive that we will have some challenging moments, challenging conversations, and maybe not all of us will be employed in our current position in May.  I know the duty phone will ring at odd hours and we’ll both be grumpy about it.  I am positive we will get a fire alarm during inclement weather.  I guarantee that I will ask you to do something that you are not so thrilled about doing.

Please know that my goal, over everything that I do, is to create the best environment for our residents.  I want them to be academically successful.  To measure this, I want them to stay in school and have good grades.  I also want our residents to enjoy their time living with us.  I know that you will do some outstanding programs that are under attended.  But, I want the overall experience for our residents to be positive and fun — all the while, we are creating a safe and secure place for them to study and be academically successful.

This department exists to “provide a high-quality, affordable living/learning environment that contributes to personal development and academic success” (SIUC University Housing Mission Statement).  Our jobs are to help carry out this mission.

I’m ready — are you?

– Your Hall Director – Brian