Author Archives: Joe Sabado

Head Scratching Incident at the Golf Course – Is It About Race Again?

It seems silly for me to be complaining about this given where this happened – at a golf course. It is a privilege to be playing a sport/activity that costs quite a lot of money. So, in that sense, I do recognize the socio-economic privilege I hold. But, this incident I will share below is one of those head scratchers on how I am treated in a certain way. Maybe it’s all in my head, but experience tells me, probably not.

I was playing golf with a work friend of mine. He’s one of the top administrators on campus and he’s white male. We were riding on the same golf cart. At one of the holes, one of the golf marshalls approached us from afar and asked if one of us had left a golf club. As I looked in my bag, I realized that it could have been one of mine. I responded, “yes, I think it’s mine. Does it have a blue/black grip?” He responded with “where did you leave it?” I responded with “I’m not sure. ” I also provided him with another piece of detail about the club. He still had that look like he didn’t believe me based on the look on his face and he wasn’t going to give it to me. It is that very moment when the thought of “if I’m white, would he be asking all these questions?” My friend, after noticing my reaction, immediately said something like “I wonder if you’re white, he wouldn’t have done that to you.”  Again, it could just be all in my head, but it’s these kinds of moments that trigger some thoughts about other incidents in my life when I wonder why I’m treated differently.

We actually wanted to do an experiment to see if the same marshall would react differently if my buddy had left his club and how he would act when he returns it to us. But, we continued to play on.

 

Random Thoughts on the Yik Yak at NASPA 15 Controversy

As I read the reactions on twitter and blog posts by student affairs folks on the comments made on Yik Yak, random thoughts/questions came to mind. This post by Paul Gordon Brown provides a good collection of the reactions from this incident. A session was held at the conference to talk about the incident and here are the tweets from the session. They may be wrong/right from your perspective, but here are just some random thoughts that came to mind.

  • How much of the strong reactions against the Yik Yak posts are based on the need for validation/proof of credibility of the student affairs profession? From time to time, I read the frustration of how those outside student affairs don’t seem to understand what we do and that’s why we need to do a better job telling our stories. For some, is it about protecting the reputation of the student affairs profession?
  • When students make mistakes, some folks talk about these mistakes as teachable/learning moments and opportunities for growth. I think there’s a sense that students are still developing as people. What if we apply the same mindset to professionals? It’s not like we all become perfect individuals once we became professionals or when we get the letters after our names. No one is perfect and the development process lasts a lifetime, me included.
  • Even before this Yik Yak controversy, I’ve heard of the topics of “hooking up” at conferences and participants using conferences as paid vacations. It’s not as if Yik Yak introduced these issues, but it just made them more public and when I mean public, the whole internet to see.
  • With the topic of “hooking up”, I’ve also seen moral judgments on another person’s sexual activities (“slut shaming”) before Yik Yak and I think there’s a sense that it’s happening here as well.
  • Even professionals need to understand how to be good digital citizens -by understanding the pitfalls and opportunities provided by social media and how their participation (positive/negative) impact themselves as well as their communities.
  • Not all comments were negative.
  • I can’t believe anyone would actually even post some of the comments I read. SMH.
  • How many of those comments came from student affairs in attendance at the conference? Is there a chance that there are individuals who posted comments to further exploit the situation for fun or for malicious intent?
  • I refrained from providing my reaction on twitter as I wasn’t quite sure how it will be taken. I didn’t feel safe offering my opinions. Sometimes, twitter isn’t always the best place to have productive conversations even in a community that promotes itself as being open to conflicting ideas.

I’m also reminded of a conversation I had with a student on one benefit of Yik Yak. I asked this student her opinion on social media and how students view and use social media. We came to the topic of Yik Yak. Her response was that Yik Yak, because of the anonymity it provides, is a good venue for students to express their opinions in an honest way. She talked about the topic of masturbation and how students shared their opinions without feeling judged.

 

 

 

Confidence Matters In the Workplace

Doesn’t it suck when you have to second guess what you do because you don’t know if your boss will overrule you in public (and you don’t know when) or you may be punished in some way for your actions? On the other hand, doesn’t it feel good when you have a boss who gives you the room to make decisions and even if you do make mistakes at times, they’re considered learning experience? I’ve experienced both in my career. I believe that as a manager/leader, one of our most important responsibilities is to build leaders and to build productive colleagues by providing them the space to think for themselves and grow. The confidence to pursue ideas and actions beyond their comfort zones is a big part of this process towards leadership and towards our co-workers’ ability to do their job as well. I also believe having an environment where a person can confidently do their jobs is part of having an engaged staff. Engagement to me means a staff feels personal satisfaction with the work they do and secondly, they are also contributing to organization. From experience, here are some ways I think we can build the confidence of others:

  1. Communicate goals clearly but leave room for staff to find ways to accomplish them. Basically, do not micro-manage, especially when working with talented and creative folks. Unless we work in an environment where it doesn’t require much thinking, providing our co-workers room to explore ideas and come up with their own ways to accomplishing goals you’ve given them is the way to go. However, those goals and expectations must be clearly communicated to save those assigned with the tasks from having to spend emotional energy and wasted time and effort.
  2. Allow room for “failure” as it’s part of the learning/growth process. The world is changing rapidly and we encounter new experiences/ideas everyday and we may not necessarily know how to always respond to them in the right ways. Personally, the biggest moments of growth I’ve experienced have been through my mistakes. These mistakes encouraged me to re-evaluate my approach and certainly, these mistakes helped me improve the quality of my work. Luckily, I had bosses in the past who understood that making mistakes is all part of the learning process and so while they helped me understand how to eliminate those mistakes, they also did not admonish me to a point I stopped trying new ideas. Don’t rob your co-workers with these opportunities to grow by not allowing them to make mistakes.
  3. Set higher expectations and standards beyond their comfort zones and abilities. This requires that you are intimately familiar with your co-workers’ skills, knowledge, and interests. Understand their areas of strengths and weaknesses and challenge them to further utilize their strengths and improve their weaknesses. You may encounter some resistance as this will require more work from them and they may not understand why you are challenging them, but growth isn’t always comfortable.
  4. Praise in public and criticize in private. How demoralizing is it to have your ideas interrupted by your boss in public settings because he/she just happens to believe their ways are better and do it in a way you look incompetent. There are situations when a manager does need to intervene because the information is incorrect. But even then, there’s a diplomatic method to pointing out the error and/or to suggest different ideas. This point relates to point 1 above in that as leaders.managers, we need to be clear about our expectations and goals. If our colleagues don’t understand what they are, they may share their own ideas that are contrary to what we have in mind. In these cases of confusion, it’s best to speak with your colleagues behind closed doors and clarify your expectations as well as to understand their perspectives so you are both on the same page. As I wrote on this blog post, as a manager, your words matter. You can use them to “praise or curse” your colleagues.
  5. Lead via influence, not command and control. Treat your colleagues as human beings and not machines or resources. Build relationships with them so they feel they matter. While ordering your colleagues to perform tasks may yield short-term results, the command and control approach can result in a work force that will not go above and beyond what is expected of them. This type of approach could also lead to unhappy employees and worse, lead to emotional and physical ailments. However, by leading through influence, you can build a work environment that is more positive and more sustainable in the long run. You have a workforce that will go above and beyond what is asked from them because they feel a sense of autonomy, growth, and a sense that they are respected.
  6. Model confidence. As a leader/manager, your co-workers watch your actions and your words. You play the role of the victim/complainer and soon, they will adapt your attitudes and behaviors. Work is not always ideal and we are all presented with challenges from time to time. While I’m not suggesting that we always look and feel invincible, it is important that we display the attitude of solution seekers and optimism, even in the lowest moments.

What other methods have you used to build the confidence of your colleagues?

 

 

Student Affairs Conferences & Higher Ed – Some Parallels

As I sit here at home in California and participating on the twitter back channel for the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) 2015 national conference in New Orleans, it dawned on me that this conference and like other higher ed conferences is like higher education in some ways. By no means is this post an analysis of what’s right or what’s wrong with higher education or the NASPA and other similar conferences. They’re just observations.

The purpose for attending vary. For some, it’s to get a job by interviewing with campuses at The Placement Exchange (TPE) or by making connections with potential employers at other universities during the conference itself. For some to learn new ideas via the sessions, for some to network and build their social capital, and maybe for some, they were ask to attend by their organizations, and yet for others, maybe a chance for vacation and visit a nice city.

The cost of attendance can be considered expensive. I can’t attend this year just because of the combined cost of attendance.There are no shortage of literature and stories about the rising cost of tuition and attending higher education. Also, a big portion of the cost of attendance is on travel, accommodation, and food, and clothes. Some folks paid on their own while others received assistance from their organizations or other sponsors.

The conference is bound by time and location. While there are virtual sessions offered and the availability of recorded sessions after the event, it’s not the same as being in New Orleans.The sessions are generally presentations for about 50 minutes just like lectures and the level of interaction between the speakers and the audience can be limited.Technology is used to extend the conference but as it is used, is it considered transformative when it comes to using it for learning/education?

Learning is hard to measure. If one of the goals of the conference is to learn new ideas, how does one know how much and what they have learned? What’s the proof/measure of learning? Colleges provide diplomas as proof that the students met the course requirements and while tests may provide some assessment on what they’ve learned, is there really any definitive way to measure learning? How about personal development, which is one of the goals of student affairs?

The benefits you receive is based on how much effort you put into it. I am personally guilty of having skipped sessions in past conferences (not NASPA)  because they just didn’t interest me or I had other activities planned, and I felt guilty for having done that given that my campus paid for my trip. This is not to suggest that learning doesn’t happen outside those sessions as well. For this conference, I’m taking advantage of twitter to learn and engage from those who are in attendance.

As I mentioned above, these are just observations. What do you think about the state of higher ed and how conferences are held?

 

 

 

Don’t Let Your “Reality” Limit Your Thinking

As I’m looking over the presentations I’ve done in the past on slideshare, I’m amazed at how much social media has helped me change in the way I view my world. Social media exposed me to networks of other professionals and new ideas way beyond the boundaries of the physical world I live and work.

I’m reminded of the story of a young frog who grew up in the bottom of a well. Because the frog couldn’t see the top of the well, the frog had no clue there’s a world beyond what he saw and lived. This was until a flood came and the water inside the well rose high enough that the frog finally saw the world he was living in the whole time. The flood in a way is like social media when it comes to my experience.

I still remember the first time I logged on to twitter on August 9, 2010. I didn’t know what to expect. I had heard about it from few folks at my university who had started using it and so I decided to try it. I was skeptical at first as I had no clue what twitter could even be used for. I mean 140 characters? What can you do with 140 characters? Almost five years later, and it’s unbelievable how social media has transformed my personal and professional lives. Through twitter, I learned from others how to blog and what to write about. I’ve met so many people in my field of student affairs and higher ed, I’ve gotten involved with projects beyond my university, and social media has transformed how I learn.

What if I had ignored twitter back then because I didn’t realize the value of it? Just like the frog, I still would have been in my own limited world.