Passing the Torch of Positive Leadership

A month ago, I announced I was leaving Temple after five years as VP and CIO. The outpouring of appreciation and well-wishes has been overwhelming and wonderful.  

The thing that I am most proud of during my time at Temple is the deliberate crafting of an empowered and positive work culture. This was a team effort with many people stepping up to help. 

The HR development team created and delivered the “Wiser Way” leadership training that taught common language with concrete tools to improve communication and habits. A self-nominated team developed the mission and later formed the culture committee that included me and our HR partners. A recognition committee developed the “Cheers for Peers” program. We dived into DevOps and Agile practices. We read and discussed books. We created “Wonderful Wednesdays/Whenever” to foster innovation and uninterrupted work time.

Here are a few of the comments from team members about the impact of these cultural changes.

“You’ve lit a spark and set things in a new direction. You’ve made a difference in so many ways starting with ‘seeing’ your staff and other Temple colleagues and encouraging us all to ‘see’ each other, too.” 

“I just wanted to say THANK YOU for everything!  ITS culture is more open-minded, more empathetic, technologically more forward-thinking, and it feels like our collective self-esteem is reaching upward.”  

“You’ve made a profound impact on my professional and personal life through your leadership and example of strength through vulnerability.”  

One colleague cited the book “Stewardship” by Peter Block and the value of service over self-interest. The sentiment summarizes the lasting impact that I and so many leaders in our organization desire to have.

“The book says that ‘Stewardship is to hold something in trust for another. It is the willingness to be accountable for the good of the larger organization or community of which we are a part, by being in service to, as opposed to in control of, those around us.’ I think the way you carry yourself, ‘leadership’ could directly replace ‘stewardship’ in that quote. You truly have left us in a notably better place than when you arrived on many levels that are not articulated by data and statistics. Now it’s up to us to make sure we continue the momentum and example you set. I believe that measure is the simplest yet most important aspect of successful leadership.”

I am now passing the torch of positive leadership to the Temple ITS team. Will the culture that we created together continue to thrive and improve?  I am leaving it in your capable hands.


Practice Pays Off in COVID Crisis

As Temple University has transitioned to being fully online, the IT team has responded to the challenge with innovation, collaboration and grace. As the leader of the team, I have been awed and very proud. And it is not just the IT team that has risen to the occasion. The entire Temple community has come together.

Within days, our IT team significantly expanded our remote secure access services to our systems and specialized software. We gathered and distributed laptops to students, faculty, and staff who didn’t have their own equipment to move to the online world as we closed the physical campus. We partnered with colleagues across campus and our vendors to rapidly provide training to the campus. We shifted to a virtual help desk over a weekend without any interruption in service to the campus. We have done all of this while improving our satisfaction rate as measured by a post-service survey to over 97%.

Why were we able to make this transition in such a smooth way?

The answer is clear from the feedback that I have been given from the team and across campus. We had already moved our primary learning platforms to modern cloud solutions that made the transition much easier. And we have been practicing for this kind of emergency for years as we have formed a creative and collaborative culture in ITS. 

Specifically, we already had flexible work guidelines that encouraged everyone to work with their managers, teams and customers to identify how they could provide seamless service when they worked remotely. 

Our help desk had moved to a software call center last November to enhance our support and give that team the ability to participate more fully in the flexible work guidelines. This meant that our help desk had practiced and tested working completely virtual before they had to to comply with the shelter in place order.

Our teams had practiced being innovative and thinking out of the box in our weekly Wonderful Wednesday/Whenever time. Many of the ideas that we implemented in response to the pandemic crises came from the research and exploration individuals had already been doing.

Because our team had practiced, we were prepared and have been able to respond to requests quickly and creatively. Instead of scrambling to figure out how they would be able to do their job from home, the ITS team members were able to focus on helping the rest of campus move to the new paradigm.

As you reflect on the unprecedented changes that the pandemic has caused, what had you practiced that helped you and your teams make the transition? What can you start practicing now?



The Shiny Factor


One of the great things about starting a new job and moving to a new place is the “shiny” factor.  When things are new, they are shiny and exciting and give a sense of wonder and possibility. As you can imagine, I have experienced many new things as I have made this transition. Here is my short list.

The people
The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of meeting new people. I don’t have history with any of the people that I am meeting, so we are “shiny” to each other. Every new interaction is an opportunity. It gives me a chance to hear stories and learn about the individuals, and thus about the place since culture is formed by the shared stories. I am approaching these interactions with freedom and authenticity and curiosity. Instead of being worried if the other person likes me, I am focused on understanding and learning about them. I have been very conscious of even my small actions when meeting others because every interaction is a chance for me to define myself as a positive leader to the other person.

The mass transit system
As I was leaving work yesterday, I casually mentioned to an out-of-town friend on the phone that I was going to catch the subway. Her reaction was, “That is so cool!” That has been my reaction as well.  I love the easy access to transportation and have found that taking the subway is a non-stressful way for me to get quickly to and from work. I was also able to take the train into New York this past week. It was so easy and fast. I was nervous, so I got to the train station early, but didn’t need to. It reminded me of how air travel used to be with quick boarding and the ability to show up just before you are scheduled to leave. I was in New York in just an hour and twenty minutes.

The food
Philadelphia is a foodie town and I am loving it. The variety and excellence of the food choices is wonderful. Because there are so many options, I expect the shininess of this to last a long time.

The biking
The Schuylkill River trail is only a couple of blocks from my house and it is beautiful. I can easily get a 30-40 minutes workout in the morning before work. There is also an active biking community with lots of organized rides and events. And there are serious hills here to challenge me and improve my biking!

The museums
Philadelphia has many high quality museums and most are within walking distance from my house. My husband and I went to the Barnes Foundation on Sunday afternoon. The first Sunday of every month is free to the public and we took advantage of the offer. It is such an amazing collection of impressionist and post-impressionist artwork that rivals any Paris museum.

What I have noticed is that the shiny mindset happens because I am open to a new experience and curious about what is going to happen and usually quite hopeful and optimistic about the possibilities. When I am familiar with things, I think I already know what is going to happen and stop being open and curious. I also have noticed that I tend to focus on what I don’t like when things become routine. So the key to sustaining a shiny mindset even when things are not new is to remain open, curious, and optimistic.

My challenge to you this week would be to try to approach one relationship or activity as if it were shiny and new to introduce some wonder into your world.


Photo Credit: Amtrak 30th Street Station – Von I, Mtruch, CC BY-SA 3.0,


I am in the middle of the transition to my new role.  For me, the middle is the least comfortable part of any transition. I think this is because I want to be constantly moving forward and instead of being in limbo, want to move quickly to decision and action.

In his book, Transitions, William Bridges outlines three steps of transition that every individual go through when change happens. The first is an ending, the second is a neutral zone, between the old and the new, and finally, the third step is a new beginning. He argues that every successful transition has all of these phases that need to be fully experienced and that most of us are not comfortable making transitions even though we are constantly changing.

One piece of advice that Bridges gives is to not try to rush the neutral zone, but to take time to be alone in order to make the mental and emotional transition from the old to the new. This includes understanding what you want to leave behind and what you want to create and who you want to be as you move forward.

I thought I was following that advice when I scheduled almost a month between my old and new job. However, in retrospect, I filled that time with many activities and didn’t really take much time to be alone and introspect.

My final full week in Ann Arbor has been a time for connections with several walks with dear friends through the Arboretum and cherished meals with wonderful colleagues. I have been busy packing and sorting getting ready for my new life in Philadelphia. I also have been sick all week with a summer cold.

I have noticed that often when I am in transition, I get sick. The first time I noticed this was at the end of each semester in college, when I would literally collapse into bed after completing my last final. And, often after completing a major project, I would come down with something after all of the stress had dissipated. This week as I have been forced to slow down to let my body heal, I have come to the conclusion that this is a mechanism that I personally use to slow down and give myself space away from activity and time to recover.

I am excited and curious about this next step in my transition to a leader at Temple University and recognize that this transition feels better than previous job changes. I am not anxious and have continued to use the tools that I have learned to stay at peace. Understanding that I don’t need to have all the answers, I haven’t made a 90-day plan of things I want to make sure will happen as I start my new job.  Instead, I have written a positive intention to listen, understand, and work collaboratively with my new colleagues to create a shared culture and vision. I am eager to see what we create together.

My challenge to you this week is to notice where you are in the transitions in your life and give yourself the time, space, and permission to experience all of the different steps in your own personal transitions.