Are you managing your career?

Remember how you felt at the start, when you were looking for your first job? All you wanted was a toehold, a way in, a chance. But it felt like everyone else had control of your future.

I got my first job out of college because I could type. And yes, I was taken aback when the hiring manager later told me the reason she interviewed me. Typing wasn’t supposed to be what got me a job—my BA in Spanish was supposed to be wildly appealing to the Pan American Health Organization!

Years later, I know that in your first job what you need most is a good boss. I had one at the Pan American Health Organization in Washington, D.C. In fact, as I was leaving that first job my boss said to me, “Have you ever thought about a career in management? You’d be great at it. You have a way of getting people to do things they don’t really want to do. And that’s the most important skill for management.” That boss was just what I needed in my first job, and I was fortunate that he inspired me to pursue management roles in my future career. But too much is made of the connection between our bosses and our success on the job. In my view, we must manage our own careers.

Really, you ask, what new can be written about career development? Google tells you what you need to know and do. Blogs and listicles and tweets are regularly yapping at you about the importance of managing up, the new skills you need most and how to fake it till you make it.

I got the best possible career advice nearly 20 years ago from a colleague who said, “Remember, no one cares about your career more than you do.” On the spot, I knew he was right, and I’ve regularly reminded myself of that phrase ever since.

No one cares about your career more than you do. What does that mean?

It means you, and only you, are responsible for your success at work. I offer six actions you can take to be sure you are positioned for what you want, when you want it.

Stand out.

Managing your career has to include establishing and evolving your work identity. What kind of colleague do you want to be? What values do you bring to the workplace? At the beginning, the midpoint or even in your final years of working, you can make adjustments to who you are at work.

Aside from doing your job well, I emphasize two personal actions that can make you stand out. They are:
1. Be reliable. Do what you say you’ll do, when you say you’ll do it.
2 Be nice. People want to be around nice people.

Learn from the people around you.

Early in my career, I learned from a coworker that rehearsing presentations made me more successful. I was a compensation analyst at the time and I made monthly presentations to senior HR executives. My task was to make the case for pay increases for individuals and/or groups of employees based on salary survey and benchmark data I had collected. The goal was to gain their approval of my recommendations. My coworker and I would practice the day before—I’d run through my presentation with her as the audience. In the first few months, she had a lot of suggestions for more strategic ways to organize and convey my recommendations. As I improved, we made a game out of the rehearsals. My goal was to get through the practice session without her pointing out what I should have included. She shared her strategic presentation skills and I’m still grateful.

Count also on the learning that comes from watching and listening. When you attend a meeting or observe interactions between people, pay attention. Reflect on what your colleagues and campus leaders say and do. Which of their approaches should you adopt? How might you incorporate their methods into your own work and communication style?

Stay up to date.

It’s your responsibility to determine what you need to read about and what future expertise you’ll need to have. You need no permission to do this but it does take discipline. You also don’t need a professional development budget because the Internet is your free source for new knowledge and skills. Get into the habit of 15 minutes of reading at the beginning or the end of each day. Believe me, I understand that time is hard to come by. But if you don’t invest in staying up to date, you are making a conscious choice to limit your career options—both in a future job and perhaps for assignments in the one you are already in.

Wait! Because you work in higher education, you are in luck. Your environment is filled with projects and committees and initiatives that actually serve as professional development opportunities. Think about it this way: There are never enough staff to do the work and there’s rarely enough budget for new positions. This means you can volunteer yourself or get assigned to something that can increase your skills and knowledge. My career changed at the College of William & Mary when I asked for a meeting with the provost and volunteered to lead a website redesign project. It was a lot of work and I did it without a pay increase, but it set the stage for my move to a career in higher ed consulting

Always be ready.

Sometimes, you can move up while staying in the same organization. In my 22+ years at William & Mary, I had three careers—one in human resources, one in IT, and one in marketing. However, there may come a point when your future success requires you to leave your current campus.

Remember, you own your own brand and you should be ready to effectively promote yourself at any point. Minimally, you need to update your resume, LinkedIn profile, and portfolio every year. Always be ready. You may need to put yourself on the job market quickly to take advantage of the perfect but unexpected opportunity. Presenting at conferences and personal blogging allow you to build a reputation within higher education.

Take risks.

Your career can’t hinge on getting rewarded with a promotion because you’ve done well at your current job. Congrats if that happens, but sometimes, you need to take action. Consider applying for jobs that are more difficult than the one you are in. You put yourself out there not knowing what will happen. You take the risk.

If an unexpected someone encourages you to apply for a job you’re not sure you are qualified for, take it seriously! Here’s how I moved from HR to IT at William & Mary. I was working with a CIO to establish new jobs and reorganize his unit. In a sea of university bureaucracy, I was an HR rep who was responsive to his goals. I was doing what I said I’d do, when I said I’d do it. He noticed. A few months later, he sent his admin assistant to my office to drop a hint that he hoped I’d apply for a new technology training job he was filling. I had no background but he thought I had potential. I took a risk—that was the start of a 12-year career in IT.

Get by with a little help from your friends.

Working is about relationships. At some point, you may decide to explore what’s out there, or you might lose the job you have and unexpectedly be searching for a new one. If either happen, you should take full advantage of your personal contacts. Reach out. Tell everyone (including LinkedIn) that you are looking for a job. Talk to as many people as you can about your search; go way beyond informational interviewing and official references. Drink a lot of coffee with a lot of people you haven’t seen in a while. Getting the word out will generate more job options for you to consider.

Rely on your network to endorse and recommend you. Maybe you’re uncomfortable about getting a leg up because of someone you know. Get over that feeling quickly. Remember, when people in your professional network put in a good word for you, they are actually helping a hiring manager. Hiring is risky, and managers look for ways to reduce risk by learning more about the people they are considering from people they trust.

I know there are realities that affect your actions. Being able to pay your bills, job security and work-life balance. The point here is your career is yours to manage. Don’t expect others to care about it more than you do. Determine what you want and keep yourself on the path to getting it, whenever you’re ready.

(This piece first appeared as a feature in the Spring 2017 edition of UCDA Designer Magazine.)


What about you and the leaders you meet?

The fact is, when you have a job, you are going to run into bad leaders. Why? Because leadership is difficult. Even for those with natural leadership ability, it is not easy. As the saying goes, “People quit their bosses, not their jobs.”

In earlier posts, I wrote about two extremes of leadership: the good and the bad. This post is about you and what you do with the leaders you meet: 1) Be reasonable in your own expectations; but 2) Remove yourself from a bad situation when you can.

Don’t expect your boss to be able to do your job.
Often, people have the belief that, in order to supervise a [occupation here], you have to have worked in the trenches as a [same occupation here]. It’s a mistake to think the leader must be able to do your job before earning your full respect. The right kind of leader — and I hope we are all trying to be that kind — can lead individuals in all types of jobs. I can name several web programmers who would serve as references for my leadership, and, to this day, I don’t know javascript or PHP. Leadership is not about performing the specific job duties of individuals on the team you lead. We all need bosses who lead, not people who would know how to do our jobs when we take a day off.

Don’t expect every good idea you share to be acted upon.
A leader is listening to you even if she chooses not to act on your idea. If your leader doesn’t follow through on a suggestion you make, it doesn’t mean you weren’t heard. When you’re the leader, people regularly come to you with advice about the problems you face. From the outside, it probably appears easy to solve a particular problem. Give your leader the benefit of the doubt! Assume there is information, detail, or context you don’t have about a situation. Given full information, your easy-to-implement solution might not be the right one. By the way, the worst thing you can do is stop expressing your ideas. I have watched people do this as a way to get back at the leader for not accepting an idea or two. It is your job to have good ideas, to share them with the leader, and to realize what you have to say is not the be all to end all in every circumstance.

It’s not you, it’s them.
I am keenly aware that bad leadership is a serious problem — it can ruin careers we love and organizations we are otherwise passionate about. I’ve worked for my share of bad bosses and I don’t minimize the effects on us as individuals. At the risk of sounding trite, I suggest staying true to yourself when faced with a bad leader. Draw from internal motivation but don’t internalize the negatives from your situation. And, when you are able, you should change jobs.

This post appeared originally on Start Smart Career Center, a virtual mentoring network that helps women navigate their nonprofit careers and thrive as leaders in the workplace.

Do you know a good leader when you see one?

My earlier post identified leadership as the good, the bad, and you. I wrote about six behaviors typical of bad leaders. While the opposite of my six observations of the bad are a place to start, there will be no getting off easy for me. Here are my top six qualities of good leaders.

You work hard to build trust and earn respect.

Sure, your team will trust you at the start, and your leadership role comes with some built-in respect. But strong leaders work continuously to prove themselves. At the beginning, in the middle, and throughout, your actions are your leadership. When a person you work with shares a confidence, you keep it. When a complaint comes in about someone on your team, you reserve judgment and talk directly to the person involved to learn more. You say what you mean, and you mean what you say. Yes, it’s just that simple.

You are who you are.
You should learn from, and be inspired by, the leaders you’ve observed. You should also be who you are because the strongest leaders are authentic and true to self. Take a tip from Judy Garland, “Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.”

You hire people who aren’t you.
Leaders build teams. When you hire someone new, avoid the stereotype; don’t hire people exactly like you. Instead, hire individuals that bring new points of view and different work styles. Your team can better respond to current challenges and more successfully evolve to meet what will come in the future when you have a powerful mosaic of perspectives and styles.

Your modify your approach as needed.

You are leading individuals. What works with one may not work at all with someone else. Getting to success will require you to modify your approach based on what you understand about the motivations of different types of people.

You roll up your sleeves and work shoulder to shoulder.

In the middle of the challenging times, you are in the mix with your team. During a crisis or when a lot of hard work is needed, you are visible and participating in whatever needs to be done.

You keep in mind that people are counting on you.
In a leadership role, you have more ability to influence the future and you know your job is to evaluate risks and identify opportunities. You are responsible for positioning your team to do important work that has value to your organization. After all, the individuals you lead are counting on you to protect their future livelihoods.

You celebrate successes!

Strong leaders understand the long-distance race and the mileposts along the way. You think long term, and you intentionally pause to call attention to goals achieved. Cheers and shared rewards for great work lead to team solidarity.

In my third post about leadership: we’ll talk about you, and your approach with the good and bad leaders in your life.

This post appeared originally on Start Smart Career Center, a virtual mentoring network that helps women navigate their nonprofit careers and thrive as leaders in the workplace.

Leadership: The good, the bad, and you.

For simplicity’s sake, we can boil leadership down to: the good, the bad, and you.

This is the first of three posts to cover all three. When the topic of leadership comes up, most people think first about “bad bosses” — they skip right over the good, to the bad. So here goes, I’ll use this first post to explore bad leadership.

Really, is there anything left to write about bad leadership? I’ve been known to say that every problem within an organization can be tied back to a lack of leadership. Bad leaders, I’m talking to you about six behaviors that don’t serve you well.

You don’t listen.

When you interrupt, you might shut off information key to your decision making and you potentially discourage someone from coming back to inform you in the future. If you aren’t listening to your team, they can’t ask get the answers for directing and improving their daily work. While listening, you should ask questions to clarify or learn more. No questions might send the message you aren’t listening.

You don’t understand your own success depends on the quality of your team.

A leader leads people, not a department or unit. People are the secret sauce for completing projects that accomplish your goals, support your vision, and frankly, make you look good. The ability of your team to do high-quality work depends on your leadership.

You use phrases like “my employees” or “the people who work for me.”

Your collective team is made up of individuals with unique skills and talents you need to develop. Remember, different people require different leadership styles. If you think of them as employees who work for you, you aren’t building a team; you won’t have their loyalty and the good ones won’t stay.

You don’t say thank you.

You point out the negative and are silent about the positive. This is not the right approach: in fact, the no news is good news mantra for leading people was never right. Individuals you work with need to know you appreciate and value their contributions. Saying thank you is the out loud way to be sure they know you are grateful for their work. Really, how hard is it to do?

You aren’t honest about feedback.

At the end of the day, people want to know where they stand. If you’re unable or unwilling to look someone in the eye and share honest feedback, you are unfair and a bad leader. When you accept a leadership role, you take on responsibility for helping people improve and the only way to do that is by confronting them directly about what they need to do differently.

You act like a manager.

You think about the org chart, the non-people parts—the process, policy, scope, and tasks. When you act like manager, you are less focused on goals. Tied to the here and now, you are likely to protect turf, invest in the status quo, and reduce risk. To be innovative, people need vision and inspiration. If you manage, you must also lead.

In my next post: The Good Leaders

This post appeared originally on Start Smart Career Center, a virtual mentoring network that helps women navigate their nonprofit careers and thrive as leaders in the workplace.

Your First Job: What you want out of it.

When you’re searching for your first job, you don’t usually concentrate on much beyond the starting salary and general aspects of the work you’ll do everyday. Once you land that first gig, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief and start managing any jitters about the first day. For most people, it takes hindsight to understand what they got from their very first job. You can think ahead by going into year one with a plan for gathering these tangibles as you start your career:

  • Opportunities to do a wide variety of tasks. Think broadly about your new job and embrace changes to learn, to experiment, and even do things you weren’t hired to do. You might find out you’re good at something that leads to a promotion or a new position. Development of your work style.
The first job helps define how you operate in the workplace. Are you a collaborator? Someone who works best solo? Do you participate in office gossip? Do you pitch in when a co-worker looks stressed? Do you make comments that imply you aren’t loyal to the boss? Develop your work habits based on the kind of person you want to be on the job.
  • Confirmation about types of work you don’t enjoy. We all have to do tasks that aren’t on our list of favorites. But you don’t need to fill your future jobs with work you don’t enjoy. Maybe you’ll figure out you have strong project management skills, but don’t like the intensity of event planning work. Maybe you’ll be successful at giving presentations to customer groups, but don’t want the pressure of traveling ever month. Use your first job to help you figure out what you want next.
  • A strong reference. Your first job is temporary; you will leave it. One key element for a promotion, or a better job with a new organization, is a strong reference. Sustaining a good relationship with your boss is not easy. Sometimes it takes curbing your own behavior in favor of a positive reference. Consider it an investment in your own future.
  • Observations about leadership. When looking for a first job, the leadership ability of your new supervisor isn’t usually a deciding factor. If you’re lucky enough to work under positive leadership, it will smooth your road immediately and in the future. Frankly, the reverse situation is more likely; there are a few bad bosses out there, and a lot of mediocre ones. When your first job is working for a subpar or negative leader, it is not fun. However, at the risk of sounding like a parent, it is a learning opportunity. I once wrote about what I learned from bad bosses. Use your first job to observe good and bad leadership qualities.

Want my tip for how to stand out in the workplace? Do what you say you will do, and do it when you say you will. I’m 54 and this tip still works.

This post appeared originally on Start Smart Career Center, a virtual mentoring network that helps women navigate their nonprofit careers and thrive as leaders in the workplace.

Passion (for the work) leads to incredible websites.

Many, many times, it’s a love fest between the mStoner team and the campus teams that engage us. True passion for the educational mission combined with demonstrated passion for the website work we’re doing together are essential for incredible results. Why? Because large campus-wide initiatives are overwhelming and complex and mired in consensus decision making. There is a temptation to default to the choices that anyone will support in order to make headway. Without passion for the work, you might follow the steps but end up with less than incredible results.

Enter the passionate people. These are the individuals who insist that we work harder, take risks, and frankly, shoot for the moon. Passionate people follow the process but they also have the end result in mind. And for them, the end is something to be proud of; the end is something that makes those who don’t know their institution passionate about it all the same.

Speaking of campus teams, I was inspired to write this post after a Gchat with one of our clients. Late one afternoon, we were informally ruminating about decisions to be made and details to be nailed down. We were even doing a little hand wringing about the range of opinions coming in from stakeholders. We were talking about how we’d go about making the right choices for the new campus website. I think we were both a bit worried.

Then, the client I was chatting with wrote, “Well it’s the passionate people who make or break projects. The indifferent ones can do the work but they won’t make the difference.”

There it was. The true statement. Do you agree? I do and here’s why: Communication on the #higheredweb is about using storytelling, compelling messages, and clear information to influence individuals who have other choices. To stand out, you need to vividly and clearly represent your college or university. To get to the clear and vivid, you need to let your passion for and understanding of your institution seep into your consciousness. That way, you know incredible creative when you see it. That way, you know extraordinary copy when you read it. And, because you have passion for the project, you aren’t satisfied until the institution you love is right there standing out in that big, beautiful jumble of HTML and .jpg files and fonts.

Passionate people come in many forms. There are surprising number of alumni working on the web, marketing, communications and IT teams we partner with. This is a bonus because the depth of their knowledge of and commitment to the institution is more nuanced. Fortunately, teams also include long-term employees, people who’ve spent many years on the same campus. These individuals often feel like alumni themselves and they can help you navigate toward the incredible because they know where the skeletons are buried. Finally, don’t ignore the team members who are in the early stages of their careers; they are the most consistently passionate about their work. Capitalize on this; listen to their ideas and be influenced by younger individuals who aren’t jaded by your own history of stalled projects and possibilities.

I suppose there’s the risk of being blinded by love. Don’t let the passion for the institution and the work cloud your view. You need data, you need deadlines, and you need decisions. After all, your passion for the institution should be grounded in what you learn from stakeholders and target audiences. Use your passion the right way: to make sure all are heard, to insist on the best, to make a decision that won’t be popular with everyone.

Start a love fest on your campus, show passion for your work!

You know people don’t come out of a box that way, right?

Mentor is a real person, not a buzzword. Coach is a slam-dunk metaphor for manager. Managing people means you are responsible for helping them along. You know people don’t come out of a box as exceptional performers, don’t you?

Yes, I know that individual (and team) performance is influenced by the knowledge, skills and abilities of the person in the job. (My own KSAs come from 16 years in human resources and compensation management.) I am also certain that knowledge can be increased, skills can be learned, and abilities can be developed and enhanced. I think you know where I’m going: the manager of the people must develop the people after they come out of the box. You can’t just pull them out of the box, drop them in the chair, and walk away.

First, the good news:

If you work in higher education (or for a non-profit), you are in luck. Your environment is filled with realities that drive you crazy but actually serve as employee development opportunities. Think about it this way:

    • There are never enough staff to do the work and there’s no budget for new positions. This means you can assign people to new projects and new initiatives because you are asked to accomplish them with the team you’ve got.
    • Power is decentralized and units are siloed. This means you can get away with letting people work on a new thingamabob that is both challenging and skill-developing for them without asking for permission.
    • Merit pay is unlikely. This means you have to motivate your team with the non-pecuniary. (How’s that HR term working for ya?) Offering fun projects and even committee work can be super professional development opportunities for people on your team.

And, the bad news:

For some of you, developing people means discomfort. Yes, you will need to speak directly and specifically about the improvements you need from the individuals you supervise. If this feels uncomfortable to you, get over it or change jobs. Giving clear feedback about changes that will enhance performance is what you are paid to do as a manager.

For all of you, this means carving out the time to give feedback when it is the most useful. If someone on your team made a presentation but wasn’t fully prepared, say so. Soon. Might be the day of the presentation if the topic comes up naturally; but the feedback should definitely come within a day or two. If you manage people, you are busy, I get that. Make the time for coaching, regardless. If you aren’t going to put time toward managing the team, change jobs.

I’ll close with the best part:

When managers focus on people development, they can hire the right people, not just the people who have the right experience. I have intentionally hired many people who did NOT have the textbook experience or background referenced in the job description. Because, really, what you want is to hire smart, curious, talented, energized and committed people. You can teach them to use whatever software your campus uses. You can help them understand the higher ed context. You can give them the time to learn the specific tasks of the job.

Don’t expect to pull people out of a box, fully assembled. Here I must reference:

Closing my eyes for a mental moment, remembering all the mentors who influenced (and still influence) me.

In the category of not as easy as it looks: Being Boss.

Spoiler Alert: I’m not mincing words on this one. Steel yourself for stronger bolder language than usual from me and enjoy the post.

Today is National Boss’s Day. Despite its Hallmark holiday status since 1979, I wouldn’t say that National Boss’s Day is part of popular culture. Instead, complaining about a boss, movies about hating your boss, and leaving a job because of the boss are the common ground we work within. Today, even though #BossDay is not trending, I stand up for good bosses (there are many!) and also assert, “It ain’t as easy as it looks.”

From the start, organizational development, leadership and management have been a career focus for me. Thinking back, I realize that I have introduced the concept of celebrating National Boss’s Day to several of the teams and organizations I’ve worked with. And, I’m glad I did. I have fond memories of celebrating with some of my favorite bosses and I quoted several of them in a March post on this blog. If you have a good boss, celebrate it. Make sure your boss knows that you appreciate what they do for your team.

So here’s the question: Why do we love to hate our bosses?

The fact is, we all have a boss, right? Well, faculty don’t…moving on. Today, I suggest that this universal practice of complaining about the boss is rooted in the idea that we all think we could do a better job at being boss. Again I say, “Being boss is not as easy as it looks.” Let’s examine three default complaints about the boss and I’ll show you what I mean.

  1. The boss is not fair.
    Often, this impression comes from a feeling that someone in the organization is getting something you aren’t. Frankly, my lens on this one is like that of a parent. “Yes, I am treating you differently than your brother. You and your brother are two different people and what you need from me is not what he needs from me. Be glad about it.” Case in point, there are people I’ve supervised that put so much pressure on themselves to perform that I’ve talked to them about reducing their expectations of self. Conversely, others have needed a direct conversation about how much I needed their increased contributions to the team. At the end of the day, we actually want our bosses to use a more customized approach.
  2. The boss doesn’t listen to my ideas.
    Often, this impression is just plain not accurate. It may be true that the boss didn’t follow through on your idea but that doesn’t mean the idea wasn’t heard. When you’re the boss, people regularly come to you with suggestions for the problems you face. They often describe your problems as, “Easy. All you have to do is ____.” I like to give the boss the benefit of the doubt; I assume that there is information or detail I don’t have about a situation. Without complete information, my easy solution might not be the right one. BTW, the worst thing you can do is to stop expressing your ideas. I have watched people do this as a way to get back at the boss for not accepting an idea or two. It is your job to have good ideas, to share them with the boss, and to realize that you’re not the only one in this universe.
  3. The boss doesn’t understand the work I do.
    Often, people have a mistaken impression that, in order to supervise a [occupation here], you have to have worked as a [same occupation here]. To quote Vice President Joe Biden, “With all due respect, that’s a bunch of malarkey.” (Note: if you don’t know what malarkey means, then substitute BS.) It’s amusing to me that, at the same time we don’t want to be micromanaged—another regular complaint about bosses—we think the boss must be able to do our jobs before earning our respect. The right kind of boss, and I hope we are all trying to be that kind, can manage anyone. I can name several web programmers and sys admins who would serve as references for my bossiness, and I am not an exception. Leadership is not the sole claim of any particular discipline or job type. We all need bosses who lead, not people who can do our jobs when we take a day off.

Sincerely, I know that there are some bad, bad bosses out there. I’ve worked for them and I am keenly aware of how much they can ruin a job or an organization you otherwise love. My point is make sure your expectations about the boss are as fair as the expectations you hope the boss has about you. And, as importantly, look in the mirror and examine your own motivations and perceptions.

Cheers to my mStoner boss, Voltaire Miran (@vsantosmiran). His name isn’t the only thing cool about him.

It’s a match! We both believe in exceptional customer service.

Customer service has always been a priority for me. Maybe the many days of customer orientation training I attended as a 16-year-old summer employee at Busch Gardens left a forever impression on me. Years later, I realize that customer service has been a core value for me in all of the units or departments I have worked in or led.

When I was a brand new employee in William & Mary’s IT division, my role included technology training for the campus and organizational development for the IT team. So amidst the Dreamweaver, MS Excel and MS Access workshops I was teaching, I was asked to develop a customer service training program for all employees in the IT division. At the time, we had a brand new CIO (he had recruited me away from the HR Office at William & Mary) and he understood that the best IT organizations in higher ed focused on exceptional customer service. To prepare, I did a lot of reading about customer service—The Pursuit of Wow (Tom Peters), Nuts! (Kevin and Jackie Freiberg), and Even Monkeys Fall From Trees (Doug Lipp) are some of my favorites.

Frankly, I always knew in my gut that relationships are the basis for exceptional customer service. So I’ve always used myself and the people on my team to manage customer relationships; but we do it the old fashioned way—without an enterprise CRM. We are responsive, we are committed to excellent work, and we deliver what we promise, on time.

A year ago, I worked in higher and I was not looking for a job. In fact, I had always assumed I wouldn’t find an organization that would allow me to work with a team that shared my values as much as the Creative Services team at William & Mary. Last August, as I was considering an offer from mStoner, I did a values check. I realized that customer service was also a cornerstone for the team here. After all, I had partnered with mStoner for two large communication projects as a William & Mary employee. During both engagements, the mStoner team made me feel as if my university was their only client. The mStoner team was responsive and collaborative and always interested in the goals and challenges of our work together. I think about that a lot now as I work with many clients in all kinds of institutions. I still focus on customer service every day as I direct my full attention to honoring the commitments we make to all of our clients.

A lot of people ask me what it’s like. They want to understand how the role of a consultant is better, or easier, or different than working on a college campus. (Actually, I have more to say about that than this blog post can handle.)

One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most about my first year at mStoner is working with many different kinds of institutions. I like the fact that mStoner works exclusively with higher education and that our work is enriched by variety. We are fortunate to tackle the challenges that come from large community colleges and mid-size state universities and very small private schools tucked away in beautiful places. We care about the work we do for faith-based institutions and independent schools and multi-campus urban universities. What I value professionally is valued by my employer. When my name goes on a proposal to a prospective client, I know that we’ll deliver on the promise.

It’s a match! We both believe in exceptional customer service. I’m grateful for that.

Said by a boss and not exactly motivational.

Yesterday, I wrote a post about “bad bosses” as one reason people leave jobs. I included some of my favorite, positive quotes from memorable bosses.

Top of mind today are a few humdingers said to me by bosses. At last count, I think the total number of bosses during my career is somewhere around 17. I promised a second post with quotes that weren’t exactly motivational for me as an employee, so here goes.

“Susan, that is a perfectly reasonable request. Let me think about it and I’ll be back in touch with you about my decision within two weeks.”
(I’m still waiting and this was said before my first gray hair.)

“Susan, would you draft your performance goals for the current year and send them to me by the end of the day?”
(Said by an HR professional who didn’t meet with me to set goals when the performance year started, and also said the day before a meeting to discuss my annual performance review for that year.)

“Susan, no matter what happens, we’re definitely going to increase your salary.”
(A waste of the joy that should come from raising someone’s pay because it was said during an interview and was a clue that I wasn’t going to get the promotion.)

Because I’m a Pollyanna at heart, I just have to end this post in a positive way. More often than not, my bosses have inspired and continue to inspire me. So let’s wrap up with an inspirational, and true, story. Once, I waited seven weeks to receive acting pay promised to me for taking on supervisory responsibility for a team. (The typical struggle was underway to get HR/Payroll to process the increase.) After the third payday came and went with no acting pay included, my boss said to me,

“Susan, tomorrow is payday and HR has promised that you’ll get all of the acting pay we owe you. But I’m here to tell you that I went to the bank today and I’m carrying around enough cash in my briefcase to pay you what we owe you if your paycheck isn’t correct this time.”

If you’re a boss, you need to care about people as individuals. Enough said. Full stop.