Currents

Leadership Resolutions

New year, new management goals

By Christen Aragoni

Leadership Resolutions

ILLUSTRATION CREDIT: MICHAEL AUSTIN

As advancement leaders step into 2019 and prepare to meet campaign goals, deliver projects, motivate their teams, and stay healthy and excited in their roles, Currents asked them to reflect on what they wanted to change or improve on as managers. Despite their deep experience, these professionals all talked about ways they could grow on both personal and team levels. Nearly everyone referenced a role model or book that taught them important lessons or offered advice for other leaders. As you consider your own 2019 goals, take some inspiration from these New Year's management resolutions.

About the Author

Christen Aragoni is a CASE content creator.


Ralph Amos

President and CEO,
Purdue Alumni Association, Indiana

Reflections: The hardest thing in management is handling the dynamics associated with people, says Amos, who despite having just completed his second year at Purdue, still feels new in his role. One of the keys to leading a team, he says, is understanding the culture you inherited and then developing a clear vision to create the culture needed to move the organization forward. "Our outwardly facing vision is: ‘All together. All thriving. All Purdue!'" Amos says. "This in turn drives our internal way of working—of being kind, bold, dynamic, and robust, as well as valuable and inspirational to the people we serve."

Resolutions:

  1. Care for the well-being of his alumni relations outreach staff. "We have to stay diligent and make certain that even people on the road are living with well-being," he says. "Higher-ed advancement is fast-paced and has long hours. You can't have people burn themselves up. It's a give-and-take."
  2. Communicate better by stepping back, listening more, talking less, and putting more energy into the important stuff. Another challenge for a leader, Amos says, is aligning your communications in a manner that helps staff members do their jobs.
  3. Have fun and lighten up. "If we escalate stress, it rubs off on alumni," he says. "If we can keep our levity and joy, as well as the belief that our work really matters, we'll be in a better place."

Advice: In managing your team, divide up members' strengths and support individual weaknesses. Find the best mix of abilities to produce the best outputs. As you're figuring out team dynamics and developing projects, keep bringing people together to try again when a process doesn't work. "It can make the road bumpy if you don't stay on it," Amos says. "Exposure, repetition, and patience are crucial."

Ralph Amos


Judy Nagai

Assistant Vice President for Development, 
University of the Pacific, California

Reflections: Earlier this year Nagai started a new job at a new institution and began setting a direction and goals for herself and her team of development officers. "I spent the weeks leading up to the job with nervous energy, and that thought creeped into my mind: ‘What if I'm not good enough? What if I'm in over my head?'" she says. "I dare to say that I'm not the only one who's ever had these types of doubts."

Resolution:

  1. Continue the process of learning to be comfortable with being vulnerable, and use that process to cultivate authenticity in her life. When we start a new job (or take the bold step of applying for that job), head up a project, or work toward big fundraising goals, Nagai says, we often put excessive pressure on ourselves, worrying about whether we'll fail, make a mistake, or let our team down. We think we have to know all of the answers, but we don't. "This intentional act of allowing ourselves to be vulnerable—to be more open to taking risks, to stretch ourselves, to be courageous—will help us to live a more authentic life, both personally and professionally," she says.

Advice: No matter where you are in your career or what title you hold, self-reflection on where you've been and where you want to go can be of great value.

Inspirational quote (which Nagai will tape to her computer for 2019): "Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change."—Brené Brown, professor and author

Recommended viewing: "The Power of Vulnerability" (TEDxHouston), Brené Brown

Judy Nagai


Timothy Minor

Vice President, University Advancement, 
The University of North Carolina System

Reflections: While his immediate team has eight members, Minor works with vice chancellors and their staffs at all 17 UNC campuses and reports to the system president, as well as the UNC Board of Governors. In managing, Minor strives for servant leadership. "We're all in these leadership positions for a limited time," he says. "While we are here, we should use our influence to help others in their roles—that's part of being a servant leader and paying it forward."

Resolutions:

  1. Spend more time thinking strategically. No one comes into a role knowing exactly what to do, Minor says, and managers must pause in order to develop the next big idea. "We spend so much time running around and reacting to donors and chancellors and others that you don't get enough time to stop and think," he says. "Blocking time for strategic thinking is as important as taking meetings and putting out fires."
  2. Stay healthy. Eat a healthy, nutrient-rich diet; get adequate, high-quality sleep; engage in regular physical activity; and manage pressure so it doesn't turn into negative stress. Minor has started meditating.
  3. Stop wasting time in meetings. Many meetings could be eliminated or shortened, he says. A standing meeting around a table, for instance, could be kept to 15 minutes of highlights. "When you're standing," he says, "you're there for one thing—to think quickly."
  4. Provide opportunities for others to lead and train managers in the principles of servant leadership. At a senior retreat, Minor had staff set the agenda and lead activities. They let him know where he fit in. Servant leading is "leading from behind," he says.

Advice: "You have gifts, and that's why you have the position you do," Minor says. "Maximize your influence to use your gifts to make someone's life better."

Recommended reading: The Servant Leader (2001), James Autry

Timothy Minor


Susan Wan

Director of Development,
The Alice Smith School, Malaysia

Reflections: Managing a diverse, multicultural, multi-generational, and dynamic workforce, Wan says, is an ongoing leadership challenge. At Alice Smith, she says, "we believe through generosity of time and care and attention to every individual, we find a way to bring out the best in all people and create an enduring sense of belonging to something very special."

Resolutions:

  1. Impart her coaching abilities to lead and manage her team more effectively. "Coaching is not just a set of skills," Wan says. "It is an attitude and mindset that forges and strengthens relationships, decision-making, strategic planning, and performance as an individual and employee."
  2. Focus on philanthropy and service learning as part of supporting the school's foundation, which just launched in November 2018. Particularly because Alice Smith is a not-for-profit school, Wan says, the foundation's success will enhance students' educational experiences and their journeys of personal excellence.

Inspirational quote: "Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world." —Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa

Recommended reading: Fundraising Management: Analysis, Planning, and Practice (2004) by Adrian Sargeant and Elaine Jay. "It provides good guides, useful templates, and methodology on how to manage fundraising strategically," Wan says.

Susan Wan


Tonjanita Johnson

Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer, 
The University of Tennessee System

Reflections: The art and science of managing involves prescribed methods and theories as well as skills and talents leaders develop with practice, Johnson says, and each leader adds value and brings creativity to a role. Once solely a marketing and communications professional, Johnson says her life has become increasingly complex with her executive oversight of the Tennessee system. "I need to stop and think about where I'm going," Johnson says. "In general, I need to focus on the fundamentals and simplicity and identify goals by going back to our core values."

Resolutions:

  1. Look for ways to simplify her work. Evaluate what she absolutely has to do and not get bogged down in complexities. "It's about finding the sweet spot of where I feel good about what I'm doing because I'm not overcomplicating," she says.
  2. Keep a positive attitude. The basic things to accomplish are compassion and service, she says, and staying positive makes the job fun rather than "just another Monday." Instead of concentrating on the length of her to-do list, she plans to remind herself that "I'm built for this role, and I'm excited about it."

Advice: "We can all identify with being busy in our lives and then having jobs that are overwhelming," Johnson says. "We have to wrap our arms around what we have to do and make peace with the fact that we have chosen to do this."

Inspirational quote: "Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains."—Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder

Recommended reading: How Great Leaders Think: The Art of Reframing (2014) by Lee G. Bolman

Tonjanita Johnson


Dino Hernandez

President
Strategic Advancement Solutions Group, Colorado

Reflections: Advancement leaders must take on the increasingly vital challenge of promoting and advocating diversity in the profession, says Hernandez, who adds that mentors have played an important role in his development as a leader. "Having a mentor can be more than a professional relationship," he says. "One of my mentors, [CASE Vice President of Education] Rob Henry has become a dear friend."

Resolutions:

  1. Help donors and institutions understand one another and their diverse perspectives. Hernandez aims to teach gift officers to put themselves in donors' shoes even as they can't be shy about explaining what the institution needs. "I want to help my team members understand one another as well as funders," he says. "America is only going to get more diverse."
  2. Mentor and nurture staff members to help them recognize the value of philanthropy. "At the end of the day, I want to point out to them why we are here," Hernandez says. "We're in the business of doing good."

Advice: Be a part of CASE by seeking out opportunities beyond conferences. This will help you form relationships with other advancement professionals. "You just never know who you might work with or for one day," he says.

Inspirational quote: "Our ability to handle life's challenges is a measure of our strength of character."—Les Brown, author and motivational speaker

Recommended viewing: Naval Admiral William McRaven's 2014 commencement speech at the University of Texas at Austin.

Dino Hernandez


Edwin T.C. Reyes

Executive Director, Advancement and Alumni Relations Office
De La Salle University, Philippines

Reflections: Advancement practitioners constantly struggle to find effective means to engage our community and promote the spirit of giving, he says. Contextualizing and adapting concepts, practices, and lessons learned at CASE conferences, he points out, can help him and his team enhance their work. During a recent university strategic planning session, Reyes was struck by the question: "As leaders and administrators, if an outsider came to do your work, what would he or she likely first address or change?" Considering how he would answer this prompted him to formulate his 2019 leadership resolution.

Resolution:

  1. Incorporate and promote advancement opportunities in all university activities in order to weave the culture of giving into the daily lives of De La Salle community members. "There's so much more I can do to communicate to more segments of the Lasallian community and partners," Reyes says. By using, for example, audio-visual materials at the opening segments of all campus activities, "we can plant the seeds of giving and philanthropy in the consciousness of practically all students and partners. Wish me luck, CASE partners!"
Edwin T.C. Reyes