Elevating Your Personal Best: Strengths Edition

Register to participate in Elevating Your Personal Best: Strengths Edition by January 23 by 5pm! Elevating Your Personal Best: Strength Edition Registration

In Spring 2018, William and Mary Student Leadership Development encourages students to participate in Elevating Your Personal Best: Strengths Edition! This is a program designed to help student leaders know their strengths and understand how their strengths can be applied to their work and leadership practice. We would like to help explain the why behind Elevating Your Personal Best: Strengths Edition. William and Mary utilizes StrengthsQuest provided by Gallup that provides students the resources to discover their strengths and how to apply them. Gallup explains the concept of StrengthsQuest for helping college students get the most out of their work and education:

Gallup finds that just 39% of college grads are engaged at work. And only 11% are thriving in all five elements of their well-being.

So, how can [campus] leaders increase the value of the college experience for students?

You start by helping students discover their natural talents; then teach them how to develop their talents into strengths, and coach them to apply their strengths during their experiences on campus.

Student Leadership Development believes that self-reflection helps to foster effective leadership and engagement in all aspects of involvement and academics. Below is a video featuring Tom Matson, senior executive leadership strategist for Gallup Education, explaining how and why universities across the country utilize StrengthsQuest. SLD encourages you to participate in Elevating Your Personal Best: Strengths Edition yourself or share this blog post with William and Mary students or student groups who would like to know more!

Reflections on Leadership

Ann Marie Stock, Vice Provost for Academic and Faculty Affairs, shares below some insights on leadership, whether it be with or without a title. As Student Leadership Development concludes #NoTitleNeeded November, we would like to remind students that just because November is over, doesn’t mean the conversation should end. The importance of leadership and nonpositional leadership is overarching and continues to present itself in many facets of work and life.

Reflections on Leadership

The mention of “leadership” may fill our senses with:

  • The sound of a speech amplified by a microphone
  • The sight of long lists of awards and appearances and important job titles
  • The feel of a handshake with some famous person

What does leadership sound like, look like, feel like at W&M?

It need not sound loud, or involve a microphone. In fact, there might not be any sound, for it could be the act of listening—attentively—as my students have done while filming interviews and conversing with our Cuban collaborators.

It need not look CV-worthy. In fact, most often it doesn’t even get noticed—a gesture of affirmation, an offer to assist—as my students demonstrate when they take risks together to learn new skills in media-making or work with materials in an unfamiliar language.

It need not feel like that celebrity handshake. It’s a different kind of touch that matters—one emanating from gratitude and solidarity.  It’s being touched by the overtures of others—as when we were honored with the privilege of being the first U.S. university group to visit a media organization in Cuba, and it’s touching back—as with our parting gesture of singing for our hosts the Alma Mater.

Our Vision Statement asserts that: “People come to W&M wanting to change the world. And together we do.” How do we go about that?

We move away from the mic—and listen;

We stop looking at titles and awards and see instead opportunities to support and affirm;

We seek to touch not the hand of “important” people, but rather the lives of those around us.

That’s how we lead, and that’s how we change the world.

-Ann Marie Stock

#NoTitleNeeded Leadership Spotlight: Sam Ryan

In this post, senior Sam Ryan tells us what No Title Needed means to her and how it has guided her leadership experience here at William and Mary.

#NoTitleNeeded means leadership isn’t reserved to the extroverted and popular. It means caring about your involvements and not just looking for resume fillers. It means great leadership isn’t only practiced from titled positions. I’ve held my fair share of titled leadership positions throughout high school and in college, but some of the most rewarding leadership experiences I’ve had haven’t been in titled positions. This past year, I’ve become very involved in Church activities both on and off campus and that’s primarily because I love it! Passion is a great motivator for good leadership. I’ve found myself taking on more responsibilities and being a leader among my peers despite not having an official leadership role. I’ve also found more enjoyment in organizations where I have genuine passion, even when I don’t have a leadership position! Everyone has great capacity for leadership. By finding your passion, being dedicated, and volunteering your time, anyone can be a great leader—title or not!

Developing Your “Hired Mindset”

Authored by Sean Schofield, Assistant Director– Cohen Career Center

“I don’t have any relevant experience,” said the downtrodden student holding a white piece of printer paper marked only with contact information and large heading labeled “Education.” The very same student who, less than five minutes into our appointment, would go on to reveal former part time employment at a restaurant, research with a faculty member, membership with a fraternity on campus, and time spent volunteering at a local Boys and Girls Clubhouse.

The most exciting part of my job is not helping students develop the transferrable skills that employers seek, it’s helping students build and share the story of the rich and diverse experiences they have taken part in… stories that speak to any potential employer. It’s helping students start to think differently about the life that they’ve led so far, and to empower them with the understanding that there are three primary components that make up what I like to call “The Hired Mindset.”

1) Understand that Organizations Hire PEOPLE, not Machines

One of the most common misconceptions that I hear when I work with students is that they do not have the requisite skills necessary to secure opportunities in a field of choice. The problem with this concept is that people like, enjoy, converse with, and ultimately hire PEOPLE. This flies in the face of what most students believe, a perception that often confuses employability with titles, language proficiencies, or the equations that we can solve. All that skills and abilities can do is tell part of a job or internship candidate’s story. Take, for example, one of the most common ways for any employer to open a job interview – “Tell me about yourself.” A simple prompt, allowing us to speak on the one area in which we are a true expert, yet this statement strikes fear into some of the most competent applicants. Tell me about yourself is one of the best opportunities to “set the stage” for interview success, and one of the only parts of a job interview that you can really practice thoroughly. Don’t waste time talking about superfluous things, but instead discuss who you are academically, talk about extracurricular involvement, and allow your goals and passions to shine through – but make them relate to the position, the organization, and the industry.

2) Some Skills and Competencies are ALWAYS Transferrable

While you, as a job/internship seeker, should be measuring your potential employer with regard to your Values, Interests and Aptitudes, the hiring official(s) will be measuring you on whether or not you will help them advance their goals, fit in with their organizational structure and culture, and represent them well when it counts. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) lists seven highly important competencies that students must demonstrate in order to get hired (www.naceweb.org), for which I offer my basic interpretation of each:

  • Critical Thinking – This is not only measured by your grades and ability to solve complex problems, but also by the creative ways you approach obstacles.
  • Communications – Not just your ability to speak or write, but also your ability to listen and follow instructions. You can successfully demonstrate communication skills by showcasing your ability to relay information, and by proving that you can listen to and interpret information.
  • Collaboration – Everyone wants a team player, and you will need to be able to work with a diverse group of people (diversity can be measured in a number of ways) to accomplish a common goal. Students are often concerned with leaving their “legacy,” which they believe to be accomplished only when operating independently from the greater group, but collaboration is what wins championships on the field and keeps residence halls running smoothly.
  • IT Application – Familiarize yourself with the technical needs of each position that you apply for, and make sure its application will not be a point that holds you back. YouTube and Lynda.com are great ways to learn technical skills that will impress potential employers.
  • Leadership – The most misunderstood of all of the competencies! We think that a chief officer of an organization leads, but true leadership lies in a person’s ability to lift up those around them, or assist others in making meaning of their experiences.
  • Professionalism – This may be tough to hear, but you are a brand. Everything that you do will either support and grow, or diminish your brand in the eyes of others. Those Facebook posts that you think are inaccessible to employers are not, what you tweet is viewable to the world, and the way that you dress and present yourself when meeting people goes a long way in demonstrating your character. Make sure you treat every day like a job interview!
  • Career Management – Develop your ability to describe your experiences and connect your past with your present and future! This is also a chance to reflect upon areas where growth and development are needed.

3) Storytelling Can Get You a Job

Let’s face it, storytelling is an effective way to get a point across. There are multi-million dollar industries based upon people’s willingness to sit and watch a good story play out on the screen, stage or television, and few people find themselves apathetic to the hero’s journey (the formula that plays itself out in nearly every classic according to Matthew Winkler’s TED-Ed Animation). Although it may seem a bit erroneous to measure your accomplishments against those of Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen or Frodo, when you speak about your experiences, frame them in the following way: you faced a conflict or challenge, you developed and implemented a solution, and the day was won. Getting hired isn’t about each individual experience you’ve had, it’s about how you weave them into a story that the hiring manager is excited to hear.

During the 2016 #NoTitleNeeded initiative, we hope you and your organization will focus on emerging contributors within your group or cause. The belief that you are capable is one of the greatest contributors to leadership efficacy. Build this leadership efficacy in your members by thanking them for the (#NoTitleNeeded) contributions they are making to your shared goals. Would you like to celebrate #NoTitleNeeded, but in need of materials? SLD is offering a #NoTitleNeeded pack complete with buttons and stickers! Sign up to receive a #NoTitleNeeded Pack here: http://bit.ly/2fvV71r

Depth Over Breadth Student Spotlight: TJ Soroka

Today’s Depth Over Breadth Student Spotlight is TJ Soroka:

TJ’s nominator shared,

“As a student leader on campus, TJ proves that you can be a role model on campus without overbooking yourself.”

When asked to reflect on Depth Over Breadth, TJ shared,

“I think I would best describe my leadership style as the perfect mix of Henry Clay and Leslie Knope. I am hard-working and passionate, but at the same time I foster a fun-loving environment. I think this relates back to the Depth Over Breadth initiative because by focusing your efforts into only those things which you are passionate about, you create a positive and more enjoyable experience not only for yourself, but for the community around you.”

On behalf of the Student Leadership Development team, thank you TJ for your leadership and commitment!

TJ Soroka_DepthOverBreadth

Lines, Circles, and Arrows oh my!

Spence Pelfrey, Graduate Assistant for Leadership Programs offers his thoughts on the #NoTitleNeeded campaign.

As one of the planners and coordinators of the 2015 #NoTitleNeeded Campaign, I thought it would be helpful and innovative to create a new way of thinking of non-positional leadership. I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve explained the idea of leadership without authority or position and received a blank or confused stare or a multitude of follow up questions about how that’s even a thing.

I spent the summer working in the corporate world and saw just how rigid leadership can be. That’s not a shot at corporate structures, just an observation! In fact, many (and most) organizations are set up this way as well. As someone who wants to return to the corporate sector, my ultimate goal is to change that mentality. I found that while out of that arena, I needed to write or make something that identifies the themes and helps anyone think outside of the box.

My solution this go around was to make it a little easier for people to understand in a way that was fun, engaging, and easily applicable. So I created this video. The foundations come from our office’s approach to leadership, with hints of the video that Joe Wheeless created for last year’s campaign (that was our first video as an office and generated lots of great discussion!). My hope was that we could continue the discussion into this year and help students more deeply understand how non-positional leadership applies to them.

That’s where the shapes came into play.


First, there’s triangles. If you look at pretty much any organizational chart of a large company, it’s structured, rigid, and downright frustrating if you’re at the bottom. When we’re trying to flip the idea of leadership on its head, it’s simply not conducive with triangles. Anyway you flip a triangle, it’s still a triangle, and there’s a group of people who are working to create the base and people at the top who are reaping the benefits of their hard work.

So let’s think of leadership as lines – people are helping one another and each has their own unique skill that they’re contributing to the team. True lines are never ending, and thus there will always be a need for every person to contribute in order to reach checkpoints and goals.

If we look at circles, there’s everyone is contributing something to the circle and it’s being disseminated outwardly. All within the circle can contribute and clearly see (and be inspired) by others’ contributions. This inspiration is infectious and hopefully starts new circles around new goals.

Arrows are pointing towards progress. Sometimes we may not know the end goal simply because we are challenging something that’s never been challenged before. This takes innovation, strength, and willpower to push forward and create a movement. People exercise courage with arrows because of their willingness to not fear the unknown.

My question to you is, what shape is your organization? Is it flexible? Are you playing to your strengths?

Defining Success

One morning, while scrolling through my regular digest of blogs and lifestyle websites I visit, I came across this video titled “Success.” As I watched, light bulbs were going off in my head and I found myself elated to find this. I just had the share it.

You see, this semester, Student Leadership Development began to talk with students about involvement differently. The norm around involvement has morphed into a culture where one may never do enough and students are constantly adding to their plate. Too often we find their involvement gets to a level where it can create negative outcomes. Lower grades, increased stress, increase overwhelm, etc. and it can easily get out of hand.

Then I found this video.

It added a different perspective to what we believe about involvement. We believe that deeper involvement in a few things has greater impact on a student’s experience then shallow involvement in many things. This video reinforces the notion that involvement can be whatever and however you decide to get involved and that success from that involvement might look different than your peers.

Your success in whatever you do is determined by you. It can look like whatever you want it to look like. In applying this line of thinking to involvement, one should ask, what does success look like?

We also know this can be a hard to do. When launching the #NoTitleNeeded campaign last year, it was eye opening to see many people struggle with the prompt “Where do you lead when no title is needed?” As this campaign kicks off again next month, we invite you to ask yourself these questions and reflect on what your success looks like.

It’s election season…

Fall. It’s the season of football, Halloween,  homecoming, leaf watching, and elections. I’m talking about student organization elections. Many of our student organizations transition officers towards the end of the fall semester and with that time approaching T.J. Sullivan recently posted a video blog about that transition titled “Don’t Choose Your Successor.”

He offers some great advice to students in a leadership role who may be concerned about who will take their place after them. There is also a companion written blog on the topic of elections you may want to check out.

Follow the link to the video blog Don’t Choose Your Successor.

And don’t forget to let SLD know who the new primary contact person for your organization is once you have elections!


Book Review: Motivating the Middle

Recently, T.J Sullivan was the featured keynote speaker for The Leadership Event. Kaitlyn Schmitt from Student Leadership Development, offers her perspective on T.J’s book, Motivating the Middle: Fighting Apathy in College Student Organizations.

If I had a nickel for every time a student leader suggested motivating others by making something mandatory, I could buy a cup of coffee at The Grind. (But if you think about it, that’s a lot of nickels.)

Student organizations often struggle with apathy. Groups are constantly looking to increase attendance, get members to take on additional responsibility, and just generally motivate their members. Many student leaders suggest mandating attendance and threatening removal of group membership, but rarely do they actually make good on those threats. It’s hard to kick someone out of a volunteer group. But if requiring participation doesn’t work, what does?

T.J. Sullivan, a fraternity/sorority-advisor-turned-educational-speaker, had an interesting idea: stop trying to motivate everyone. Focus on the members who need a small nudge rather than a big push. These are the members in a group he dubs the “middle third.”

Like design and visual arts, student organizations have a Rule of Thirds. Every member of every student organization can be classified as a top-third, middle-third, or bottom-third member. These thirds may not be exactly 1/3 of your membership, but roughly speaking, you can divide your membership into thirds based on level of involvement in the organization.

Somewhere between the most involved (top-third) and the least involved (bottom-third) groups are the middle-third members. These members care about the success of the organization but are not so wholly committed that it’s their top priority. They show up because they like being a part of the group and believe in its mission. They enjoy some aspects of the organization but not others. They’re willing to help out, but only if they understand the commitment, are confident they can meet expectations, and feel needed. And most importantly, they are juggling their participation in the organization with all their other commitments. Unlike the top-third members, this organization isn’t necessarily a ball that doesn’t get dropped.

Motivating the Middle

Most students focus on the bottom-third members and trying to improve or remove those members. But they would likely have more success if they worked with the middle-third members. Since the students in the middle third care and want the organization to succeed, they are already motivated to help out, to complete tasks, to attend activities, and to be held accountable. They just need some barriers removed for them. They need to know that their contributions are valued but not expected to be above and beyond. They need to be able to participate at a level that makes them comfortable and happy, without the expectation of being or becoming a top-third member.

The best strategies for motivating members focus on the middle third. What can be done to give them more responsibility while respecting their middle-third membership? How can the organization remove barriers to their participation? What do they want to get out of the organization, and how are these expectations not being met? Talk to your middle-third members, answer those questions, and you will likely see a marked increase in your need to motivate your members!

Ideas for Motivating the Middle Third:

  • Start by asking them for their opinion, nothing more.
  • Learn what they like and don’t like about the organization’s operations/activities and why. Problem-solve ways to make the aspects they don’t like more similar to the aspects they do enjoy.
  • Find out why they joined the organization and try to help them achieve their own goals in the group.
  • Let them work on projects or tasks that interest them.
  • Ask them to complete tasks that have defined start and end times.  They may be more willing to take on a leadership role if they know it won’t last the whole semester!
  • Thank them for their participation. They are often overshadowed by top-third members, yet the organization couldn’t function properly without them.

Questions for reflection:

  • In which organizations am I a top-third member? Middle-third? Bottom-third?
  • Who are the middle-third members in my organizations? What are their ideas for making changes?
  • How can I help my organization’s members each get what they want out of the experience of being a member of this group?

If you’d like to learn more, read Motivating the Middle: Fighting Apathy in College Student Organizations by T.J. Sullivan. It’s an easy and quick read, taking only an hour or two. You can also visit TJ’s blog at www.intentionaltjs.com.

Book Review: The Power of Habit

To be honest, I first picked up this book up because of the bright yellow cover with bold red type face.  In hindsight, it was great foreshadowing for my time spending reading The Power of Habit: Why We do What We do in Life and Business b

Power of Habity Charles Duhigg.  I realized I have a habit for going to Barns and Nobel to kill time before a movie and picking up books with interesting covers.  Part knowledge and understanding of the subject, and part self-help, The Power of Habit is a great read for many different audiences and applicable to many stages of one’s life.  Duhigg offers stories to back up scientific facts and data points with the cadence of a TV series writer.  I found myself more than once wanting to get through the next part of chapter and get back to a story that took a pause, just like a well timed commercial break during your favorite TV show’s finale. The book begins in the most logical place; the habits of individuals.  The subsequent chapters do a wonderful job breaking down a habit and looking critically at the different parts.  Duhigg ultimately taking the stance that one only needs to change the behavior, not the trigger or the reward, to make a habit positive.  All while riveting stories of people’s lives are sprinkled about the pages. An aluminum manufacture, a football team, and Target all have one thing in common: their organizational habits are profiled in this book in a way that reads like a prime time investigative news show.  By far the realization a company such as Target has figured out how to individualize coupons to customers based on what they buy and even predict their next shopping experience is unnerving.  What part two if the book focuses on primarily are the habits of organizations, but the secondary focus is on the difference of positive and negative uses of understanding the power of habits.  Alcoa, a large international aluminum manufacturer based in America, is profiled in a way where the company focused on the safety of its employees and changing the culture of a large company while increasing profits over the years.  Alcoa essentially harnessed the power of habit by creating, changing, and introducing habit into a culture. So how does The Power of Habit relate to leadership?  For someone whose time is in high demand, this book can help you analyze some habits in your life.  It provides some helpful tips in working to change a habit or introduce a habit. If you are a member of an organization that is frustrated with how things are run, I recommend this book to improve the inner workings of your organization, like Alcoa. Overall, the time investment on the front end, should outweigh the long term benefits of the books teachings.

-Joe Wheeless