Posted in personal, reflection

To My Son

Well it’s official today. The schools are closed for the year. Spring sports are consequently canceled. High school as you know it is officially done. And as much as we all understand why, it stinks.

We can’t pretend to imagine what you are feeling today, but we understand. Because we too looked forward to taking these last steps with you in your high school journey. Last high school season watching you play the sport you love and have worked tirelessly to excel at. Being those parents orchestrating pictures at prom. Sitting through the last academic and athletic awards ceremonies. Seeing you and your fellow seniors celebrated at the last spring concert. Enjoying the senior breakfast with you and those who mean the world to you. Watching you in your cap and gown walk the halls of your elementary school. And the ultimate moment: cheering as you crossed the stage at graduation to receive the diploma you worked so hard for.

But here’s what I do know tonight. You are stronger than you know right now. It will get better. Your future will be bright because you know how to deal with things not turning out how you expected through no fault of your own. Sadly, that’s how life is sometimes.

We will all work together to make the best of what this is so you all understand how amazing you are. And while they can take away the events, no one can strip away the accomplishments from you. You have earned every single one. May you know how much we all see that and how much you are loved.

 

Posted in community, strategy, success

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Wrapping up week whatever of this new physical distancing thing. Hopefully, everyone continues to do their part and we can start getting out a bit and one day get back to some kind of normal.  But where are we at today?

Let’s start with the easy question: what hasn’t changed? The volume of work and the range of requests coming in haven’t stopped. And with this new reality of everyone working remotely, those requests come in at all hours. There’s no defined work day any longer. Consequently, it’s more important than ever to make sure we’re prioritizing what can wait till the next day so we’re carving out personal time and family time. The temptation is too great to say “I’ll just run into the home office and do this quick. I’ll be right back.” Be strong.

But when thinking about what has changed, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with what we’re experiencing and how much we don’t know about when we can get back on our campuses.  That’s pretty daunting, but there are certainly positives that I’ve discovered.

  • Renewed Focus on Engagement
    We know one of our most important goals is creating engagement, but in the pre-pandemic world, we were faced with a lot of distractions that pulled us away from that (and I mean a lot of distractions).  While challenging, we find ourselves with an opportunity to rethink business as usual and express our creativity, innovation and problem-solving.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s also stressful but I try to find ways to focus on how empowering this can be. One theme that I keep coming back to is to drop the pretense we might have been tempted to use in the past. What our audiences need more than ever is authentic, personal content.
  • Building connections
    It’s ironic that being scattered in our home offices has led to better connectivity. Whether it’s dropping a chat message to a campus friend to see how things are going to having a quick Zoom meeting, I find that working on the island of the home office is better when we make time to connect.  I’m also finding that silos seem to be breaking down a bit as people come together to tackle our challenges and more our institutions forward.
  • Metrics Matter More than Ever
    With all the requests coming in and all the things being thrown at us, it’s so important that we can measure what we’re doing. We built a page for this special effort. Now that the dust has settled, are people still using it? If not, does it really make sense to expand it?  Are people using our sites differently now that we’re home? Are their opportunities to improve pages that previously weren’t getting quality traffic? What are people searching for? Are they finding what they need? What social media posts are engaging? What aren’t? Why? Don’t be afraid to share that information to start a conversation about what the real goal is and how we can get there.
  • Think Outside the Box
    We are so far past the “we’ve always done it this way” conversation because EVERYTHING has changed on us.  One of the hallmarks of our accepted student events was the club fair, where prospective students could see how they can get involved and meet student leaders. What happens when this is online? We host a virtual club fair that still gives a sense of who we are and what we stand for.
  • Stay Organized
    I was really good at being productive when I was in the home office for a day or two.  As the weeks stretched into months, I found it was harder to stay on track.  I also found I didn’t do nearly as well getting my steps in or staying hydrated.  I was looking for a routine tracker and found Fabulous, which has been a life-saver. I have routines set several times a day to remind me to get up and moving. I also have a new morning routine that encourages me to spend time writing for instance and an evening routine which includes among other items, to unplug before bed (which has helped my sleep pattern immensely)
  • Take Time for Professional Development
    So many of our partners are offering free professional development both as a resource and a way to stay connected.  I’m finding in the home office, it’s much easier to carve aside 30 minutes when we know that no one will be stopping in with a new request or problem that will distract us, making us feel guilty about taking development time for ourselves.  Check with your vendors & partners for opportunities to learn, get new ideas and connect. (one excellent source is Higher Ed Experts Talk & Learn Friday series)

“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.” Keep fighting the good fight and be well my friends.

Posted in Productivity, reflection

Observations on the New Normal: Week 3

Friday: In many ways it doesn’t seem like it’s been three weeks, in others, it seems like it’s been well over a year.  But time goes on, we hit our stride, we plan and prioritize, and we do our jobs the best that we can.  I started this exercise as a way to document the early days and determine how to get through each day. It’s helped me build a playbook in case we every find ourselves in a similar situation (here’s hoping we don’t any time soon).  This week has shown me that, while much different than I’m used to, we have the best plan we can have at the moment. It will be fluid, it will change as the circumstances do, but the new normal has not gotten the best of me.


Thursday:  Two big reminders today. The most important is to find ways to focus on hope. We can’t control what’s going to happen in six months. All we can control is what’s in our area of influence at this moment in time.  This means we can do one of three things: we can do our best to work strategically with our partners around the college with the collective goal of getting everyone back to our campus; we can get sucked into the churn of voices all throwing out different suggestions so we spin in different directions without progress; or we can let fear and anxiety control our approach to our work, paralyzing any forward progress.  Working strategically not only helps give me hope that we’re working toward a day when everyone together again, but also helps me from resorting to quick fixes to just move on to the next thing.  The second reminder is find ways to bring some joy each day.  It could be a social media post to our students, a kind word to a colleague, or making a nice dinner for family after the home offices and classrooms are closed.


Wednesday: Today, I’m thinking about ways to look for new opportunities to advance our digital experience across all out platforms.  Questions about finding things on our intranet has provided the chance to look at the metadata we’re providing on our search.  It seems like that was the tip of the iceberg – the possibilities are going to be endless.  I just need to work to prioritize and resist the temptation to try to do all the things at ones so nothing gets done well.

One of the disadvantages of forwarding my office phone to my cell is that I don’t have caller ID. As I was talking to a relentlessly persistent sales person today, I was beginning to get annoyed, until I took a breath and remembered he too has a job to and is working as passionately as I am to do his best.


Tuesday: First 1-3-5 checklist day in the books. The good news is that the one big thing and three medium things were accomplished.  I needed more discipline (or fewer meetings) to get to all the five little things. So I moved those to tomorrow.  Much like everything we have going on in this uncertain time, I’ve been reminding myself to give it time and see how it fits into the reality of my work. It’s a recommended way of proceeding, not set in stone.  In other news, working with my amazing intern to strategize some content ideas for the next few weeks.


Monday: As we begin week three, I finally feel like I am able to work on some of the priorities I set out to accomplish this week. More importantly, I’ve made some good progress.  I am thinking this means that we could all be at a place where we’re all settled into these uncharted waters and are finding our grooves.  At least that’s how I hope you’re feeling too.   Since we’re in this for the immediate time, I’ve been looking for ways to make sure I’m moving things forward.  I read a piece last week about the 1-3-5 checklist that I’m going to start trying.  I know I’m not alone when I confess that I struggle with my to-do list and keeping it manageable.   By focusing on one big thing, three medium things and 5 small things, it is supposed to help with prioritization and not trying to tackle too much at once, setting myself up to feel frustrated.

Remember friends, these are crazy times but we’re all in this together. Love your family, support your friends, be kind to everyone you encounter and share your coping strategies. 

Posted in Productivity, reflection

Observations on the New Normal: Week 2

Friday: Made it through another week. And finally was able to take a breath and think about some strategic ideas to tackle next week.  Once again, my email provided some virtual support and inspiration.  “A sign that you’re in a great job is that there is too much exciting stuff you want to get to and not enough time to get to it all.  I used to think of that as a problem, not as a positive. I’ve since learned to prioritize and to feel productive doing the things I set out to do and not trying to do it all.”  Here are my two biggest take-aways from the week:

First of all, give people some space they need to work effectively. Ironically, we’re working remotely, social-distancing, all the things we’re supposed to be doing but at the same time, good work takes time (whether digital or any task really).  Sometimes, we can feel like we have a car full of people on a road trip asking “are we there yet” which I think is a function of not being physically present on our campuses.  Now more than ever, it’s key to give clear status updates, share any changes to timelines, and what adding new elements will do to launch.

My second take-away is to somehow find ways to do something fun. Last week was all about communicating facts and resources everyone needed. I’ve been able to shift a bit this week to give our community some space to connect and engage with each other. It did my soul good (and has been so well received by our fans and followers!).


Thursday:  Another challenging one today because it just seemed like everything was coming at me at once.  Here’s a couple random notes to myself (and perhaps you too) to end the day.  Remember when your inbox is filling and your phone is exploding, every idea simply can’t be pursued right now (or honestly ever).   Trust yourself to sift through everything and think about what needs to be the priority.  OK, that just might be the theme of the week.

One positive to come out of the last couple weeks is that everyone is beginning to understand how much user experience matters. It’s no longer some fuzzy term – it’s how to get people the information they need quickly, accurately, and efficiently.

Last but not least, this came into my inbox today and was so timely: “You have what it takes! Self-doubt and impostor syndrome are normal and universal, and sometimes all you need is a reminder (from yourself or from others) that you made it where you are for a reason and that you can do it.”


Wednesday: Question: are you finding as everyone is working remotely that the number of requests coming in off-hours for routine things is on the rise? How do you handle these to strike a work/life balance in such a crazy time? That’s something I started struggling with last night, while being mindful that perhaps these people are flipping their schedules because of having young students at home that they are supporting as well.

Today was filled with more requests and meetings than usual.  Fortunately, it was a nice day, so I was able to take a quick break to walk around the block, clear my head, and prioritize and try to stay on task.  Keep doing good things for your campuses – remember no one knows what the right answer is. Just keep trying to keep everyone focused and not go in too many directions that you can’t support or execute.


Tuesday: I have a couple colleagues on campus who begin each day with a quick Google Chat good morning message, wishing me a good day.  Last week was so chaotic, I am ashamed to say I didn’t quite realize it, but now that I do, I’m paying it forward to reach out to a couple colleagues myself. We’re having a lot of conversations about maintaining connectedness while we’re apart. This is one easy way to move this forward.

As we announced to our Seniors that we were postponing Commencement, I was so proud of the messaging and how it was received by our students and their families.  It’s such a stressful time for everyone, to hear students comment how they knew we were thinking for them and caring for them was comforting. So if nothing else, the chaos we find ourselves in is a reminder to always care about our fans and followers.

I’m still not feeling like I’ve gotten in a good strategic groove yet, but at least I’m trying to set at least one of two key strategic items that I can accomplish each day to keep moving forward.


Monday: As I start my second week in the home office, I’m hoping everyone is as happy as can be, healthy and hunkered down at home for as long as it takes to flatten the curve.  I began the week by setting clear priorities for the day, but by 11:00 am, it was one of those everything flies off the rails afternoons.  So a couple reminders – now more than ever, we have to be confident in our skills to determine if it’s really an emergency or if it’s something that can wait.  Just communicate clearly and empathetically if you can’t do something at a particular time and indicate when you’ll be able to help.  Also, you don’t need to accept every new idea or suggestion as something you have to act on.  Again, trust your judgement and know what’s best for those you serve.  Lastly, social listening is key. Know what your fans are talking about and walk that line between understanding if they are just looking for community or if they want you to jump in and help out.

Remember friends, these are crazy times but we’re all in this together. Love your family, support your friends, be kind to everyone you encounter and share your coping strategies. 

Posted in Productivity, reflection

Observations on Remote Work in an Uncertain Time

Friday:  What’s the biggest thing I’ve noticed after a week? The Army of One in a remote office can feel pretty isolating. The higher ed community is a Godsend however.  If you haven’t already, sign up for HigherEdExperts’ Talk & Learn weekly Friday gathering to hear what our peers are doing and to remember that we’re all in this together.  My takaway from today’s session? Continue to trust my gut on what’s the right messaging to be sharing on our social channels and be strong about it. Trust your expertise even when it’s hard.  It’s all about keeping relationships strong right now. I’ve also been thinking about ways to use our existing tools to showcase our campus to people trying to get to know is virtually. We all have so much going on at the moment to create new, but if we look closely enough, we’ve got some really good stuff out there to give an authentic sense of place.  Most importantly, take some time this weekend friends to step way and connect with those you love. It’s been a long week, so we all need some time for self-care.


Thursday: While it’s difficult to do, I’ve been reminding myself today how important it is to focus on what is within the realm of our control. So today’s work is helping offices that need to update what resources they are offering to our students as we get deeper into remote working.  But as a small ray of hope, also I’m also working on ways to promote programs for our incoming class.  Experimenting with some lighter social content with a disclaimer that we all need to take a break from the chaos going on around us.   Tip of the day: so far there has been periods during each day where everything comes off the rails – whether someone reaching out for strategic help or emotional support or a “this has to happen now” request.  Just breathe, make sure it’s something you really do have to handle in the moment, and figure out how to pick up with the rest.  But good news – figured out the whole Zoom background thing (little user error on my part!)


Wednesday:  One item that’s emerged a priority – checking the internal search results on the public web site to make sure, as students and parents are searching for resources, they get the most relevant results. It’s one thing we can control that can potentially reduce anxiety of frantic quests for information.  Another thing I’m realizing – no one knows what the right answer is, so tons of ideas will be thrown our way. It can be pretty overwhelming, so it’s key to always take a step back and ask what’s the goal? What are we really trying to do?  But here’s the key: if we aren’t going to use an idea tossed our way, an authentic thank you and explanation of what direction we’re moving in makes people feel valued and supported.


Tuesday: Spending time today thinking of how to handle social media in these times.  In addition to sharing resources as we ready to work from home and move instruction to online, what else will benefit our fans, followers and friends? How can we maintain community when we’re not physically together? Like everything, that answer is going to be fluid and changing, but today it was all about giving love to our Seniors who were coping with the fact all instruction will be online for the semester.  And it’s perfectly fine to shed a tear for them.  Today’s tip for working remotely: if you’re feeling isolated, take a couple minutes to reach out to some colleagues and chat.  Even a text message helps you stay connected.  Personal progress: I did a much better job eating nutritiously and hydrating. Still need to work on getting my daily steps in.


Monday: While I typically work from home on a periodic basis, this one obviously feels different because of the unknown and uncertainty we’re all dealing with.  The first thing I noticed – I didn’t realize how much of a hugger I have become until social distancing became the new norm.  The second thing I realized was that there was a lot of anxiety that popped up for me throughout the day, so it was difficult to stay focused on anything that required concentration. I’m hoping that was because I was alone all day. Beginning tomorrow, my son’s school is officially closed until after the April break and he’ll be around the house. Epiphany of the day following our first virtual staff meeting: I REALLY need to change my Zoom meeting background.

Remember friends, these are crazy times but we’re all in this together. Love your family, support your friends, be kind to everyone you encounter and share your coping strategies. 

Posted in analytics, benchmarking, strategy, usability

Building Better Experiments

I’ve said previously that one of my current goals is to redefine the process for completing our major page revisions to include more A/B testing to demonstrate why changes are being made.  While it’s just good practice, it is also becoming increasingly invaluable to show stakeholders how changes to text, layout and presentation impact user experience.

But I wanted to take it a step further. If we launch a new version of a page, how can we show the campus leadership the positive impact of what we’ve done? I’ve been trying to come up with a better process to illustrate the improvements to a user’s journey on our site.  Here are the highlights of the process I’ve been putting into place:

  1. Take a preliminary heat map to look at clicks & scroll depth. Then document how the page is performing in your analytics tool of choice. What is the current goal performance of the page? What is the bounce rate? Are we seeing return interest in the content?  How far are people scrolling? How much extra content is on the page that doesn’t speak to the topic?
  2. Show the stakeholder what’s going on currently. Have an honest conversation after reviewing the data about what’s working and what isn’t.  Many times, this comes down to whether we’re seeing our visitors accomplish the key tasks we want them to: explore more of the site, complete our calls to action, return to the page for more information.
  3. Here comes the fun part. Now, it’s time to think about what adjustments should be made.  What do we want/need people to do? What is causing paralysis of choice? Are there any requirements we are required to have? Can we get creative with them? (The requirements piece can be huge in higher education as we all have to deal with multiple accreditors.)
  4. Construct some sort of A/B test to measure how revising the current page and the associated content can help us meet our goals. I typically use Google Optimize.  At this point, reach out to the stakeholders to share what is behind the suggested changes.
  5. Identify the criteria for success. Do we want to see longer sessions? Do we want to see the completion of specific goals? Do we want to lower the bounce rate? See better mobile performance? Share that information with your stakeholders so everyone can understand what a successful experiment will look like. 
  6. Launch the A/B test. This is probably the worst part because you’ve put all this work into creating what you think will be a better user experience and now you need to wait for the results to roll in.
  7. If the test shows that the new version our performs the goals you set previously, celebrate the launch of an improved user experience.
  8. Repeat the heat map experiment. While we’re happy with the results of the A/B test, we also want to make sure a broader number of visitors agree. Are they now clicking on our new calls to action? Scrolling further? Not getting lost in the extra information we were previously including on the page? Converting at a higher level?

Most importantly, be sure to show your success and be consistent in testing.

Capture
Heat map data for the win! 

 

Posted in strategy, usability

Let the New Decade Begin

I wasn’t even making the connection that a new decade had arrived until my feeds became filed with “Top xx of the 2010’s” posts, but here we are (although my husband would argue the new decade doesn’t begin for another year. I still remember the Y2K debates that raged in my house back in the day).

I’ve been thinking about what the start of the next decade will bring for me and came up with a few timeless items I’m renewing my commitment to:

Accessibility
I am thrilled that accessibility is no longer thought of in terms of labeling a specific population. It’s become a mainstream item of importance for everyone. I finally have a validation tool that I have been using to make improvements to our web site, but am challenging myself to take it further by ensuring our social media posts, pdf’s and forms achieve new levels of accessible content. I also want to spend more time talking to our content providers about best practices and why accessibility matters to us all.

User Experience
I have mentioned in past posts that sometimes having an external consultant say the things you have been saying in terms of the importance of user experience can make all the difference. We’re currently focusing on making smaller but meaningful improvements to how our users interact with out site. One of my main areas to reinforce this approach is doing more A/B testing to show how these changes are impacting user experience. It is invaluable to be able to show our stakeholders why changes are being made and what results we’re seeing. Along with that is refining our analytics to provide numbers with context while getting people focused on what matters in reaching our digital goals.

Reminding Everyone Who the Web Site is For
This one is tough because we’ve all had conversations with very well-meaning folks about what “needs” to be on the web site. It can be difficult to convince these people that typically that content isn’t the case (Think for example of the classic debate over the mission statement. Very few mission statements appeal to a prospective student). Much like an increased emphasis on A/B testing, I’m having good luck using heat-mapping to show what our users are looking for, the importance of enhancing the mobile user experience, and eliminating extraneous content that induces paralysis of choice to our visitors. So before and after heat maps will be a greater focus around campus.

Personal Growth
When I think back on the last decade, I can’t believe the pace of change in the digital landscape we work in. But this speaks to the need to always be learning new things, trying new things and surrounding ourselves with people that we can learn and grow from.  There are so many online opportunities to learn and stretch outside our comfort zones. One lesson I’ve learned is that it’s critical to go beyond what’s on your job description to expand my knowledge base. That’s helped me understand what my colleagues are working on and perhaps struggling with, as well as provide fresh perspective of why they are asking for a particular thing.

Fight for What’s Right
At the end of the day, all these things point to one thing – putting our users first and never wavering from that.  In the rush of the day to day and the pressure from so many competing voices on campus, that can be hard to stay focused on. As 2020 begins, I’ll be doing the absolute best I can to provide a quality digital experience. While I know this will take many shapes in the next decade, the concept of putting users first will never losing it’s importance.

2010 web
A peak at the college web site at the beginning of the decade, including the obligatory Flash plugin. Speaking of usability, the red icon holding a seedling was actually a link to our giving page, not sustainability as so many thought.

Posted in advice, benchmarking, strategy, success

It’s That Time of Year

Ready or not, the end of 2019 is coming quickly (yes, I know Captain Obvious). And for many of us, that means receiving a message from the Powers that Be for a unit review of how the year went.  As I was wrapping up my summary, I thought of five tips to crush unit review time:

Use data
One of my absolute must-haves to include in any review is data. Show the Powers that Be facts to back up what you are telling them.  It’s much more powerful to say “implementing a new accessibility tool resulted in a 68.4% reduction in violations” than “we saw fewer violations after implementing accessibility tools”.  As important as analytics tools are, a time-tracking tool also does wonders to help easily show what we’ve done. Again, it’s much more powerful to say “we worked with 48 offices and departments across campus” than “supported a variety of units around campus.”

Think Strategically
It has been my experience that being able to tie at least some of our annual accomplishments back to the institution’s strategic plan goes a long way in showing the higher ups that we are on board with the college’s strategic priorities, understand why they are important, and our work supports these efforts wherever and whenever it’s possible.

Celebrate success
While it never seems like there is a good time to put together this information, I always find a ton of amazing work over the past year that because of the business of the day-to-day, I forgot about. The unit review is the time to celebrate everything you’ve accomplished.  Take a victory lap – it typically only happens once a year! Then it’s back to planning and executing.

Include one thing that didn’t work
After talking about how well things went over the course of the year, I think it’s important we acknowledge something that didn’t go as planned, what we learned from it, and how we plan on keeping it from happening again. I think it conveys that we’re able to honestly assess what we’ve done and are willing to grow.

What to build on
I always like to show what successes we plan on building on. We use a lot of Stop, Start, Continue exercises and this is a perfect time to incorporate those lessons.  I’ll be honest, I’m not a real fan of many team building exercises, but getting everyone on the same page thinking about what we need to keep doing, what’s not giving us any benefit, what we need to do more of is typically a good thing.

I’m using the free edition of Toggl for time tracking and it’s really taken a lot of pain out of this process for me. It did take a a while to figure out what was the best way to use the tags to provide something meaningful, but I’ve found a system that works. I have found the same with Sprout Social; getting the tags right helps with reporting and analysis.

What is your go-to tip for preparing an annual review?

 

Posted in advice, community, strategy

Rethinking the Army of One

I talk a lot about being an Army of One, the quintessential solo shop. I have worn it as a badge of courage for a long time. But it’s occurred to me lately that we’re never really flying solo. Support is there with us if we know where to look.

If you can’t get the internal buy-in to expand your staff immediately, there is help out there:

  • Student workers
    Hey we are on college and university campuses; we are surrounded by students that can help out. I am trying to hire students in their first year so once they are trained, they are mine for a while. As they grow in their role, they take on more responsibility. Don’t think they have to be communications or marketing students. I only ask that my students be good writers that have a strong attention to detail and are willing to ask questions. Since we are a liberal arts college, writing and critical thinking are two skills we require across all disciplines, so I find working in my office has helped them succeed academically as well.
  • Interns
    Again, this goes back to the whole campus thing, but students crave real-world experience. They want to find what sparks their interest and test-drive careers. Working in the digital world is a game-changer. Students love an internship where they can be creative and see the other side of the social platforms they love. Use their passion and their unique perspective to discover new ways to showcase the campus experience.
  • Allies on Campus
    Building a network of advocates is critical to advancing strategic digital initiatives in higher education.  Never did this ring truer to me than we revised our program landing pages. As we rebuilt our undergraduate pages, having the Provost and Deans in our camp propelled us forward in getting these pages prepared and launched, all with a clear plan for ongoing maintenance (bonus).  We began the effort by sharing research and best practice that empowered them to  communicate to our program chairs why these changes were needed and important to our continued success.
  • External Partners
    While we may not have large staffs, one thing we do have is the resources of our external partners whether it’s an agency or software vendor. One pitfall I used to find myself in is feeling like I had to solve all the problems myself instead of reaching out to these partners. Most of the time, they’ve done exactly what I’m looking to do which saves a tremendous amount of time scouring the interwebs for assistance.
  • Colleagues in Higher Ed
    The higher education community is a community like no other in terms of networking and support. Over the years, this amazing group (too numerous to give shout outs to because I know I’d forget someone) has given me the encouragement to chase my dreams, pushed me to continue to try new things, and stood by me when I was feeling overwhelmed.  It’s truly family. Family who believes in you.  Family who supports you when you need to know you aren’t alone. Family who reminds you of your talents and abilities when you’ve lost that perspective.

So at the end of the day, solo never means alone. We have more resources than we realize.

Posted in higher ed, public, reflection

Digital Leadership in Higher Education

I’ve just returned back from HighEdWeb 2019, another week in Milwaukee with the most inspiring friends, peers, and colleagues. As always, this conference is an amazing experience to reconnect, refocus and start re-imagining my approach to my work. Often times, after coming back from the conference, I’m thinking about new things to try to advance our digital strategy on campus. This year however, I am filled with thoughts on how to be a better digital leader.

We have all heard that everyone can be a leader. I know that all of us don’t have the opportunity to lead large teams or even have a cabinet-level role in our organization. But all of us can use our influence to make our digital spaces better.  After thinking about the sessions I listened to, I was struck with the fact that leadership is a choice we make every day, not just titles and awards (although don’t get me wrong, those are fun too!)

Some of the top lessons/reminders that I’ve taken from this week:

  • Listen to hear instead of respond. This happens so often to me, especially when I’m feeling challenged. I want to refocus on finding the mutual successes we can celebrate together for our school.
  • Remember that while I have the expertise in my field, who I’m talking to has as much expertise in their field. How do we successfully merge the two to create a winning situation for all of us?
  • Learn the lessons of no.  There’s so much increasing pressure to do all the things. We need to remember that we have to be able to understand that sometimes we just don’t have the bandwidth. But we need to say it in the right way and really think about if it’s the correct decision without making a snap decision in the moment.
  • No one has it all figured out. If they tell you they do, they’re telling you a story.
  • Meet people where they are. It might seem like we are getting a ridiculous request, but we need to connect with our colleagues coming to us and really understand what they’re looking for. Guide the conversation to get everyone to the best digital place.
  • Eric Qualman introduced the idea of being flawsome to me this week. While we’ve all heard the concept of failing fast and failing forward, what we need to remember is to really evaluate that failure and see what we learn from it. Otherwise, we’re not growing and advancing.

And one of my favorite lines from the Erik Qualman keynote: “if you aren’t getting pushback, you aren’t pioneering.” It’s easy to keep the wheels turning doing what’s comfortable and expected.  I need to continue to push myself to try new things, build new campaigns, and step outside the box. I know I’m not alone when I receive challenges to what I’m doing, I can react defensively. But that’s a sign that I’m shaking things up and need to show why I’m doing things and bring data in to show why it’s right for us.

So these are my golden nuggets from Milwaukee. I’m looking forward to putting them into practice on my campus and beyond grateful for the opportunity to be reminded of what it takes to be a leader.