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What I’ve learned in my first week of working remotely: My team is awesome

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Today marks one week working remotely. I’ve set up shop in the storage room in our basement, which has me surrounded by lots of treasures—antiques, painting the girls have done and lots of photography props (I have a superhero backdrop for video conferences).

I’ve settled into a nice routine and feel like I am getting important work done. And, I feel like I am dangerously close to regaining a sense of normalcy; I think that will come when the senior leadership team starts to back off of 90-minute conference calls first thing each morning.

My first week has reinforced some things about my team members that are worth sharing.

Below are a couple of observations about the good people at Augustana College, who work in External Relations (admissions, advancement, financial aid, communications & marketing and WVIK—Quad Cities Public Radio)

My team members are incredibly nimble—I have been incredibly impressed by how flexible, nimble and responsive everyone in External Relations has been since we received word that we’d be working remotely. People figured out what they needed to get their work done and continue to make a meaningful and impactful contribution to the effort. Nothing was overlooked. People loaded up their cars, bags, backpacks and reservoirs of goodwill to make sure our work continued without disruption. Whether it was designing new processes, packing the gong, loading materials to print and process offers of admissions, getting notecards and envelopes, or bringing a desktop computer home to set up, this crew showcased that they can go with the flow and make it all work. (I have another phrase I often use to describe this, but will keep it clean).

My team members will step up when asked—To a person, members of the External Relations team have stepped up when asked to do so. Honestly, they’ve often been there before being asked to step up. Several members of the team helped check students out of residence halls last weekend. New (and awesome) communication channels have emerged. New content has been produced to tell Augustana’s story. Team members have stepped in to familiarize themselves with new technology—chat functions, Zoom, Zoom breakout rooms, Google Hangouts and lots of other things that we’ve all had to learn on the fly.  

My team members say “yes”—Team members are getting new and unusual assignments and they are saying “yes!” I haven’t heard “maybe” or “can’t someone else do this?” I’ve heard nothing other than “yes.” Yes has translated to taking charge and we can do it.

My team members are creative—My team members, across the entire division, have been two or three steps ahead of me for the past two weeks. They seem to anticipate everything and have multiple ways we can respond. I have been humbled by their creativity and out-of-the-box responsiveness. They are not waiting for permission. They are trusting their instincts and moving forward. They are addressing every obstacle with creativity and a confidence that is truly remarkable.

My team members seem to be excited by new—There is new energy that I sense every single time I engage with members of the External Relations team right now. I know some of that energy is because folks know what an awesome responsibility we have to ensure Augustana College weathers this storm. This crisis has provided team members with the latitude (and attitude) to try new and different things to recruit students, engage alumni, raise money and communicate clearly and compellingly. New and different has unleashed excitement and an entrepreneurial spirit that I sense in every engagement I have with my team members.

My team members have continually placed care for others above all else—Perhaps what has impressed me most, though, is the care for others that my team members have showcased throughout. Calls, video chats and emails to student workers have created a much needed connection between the college and our students. Outreach to colleagues who need a little TLC in setting up some of the needed virtual tools has become a norm. Periodic check-ins just to see how someone is holding up have become part of the daily routine for many. And, all outreach that team members are doing to prospective students, parents, alumni, donors, influencers and the public begins with a commitment to caring for others.

I previously joked that, for someone in my role, there is not enough vodka and Tums to get through this unknown period of time that includes the conclusion of the student recruitment cycle, the kick-off of the cycle for next year, fiscal year-end and the last six months of a comprehensive campaign. But, having an amazing group of people surrounding me and showcasing daily why and how they are so awesome helps. #AugustanAwesome


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