"A meek endeavor to the triumph" by Sampath Jayarathna

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Voice - Season 8 - Winner Predictions

Time for my predictions for The Voice Season 8. This is after the first live playoffs.

The 12 contestants from the 4 teams,

Team Adam : Brian Johnson, Joshua Davis, Deanna Johnson
Team Blake  :  Corey Kent White, Hannah Kirby, Meghan Linsey,
Team Xtina : India Carney, Kimberly Nichole, Rob Taylor,
Team Pharrell : Koryn Hawthrone, Mia Z, Sawyer Federicks,

My 4 finalist,
Mia Z, Kimberly Nichole, Meghan Linsey, Brian Johnson

Winner, The Voice Season 8 : Meghan Linsey from Team Blake.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Pick Your Battles (Monday Motivator for Faculty for the Future, April 6, 2015 )

This is an excerpt from the Monday Motivator Program of Center for Faculty Development and Diversity. Please find the original document here. The National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity is an independent professional development, training, and mentoring community of over 71,000 graduate students, post-docs, and faculty members.

There is a whole lot of free-floating frustration in the air lately! My inbox has been overflowing with messages from new faculty who are sick of departmental drama, tired of students’ hostility, and who are so filled with anger that they can’t focus on their research and writing. I'm not sure if all this pent-up anger is from unresolved conflicts that have been brewing all year or the result of cumulative devaluation in the workplace. Either way, it seems clear that we could use some straight talk about Common New Faculty Mistake #13: Avoiding Conflict.

Conflict is Inevitable
Academia is full of intellectual, interpersonal, political, and downright petty conflicts. While many new faculty members feel comfortable with intellectual conflicts, they struggle to effectively resolve everyday conflicts. Their discomfort in resolving conflict extends across a wide spectrum and includes people who have more power (senior colleagues and administrators) and people who have less power (students) within their institution. I believe this results directly from the fact that we all received extensive training in the art of substantive argumentation as part of our graduate research training, but few of us ever learned how to resolve inter-personal conflicts in ways that don’t harm our relationships with others.

And, if you’re an underrepresented faculty member, the dynamics of racism and sexism mean that, in addition to the common conflicts that new faculty members experience, you may also experience devaluation, disrespect, and daily micro-aggressions. Let me be perfectly clear: It's OK to feel angry when people behave badly (even if their behavior is unintentional). In my 12 years as a faculty member, I was routinely asked to make copies by people who assumed I was the department secretary, asked if I "really had a PhD" by students who couldn’t imagine someone like me was a professor, and it was regularly assumed that I worked for Professor Rockquemore (instead of actually being Professor Rockquemore). Every time these types of incidents occurred, I felt annoyed that I wasn’t getting the benefit of the doubt that my other colleagues received and angry that I live in a world where my presence requires continual explanation. Anger, annoyance, and frustration are normal responses to persistent sexism and racism in the workplace. In fact, if you receive subtle daily reminders that you’re different and imply that you only belong in the ivory tower in a supporting role, then it’s OK to feel mad about it.

The problem occurs when new faculty members (majority or minority) respond to conflicts in one of two extreme ways: 1) fighting every battle or 2) avoiding conflict altogether. The problem with fighting every battle is that you will quickly alienate yourself from everyone in your environment. The problem with avoiding conflict is that when you push anger down, it grows, deepens, and expands. This can put you at risk of publicly exploding when triggered by a minor incident, developing stress-related illness, and/or sucking up so much of your energy that you have none left for your intellectual work.

That said, expressing anger is tricky because we live in a world where there are precious few socially acceptable forms of communicating anger in the workplace (this is especially so for underrepresented faculty). Any expression of anger tends to be interpreted through the frames of race and gender. Even the smallest expression of anger from my Black male colleagues resulted in their being labeled as "threatening” or "unprofessional.” And for women, communicating frustration quickly got them labeled as "emotional," "out of control," and/or a "bitch."

Healthy Conflict
Conflict in your professional life is inevitable, so it's critically important for all of us to learn when and how to express our feelings in ways that are effective and professionally appropriate. If you are underrepresented, you’re likely to have more conflict AND to have your responses interpreted through particular frames, so you have to be extra skilled at conflict resolution. The good news is that learning how to engage in healthy conflict will allow you to express your feelings, retain your integrity, and minimize negative consequences to your professional relationships.

Here are the three questions I use when conflicts arise:
  1. In this particular situation, should I push back or should I pull back?
  2. What will I gain and what will I lose?
  3. If I decide to push back, what's the most effective way to do so?

There are no right or wrong answers here. Sometimes pushing back makes sense; other times it's better to pull back and then go hit the punching bag at the gym. Either way, anger is energy so it has to come out of your body. In other words, don't confuse "pulling back” with "stuffing down”! Pulling back simply means releasing the angry energy in an indirect way because the costs of expressing it directly outweigh the benefits.

For the times when I decide to push back, my best trick is to use Marshall Rosenberg’s formula:
  1. State your observation of the problematic behavior.
  2. Describe how it makes you feel.
  3. Make your needs explicit.
  4. Clearly request what you want.

For example, during my last week as a faculty member, someone came to my door and said, "Excuse me, I'm looking for Professor Rockquemore. Do you know where she is?" Despite my name on the door and the fact that I was the only person sitting in the room, my visitor must have had a synaptic misfire that disallowed these two pieces of data to result in the common-sense conclusion that I am Professor Rockquemore. This happened frequently and most of the time I decided it's not worth pushing back. Typically, I pulled back, smiled, and said: "I'm Professor Rockquemore, what do you need?" But not that day! I was tired, cranky, and just sick of having to explain myself to others. I decided I had nothing to lose and much to gain by pushing back. My first impulse was to throw my stapler at the person's head, but instead I breathed deeply, paused, and asked myself: What is the most effective way to push back?

I chose to say [in a professional and non-reactive tone]:
"When I'm the only person sitting in this office and you ask me ‘Where is Professor Rockquemore?’ it makes me feel frustrated that you've looked at me and assumed I couldn't be that person. It also makes me feel angry that I live in a world where I have to keep explaining to people that I'm really a professor. Professors come in lots of different packages, so I just want to encourage you to rethink your assumptions about the type of people who fill that role. Now, how can I help you?"

This was a simple two-minute exchange, but I'm sharing it to make the point that we can choose to push back or pull back on a case-by-case basis (as opposed to always pushing back or always pulling back as our default strategy). Secondly, there are a wide variety of possible responses to any conflict and each response has a different set of costs and benefits associated with it. Third, when we let off the steam in small increments, it doesn't build up or put us in danger of exploding. And finally, because I have memorized Rosenberg's mental framework, (when you _____, I feel ______, I need _____, and I want you to _____), I can quickly and easily express myself in a way that is honest, clear, professional, and opens the space for real communication and conflict resolution.

The Weekly Challenge
This week I challenge each of you to do the following:
  • Gently ask yourself: How do I manage conflict? Am I carrying around unresolved anger at people in my department? Am I in danger of exploding? Are there ways I could engage in conflict that would allow me to express myself more effectively?
  • Notice how you feel when conflict arises this week.
  • If you are an underrepresented faculty member, acknowledge that anger is a healthy response to persistent racial and gender inequality.
  • Imagine several different ways you could respond to conflicts that arise (pushing back and/or pulling back).
  • Assess what you would gain and what you would lose by making different choices.
  • Try using compassionate communication in a low-level, low-risk conflict situation this week (but always in person and not over email!).
  • Write every day this week for at least 30 minutes! If you find yourself unable to write because you’re upset over an unresolved conflict, that’s a good indicator that it’s time to resolve it.
We often hear the generic advice to "pick your battles." This week, I want to encourage each of us to fundamentally rethink the idea that we have to wait until conflicts reach the stage of "battle"! Instead, let’s recognize that conflict is a normal outcome of people working together in an academic community. As a result, let’s begin to imagine ourselves as professionals who are comfortable, confident, and capable of resolving conflicts in our day-to-day lives.

I hope this week brings each of you the ability to assert yourself on a regular basis, the courage to express your feelings in ways that let off emotional steam incrementally, and the deep sense of empowerment that comes from engaging in healthy conflicts that strengthen (instead of weaken) our professional relationships.

The Art of Delegation (Monday Motivator for Faculty for the Future, March 30, 2015 )

This is an excerpt from the Monday Motivator Program of Center for Faculty Development and Diversity. Please find the original document here. The National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity is an independent professional development, training, and mentoring community of over 71,000 graduate students, post-docs, and faculty members.

It's always perplexing to me that new faculty who describe themselves as physically, emotionally, and intellectually exhausted are often so resistant to trying a little delegation. I was recently at a large conference where I met lots of new faculty, most of whom told me how tired and frazzled they felt each week. Every time I asked someone why they felt so fatigued, I heard lists of work a mile long! But when I gently suggested delegating some of that work, hiring help, or seeking assistance, these ideas were met with scoffs, gasps, glares, and defensiveness. That made me realize it's definitely time to discuss Common Mistake #12:Believing You Must Do EVERYTHING Yourself.

For a variety of reasons, new faculty members often believe they must do everything on their own. This may be because they did so as graduate students, are unaware of the support services available to them, don't trust others, feel uncomfortable asking for help, and/or simply have no experience delegating tasks. No matter what causes people to feel that they must do everything themselves, it results in the same problems: exhaustion, inefficiency, and lower productivity. You have only a finite number of hours in each workday and they need to be aligned with your promotion and tenure criteria in order for you to be successful. If nonessential tasks are keeping you from research and writing, it's time to rethink the do-everything-yourselfstrategy in order to focus your energy on the things that really matter.

Evaluate Your Tasks and Delegate
If you are feeling exhausted, stop for a moment and examine your workload. Then gently ask yourself the following questions:

Which tasks must be done by ME and which tasks can be completed by SOMEONE ELSE?
Every aspect of your job is comprised of a series of tasks. Some of the tasks can only be done by you, so you should continue to invest your energy in them. But there are many tasks that do not require your personal attention in order to get done. In other words they can, and possibly should, be completed by someone else.

Where Can I Get Help?
Some of you are fortunate enough to have research, professional development, and/or start-up funds, access to motivated graduate and/or undergraduate students, and competent office staff. These supportive resources and people are in place to assist you in becoming successful and productive in your research so utilize them! Once you have identified what tasks can be done by someone other than you, imagine who else could complete them. Below I list some ways that the new faculty I work with have started to identify nonessential tasks and delegate them:

One person realized she was spending an hour printing and making copies before each class -- she decided to post half the material on her class’s Blackboard site and ask her department staff person to copy the remaining items.
Another person needed assistance grading exams -- she created a rubric and hired a grader on an hourly basis for the end of the semester.
Another couldn't find the time to get a manuscript that was 90% complete out the door -- he sent it to a professional editor.
Another still had not unpacked the boxes in her office from last summer's move and was losing too much time each week searching for things -- she hired a highly organized undergraduate student on an hourly basis to read Organizing From The Inside Out, design a system for her office, and help unpack those boxes.
Another person assumed she would have to index her own book (after learning that the press publishing her manuscript would not pay for the indexing) – instead she asked her chair for ideas and found out that her college has a "book subvention fund” for new faculty and all she had to do was apply and hire an indexer recommended by the press.
Finally, one needed to fill in the holes of a bibliography -- she asked her RA to complete this task (it was the first task she had delegated to him all year because she "didn’t want to impose” on his time).

Once new faculty members realize that they don’t have to do everything themselves, the next layer of resistance to delegation is often some form of the following: "You don’t understand! I don’t have any money and my institution is broke!” Whenever I hear this, I know to ask: "Have you actually requested assistance or are you just assuming it doesn’t exist?” Nine out of ten times, the defensive and dismissive resister has been constantly hearing about budget cuts, shrinking endowments, and various predictions of institutional apocalypse. They then assumed that there were no funds available to support anything beyond basic necessities at their college. But when they actually ask for help, they are often surprised and delighted to find that people help them get their needs met.

Sometimes it’s through internal funding that the new faculty member may not have known existed (like that book subvention fund). Sometimes it’s through a creative use of existing resources that the new faculty member simply wasn’t utilizing properly (like asking departmental staff to make copies for you). My main point is simply this: You do NOT have to be rich or work for a well-funded private institution to delegate tasks on your to-do list. You DO have to understand that doing everything yourself can lower your overall productivity on the things that matter to your long-term success. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and not making progress on your research agenda, it makes sense to determine what tasks can be done by someone else and find innovative ways to delegate those nonessential tasks.

I don't know what your individual needs and/or resources are, but it's worth taking 15 minutes at this week’s Sunday Meeting to review your commitments for the remainder of the semester, consider what nonessential tasks are on your to-do list, decide how they can be delegated, and who (besides you) can get them done. In other words, if you have more work than hours in a day, it’s time to take a fresh look around and ask: How can I delegate? Get creative and do some brainstorming with mentors in your department, your professional network, or on the NCFDD discussion forum.

The Weekly Challenge
  • This week I challenge each of you to do the following
  • Analyze your to-do list for this week.
  • Determine what tasks must be done by you and what can be delegated to someone else.
  • Think creatively about how to use your existing resources to move some non-essential tasks off your plate.
  • If you are afraid to ask departmental staff members to do their job and/or "don’t want to impose” on graduate assistants, stop and ask yourself: What’s up with that?
  • If you don’t have funds under your control for supportive services, ask your department chair what resources exist on campus to support your professional development and productivity.
  • If you’re still resistant to delegation, gently ask yourself: why do I feel that I must do everything myself? What essential work isn’t getting done while I am doing nonessential busy work? Is this the best use of my work time?
  • (Re) commit yourself to 60 minutes of writing every day – that’s definitely something that only YOU can do! 
I hope that this week brings each of you extraordinary clarity when analyzing your tasks, unlimited creativity as you delegate the nonessential ones, and the deep joy that comes from investing your best energy into your intellectual projects!