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Higher Education Innovation In Action

  • Beyond Management: What Makes a Great Leader?

    by Rose Addison, Manager, Documentation & Training | Feb 19, 2018

     
    It is my personal belief that we rise by lifting others. I’ve had the good fortune to experience great mentors in my life, three to be exact. They took me under their wings and helped me soar. Their leadership didn’t always look the same, but throughout our relationships they challenged, cheered, and coached me. They had vision for themselves – but also for me. They saw my potential. They respected and encouraged me. In essence, their confidence in me helped give me confidence in myself.

    What was it that made these people stand out as leaders in my life? What characteristics did they share? And how were they different from each other?

    In this series, I’ll be talking about leadership – what it is and what it isn’t. I’ll explore what drives good leaders, why they lead the way we do, and how those in leadership positions can ultimately motivate others to do more! To understand at a deeper level, let’s first dive into the basics.

    Leadership vs. Management

    The terms “leader” and “manager” are often used interchangeably, but in my humble opinion, the two are not created equal. To me, the difference between a manager and a leader is this:

    A manager tells employees what to do and how to do it

    A leader inspires people to do much more than simply what they’re told

    When people are led rather than managed, they place value on what they do and strive to achieve their goals. Achievements generate pride. Over time, this influences a person’s sense of self-worth, positively affects other areas of his or her life, and continues to generate positive opportunities down the road.

    Goals, big or small, can become overwhelming. Chances are, if you have the insight to recognize it, you haven’t completed goals without the help of others. Occasionally, we all need to be pushed out of our comfort zones, reminded of the big picture, or cheered on. I’d be willing to put money on this: If you’ve had the pleasure of a great mentor, so did they. 

    Theory X & Theory Y Management Philosophy

    In 1960, economist Douglas McGregor published The Human Side of Enterprise, which explores human motivation and management. Based on his research on human relations, McGregor found that our beliefs shape our behavior. Our behavior, in turn, shapes the behavior of others around us.

    He hypothesized that human beings can be generally divided into two contrasting schools of thought – Theory X and Theory Y. Theory X folks have an inherent dislike of work and want to avoid it whenever possible. Theory Y folks experience work as naturally as they do play or rest.

    He also believed that a manager’s leadership style is defined by these two very different approaches to human behavior. Simply put, Theory X managers are autocratic and prefer to control. Theory Y managers are humanistic and prefer to engage.

    Control leads to resistance

    Resistance leads to poor results

    Poor results further reinforce Theory X thinking

    Take a look at the following table for more insight on Theory X and Theory Y thinking. Can you recognize how these two adverse lines of thinking would affect the way a leader motivates? How our beliefs shape our behavior? How do you rank leaders of your past and present? How do you rank yourself?

    Theory X Thinking

    Theory Y Thinking

    The average human…

     

    Dislikes work and will avoid it whenever possible

     

    Naturally enjoys physical and mental effort

    Prefers to be directed

     

    Enjoys responsibility

    Commits to goals out of fear of punishment or other external controls

    Commits to goals for rewards and achievement purposes

     

    Has little ambition

     

    Exercises self-direction and self-control when committed to goals

     

    Seeks security above all else

     

    Actively seeks greater responsibility

    Cannot be trusted

     

    Sees potential in him- or herself and others

     

     

    Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

    To take it one step further, let’s refer to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Abraham Maslow was a psychologist and author. In 1943, he wrote a paper entitled, A Theory of Human Motivation, in which he theorized the range of human needs using a pyramid. Maslow believed that all humans share the same principle needs – physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.

    The three bottom tiers – motivators like food, water, shelter, security, love – are basic. The top two tiers – drivers like esteem, respect, and self-actualization – are more enlightened.

    Furthermore, he hypothesized that once lower level needs are met (food, safety, love), we innately want to pursue higher achievements (respect, self-fulfillment). He also said that until lower level needs are met, we cannot focus on higher level needs.

    To me, it all boils down to this: Once basic needs are met, people will continue to strive to become their best self. When a person is their best self, the people around them and the organization they choose to be associated with will benefit.  

    Managers focus on primary needs

    Leaders focus on all needs

    For a short video on these subjects and how they’re closely related, check out this video.

    Readiness Level

    For a manager to be effective, he or she should analyze an employee’s receptivity, also known as the “readiness level” in McGregor’s theory. A person’s readiness level is affected by his or her previous life experiences, education, expectations, biases, etc.

    Successful leaders take an employee’s readiness level into account and recognize that it can change over time.

    When followers are less ready, whether it’s because of a lack of ability or wiliness to be led, a good leader will be flexible and take a different approach.

    For example, Theory X leaders might find it challenging to trust new employees, while Theory X employees most likely have a hard time putting faith in new leaders. As trust builds over time, both the employees’ and leader’s readiness level can change.

    Situation

    When it comes to leadership, the situation itself often dictates your next moves. The nature of the work, types of assignments, and complexity of tasks affect how a leader should move forward in a given situation. Besides these conditions, the team’s successes and/or failures should also influence the leader’s choice of style.

    The situation at hand maybe be the most important factor a leader should consider

    For example, common sense tells us management style is going to vary in a big way between a print room supervisor, an applications development manager, or the director of a call center… Let’s look at the evidence.

    In a print room where the work is well-defined and always follow a certain pattern, a supervisor will need to provide specific instructions regarding the day’s tasks in order to meet time constraints. Now consider the call center: While a director may set daily quotas for employees, he or she may also be able to provide a bit more flexibility in how tasks get handled. Finally, the applications development leader can offer underlying structure and guidelines, but he or she may also want to help team members learn problem-solving skills by giving them more autonomy.

    Regardless of the conditions, leaders must also consider the team’s success and failures. Referencing our examples above, it would make no sense for the print room supervisor to drive his people extra hard when they’re exceeding time management goals. It would, however, make sense to assert authority and concern if the team is missing deadlines.

    Are you a leader in your organization? Do you aim to be? Does Theory X resonate with you or do you find Theory Y hits closer to home? How do your beliefs affect the way you behave? How ready are you to be led? How ready are you to lead? What situations drive your behaviors?

    I manage a team but I want lead them. I want my team to succeed, not only for my company’s objectives, or my own, but for themselves. I’m certainly not a subject matter expert on leadership but I aspire to learn more. Mentorship inspires but also fulfills – let’s figure out how to pay it forward.

    Stick with me through this series as we explore leadership together.    

  • Credentials Explains: What is a Data Matrix Barcode?

    by Rose Addison, Manager, Documentation & Training | Feb 06, 2018

     
    Credentials Solutions ExplainsA data matrix barcode, or DMB, is a unique two-dimensional barcode encoded with alphanumeric information. Each DMB is comprised of black and white dots and/or squares, most commonly displayed in a square pattern. Generally speaking, specialized camera equipment and software is required to read the light and dark areas of the code, decode it, and then analyze the information within.

    Data stored within the code is contained in columns and rows, so the size of the DMB itself ranges, as it depends on the amount of data included. The binary numeral system is used to represent this stored data – dark spots typically represent a “1”, while light spots usually indicate a “0”. Each DMB arranges its matrix within a predetermined standard to correctly orient the code and accurately provide a count of the numbers of rows and columns within the symbol.

    Today, DMBs are used across many different industries, in countless applications. If you haven’t noticed them yet, you will now. DMBs exist everywhere; they’re on our car tires, the computers we work on, the smartphones we tweet with, and the food we eat… NASA even engraves DMBs onto specialized aerospace parts eliminating the need for traditional labels that might fall off or get damaged along the way.

    At Credentials, we use DMBs within the eRoboMail® solution. Each transcript page contains a very small data matrix code used by our advanced machinery to properly sort, stuff, and seal transcript pages. Incorporating DMBs allows us to automate tedious manual processes and provides an extra measure of built-in quality assurance! If ever a transcript page gets out of order or pages are not properly sorted, our machines come to a halt to avoid any potential errors.

  • Credentials Explains: What is the Intelligent Mail Barcode?

    by Rose Addison, Manager of Documentation & Training | Jan 23, 2018

     
    Credentials ExplainsIntelligent Mail barcode, or IMB, is a 65-character string used by the United States Postal Service to provide efficiency and visibility throughout the delivery process.

    IMBs are height-modulated barcodes – vertical bars – comprised of up to 31 decimal digits representing 130 bits of helpful mail data. These bars mean nothing to the human eye, but once read by USPS mail-processing equipment, sorting the information becomes available as the letter makes its way to its destination. This data can then be communicated for delivery transparency and tracking.

    IMBs are required to qualify for automated pricing and therefore are applied by the sender. At Credentials, we use IMBs in our eRoboMail® solution, which prints, folds, stuffs, creates postage automatically, and best of all, provides mail history via the IMB. Using our state-of-the-art machinery, transcripts are processed and delivered faster than ever before and without error.

  • The Customer Experience – Five Trends We Don’t See Going Away Anytime Soon

    by Rose Addison, Manager, Documentation & Training | Jan 11, 2018

    These days we’re hearing more and more about the importance of a positive customer experience (CX), but what does that really entail? CX refers to how your customers perceive your brand – from the product or service, to the website’s look and feel, to (you guessed it) the customer service.

    At Credentials, our Customer Service Department is the pulse of our organization and it’s what sets us apart in the industry. As we continue to grow, we’re constantly evaluating what we can do to deliver an even better experience to our client institutions, students, and alumni. Here are five of the top trends we’re seeing right now.

    Automation

    Users expect some level of automation… whether it’s text message alerts regarding emergency closures, automatic prescription refills, or using a chat bot to help us quickly get to the right department… automation is here to stay, with one major caveat!

    Users ultimately want access to a human being when automation fails them or incorrectly anticipates their needs. In our climate, almost 90% of our orders successfully complete without any human interaction at all! The remaining 10% involve a personal experience when necessary.

    Automation is our bread and butter! RoboRegistrar® has been automatically completing and printing transcript orders since 2003. These days, automation looks more like automatic authorization, email and text correspondence regarding order status, and transcript data extraction for electronic orders. We also aim to provide automation for our client institutions as well – we locate and approve online orders, manage held and problem orders, and eliminate hands-on transcript processing.

    Self-Service

    Users want to be able to take care of a task themselves, any time, day or night. Convenience is key, so today’s expectations include self-checkout at the grocery store, hitting up the ATM rather than the bank teller, and ordering a rideshare service directly to your location rather than hailing a cab.

    Self-service applications have developed tenfold these days and so have consumers’ expectations. They want to be able to place an order online, locate and access up-to-date order information, and track delivery or request a return – all without the assistance of another human being.

    We’ve been providing our self-service options for quite some time too – our TranscriptsPlus® and ParkingPlus® order forms are available online 24/7 so requestors can place their order anytime, day or night. We accommodate self-service needs with Self-ServicePlus™, our user interface for students and alumni. Requestors can sign in, review order status, provide authorization (when required), check mail history, send us a message, etc. When users opt to have a more one-on-one approach, we’re only a phone call away.

    Personalized Experience

    Many of us don’t even think about this one – it’s so ingrained in our culture, we’ve already come to expect it. Video streaming services, music services, and social media sites filter content based on our viewing, listening, and reading habits. This creates a personalized experience that’s designed to get smarter with use and better anticipate preferences.

    Users expect to be treated as individuals. Big data is here to stay and can help us fine-tune the user experience and ultimately deliver better service.

    In our environment, providing a personal experience has its distinctions. We deal with lots of sensitive data and it's imperative we keep that data safe. All employees are trained to notice potential red flags and respond accordingly. Any interaction with our end user requires the caller to provide personally identifiable information. We vet each and every caller to ensure we’re speaking to the correct person. Security is our utmost concern and we aim to personally safeguard our schools, your students, and alumni. 

    Hard Data

    These days, an educated guess is not an option. Users want facts, not estimates. The customer’s ideal experience involves upfront and up-to-date information and transparency when it comes to delivery and turnaround time. 

    Bottom line, options are plentiful and consumers will easily move on to another vendor in order to make their customer experience easier.

    We share up-to-date information with the end user every step of the way! Requestors are notified of order status throughout the progression of the order. Mail history, delivery acknowledgements, and FedEx tracking information is also shared with end users as soon as it becomes available. We know our end users need their transcripts in a hurry, so we share the hard facts and share them often.

    (Almost) Immediate Turnaround Time

    Today’s businesses are expected to offer fulfillment immediately, whenever possible. Think about it – in a world where almost everything is “just in time” – tomorrow simply will not do.

    Amazon offers same-day delivery, many pharmacy chains provide walk-in care, and colleges and universities are using drones to drop off admissions letters… these practices are becoming the norm and they create confidence in a brand and keep customers loyal.  

    We are working to provide faster turnaround times in every arena possible. While we all know paper transcripts will never go away completely, we are constantly striving to increase our electronic transcript reach. Today, we aim to send e-transcripts whenever possible – after all, electronic delivery is as close to immediate as you can get! When e-transcripts aren’t an option, eRoboMail® makes paper transcript delivery worthwhile. Transcripts are sent from one of our locations based on the recipient’s address. For example, transcripts going to California are sent from our Las Vegas branch, not Illinois, cutting days off the delivery time.

    Conclusion

    In today’s climate, it’s essential to take the customer’s experience into consideration. Consumers want to be empowered to make the right decision and make it quickly. They want an authentic and human experience, even if their only interaction is with a computer or smart device, and they want a company to understand that their time and money are valuable.

    It’s key to cater to the customer’s experience in order to win customer satisfaction. Honoring your customers is truly the only way to stay competitive and relevant in today’s market. Nobody wants to be left in the dust.

  • Eight Tools We Love

    by Rose Addison, Manager, Documentation & Training | Dec 14, 2017

     
    What’s on your task list for the day? If you’re anything like me, and I’m sure you are, you’ve got a lot to do and very little time to do it. Although we can’t always control our workload, we take steps to work as efficiently as possible.  

    The concept of efficiency brought me to my question: what tools make my job easier while increasing productivity? We all typically have a few shortcuts that make tackling our responsibilities just a little bit easier… so I decided to ask my colleagues too and got tons of great feedback. Read on to learn more.

    Admin Tools

    Smartsheet

    Smartsheet is an asset around here and I’m not quite sure what we did without it. Smartsheet provides one central platform for Credentials team members to work together. We use it in many applications, such as project task lists, cross-team collaboration, file sharing, etc. Smartsheet even provides automated alerts and reminders so nothing ever slips through the cracks.

    GoToMeeting

    With four office locations, client institutions spread across the country, and our Sales team often working remotely, GoToMeeting (GTM) is an obvious slam dunk. GoToMeeting is a web-hosted video conferencing tool used to meet with others in real time. GoToMeeting offers screen sharing, built-in audio, and screen recording (for those who can’t make it…), so we’re able to seamlessly conference whenever we need to. The cost of the tool is minimal and it’s very easy-to-use. GTM even offers convenient features, like chat and email calendar plug-ins.

    Sales Tools

    Salesforce

    Salesforce, a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform, provides our Sales team with tons of opportunity! Sales uses the tool to ensure our customers’ experiences are ideal – whether it’s keeping in touch with clients, collaborating on tasks with fellow Sales team members, or staying on top of potential opportunities, we don’t want to live without it! Salesforce provides the analytics, flexibility, and best of all, security, we need. Did we mention it’s all available from a mobile app?!

    Loopio

    Loopio is an online platform we use to collaborate on requests for proposals (RFPs), security questionnaires, sales proposals, etc. Content is contained in one central library and organized using easily searchable categories and tags. Searching through up-to-date information has never been easier! Loopio even offers workflow structure, such as email communication to Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), if ever we still need to double-check our facts.

    Training Tools

    Camtasia

    We’ve all heard the expression, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” so how much is a video worth? My team, the Documentation & Training Department, suggested Camtasia, a video-based screen capturing tool we use to create training and marketing videos. Camtasia allows us to record video and audio, edit the output, then share with our intended audience. The best part is that it’s easy-to-use, so no experience is necessary! We now have a library of training videos – which frees up the one-on-one time we individually spend training others.

    KnowBe4

    Our executive team loves the convenience and peace of mind KnowBe4 security awareness training provides. With data breaches constantly in the news, your employees need comprehensive security awareness training. KnowBe4 provides an easy way to educate our employees, track employee’s security knowledge, and provide an audit trail for all our compliance needs. They also deliver tons of content such as newsletters, training videos, and mock phishing tests, adding an extra level of caution to our cybersecurity measures.

    Marketing & Design Tools

    Hootsuite

    Hootsuite is a social media management platform that supports our social media efforts. We use Hootsuite to create and schedule Twitter and LinkedIn posts, allowing us to prepare content in advance and plan ahead for events and other significant times of the year. It also helps us keep a close eye on industry news that is being shared throughout the social platforms.

    Adobe Illustrator

    Our graphics team uses Adobe Illustrator, a vector-based program, to manipulate images in order to apply each institution’s branding to our systems and services. Adobe Illustrator maintains high quality images and allows our Graphics team to design with accuracy. It provides the tools to paint, draw, manipulate typography, etc. and allows the designer to customize his/her workspace. The graphics program works with nearly every computer type and produces small files for easy sharing.

    Not to toot our own horn, but we hear positive feedback from our clients all the time! Our customers can’t believe what they can get done after implementing Credentials services. We’re proud to help you proficiently handle your workload, big or small, and we’re thankful for all the tools we wouldn’t want to live without either!