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Don’t Be Defeated By The Post-Conference Blues

gameover

By @ronbronson

Conferences are great opportunities for learning. It’s the best chance to find others who might relate to your specific challenges and those who work alone, it’s an opportunity to find others who make you feel less by yourself. Still, inevitably we return home to our normal lives and the euphoria of just a few days ago dissipates quickly. While you’re happy to settle back into your own routines, it’s easy to miss those moments that inspired us during keynotes and sessions.

If you’re like me and can’t read your own handwriting half the time, you’ll go back to those scribbled notes sometime later in the year because you get distracted with all of the normal duties of work and home life that keep us all more than busy.

Don’t let those tweets go by the wayside until next year. Think of a conference as a new year’s resolution for work, but one you actually pursue. After a great conference, I feel inspired to pursue things that I only thought about. I’ve been known to leave a conference and immediately get working on things and I issue this charge to each of you to do the same. If you haven’t been to a conference this year, make your own whether it’s reaching out through twitter,or listening to podcasts and blogging about it via Tumblr or some other platform.

You have a unique opportunity to grow, expand your horizons and increase your confidence professionally. Conferences are just one method that we can do it and when you get home, it’s time to get back to work.

Don’t be defeated.

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I Don’t Have All the Answers

By: @tarbym
Higher Ed Solo

As I’ve said before, one of the great things about being a solo is the ability not to get locked into one particular area of specialization. But this week, I’ve been reminded that what I typically love can pose some challenges.

One of the systems I’m bringing online is a new SharePoint portal to replace our existing home-grown system that is at the end of its life. As I’ve been running with this, I’ve been thinking about all the positive things it will bring to our campus: we’ll be able to pull out all of our internally-focused content off our public web site, we’ll be able to pull campus working groups and committees out of our learning management system, we’ll be able to get rid of the reams of paper forms that fill our campus.

But SharePoint? What do I know about SharePoint? Well my solo friends, when you don’t know about a new system, it becomes your responsibility to learn it if it’s important to your school. And I don’t know about you, but it’s a challenge that can be pretty frustrating. Because I want to be able to help people. I want to be able to answer their questions as easily as I can rattle off things I’m comfortable with such as solutions in our content management framework. But I can’t right now.

And that’s all right. Why? Because, as we’ve added new features and functionality, I’ve been honest with myself and with my campus about my limitations. I will find the answer, but it will take time (sometimes a trivial amount of time, others a bit more labor-intensive). In this process, I’ve been building a network of resources – people to follow on Twitter, bloggers to monitor, support sites to rely on and sites to avoid. As is usually the case, as this network grows larger and stronger, the better the advice I receive.

Part of being honest is communicating. Today, I solved an issue with a form one of our offices was trying to build. It has taken a few weeks to figure out what the problem was but throughout the process, I’ve been constantly communicating where I was at, what was working, what didn’t apply. They may not have cared about the technical detail, but they did take away the fact I was working hard for them and balancing the other responsibilities in my day.

I don’t have all the answers, but I will happily accept the challenge of learning.

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Take more opportunities to lead at work

By: @ronbronson
Higher Ed Solo

ArmyNo one ever tells a solo about leadership. We’re often running our own shops, taking care of putting out multiple fires at once. We work hard and we play hard…but mostly we work REALLY hard. When you are working on a very small team or by yourself, there’s not a whole lot of delegation. You are always rolling up your sleeves to take care of what needs to be done, juggling multiple deadlines at once and ensuring quality control on your own.

While this is exhausting, there’s a certain kind of reassurance that comes from knowing that your work is being done the way you (and perhaps, those in charge with whom you’ve gotten to know through practice) like it to be done. The role of the manager and delegator is much different. You have to entrust that your processes are working. That you’ve communicated your expectations enough that people understand what you need and what your expectations are at all times.

One problem with being Armies of One, is we rarely get these experiences. Sure we might supervise students, but the relationships are much different. And the thing about supervising a small team of one or two employees is when you’re in the trenches together it’s a lot less like “boss and subordinate” but a relationship that resembles a mentorship/friendship one. (Which can sometimes come with its own issues.)

Leadership comes in many forms.

Early in my career, I was fortunate to have bosses who put me in positions well above my pay grade early on. Rather than be daunted by the gravity of these situations, I took pride in knowing they trusted me to run meetings with senior leaders without always have to be in the room. Even if this isn’t your situation, it’s good to know that when you decide to step up and do things that aren’t asked of you, it enables leaders to begin to trust and utilize your skills. In the past, I initiated website redesign projects that weren’t scheduled by just asking and making the case for moving the needle. When leadership give buy-in to ideas you generate, it encourages you to continue pushing ahead, even if all your ideas aren’t adopted.

If you’re just starting your career or have been doing the same thing for a while and feel stuck, maybe it’s time to do something different? That doesn’t always mean attempting to clean out your office to head to a new job. Think about the advantages of your current job. Are there things you can improve? Sometimes, it’s frustrating to deal with the constraints of our current workplaces. We see the same people day in and day out and think change will refresh and energize our worklives. Until we head elsewhere and realize that once you get the faces down and stop getting lost, that you’ll encounter a lot of the same problems you left behind unless you start solving the ones you can

If you do see yourself in a different role than the one you’re in, whether you dream of being promoted internally or seeking opportunities elsewhere down the road, people are going to want to know what you’ve done to lead. It doesn’t always require having dozens of people on a team to carry out your bidding, it requires knowing — and recording — the ways you’ve impacted your organization by doing something that wasn’t considered a priority, leading a project no one else wanted to run and excelling at it or crafting your own leadership niche out of a role that others wouldn’t have bothered with.

Armies of one can be leaders. What will you to do lead in your job this year?