Are You Managing Technology or is Technology Managing You?

Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Are You Managing Technology or is Technology Managing You?

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With the emergence of new technologies and the fast rate in which the world (in relation to technology) is changing, it is important to understand the role technology plays on your campus. Technology is incredible, but with a rise in topics such as robotics, artificial intelligence, and body hacking, technology can also become overwhelming, leading to discussions of technology taking over. Technology on college campuses has moved beyond simple SIS and CRM systems. Technology is being brought to campus by students, incorporated into the classroom, utilized to make informed decisions, and to ultimately help drive a university forward.

It is vital for a campus to understand where they are at, and where they want to go. Having a clear, unified vision of what the campus will look like in 3, 5, 10 years can help guide decisions made by every department on campus. Technology should be a key component in helping a campus get to where it wants to be. However, too often, we let technology dictate our decisions, and become a roadblock, rather than an aid.

Often, individuals on a campus ask questions regarding how to obtain specific data, how to streamline certain processes, or inquire about making a change to enhance their job and/or the campus. Too often, the response is “that can’t be done” or “this system does not allow us to do that” or a simple, “no”. A solution never gets discovered because the current technology doesn’t allow for something, or more often, because nobody knows how to actually come up with a solution with their current knowledge of the already-existing technology. Instead of finding a way, we use an excuse and blame technology.

When an educational institution decides where it is heading, and makes a plan on how to get there, it allows them to decide what technology can assist them in achieving their goals. When it appears that the functionality of a specific technology becomes a roadblock, it is up to campus leaders to find a solution. When technology is managing you, you are allowing it to make decisions for you. When you manage technology, you are deciding what you want, and allowing technology to be one component to help get you there.

I don’t believe technology should ever take over the decision making or role of humans. Rather, technology should guide and assist human beings. However, without realizing it, it is easy to let technology be the reason campuses don’t meet a goal, finish a task, or improve processes.

One reason institutions rely too heavily on technology is that most campuses have multiple systems, multiple departments each relying on a different system to provide them adequate information, and sometimes, information is pulled from several systems to aid in decision making. Too often, these systems operate as disparate systems, providing inconsistent data. When this happens, a few problems occur:

  1. Users have to pull multiple reports, out of multiple systems and either have contradictory data, or manual work is needed in order to get the data needed.
  2. Redundancy may be occurring, meaning multiple systems are being used for similar tasks, rather than combining everything into fewer systems.
  3. Lack of use. With disparate systems, it’s more common for users to not fully understand all the potential uses of a system. Each system is being used a little, but probably not to its full potential.

Technology is a wonderful thing, and with enhancements and new technologies emerging, the possibilities are endless. However, no technology will ever be beneficial if users allow the technology to restrict them. Technology should be an aid. It should assist humans, and become a tool that enhances human capability.

Does Purpose at Work Result in a Clean Restroom?

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I was visiting a well known and well respected café in Palo Alto, California. I went to use the single stall restroom to find that it was in use. I waited patiently until the door opened and an employee of the café walked out. As she stepped out and held the door open for me, I walked in. Once inside, I found an average restroom (nothing fancy, but not dirty). Although the restroom wasn’t overly dirty – there were some pieces of toilet paper on the floor, as well as an empty toilet paper roll positioned about a foot in front the toilet. The toilet paper in the toilet paper dispenser was empty, but there was a roll sitting on top of the dispenser that was available to use. Although I wouldn’t necessarily consider the restroom dirty and it was in good enough shape that I felt comfortable using it – the empty roll on the floor wasn’t exactly appealing to the eye, giving off the feel that the restroom wasn’t well taken care of. What really caught my attention though, was the fact that it was an employee that had been in there right before me. Of course I don’t believe she put the empty roll there – but I do believe she probably did see it. So why didn’t she pick it up?

Companies and organizations need to get very clear on what their purpose is. What each employee should strive for and keep in mind throughout each day. For a café, I’d assume it would be to serve customers and provide them with the best food, drinks, and service. The goal or purpose for any company usually isn’t “keep the restroom clean”. However, everything that is done should be done with the ultimate goal in mind. When you’re clear on what your purpose is and what needs to happen to fulfill that purpose – employees should be able to see how they fit in and how their role helps contribute to the ultimate goal. When employees understand and feel apart of contributing to the purpose (operations/profitability/success) of the company, it gives their job meaning. When they feel that their job has meaning, it motivates them to actively contribute to the good of the company. When everybody has the same goal in mind (other factors are involved, that I won’t go into detail on right now), employees tend to pitch in where needed and even do things that are out of their job description (within reason, when and where appropriate). When employees don’t feel that their role actively contributes to the overall goal and they lack purpose, they ultimately lack motivation to do their job. They focus on their role alone, and are not dedicated to the company. Eventually, they may stop putting forth any effort whatsoever. When you create a culture where the whole company (in this case – the whole café including cooks, servers, cashiers, dishwashers, etc.) works together rather than separate, then it shouldn’t matter if the employee is responsible for cleaning the restroom. The fact that a clean restroom is important when it comes to good service – should be enough to trigger any employee to pitch in and throw away the empty roll laying there in the middle of the floor. Of course this carries over into any situation, not just the bathroom. Cashiers will step in when needed if possible, dishwashers will go above and beyond when the opportunity presents itself, etc.

While having a clear vision and a purpose may not guarantee a clean restroom, it does mean that (the right) employees (in the right roles) will be more apt to work collectively towards the shared vision.

I should point out that all employees I interacted with were super friendly and I was served the best chai tea latte I’d ever had.

I also did pitch in and throw away the toilet paper roll.

When You Change Your Perspective, Your Problems Change

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When you have an issue at work – maybe an implementation didn’t go as planned, or a new system recently implemented isn’t as used or accepted as you originally hoped, or problem after problem keeps continuously seems to arise – it may be hard to have a positive view about yourself, your team, your job, and/or your contribution. When everybody is complaining about something your team is responsible for, and things just aren’t looking hopeful, it’s harder to stay motivated. In your eyes, it may feel like you have let people down, or have failed. 

When I was 17 weeks pregnant with my first child, we went to the doctor to find out the gender. Instead, we left being told that our child’s leg was deformed. Throughout the course of my pregnancy we saw a specialist, who continuously did ultra sounds. Each time we hoped her leg looked better, but each time we were told the same thing – “her foot is turned inward, and her leg is short”. We were not given a name, so we didn’t quite know what to expect. We hoped for the best, but when she was born, we realized it was a pretty serious issue. We saw multiple doctors who all told us to amputate the leg, as it was too deformed to use. As new parents, with a tiny newborn, those words were hard to hear. It was hard to grasp what exactly we were dealing with. Fast forward 18 months, and we ended up finding a doctor who specializes in saving limbs like our daughter’s, and he told us there was no need to amputate. As we spent a lot of time in the doctor’s office and the hospital over the next 2 1/2 years, we started to realize that our daughter’s condition wasn’t that bad! Although it occurs in approximately 1 in every 1 million live births, we came to meet a lot of people that had the same or similar condition, some even more severe than our daughters. Our daughter was born missing part of her tibia bone, causing deformity in the lower half of her leg. However, we came to meet people who had the same condition in both legs, or the same condition but no bone at all, causing more complications. Additionally, there are children out there with life threatening illnesses, and issues with vital organs. All the sudden our perspective changed. We went from thinking her leg deformity was this terrible thing to being thankful for it. We were thankful that it wasn’t as severe as it could be. We were thankful that she was otherwise healthy, and this was just 1 minor issue. Of course we still had to deal with the issue, and we continue to go through treatments and surgeries and extra things due to this issue, but in retrospect, it’s not that bad. 

The same is probably true for issues you may have at work. Yes, it may seem like everybody is pointing fingers at you, and that your issues are major. However, I can almost guarantee that if you start talking to other schools, and start hearing about issues they have, you may start to realize your troubles aren’t as bad. Communicating and collaborating with other schools can provide multiple benefits, including:

1. When you start to realize how other schools are having the same, or even bigger issues than you, it sheds a whole new light on your issues. All the sudden, you may think that the issues you’re having aren’t as bad. The benefit of this, is when your issues seem smaller, you feel like there’s more hope to fix it. As the size of the issue shrinks, it appears more realistic to address. When your issues don’t seem as big as they once did, you start to feel better, think more positively, and in turn, become more productive and motivated.

2. Collaborating can help you solve your issues. When you build a network of other schools, you may begin to realize that they have a solution for your issue, and maybe you have a solution for some of their issues. Working together can benefit everybody involved. 

Issues happen. Challenges are inevitable. Everybody goes through difficult situations. However, when you change your perspective, you learn to address the issue rather than fixate on the problem, and continue to move on. When you fail to change your perspective and are completely focused on that one issue – nothing else seems as important, and you fail to tackle the issue at hand and move forward. 

“If you can’t change the circumstances, change your perspective.” – Unknown

If We All Only Ate Pizza

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Can you imagine a world where we all dressed the same, acted the same, ate the same thing, and enjoyed the same activities? How boring. And how terrible that would be for society.

If we all only enjoyed hamburgers and pizza – nobody could sell tacos or ice cream.

If we all only enjoyed fishing – we wouldn’t have other sports or hobbies (and probably no more fish).

If we all had the same thoughts – nobody would ever invent something new.

The same applies in a team setting. Too often a team feels they are supposed to act and be a certain way and only say certain things.

What’s wrong with that?


How can new ideas be born if individuals on a team feel like they have to fit inside a cookie cutter role? How can change happen? How can a team or organization move forward if employees don’t feel like they are allowed to think outside the box, present their ideas, give suggestions, or even…dare I say it…fail! *gasp!*

Too many times our team members are scared to fail. Scared to say something that may seem too “out there”. Individuals try to be like everybody else to fit in. Just as society would struggle if we were all the same – teams will struggle if everybody is the same. 

Within a team, you must embrace everybody’s differences. Sure, maybe Sally’s ideas are pretty outrageous. Maybe Bob’s jokes are annoying. However, the way we solve problems as a team and move an organization forward is embracing everybody’s differences. The way we come up with new ideas, solve problems, and begin thinking strategically, is by understanding that we are all different, see things differently, experience things differently, and react to things differently. All these differences coming together, is what allows a team to solve issues faster and come up with new ideas. 

You must first embrace the fact that everybody is different, encourage everyone to be themselves, and then come together, unified, to solve problems and make progress as a team.

Empathy in the Workplace

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I’m writing this as I’m rocking my youngest child to sleep. It’s about an hour past the time I planned on going to bed. I’ve spent the last hour walking around my house, holding my 2 year old. Right about the time I was headed to bed, she woke up crying, unable to sleep due to allergies, trouble breathing, and an earache. As I held her close and walked around the house putting her back to sleep, I started thinking about how hard it is to be a working mom. My initial plans, which consisted of going to bed semi-early, getting a full night of sleep, waking up early to do some housework, and then spending my day working, has quickly turned into a night cut short, more than likely resulting in me sleeping in as late as I can (aka not doing the housework I intended) and fueling myself with a large coffee in the morning, after I scramble to get everybody up, ready, and out the door for school. No nap in sight.

Being a working mom is hard I thought to myself as my mind flashed back to the last ear infection just a month ago. Sitting in the urgent care room on a Sunday morning, just hours before I was scheduled to fly out of town for a week. Juggling work and kids can be difficult. And then add in the mom guilt and the judgement spewing from the mouths of others.

I then began to think about what non-moms struggle with. Who am I to complain that being a working mom can be difficult at times? Who am I to assume that others don’t have the struggles or don’t deal with judgement from others? I began to realize that everybody has difficult moments. Everybody has periods of time where life is less than ideal. Times when trial after trial seems to flood our lives. Times where it’s difficult to get up and perform your best at work, due to some external factor(s). This isn’t a mom thing. This is a human thing. As a mom, we may have struggles others don’t experience. However, it by no means makes our issues worse than anybody else’s. What about the person going to work, while a loved one is sick in the hospital? What about the person who forced themselves to get out of bed, despite their relationship ending the night before? The individual who’s significant other just lost their job, resulting in a loss of income.

As my little girl is beginning to fall back asleep in my arms, I start to ponder what is expected from an organization that allows “life” to happen to their employees. An organization and leader that doesn’t believe work is the only thing employees deal with. A place that understands there is life outside of work. What does it take to allow employees to feel comfortable, to feel like they don’t need to be perfect. To allow them to deal with issues that arise outside of work? Empathy is what is needed in the workplace. 

How to encourage empathy in the workplace

Empathic leadership – In a team setting, most everything starts with the leader. Just as a child learns by mimicking their parent(s), employees (even without realizing it), will mimic their leader. If you have an empathic leader, it is more likely that employees with follow suit. So why is empathy important? Empathy is being aware of others feelings, and understanding the needs of others. Having empathy in the workplace goes way behind understanding the needs and feelings of others only when they are going through a hard time. When you are an empathic leader, employees will feel more comfortable talking with you if they are going through a tough time. This is beneficial because if something is truly wrong, and performance of the employee isn’t up to par, it is beneficial to everybody to understood why, so adjustments can be made as needed. Additionally, having empathy in the workplace helps employees build better relationships, and helps them understand each other better. Even if nobody is going through a tough time, strong relationships with a team that understands each other results in clear communication, no fear of failure, and a clearer understanding of who excels at what. Being an empathic leader will result in a strong team that is able to work together through the good and the bad.

Empathic Team – Each person must realize that their problems are not the worst. Sure, life is hard sometimes and bad things happen. Everybody can attempt to justify why their issue is worse than another. Whether you’re a mom, a dad, single, married, male, female, we are all susceptible to go through difficult moments. When we each stop looking at our problem as “the worst”, we can better sympathize with those who are going through tough times. When you walk around always thinking nobody has it as bad as you, you develop a need for people to constantly feel sorry for you, and other employees feel as if they are not valued or understood. 

How to practice empathy in the workplace

Encourage employees to talk and interact with one another. There are many activities you can do in order to help others begin opening up and talking to each other. One activity includes assigning new “partners” every week, and requiring each person to find out 3 facts about their partner. At the end of the week (or the end of the allotted time), ask each person to share what they have learned. Creating a culture where employees are comfortable talking with each other, and eventually begin to understand each other, yields many benefits. 

Encourage your employees to talk about the highs and the lows each week. Allowing your employees to open up about something that went right, as well as something that didn’t go right (either at work and/or in their personal lives), allows employees to practice opening up more to their colleagues, and allows each colleague the chance to provide encouragement, make suggestions, or just empathize with each employee. This can be done at the start or end of each week, allowing each employee to take a turn.

When employees begin feeling comfortable with each other, and start to truly understand each other, each person will begin feeling comfortable opening up and discussing issues that rise up. At the same time, employees will start to understand their colleagues, allowing them to begin to listen more, understand better, and pick up on any cues that something may be wrong. This allows adjustments to be made, and any issues to be addressed initially before causing major issues. 

Leading With Your Heart

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There’s a good chance you’ve experienced somebody’s energy rub off on you. When you’re around somebody who is very upbeat and positive, it more than likely puts you in a good mood. When you are around somebody who is complaining and being extremely negative, it is bound to rub off on you sooner or later. As a leader, your energies also rub off on your team. 

It is scientifically proven that the human heart emits an electromagnetic field, which sends signals to every cell of your body, affecting physical, mental, and emotional health and well being. The heart is an emotional conductor that radiates how you are feeling to every cell in your body, meaning negative emotions and feelings will start to negatively affect other parts of your body.

These electromagnetic fields can also interact with everything else that has electromagnetic qualities, including other people. It is said that the heart’s electromagnetic field can extend at least 5-15 feet in every direction, and is 5,000 times more powerful than the brain. Not only are our negative and positive emotions affecting us, they are being transmitted and felt by those around us. In a study done by it was proven that it is possible for the magnetic signals radiated by the heart of one individual to influence the brain rhythms of another. This heart-rhythm synchronization is most likely to occur with those in which you work closely with, or live with.

If the heart is so powerful, and has the ability to emit energy that can be detected up to several feet away, then the heart is one of the most important components of leadership. While the human brain is important, and having wisdom and knowledge as a leader is beneficial – none of that matters without the heart. Leading your team is not only about verbal communication. It is not strictly about knowledge that you can impart to your team. There is also energetic communication happening between your heart and the hearts of those you are leading.

When you emit positive energy, your team WANTS to follow you. When you have a team that wants to follow you, and genuinely enjoys following you – it allows you to set clear expectations and a clear path for the team, so the entire team is moving in the same direction towards the same goal. When your team is on board and can feel your positive energy, it also enables your team to be more productive and creative. When there is constant complaining, minds are focused on the negative, rather than the present and future. Negativity prohibits creativity, and demotivates people. 

Energy is contagious and can be felt by those around us. If you want an energized team, that is motivated and cohesive, it starts with the leader. The leader must be the one to inject that positive energy in the team. 

Lessons From Toilet Paper

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I walked into the restroom at a nail salon the other day and the toilet paper roll on the holder was empty. There was a rack with several other rolls, and the top roll had clearly been used several times, as it was half gone. Although the toilet paper was being used, nobody had bothered to discard the used roll, and place a new roll on the holder. What surprised me even more was that the toilet paper roll literally slid onto the holder – there was no need to take anything apart in order to change out the roll.

It got me wondering – who is responsible for replacing the roll? I doubt anybody is specifically assigned the “toilet paper changer” job. How many customers used the roll and put it back on the rack (that is clearly for extra rolls) rather than the appropriate location? How many employees used it? Why didn’t anybody replace the empty roll? Was it because it wasn’t their job? They didn’t feel the need to? They didn’t feel like they should have to? They didn’t feel like it was the appropriate thing to do? They assumed somebody else would come along and do it?

So many times in our organizations – things get left untouched. Nobody corrects them. Nobody informs anybody that it’s broken. We just assume it’s a minor thing and can easily be overlooked or ignored. In other cases, employees assume somebody else will take care of it. While changing out the toilet paper roll is pretty minor and doesn’t affect operations – what if it was unclear who should buy the toilet paper? Or who should clean the restrooms? If all those roles (no pun intended) go unassigned, things will start to spiral downward pretty quickly. Despite the beautiful nails being painted – customers will stop coming due to unclean restrooms, word will get out about how terrible the restrooms look, people may assume unclean restrooms = unclean practices in the spa. If there is not clear communication regarding the small jobs, eventually there will be miscommunication regarding the vital jobs. Eventually, business may decrease. Making sure you work together as a team will help ensure everybody is on the same page, everybody knows their role, people aren’t afraid to step in when needed, and people aren’t afraid to speak up when somebody isn’t doing their part. When there is lack of communication, there will easily be tasks that are overlooked. 

A few tips:

1. Clearly assign roles for even the smallest task, to ensure nothing gets ignored.

2. Create a safe environment where employees can speak up and talk to each other if something isn’t being taken care of properly.

3. Create a team where everybody is working towards the same goal – this will help ensure that everybody is working together, and will be more likely to pitch in when needed.

And yes, I did discard the empty roll and replace it with a new one.

Psychological Safety in the Workplace

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According to Amy Edmondson, psychological safety is “a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking.” So what exactly does that mean? It means that individuals on a team feel as if they can be themselves. They feel they can ask questions. They can offer up suggestions. They can try new things. They can even make mistakes. Essentially, psychological safety is an environment created where team members feel safe to be themselves. Let’s look at why that’s important, why it doesn’t just happen automatically, and how to create it.

Why Psychological Safety is Important:

Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to say something to somebody – but didn’t? Maybe you noticed food in somebody’s teeth and you wanted to tell them, but you didn’t want to embarrass them. Or you didn’t feel like you knew them well enough to walk up to them and point it out. Or maybe you’re not even sure why you didn’t say anything – you thought about it, then hesitated, then figured maybe somebody else would let them know. The problem with that is – you don’t really know if somebody else was going to let them know. This happens far too often in team settings. One person may have a great idea, but be too afraid to say something – thinking their boss won’t like the idea, or will shoot the idea down without even entertaining the suggestion. Another person may not feel comfortable speaking up, thinking: “What if it’s a bad idea? What if nobody likes it?” People are often too worried about what they may look like, or what would happen with their idea, than they are about making positive changes, and benefiting the team or company. So what happens when team members don’t offer up their ideas or make suggestions? – Nothing. Nothing happens. The problem with nothing happening within an organization is the organization will struggle to move forward. They can’t be strategic. They can’t move the organization along, because the team is doing the same thing they’ve always did because everybody is scared, shy, or too uncomfortable to offer up new ideas. 

Why We Must Create a Culture of Psychological Safety:

Unfortunately, psychological safety doesn’t usually just happen automatically. Teams are usually made up of people from all different backgrounds, and at times, team members leave and new team members join the team. If you think about it – working on a team can be awkward. Have you ever joined a team where everybody knew each other, and you were the new person? It can be intimidating, causing the new person to not speak up, and act as their true self. Due to the different dynamics, the leader must actually create the culture of psychological safety. It should never be assumed that everybody is comfortable. The leader must be conscious of how they respond to team members’ ideas and mistakes, and go out of their way to include team members. Leaders should not only be willing to accept ideas, they must seek out ideas.

How to Create Psychological Safety:

Psychological safety begins with the team leader. It is the responsibility of the team leader to create an environment where team members feel safe. Where they feel like they can offer up ideas. Where they feel like they can make mistakes. Yes, I said mistakes. Nobody likes making mistakes. Most people are terrified to make a mistake. The reality is – we all make mistakes. When we are too scared to make a mistake, or come up with an idea that ends up being unsuccessful, we often feel embarrassed, and feel as if we let our team down. It is up to the leader to help the team understand that not all ideas will pan out how initially intended. Not all ideas will come to fruition. But that’s okay! When you try new things, even if they don’t work exactly how you want them to, there are usually lessons learned in the situation. When lessons are learned from mistakes, and an idea doesn’t end up being successful – it allows the team the opportunity to look at what went wrong, and work together to decide what needs to be fixed. Here are a few things leaders can do to help create psychological safety within their team:

1. Ask team members for advice 

2. Let team members’ know their advice is valued (ex: listen to all advice, don’t criticize)

3. Admit your own mistakes to your team 

4. Allow opportunities for team members to be creative 

5. As a team, look at lessons learned from mistakes

6. Bring the team together to brainstorm ideas – don’t try to do everything yourself

7. Be accessible and approachable (ex: shorten lines of communication, open door policy, etc.)