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Tag: leadership

Radical? I’m Not. Change Agent? Yes I am.



One of the people I have come to admire since I became active in social media is Eric Stoller, a higher education consultant/blogger. He is passionate in his beliefs and is willing to express them. I had the pleasure of meeting him “in real life” at NASPATech in Rhode Island last November. Eric wrote a piece today entitled “Where are the radical practitioners? “ for and he specifically asks if radical practitioners exist in student affairs. As usual, like his other ones, this article made me think about my roles and value in student affairs. I honestly had to look up what “radical” meant as the first thoughts in my mind were “extremists”, “going against the status quo”, “revolutionary”. Two definitions on are “favoring drastic political, economic, or social reforms” and “thoroughgoing or extreme, especially as regards change from accepted or traditional forms”.  If I’m not radical, does that mean I conform to status quo? Is this a bad thing? After thinking about what I’ve been involved with since I came to UCSB as a student and now as a career staff, I realized there is a part of me that has the tendency to challenge status quo. As a student, I was one of the hundreds of persistent students who asked the UCSB administration to provide a physical space for Asian American students on campus. As a staff, I either led or was a member of many project teams that introduced technical solutions to student affairs departments.   I work in the IT field within student affairs and most of what I’ve developed or led could be considered innovations within the context of my institution.  I have had my shares of eyes rolling or smirk as I presented my projects, or telling me I was doing things the wrong way. But I don’t think I can call myself a “radical”, I think I’d rather call myself as “change agent”.

While I am a very amiable and agreeable person, if I’m told I can’t do something because of some reason I would deem unreasonable, chances are that I will probably do what I’m not told to do. A case in point, I was told that I should never go on twitter because there’s nothing positive about it, that it just poses security risks. I had to find out for myself and more than a year later, I’m glad I did!

A month ago, I was having a conversation with a colleague who commented that “some people are willing to move forward without asking permissions” and there are those that need permissions. My colleague believes I’m one of those that do need permissions. He’s right and I think in some way, that defines who I am. I like harmony in the workplace and I like collaboration. I don’t like spending my energy on solving negativity when they could have been avoided.  I’d rather work within the boundaries of the system and slowly stretch it from time to time, all keeping in mind security and confidentiality policies as my guides.  Maybe because it’s just my personality, my family upbringing or maybe part of my Filipino culture? I’m not sure. Does that mean that I will roll over at someone’s command? In the past, maybe I did. Now? No. I’m definitely more assertive now and I’m not afraid to state my opinions on matters I don’t agree with or I strongly believe in.

Moving up the management ladder and observing my mentors, there are few observations and philosophies I have learned which I use as a “change agent”. These include:

  • I can change the culture of my organization in many ways. One way is to build the next generation leaders. Culture is dynamic, always changing and an effective way to influence the change is by building leaders that carry the same value systems I do. I can’t change the entire organization by myself, but I can with the help of those that believe in the same way I do. I’m not a person who makes public speeches to evoke passions from those around me, but what I  do is build relationships, create opportunities for others so they may have the chance to explore what they are passionate about. I believe in the power of teams, collective intelligence, collaboration and  communities. These are the values I hope I convey with my teammates and I am asking those I can influence to carry forward.
  • I don’t need to get everyone’s permissions, just the ones I need to ask. I do ask permissions, including my boss and first and foremost, the head of my organization, Vice Chancellor Dr. Michael Young, who is also my mentor. For example, there are oppositions with the use of social media and mobile technologies by some folks in our division, but as long as I have my boss and Vice Chancellor Young’s permissions, I’m good to go. Vice Chancellor  Young told me years ago “I’d rather have us moving forward and make mistakes along the way than stagnate”. He also told me to check in with him from time to time to make sure we are still on the right track, which I do. Does this mean I discount my other colleagues’ opinions? Not at all because I need their support to accomplish tasks, but knowing I have the support of my superiors matter a lot.
  • Patience is a virtue. Yes, I can be impatient at times which have caused me to take alternate routes to completing projects outside “best practices” but in general, I’ve learned that patience does count. The university is a place of bureaucracy and it’s easy to get impatient, but I also know that there are a lot of folks that are overworked. In promoting  ideas  such as mobile and social media, I had to realize that I am months ahead of most people just because I have spent time researching them. In getting my team’s buy-in, I have to be patient explaining where I am coming from and the direction we are heading.
  • Relationships matter. I value my relationships with my colleagues and while we may disagree on what projects to take on and in the manner to accomplish them, I like working in an office that do get along.  For many of us, we will spend years of our lifetime with our co-workers so why would we not try to get along with them? A big part of my success comes from the fact that I know a lot of people on campus, not because of my current position, but from more than a decade of my involvement beyond my formal job description. I choose my battles, I stay humble, I admit when I am wrong, I help when I can. I know that I will need other people’s help at some point.
  • Change starts with me. When I was promoted to my current position, one of the first projects I wanted to do is to have a wiki to share information amongst our staff. As part of the wiki, I suggested that we should create a profile page for ourselves to include non-professional information like hobbies, etc. I mentioned this to a couple of people and the response I received was that no one will do it. I created the first profile page as an example which was followed by several members of our staff doing the same. The wiki and the profile pages were my first steps towards building a community and not just co-workers.

I really do appreciate Eric’s passion to challenge student affairs status quo. Our profession needs someone like him. In our own ways, we are helping our profession change in our unique ways. Do you consider yourself as a “radical” or “change agent”?

Leadership – Bruce Lee style

Bruce Lee -

photo by

I have always approached my work and particularly my leadership role as relationship-based.  I strive hard to maintain positive relationships because that’s one of the most effective ways I get my work done and I like working in a positive environment.  Part of my success at the university where I work is the informal network I have developed across the years which have become a source of personal/career support as well as information. I also view each relationship with other people as being unique and therefore I adapt my communication style and the way I interact with them.

As I was going through some files on my computer earlier tonight, I came across a nomination form for a staff recognition award that was submitted by a co-worker on my behalf in 2007. It read:

“I can best describe Joe Sabado as the ‘Bruce Lee’ of managers.  People would ask Bruce Lee what his ‘system’ was, and he would say he didn’t have a ‘system’.  His style was the style of no style.  Likewise, Joe doesn’t have a management style, because no single method works with everyone, or at all times.”

 “Joe is a master at understanding people, and their current situation.  Joe always looks to adapt himself to the other person, and even to the other person’s mood.”

I work with IT and business colleagues with different communication styles and varying backgrounds. Adaptability in how I communicate is essential to my role.  There are those I work who prefers me to get straight to the point and those that don’t. What’s the point of speaking technical jargon those if who I am speaking with does not understand what I am talking about?

Self-awareness and my ability to recognize the emotions and moods of those I am interacting with are skills I continue to learn. Specially in my IT leadership role, I think soft skills are in my opinion just as critical as my technical knowledge. Ultimately, those we serve and work with are people and not machines.

How would you define your leadership style?


My Perspective on IT Leadership for 2012

I welcome 2012 with optimism and with gratitude! I am in a middle of a revolution that’s bigger than technology. I am not sure how to define it, but society is changing fast, in part brought on by technologies like social media and mobile.  The last time I experienced this change so rapid and exciting was in the mid 1990’s when web became mainstream.  I found 2011 to be a year of transformation for the  IT organization I work for and based on general observations, this seems to be true for IT organizations in general. As one in a leadership/management position of having to maintain legacy systems,  accommodate the changing needs of our customers and the consumerization of IT, it was a year wherein I had to spend an average of 3 hours at night learning/thinking about social media, mobile and how our roles as an IT organization are changing.  I spent some time thinking about how technology will transform our society in general and specifically about student affairs, the area of the university I work in. I learned many lessons along the way, not just about technology but how I will approach my leadership role moving forward.

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Crab Mentality – Hate it!

Photo courtesy of the Kingskidd Report

I read a blog  ago that talked about how women should be supporting each other, not tearing each other down in the workplace. The blog post talked about “crab mentality”, the metaphor of crabs pulling those that are about to escape a pot.  It reminded me of my past experiences when instead of others expressing support for my career/personal accomplishments, there were those who felt resentment and expressed jealousy. I was having a conversation about this topic with a friend of mine and the fact that I never see myself as a competition to anyone. He tells me that while I don’t see myself involved in any competition, the fact that I spend a lot of hours working, getting things done than could be seen as a competition in itself. I can understand that perspective, but I just don’t consciously think about it in that way. I work because I like what I do, I need to take care of my family and I do not have the need to prove myself against anyone. I have seen my father work three or more jobs at the same time consistently throughout my life and he did it with no complaints. I have admired him for his work ethic and I guess I just never saw anyway to progress through life than working long and hard.

I think we live in such a competitive world and of scarce resources that we forget to appreciate the accomplishments of others instead of appreciating.  I know I’m guilty of it sometimes but I try to be conscious about not taking on the “crab mentality”. Just like compliments, I don’t think we lose anything by appreciating the accomplishments of others, given that these accomplishments were done in ethical manner.

My work involves building technical systems including web, desktop applications and implementing vendor solutions.  I love being able to deliver these systems to our customers. As much as I enjoy this aspect of my job, what I actually enjoy more is being able to help promote the growth and successes of others.  As a leader, I measure my success in terms of how I am able to help others I lead grow and promote. There is nothing more satisfying for me than seeing friends and co-workers, especially those I have seen from the beginning of their career, mature and be successful. Last week, one of my colleagues presented a very critical campus system he just completed to a group of directors.  I could see how proud he was of the system as streams of  compliments came from those in the room. I could not have been prouder watching him throughout his presentation. It was awesome! Three years ago, he joined our organization as a student and seeing him successfully develop a very critical system is amazing.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a world where we don’t view others’ successes as a threat to our own?


The Value of Compliments in the Workplace

I was talking to a colleague one day and he tells me “You compliment too much!” .  I jokingly told him “by the way, your shirt looks great on you!” to which he smiles and says “thanks!”

While some people may view my compliments as something excessive, I really am sincere (except that conversation above) when I compliment the work of others. I think we live in a society that does not compliment enough.

Complimenting the efforts of others who I feel are worthy of recognition is very important to me and it has been  a life-long habit of mine. When I feel the person assisting me goes above and beyond what I think is beyond basic customer service, I take the time to thank them.

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