Higher Ed Leaders: Preparing for the Start of the Semester

Higher Ed Leadership Series

The start of the new academic year is right around the corner. The campus is buzzing with the excitement of welcoming new students and all the traditions that are associated with it. Before you get too wrapped up in preparing for the students, ask yourself what preparations you can make to welcome your staff back to work.

This is something that often gets overlooked amidst the busyness of a new semester. But starting out the year on the right foot with your staff is definitely a savvy move as a leader. 

Here are 4 key tips for preparing for the start of the year

1. Host a team gathering to welcome your staff back to work. This could be an intimate brunch at your home or could be a happy hour at your favorite local restaurant.

2. Create a schedule of 1:1 meetings that your team can choose from to have time with you at the start of the semester.  Everyone is extremely busy at the start of the year. So, it is important that you protect time to connect with your staff individually to answer any questions and support them as they transition back to campus.

3. Hold an extended staff meeting or retreat. This day-long or multi-day meeting will give the team an opportunity to connect, discuss the plans for the year, hear university updates, and learn about your goals and strategic plan. These agenda topics are critical to cover before jumping into the weeds of logistics that need to managed as well.

Pro-tip: If you’re able to design the meeting as a two-day session, hold the logistics until day two. Also, sneak in a bit of fun if you can (e.g., ice cream tasting, mixology lesson, soap-making class).

4. Make some time for Y-O-U! Listen, heavy is the head that wears the crown. We know this. But, it doesn’t mean you need to be a martyr and sacrifice your own wellbeing in order to check off items on that never-ending to do list. Consider doing at least one of these self-care activities: 

  • Block time on your calendar at least three times a week (one hour minimum) as a “no meeting zone.” Use this time to catch up on emails or to sip some tea while reading the latest research.

  • Meet up with a colleague across campus for coffee. (Bonus points if you don’t even talk about work!)

  • Start your day with peace. Read, meditate, go for a walk, listen to a program on the Calm app. Whatever it looks like for you, be sure to begin (and ideally, end) your day in this way.

  • Schedule a spa service. I’m sure you’ve heard this before. You likely even have a spa gift certificate collecting dust somewhere. But yes, ma’am…run, don’t walk to schedule some services during this hectic time of the year. Unplugging from it all will allow you to recharge and be both mentally and physically prepared to lead with clarity and authority.

  • Laugh. Research has proven the impact that laughing has on individuals. It’s a stress releaser, it improves your mood, and there’s also some growing research that it improves your immune system.  So, when you find yourself in the thick of it and wanting to just go off, put on a good comedy and laugh until your belly hurts!

Hopefully these tips will give you some direction as you enter the new semester. Instead of jumping into the chaos head first, take a beat to connect with your staff and schedule some essential self care time. These simple steps will go a long way in setting yourself up for a successful academic year.

If you’re looking for more tips on how to prepare for the start of the fall semester, check out this article from Fierce Education. It’s from last year, but the points are still relevant.

Are you looking for additional resources to help you navigate senior leadership in higher ed? Download our free University Leadership Roadmap: 7 Steps to Jumpstart Your Leadership Journey of Women of Color in Higher Ed.

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