On Gratitude, Teams, Leadership, and Leaving SNHU

As I leave SNHU for a new adventure at Louisiana State University, I feel the need to reflect upon my time at SNHU and some learnings that I will take with me always.  Some of these might be pertinent to other teams or other leaders, so I decided to share.

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My thoughts, as always, start with the team.  I was blessed with some remarkable talent coming into the team at SNHU, so that was a starting court advantage.  Initially there was so much going on under the hood that needed addressing that I didn’t focus on leading people so much as diagnosing issues and setting up plans for fixing.  This was a mistake.  I missed signals.  I didn’t learn my team as well as I should have.  It was a bigger team than I was used to, and it took forever for me to connect all the names with the faces, particularly with those that I didn’t work with on a day-to-day basis.  This was a #LeadershipFail.

Some big things I did right too.  I asked for feedback.  I encouraged folks to tell me what they really thought, to not agree with me.  I created a space where we could challenge each other.  I invested heavily in the development of the team in domains in which they were interested.  We set expectations for involvement in professional development.  I continually challenged folks to (1) think about what could they stop doing so they could focus on doing other things to support growth, (2) never say something wouldn’t work because it hadn’t worked before.

The things I improved over time were:

  1. Learning more about the individuals on my team so I could support their progress
  2. When you ask introverts for input, you need to give them time to process and get back to you
  3. Confirm what people say – what is said is happening is not always what is actually happening; you can’t fix something that isn’t accurately diagnosed
  4. Create org charts with faces attached when you have large teams
  5. Ask the people who do the work what would make their work more effective and more meaningful
  6. Celebrate wins; take time to pause for the victories.

I have always believed that chance favors the prepared, and a huge part of my job is to ensure that my team is prepared for the future.

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My team gave me this awesome going away party.  It was a gift that I will treasure forever.  It had a meme slideshow with our “in jokes.”  We were treated to a performance by Anthony from the multimedia team, who is apparently a superstar performer and singer (who knew?).  A bunch of the team wore blazers because I generally “suit up.”  We had awesome cupcakes.  The team got me a gift basket complete with Ohio, New Hampshire, and Louisiana cookie cutters, NH maple syrup and a cutting board, a bunch of girl-boss office tools – luggage tags, pens, etc., – a notebook, a Serenity (a la Firefly) coloring book and coloring pencils, a Target card, a book on 365 things to know about Louisiana, and even two books set in Louisiana for my kids!

I could not have been more floored, or felt more loved, or felt more inadequate – how could I ever do for them all they did for me?

I have a couple personality traits, that, for good or for bad, contributed to my ability to make change at SNHU.  The first is an overwhelming tendency to say “Why not?”  Why can’t we do that?  We could probably do that!  Even things that are improbable and unlikely stretch goals are achievable with the right team.  Setting appropriate expectations and then blowing them out of the water is what we can do together.

last day desk

The above photo is of my desk today, my last day in the office.  It is utterly representative of my time here.

  • The paper plates from when we did the “What can you clear from your plate” exercise
  • Coffee
  • Going away cards (thank you!)
  • Congratulations cards from when I got my PhD, along with hashtag paperclips
  • A “NO” button from my boss that I never ended up using
  • The binder with the CBE research from the SNHU Accel team
  • The origami squirrel from when the team did a whole Squirrel Stomping exercise at our retreat to focus on the work that matters
  • The SNHU super student journey sketch I did (affectionately known as chutes and ladders)
  • Going away fudge
  • Ibuprofen
  • Balloons from the amazing going away party that the team threw for me
  • A broken mouse from when the ceiling rained on my desk
  • A Yoda bobble-head from our LMS migration project (I still don’t know who dropped off that gift at my desk!)
  • The memorial card from a family friend who passed away young from cancer
  • A sympathy card the team gave me when my beloved father-in-law passed away a month after we moved the family away from Ohio.

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Underneath all of that are some family photos, including my kids Molly and Spencer, and my amazing husband Peter.

We are all, ultimately, dust.  And what matters is what we can accomplish together as a team.  We only do together.  #WinAsATeam

I love you team, and will be #ForeverGrateful.

-Sasha

 

 

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