Suggested Activities

Courses and books will help you gain knowledge, but there is nothing that takes the place of hands-on experience. Below are some ideas of activities and projects that you can pursue to enhance your knowledge.

Building Strategic Relationships

  • How would you identify your departments “constituents and stakeholders?”  Create a list of who you believe are you constituents and stakeholders.  Interview or develop a questionnaire to evaluate whether your department is meeting their needs.
  • Based on your constituents’ and stakeholders’ stated needs, develop a system or process to meet these needs.
  • Interview students, faculty, administrators, and your peers to understand how your department’s services fit into the larger picture within UC.
  • Take note of exemplary customer service in many contexts at work and outside of work.  Consider questions such as, Who are the stakeholders? How were the customers recognized? How were difficult people handled respectfully?
  • Become a leader in a professional or community organization and experience delegating tasks to the organization’s volunteers.
  • Take a leadership role on a campus committee
  • Study organizational charts of UC Davis and the UC system to understand the relationship between the structures and how they interact.
  • Understand the role your department contributes to the missions of UC and UC Davis.  If possible, interview managers who are knowledgeable about the organization.  Think of new ways you can contribute to your department’s interaction with other departments.
  • Whenever you have contact with a person from another department, take time to learn something new about his/her department.  Develop a working relationship.
  • Dedicate time during one of your staff meetings to review your department’s role in the UC structure; its relationship to other departments.
  • Join a professional organization to meet and learn from other professionals working in your field.  Research names of associations and their chapters in your area.

Communication

  • Have a trusted colleague give you feedback on your communication abilities.  Ask the person to be very specific in his/her feedback, e.g. your use of gestures or particular words and other unconscious communication behaviors.
  • Practice your listening skills by rephrasing what you think the person said.  Paraphrase questions you are asked to make sure you have understood the meaning of the question.
  • In a staff meeting, bring out the positive ideas of others by verbally “playing back” to them what you heard, then probe to see if you have reached a deeper understanding of their position.
  • To learn how to receive information from someone who disagrees with you, summarize or restate his/her position of disagreement.  Ask the individual to verify whether your understanding is accurate.  Neither of you may change your minds, but at least you may have learned to listen more effectively.
  • Practice paying attention to both the content of message and the feelings and intentions behind the spoken words.  When appropriate, ask specifically for feedback.
  • Take the time to learn how others feel about an issue, and determine how they think the problems should be resolved.
  • Learn and use a new word in your conversations or discussions each week.  Try to incorporate the new words in your written communications.
  • Volunteer or pursue opportunities to give presentations.
  • Attend presentations and lectures to learn how experienced speakers express themselves.  Consider what the speakers could have done differently to be more effective communicators.
  • Try talking with people in groups rather than “at them.”
  • Read literature about body language.  Incorporate the skills you learned into daily life.
  • Join a writing group and have your written samples evaluated regularly.  Incorporate the group members’ feedback into your communications.
  • Start an idea notebook for writing ideas, dreams, stories, etc., that you find provocative; they may be useful at a later time.

Results Orientation

  • Plan out tasks for the day; prioritize by beginning with high priority items. 
  • On large projects establish a plan with pre-determined checkpoints at which you will evaluate progress and consider whether a change in direction or approach is necessary.  Prior to taking action, discuss it with your supervisor for feasibility.
  • Carefully think out the most efficient way of delegating responsibility for a project. 
  • Develop a clear, simple planning process for yourself in the ongoing activities for you job.
  • Consider priorities based on importance and urgency, not what you find easiest. 
  • Be aware of long-term as well as short-term effects.
    Be deliberate and ensure that you have considered alternatives.  Try to develop at least one or two non-traditional alternatives to evaluate prior to making a final decision.
  • Analyze the outcomes of several decisions you recently made.  Ask yourself, “What would have made the outcome better?” 

Strategic Problem Analysis

  • Pay attention to improving your problem-solving techniques, especially under time pressures. Many of your decisions may not be correct because they may be made too quickly without sufficient information.
  • Develop a greater awareness of issues peripheral to business-related problems; seek greater input on problems before making decisions.
  • Look for relationships in problems. Diagram problems on paper and try to connect elements involved; determine the ebb and flow of information and responsibilities.
  • Make a conscious effort to analyze a project for any unique combinations of data or sequencing, which may lead to more efficiency, less cost, or higher quality.  Share these ideas with colleagues to get feedback.
  • Where feasible, plan your data analysis before the data is gathered. 
  • When all information is not available and firm decisions are necessary under tight time constraints, supplement deductive reasoning with judgments and use probability estimates.

Talent Management

  • Volunteer to review/update your department's new employee onboarding process
  • Volunteer to participate on hiring committees 
  • Take a course on how to conduct a behavioral based performance review. Learn how to clarify and communicate performance expectations, objectives, and roles.
  • If you are aware of your reluctance to handle conflicts and you hesitate to express your own feelings, seek feedback from trusted colleagues and practice expressing your feelings to them.
  • Ask your subordinates for the amount of interaction they require from you.
  • Practice giving feedback that is based on observation rather than on your interpretation of what occurred. Be specific about the behavior and its impact.

Team Effectiveness

  • Encourage your colleagues to express their disagreement when you sense there is a difference of opinion not being expressed.
  • Set standards for group performance and monitor the progress in achieving those goals.
  • Emphasize the importance of each team member's contribution and demonstrate how all of their jobs operate together to help the entire team reach its goals.
  • Solicit input from all team members, especially team members who are quiet or whose opinions are in the minority.
  • Give the team and/or individuals adequate information and resources to be successful.
  • Clearly define the group’s goals so that you and the rest of the group knows what everyone is trying to accomplish.  Cultivate the habit of keeping these goals in mind so that you will not easily be distracted by activity not related to the group’s goals.
  • Keep meetings on track, (e.g., poll the group to find out where they stand, steer the group when they are not making progress, follow through on delegating items).