Inspiration and information for the Residence Life professional
by Kim Moistner-Bartlett
Cardboard Box Solutions
June 4, 2013
My son was always intrigued by boxes – the bigger the better. When holiday packages arrived in the mail, he could barely contain his excitement. He wasn’t excited about the contents of the box, rather the box itself. He couldn’t wait for the contents to be removed so that he could commandeer the box. He would often be found dragging it around the house, sitting in it to watch TV, “read” a book, or just relax. The simplicity of the box provided more entertainment for him than anything we could have purchased at the store. I recall taking him and his younger brother to the local appliance store to check out the refrigerator boxes. It was as if they had just discovered gold. Wide eyed and excited, they helped me load two big refrigerator boxes in our vehicle to take home. One was used to create a clubhouse. We cut out squares for windows and created a door on one side. Using practically every paint color known to the human race the boys decorated their new clubhouse. It was the envy of all of the kids in the neighborhood. The other box was left as is to become whatever it was that the boys needed it to be on a particular day - a spaceship, locomotive, hideout, lemonade stand - you name it!
May 20, 2013
“My motto was always to keep swinging. Whether I was in a slump or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was keep swinging.” — Hank Aaron
I had a blog to write. I usually look forward to this with great anticipation. I often have so many ideas milling about in my head that’s it’s difficult to choose just one to talk about -- until last week. When it came time to write my blog, I had nothing to say. Zero. Zilch. Zip. For those who know me this is a rare occasion indeed. I am NEVER at a loss for words. In fact there are many days, I’m sure, that my husband wishes I was at a loss for words. However, that never seems to happen. Until last week, that is. I didn’t have any bright ideas. I couldn’t seem to identify one new topic to address. As a person who prides herself on big ideas, this was a startling discovery. Had I lost my creative mojo?
Have you ever had one of those weeks when you’re just not yourself? You know, those times when it feels like your “get up and go got up and went?” Low energy, loss of motivation – you’re in a slump. Have no fear. We’ve all experienced times like this. So the big question is how do we get out of this slump? Here are a few tips to help you get “back in the game!”
April 29, 2013
I was never a fan of public speaking. I recall giving my first speech in 4th grade. My voice cracked. My hands trembled so badly I could barely read my notes. I felt like I was going to pass out. I made the realization on that day that I hated speaking in front of large groups of people. During the rest of my school days and even into college, I tried to avoid it as much as possible. While I always received good grades for the speeches I gave, I never got over the “ick” that came with it. As such, it would come as no surprise that during my first professional position as a Hall Director, I always volunteered for the “behind the scenes” aspects of RA training.
Create fun and a Little Weirdness
April 2, 2013
“I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.”-- Woody Allen
Who doesn’t enjoy a good laugh? During the many years I worked in higher education I laughed…a LOT. After all, work should be fun, right? Entrepreneur.com recently offered some advice to businesses looking to secure future success. They took a look at the biggest trends in business for 2013. One of those trends – fun in the workplace. In his article, Managers Who Understand the Importance of Goofing Off, Christopher Hann talks about the importance of workplace fun and the businesses that are making it happen. According to Hann, playfulness builds teamwork. It brings employees together and helps them to be more collaborative. Zappos.com, a successful on-line clothing retailer, places a high value on fun in the workplace. Zappos incorporated the importance of fun into one of their company’s core values: “Create fun and a little weirdness.” Southwest Airlines, often referred to as the “poster child for playfulness in the workplace,” prides itself on fun. Herb Kelleher, Southwest’s fun-loving founder, worked hard to insure that work was fun and that employee and customer interactions were informal.
Ignite your Enthusiasm
March 7, 2013
American author, poet and philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." Mr. Emerson, I couldn't agree with you more. To be great and do great things, we must be enthused. Enthusiasm is a key piece of the leadership puzzle.
It’s All About the “Why”
February 19, 2013
You have a professional position. You have a position description. You know what you do. My question to you is why? Why do you do it? Hold on! You may not respond to this question with the following: “To earn an income.” That is one of the results of your work, not why you do it. After all you could earn an income doing just about anything, right? So, my question remains, “Why?” Why this position? Why this university? “Why higher education?”
"Just Say No"
November 29, 2012
“No.” Two letters. One small word. Simple, right? So, why is it that as professionals, so many of us struggle when it comes to putting this word to use?
"Negativity? Delete it!"
November 13, 2012
You just came up with a fantastic idea. In fact, you’re quite proud of the concept. It’s innovative, has the potential to achieve great results and is more than “doable.” Excited, you share it with a co-worker who quickly responds, “That will never work,” providing you with a laundry list of reasons why it can’t be done. Has this ever happened to you? Excited about an idea you share it with someone, who unbeknownst to you, turns out to be “Debbie Downer.” Now you are faced with a multitude of reasons why your idea just won’t work. I have some advice for you. Smile. Say, “thanks for sharing,” and hit the “delete” button. Remove that negative comment from your mind. Restore your passion for the idea.
Deadlines: Don't Keep Them a Secret
October 30, 2012
Bestselling author and nationally syndicated columnist Harvey Mackay once wrote, “A dream is just a dream. A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline” Whether we like them or hate them, deadlines are a necessity when it comes to getting things done. Deadlines require us to create plans and time lines. They provide us with a target to shoot for. When we meet the deadlines that are given to us we often experience a great sense of accomplishment. For many, meeting deadlines set by others is something we can readily accomplish. So why is it that meeting self-imposed deadlines can be so much more challenging?
October 22, 2012
va·ca·tion [vey-key-shuhn] noun. A period of suspension of work, study or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel. (Dictionary.com)
There you have it -- the official definition for the word, "vacation." So, how is it that many of us have forgotten the true meaning of that word? Notice how it doesn't say "a time to check e-mails and return messages from an exotic location." Yet, it seems that is what so many of us do while on vacation. Yes, we have fun. Yes, we spend time with family and/or friends. But, no, many of us do not enjoy a "suspension from work." I must confess that when I go on vacation...I go on vacation. Over the years, I've always told my staff that if there were to be some catastrophic emergency in our area of responsibility to contact me via phone or text message. I would then get in touch with them. I let them know that I would not be checking e-mails. For my staff this wasn't an unusual request as I had the very same expectation for them. When on vacation, their work was to stay behind. Relax and enjoy! My automated e-mail response shared the same message. "I'm out of the office from ____ to ____. I will not be checking e-mails during this time. For immediate assistance…" Sure, I certainly had a great deal of e-mails and phone messages to sift through when I returned. However, a little pre-planning proved to be most beneficial. I always blocked out a few hours on my calendar the first few days upon my return so that I would have time to review and respond to all of my messages. These things helped me to truly be "on vacation" when I took time away from the office.
October 16, 2012
As I watch news programs I am made aware of the many horrible things that happen in our world each day. I learn the gruesome details about assaults, murders and the like. Despite all of the “bad” things happening in our world - despite the fact that “bad” news gets far more media attention than “good” news - I will continue to believe that people are generally good and descent. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.
In the summer of 2000 my family and I lost all of our material possessions and two beloved cats in a house fire. My husband, 19 month old son and I escaped our burning home with only the clothes on our backs. In just 30 minutes, everything we owned was gone. We had no material possessions left to our names. It was a strange feeling. For an animal lover like me, the loss of our cats, whom had been a part of our lives for many years, was the most devastating loss to face. Cherished family photos and personal memorabilia were a sad and tragic loss as well. Beyond these most cherished things, the loss of our other material possessions was not as devastating as one would imagine. After all, we made it out alive. All of the other “stuff” seemed insignificant at the time. Fine china, nice furnishings, every piece of clothing we owned, jewelry, two relatively new cars…they were gone for good. The good news – they could be replaced. Perhaps not by the exact item, but they were definitely replaceable.
The Race to Great Training
I recently ran my first 5K. For those of you who are avid runners, this isn’t such a big deal. However, for someone like me, who only runs when being chased, this is BIG news. I approached preparation for this 5K in much the same way that I prepared for the many, many staff trainings I coordinated during my professional career. Whether I was planning training for professional or student staff, 10 or 200, my approach was largely the same. (1) Plan a training program that gives staff members the information that they need when they are most in need of it. (2) Combine valuable content with lots of creativity, zaniness and fun!
The Potter's Wheel
May 14, 2012
I have a confession. This past Sunday I woke up early - very early. After coming to the realization that I was not going to fall back to sleep, I decided to see if there was anything worth watching on TV. I came upon one of the many televangelist programs that air on Sunday mornings. Despite the fact that I'm not what one would consider to be a highly religious person, I was immediately drawn into the program. The speaker was very engaging. His message intrigued me: Acceptance of others. The message was less about open-mindedness as it was about celebrating the individual traits that everyone brings to the table of life. It got me thinking about my past professional experiences, the people I worked with, and the successes and challenges we experienced. I discovered during this reflection that of the many staff teams I've been a part of, it was the ones in which we embraced the unique strengths of each member that produced the most success. Allow me to explain. In one of my professional positions, I directed the efforts of a small, but hardworking professional team. I was the big idea person. I was constantly asking my team, "what if we...?" I was also the driver and enthusiast. As the driver, once the big idea was established, I would develop a plan to make it happen and set deadlines. As the enthusiast, I would generate excitement for the concept and the plan. Another one of my staff members was analytical. She was all about the details. If there was a "hiccup" in our plan or any of the associated details, she would work and work until it was resolved. No detail would go unnoticed with her on our team. Her wonderful personality, coupled with her analytic nature, allowed her to iron out the details and offer suggestions in a manner that never offended anyone on the team. We welcomed her suggestions. And, of course, what team would be complete without the finesse and charm of the amiable team member. Her strength was relationship building. With any new "big idea" or major change, you've got to get others on board. She was well connected on campus and always knew exactly who to speak with and which people to have at the table for important discussions. Her amiable nature helped to move our processes along and make things happen because people liked her and trusted her. Our small staff team made HUGE changes on campus in a very short period of time because we not only accepted what each of us brought to the table, we celebrated it. We focused on one another's strengths. Despite the stress that can accompany the implementation of major changes, we had fun and laughed a lot. We enjoyed spending time with one another. None of us tried to mold the other into mini versions of ourselves.
May 7, 2012
"We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." - Walt Disney
Curiosity is a great thing. It's the thing that encourages us to question the choices that we make, the work that we do, and the paths that we take in our lives. It spurs us along when we tire of doing things the same way and are hungry for change. It's the thing that makes us ask, "What if?" even when others may not see a need to pose that question. Curiosity makes our work and our lives more interesting. When we cease to be curious our lives become routine. When caught up in a world of routine we are likely to move from one task or project to another on auto pilot. While our lives are moving on, they're likely not moving forward. Curiosity gives us purpose. It challenges us to question, wonder and explore. Our greatest successes in life are most often the result of curiosity. If you forgot how curiosity looks, just spend a few minutes with a young child and it will all come back to you. Children, by nature, are curious. They ask a TON of questions about everything. No topic is off limits. "Why?" "How?" "When?" "What if?" They don't accept things at face value. Something an adult might pass by with little notice holds great value to a child. "Why is this here?" "What is this for?" "How does it do that?"
Keep it Simple
May 1, 2012
Thinking about introducing change in your department or organization? Here's something you'll want to remember: Keep it simple.
In higher education we have a tendancy to "overplan." When contemplating change we often form special committees to examine an existing challenge or explore a new initiative. These committees meet for months, sometimes more than a year, to meet the charge of the committee. The end result is often a lengthy, detailed plan. But, is this the most effective manner to get things done in the interest of change?
April 26, 2012
How many times have you found yourself doing a number of things at once -- checking e-mails on your phone or tablet while in a meeting; jumping from project to project in a matter of minutes; reading through mail during a phone conversation? Do any of these sound familiar? I imagine that they do. Multitasking is how most of us function. We feel that when we can accomplish a few things at once, we are being so much more productive. But are we really? Peter Bregman, blogger for the Harvard Business Review and author of 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distractions, and Get Things Done Right, would beg to differ. He found that multitasking actually reduced our productivity by as much as 40%. According to Bregman, we fool ourselves into believing that we're being more productive, while in actuality, our multitasking is creating constant interruptions to the task at hand. Our focus becomes diminished and we lose time. Many who multitask will tell you that practice makes perfect. The more they do it, the better they get. Research shows just the opposite to be true. Those who multitask the most are far less productive than those who multitask on occasion. Worse yet...multitasking creates a great deal of stress.
April 4, 2012
In a few short hours I will make my way to the theatre with my son to see "The Hunger Games." Having read all three books in the trilogy, I must confess that this leaves me both excited and anxious. I'm excited to see the characters come to life on the big screen. I'm anxious as the graphic nature of the book leaves me wondering if I truly want to see some of the scenes played out in full color and larger than life. Regardless of how I may end up feeling about the movie, one thing is certain, I have a respect and admiration for Suzanne Collins, the author of the Hunger Games saga. Why? If someone asked me if pre-teens and teenagers alike would rush to pick up a copy of a book that addresses the perils of war, poverty, self-sacrifice and a fight for survival, I would have been filled with doubt. Who would write a book with this type of content for a young adult audience? Why, Suzanne Collins, of course. She took a step away from the ordinary to tell an extraordinary story filled with oppression and hope. Of course she provided us with strong characters that we would come to admire, respect and cheer for. But, her story steps outside of the box - way outside of the box - for this population of readers.
About the author
Owner of Kimembee
Kim Moistner-Bartlett blended her experiences in business and higher education administration to create Kimembee, a leadership development company. Kim has held positions in First Year Programs and Residence Life at a number of institutions including The University of Southern Mississippi, Temple University, Philadelphia University and the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She has received awards for her innovative presentations, most notably in the area of customer service within higher education. Kim received her Masters Degree from Ball State University and her Bachelors degree from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.