Category Archives: Human Resources

Creating and Developing High Performing Teams

The Link between Team Development and Success

As a leader, understanding how teams develop is critical to overall team effectiveness.  According to Psychologist Bruce Tuckman, teams and their members go through recognizable stages as they progress from the first meeting to creating a common and understood purpose and finally a unified group operating at peak performance . Recognizing these phases of development and how to lead through each phase will ensure you are leading your team to success.

Tuckman’s Model for Team Development

In the 1960’s Bruce Tuckman identified five stages of development teams go through to get to their highest level of effectiveness. He describes the stages as Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing.  Approximately 10 years later, Tuckman modified the model to add a fifth stage called Adjourning. Tuckman used the model to describe how teams move from formation to peak performance. Leadership skills at each stage supports the team’s movement to the next stage of development, ultimately achieving the Performing stage more quickly.

The Five Stages of Team Development


During this stage, members usually arrive without much knowledge of the goals for the team and the work to be accomplished.   While typically excited about being asked to be on the team, they may be feeling anxiety and curiosity about these specifics, their role on the team, and how they will fit in.  They may question whether they have the knowledge and skills to contribute in meaningful ways. Leaders can expect many clarifying questions about roles and responsibilities in an effort to address these concerns.

The Leadership Role:

awarenessCreate time for the team to get to know each other. Ensure team members are clear about the mission and goals of the team and each person’s role in getting there.   Co-create and communicate a strong team vision. Provide clear structure,  roles, and direction. Understand the skills that will be required and share these. As the team begins to get comfortable, strong leadership will facilitate trust building.


Storming is the stage when many teams stumble due to predictable conflict. Different work styles between team members may cause frustration. Some may push the boundaries that have been set by the team during the Forming stage. Without clear guidelines, team members may feel overwhelmed with the work to be done and frustrated with the slow progress of the team. Conflict may arise when this frustration is directed at others.

The Leadership Role:

conflictTake charge and model the behavior you want to see. Encourage the team to refocus on the goals versus the confusion. Breaking goals into smaller chunks will help the team sense that they can achieve them. Encourage and listen to all views, be open to new ways of achieving the goals, and encourage other to do the same.

Redefining goals, roles, and tasks based on the input of others will provide renewed clarity and reduce the frustration and confusion.

NOTE: Tuckman cautions that transitioning from Storming to Norming can be slow as new tasks and assignments may cause team members to slide back into Storming before being able to move forward to Norming.


During this stage, team members will attempt to resolve  the conflict of the Storming stage and communication and collaboration will begin to replace the anxiety and frustration. You’ll notice team members asking for support and ideas from others as collaborative problem solving begins. And as communication increases, team members will feel more comfortable expressing their emotions and expectations. Acceptance and appreciation of other’s efforts and experiences replaces the frustration of difference work styles and opinions. Constructive feedback within the team is appreciated in this stage as members begin to feel comfortable with the team dynamics.

The Leadership Role:

cooperationCreate opportunities for everyone to be involved in meaningful ways.  A natural output of this is that  team members will learn from and assist one another. Shifting the energy from the stage of conflict (Storming) back to the team’s goals will increase productivity both individually and collectively.  Provide positive feedback and encourage this supportive behavior. Encouraging camaraderie positively supports the team culture – have fun and laugh often! As the team begins to settle into a rhythm, self-evaluation is possible and a productive exercise in order to get better.


Accomplishment and satisfaction with group progress is now visible. Roles and responsibilities become more fluid and members offer support, direction, and encouragement as needed. Differences are viewed positively and are now appreciated. Confidence in the ability of the team to accomplish its goals, commitment to the end result, and the competence of individual team members increases. The team will begin to measure its progress and celebrate successes.

The Leadership Role:

productivityTeam leads should be able to step back from a strong leadership stance as the team is beginning to self-direct.  Delegate task and decision making to the team, offering input when needed or to course-correct. Develop an environment where group problem solving takes place by taking advantage of individual strengths and encouraging collaborative work over individual work.


Projects are defined as having a beginning and an end (versus a process which is repeated over and over again). Teams will reach this final stage as the goals of the team are being completed. While team members may be satisfied with the work accomplished, they may also experience mixed emotions about work relationships ending. Not all members will be experiencing the same emotions at the same time, therefore team commitment and moral may decrease for some, while for others who remain focused on the tasks at hand, productivity may actually increase as they seek closure.

The Leadership Role:

separationAcknowledge the ebb and flow of emotions and be willing to talk with the team, collectively or individually, as needed.  Ensure all tasks and deliverable are completed. Provide
opportunities for evaluation of the team’s efforts, including lessons learned, to share with future teams. Host a closing celebration to acknowledge individual and team accomplishments and formally disband the team.

Strong Leadership Leads to Team Success

As the team lead, your role is to understand the overall goals and products required of the team and to maximize individual and team performance to achieve these. Being able to identify each stage of team development and understanding what is needed to move on to the next stage will ensure you get the team there as quickly as possible. Knowing your own leadership style and being able to flex it as necessary in each stage will lead the team to success.

HR can support!  Ask us about ways to help your team through each stage of their development or for support in problem-solving issues you are facing.  Email us at

How Great Leaders Inspire Action-A TED Talk by Simon Sinek

Click the arrow in the image box to launch the 18 minute video.

View a graphic synthesis of Simon Sinek’s talk.

Have you ever wondered why we find some leaders and their messages inspiring while others leave us flat?

As a leader do you want to ensure your team members not only understand your vision, but also actively work to make it a reality?

In this TED talk, Simon Sinek explores his concept of the Golden Circle, what he calls “a naturally occurring pattern”, grounded in the biology of human decision making, that explains why we are inspired by some people, leaders, messages and organizations over others.

The Golden Circle is similar to a target with three rings.  Starting with the outer ring and leading to the center ring, the sections are labeled as the “What”, “How”, and “Why”.  The most common and comfortable place for leaders to  speak to is the “What”, as in what the organization does.  Many leaders are also comfortable speaking to “How” they do what they do.  Most, however, do not speak to the “Why”.  Sinek suggests that “Why” is the most transformational and powerful place to speak to as it the place of purpose and passion.

Sinek further explains that the Golden Circle corresponds to the biology of the human brain.  The outer layer of the brain, the “What”, is represented in the homo sapien brain – the place of rational thought, analytical data, and language.  The inner circle of the brain, the “Why” and “How”, relates to the limbic portion of the brain where feelings such as trust and loyalty are generated.  It is also the place of decision making, and especially those that come from the gut.

Sinek suggests that when we communicate from the “What”, we are not appealing to the part of the brain where decisions are actually made.  However if we connect effectively via the “Why” (and “How”) of the limbic brain – the place of passion and purpose – others will make a gut decision to follow in the leader’s footsteps.  Continuing to speak to passion and purpose builds trust and develops loyalty and the “What” we do naturally follows to rationalize the behavior.


Hiring an Independent Contractor? Understand the Process Before You Get Started

What is an Independent Contractor?

People who are in an independent trade, business, or profession in which they offer their services to the general public are typically categorized as independent contractors.

How Do I Know:  Employee or Independent Contractor?

Independent Contractor:  The general rule is that an individual is an independent contractor if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and how it will be done. The earnings of a person who is working as an independent contractor are subject to Self-Employment Tax as independent contractors are self-employed.  Independent contractors should not have an office or desk at SMU.

Employee:  If the individual will perform services that are controlled by the hiring department  (what will be done and how it will be done), the person is NOT an independent contractor.  The determining factor is whether the employer controls the details of how the services are performed.

Additional Information on the IRS website:  For more information refer to the IRS website section on Independent Contractors or Employees.

Independent Contractor Determination Process at SMU

icd3The University must correctly determine whether the individuals providing services are employees or independent contractors.  Managers should follow this process in order to minimize the risk to the University including, but not limited to, the cost of back taxes and social security payments.  The process is facilitated via the Independent Contractor Determination Form which should be submitted as soon as the dates and services are agreed upon.  Approval should be received before services are performed. Please note the form is recently updated form and should be used for all future requests.

Visit the Independent Contractor Determination webpage to learn more about the process, requirements, and approval timelines.

25 Ways to Improve Meetings in Higher Education

Academic Impressions (AI) is an organization that seeks to serve higher education professionals via educational products and services that help institutions tackle their challenges.  AI offers webcasts, conferences, on-campus workshops, and news publications.

webinar 2)25 Ways to Improve Meetings in Higher Education – Run Meetings that Your Colleagues Actually Want to Attend 


SMU HR will be hosting this webinar on improved meetings in higher education settings in the HR Training Room.  Get away from office distractions, watch with your peers, and have a brief discussion afterwards.  Encourage your team members to attend as well!

August 21, 2015 from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
HR Training Room – Expressway Towers, Suite 208

Here’s what you’ll get if you attend the webinar:

  • Access to the live webcast.  You may invite others to attend with you.
  • Electronic links to presentation materials and additional resources
  • Following the webcast:  link to watch the recorded webcast for 60 days

BYOL!  We’ll open the training room kitchen for beverages – feel free to bring food so you can lunch while you learn!

Big red register now buttonEnrollment will be limited to 35 participants-take a moment to register via my.SMU.  Search by Course Code HRHEM


Questions?  Email us at

Can’t Get Away from the Office?
If you can’t get away or wish to watch from  your office, please follow these directions to enroll yourself on the vendor’s website.  Click on the image below to learn more and be redirected to the registration page.

If you attend the session email and we’ll add your attendance to the course session so that your training summary will reflect your attendance.


Resilience SAVES – A Model for Cultivating Resilience

Dr. Greg Eells is the Associate Director of Gannett Health Services, and Director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at Cornell University.  The following is a summary of his TEDxCortland talk.

If his TED talk, he states that we all strive toward a life full of meaning but when we face the inevitable obstacle, it’s how we bounce back that matters.  This “bounce” is also defined as resilience.

Psychologists define resilience as:

  • Looking at positive outcomes despite high risk status
  • Competence in the face of stress
  • Adapting to trauma
  • Using challenges for growth in order to make future hardships more manageable

Or another way of defining resilience is how and what we make of the broken pieces of change.  The ability to shift our mindsets is unique to human beings.  Dr. Eells developed a model to help us remember how to manage our mindset and practice resilience.: Resilience SAVES.

S  ocial Connection:  We underestimate the value of social connection in our lives.  Dr. Eells states we are part of a  greater social organism and when we lose the connection, it is toxic to our bodies.  To maintain the connection, one should:

  • Do something for somebody else.  The act releases oxytocin and dopamine, or the feel good chemicals in the brain.
  • Surround yourself with resilient role models who can encourage and enlighten us
  • Find your swan – the person who can help you connect in ways that are meaningful and help you weather the storm

A  ttitude:  The three Ps will help you alter your life by altering your attitude.  They are:

  • Permanence – step back and realize this will change
  • Pervasiveness – when we are resilient we can contain negative events and shift our focus to the positive.  Letting the positive grow overshadows the negative.
  • Personalization – remember that it is not about you. Open up to the broader context and history and recognize it’s greater than you.
  • Get you Ps straight in order to build a more resilient self and culture.

V  alues:  Find something to hold on to during the tough times. Understand your purpose in life by balancing the sense of your uniqueness with humility and then pursue what really matters to help you find your meaning and your purpose.

E  motions:  We don’t have good language to express our emotions.  When we face tough situations, we struggle to  explain what we are feeling.  Embrace a creative hopelessness, let go by accepting what is, and remain  curious by asking good questions in order to understand what is happening around us.

S  illiness:  Step back and laugh at yourself.  When we take ourselves too seriously, we miss the big picture and the obvious.

Happiness, success, health – we all strive toward a life full of meaning. When we do face obstacles, the Resilience SAVES model can determine how we move forward.

Trick Your Brain Into Change

rexRex Huppke is a humorist and writes a twice weekly workplace column for  the Chicago Tribune titled
I Just Work Here“.

The Sunday, June 21, 2015  Dallas Morning News business section featured one of his columns titled “Trick the Brain Into Change“.  Huppke interviewed Art Markman, Director of the Human Dimensions of Organizations program at UT Austin for the article.

According to Markman, there is a habit based side of the brain and an intellectual side.  To effect change, you must convince the intellectual side that the change is worth the time it takes to change the habit.  Therefore, the best way to get people to change is to make the new idea easy to do.

Do you have an upcoming change you need to implement?

  • Analyze how to reduce the complexity of the change.
  • Brainstorm the impact of the change on yourself and others
  • Determine what can be put into place to change the current habit in order to create the new desired habit
  • Communicate the change and its impact

And remember to make the change easy to do!

You may also listen to a recorded interview with Rex on the same topic on WGN.

Update on Background Checks During the Hiring Process

The Department of Human Resources has updated the background check release form to ensure SMU is compliant with the Federal Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Here is what you need to know as a hiring manager.

  • Main changes to the background check release form include removal of the indemnity clause and questions regarding criminal convictions.
  • Our vendor Intellicorp will not run a background check if the prospective employee completed a previous version of the form, therefore Human Resources will only accept the updated form.
  • The forms section of the HR website and new employee packets distributed to hiring managers and have been updated with the new background check release form.
  • Hiring managers who are currently conducting a search will be contacted to ensure they have the updated form.

For questions about the updated background check release form, contact

Managing Others Who Coordinate or Host Camps for Minors at SMU

SMU seeks to provide a healthy environment for all who interact with the University whether they are students, employees, parents, or visitors.  For those who interact with minors, this is especially important as Texas state law and SMU Policy outline specific requirements for training and reporting abuse when it is known or suspected.

Do you know that according to Texas state law, it is everyone’s responsibility to report known or suspected abuse of a minor?

Are you aware of SMU Policy with regard to state mandated training and state reporting requirements?

Does your team understand their role and responsibility in ensuring a safe environment for minors participating in events on campus?

Are you following SMU practice for camps and events involving minors?

should have regular conversations with Camp Operators and Program Coordinators to check for understanding and awareness around the following role responsibilities and then follow up to ensure all requirements have been fulfilled.

Camp Operators: 
those who supervisor or host a camp for minors utilizing SMU facilities:

  1. camp operatorensure that their own training is up to date
  2. manage the training completion process with all employees, volunteers and any others working with minors during the camp time frame
  3. follow Texas state guidelines in submitting all required state forms
  4. provide a copy of the state form to the SMU Program Coordinator.

Program Coordinators: those who coordinate with Camp Operators whether or not they are utilizing SMU facilities:

  1. program coordinatorsensure that their own training is up to date
  2. keep accurate and complete camp records
  3. communicate with Camp Operators regarding SMU training requirements and their responsibility to submit the state form
  4. require a copy of the state reporting form from the Camp Operator for SMU camp records and keep these records for a minimum                                           of seven years.In addition.
    Program Coordinators may be asked to coordinate the enrollment of non-SMU employees in the DCAC on-line training when the camp operator is unable to obtain or afford the training for their employees.  Please view the Program’s webpage or email

Learn more on the Program for Protection of Minors webpage.

Read SMU Policy 9.31:  Duty to Report Suspected Child Abuse  and Mandatory Training and Examination Program for Employees of Campus Programs for  Minors on Warning Signs of Sexual Abuse and Child Molestation.

Questions regarding who should complete the state mandated training and other compliance questions should be directed to the Office of Risk Management at

Questions regarding training enrollment for SMU employees as well as non-SMU employees and training completion should be directed to SMU HR at


SMU Program for the Protection of Minors: The Manager’s Role

Do you, or your direct report, host camps either on or off campus and do your and your employees understand SMU practice with regard to state reporting and SMU record-keeping?
Are you and/or your direct report aware of the state requirement to be trained on recognizing and reporting abuse while working at these camps (SMU employees , non-SMU camp employees, and volunteers)?

SMU seeks to provide a healthy environment for all who visit SMU and/or interact with employees.  In support of this goal, SMU goes above and beyond state law by asking all employees to complete a training program on protecting minors from abuse.

In addition to the one time training for all SMU employees, those who host camps or are employed by these camps are required by the State of Texas to complete the state mandated training every two years.  Additionally, SMU asks Program Coordinators, those who coordinate camps on behalf of others, to also re-train every two years.  Learn more on the Program for the Protection of Minors webpage.

Each year the Office of Risk Management and SMU HR host a seminar to help Camp Operators and and Program Coordinators understand their role and responsibilities with regard to  the duty to report, state reporting and record keeping,  and healthy camp environments.

Camp Operators and Program Coordinators are strongly urged to attend this seminar:


2015 Seminar
Monday April 6, 2105
3:00-4:30 pm
HTSC Forum 

Facilitated by the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center, ORM and HR.

As a manager, what can you do to support your employee in understanding their responsibilities?

All identified SMU Camp Operators and Program Coordinators recently received an email regarding the training on April 6 with information on how to enroll.  You can support your employee by:

  • Asking if they have received and reviewed the information in the email and if not, to self report to the Office of Risk Management via email to
  • Allow time for employees to attend the training
  • Ensure employees understand the importance of being compliant with state law and SMU Policy 9.31: Duty to Report
  • Review your employee’s plan to meet the state requirements and SMU expectations for record-keeping and reporting abuse, should it occur

With manager support, SMU can meet its’ goal of a healthy environment!


Email Risk Management for questions regarding the role of a Camp Operator and Program Coordinator at

HR-Icons-QuestionsEmail HR for questions regarding the state mandated training and access to SMU Blackboard at

Managing a Reduction In Force: Help Yourself and Your Team

woman at desk thinkingA reduction in force is arguably one of the most difficult situations you may face in your career as a manager.  Knowing that the decisions about what positions are eliminated affect both those exiting and those remaining in the organization can be a stressful burden to carry and a tough message to deliver. Although there’s not a painless path through this process, there are steps you can take to  both care for yourself and your team, while helping build a collaborative, supportive, and innovative culture. You can move from anxiety to exciting, but it takes effort. And that effort starts with taking care of yourself.

Staying Self-Aware:

It’s natural for you to experience a fairly wide variety of feelings,  thoughts, and physical reactions as changes are being communicated.

Common Thoughts and Feelings:

  • Relief and/or guilt that your job was not eliminated
  • Anger that you have to help communicate or manage the after-effects of layoffs
  • A desire to escape the situation and pretend it’s not happening
  • Anger or frustration with senior leaders regarding layoff decisions
  • Anxiety about how to handle an employee whose position is being eliminated (whether or not you have to communicate the news)
  • Fear about people reacting in an overly emotional way to the news
  • The urge to “take care of” everyone and to make everything “ok”
  • Concern about how the employees (and their families) leaving the organization will manage
  • Sadness over relationships with particular employees who are leaving or moving to other parts of the organization
  • Fear of additional position eliminations
  • Questioning your career and the role it plays in your life
  • Questioning whether or not you should stay with the organization

Physical Signs of Stress :

  • Fatigue or an overall decline in energy
  • Changes in appetite — both wanting to eat more or a loss of appetite are common
  • Difficulty maintaining your attention or in reaching decisions
  • Sleep disturbance — inability to fall asleep, problems staying asleep,  or wanting to sleep too much

Caring For Yourself

Being aware of and acknowledging your reactions to the situation is the first step in moving forward. Improve your ability to move through this time by actively caring for yourself. Choosing to implement tips from the following sections may be helpful.

Managing Your Thoughts and Emotions:

Respect your feelings and thoughts. You are most likely responding to stress in a very natural manner. The “grief cycle,” as introduced by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, applies to significant changes at work, so expect that you may move through different stages (denial, anger and guilt, bargaining, sadness, and acceptance) more than once and over a longer period of time than you might anticipate.

  • Avoid the temptation to withdraw completely. Instead share the situation with friends/colleagues you trust, ask for or be open to support from them.
  • Practice patience—with yourself and others—during this time when irritability and anxiety may surface more often.
  • Seek clarity about your supervisor’s expectations of you and your team. Be sure you understand any new goals for your division and department.
  • Set your goals and make progress toward them, but don’t try to be perfect or all things to all people.
  • Dedicate 10-15 minutes to planning at the start (or end) of every day. Putting your plans in writing helps you be more productive.
  • Prioritize the most important tasks every day so that you use your time and energy toward your highest priorities.
  • Work a quick walk into your day. Even 10 minutes will help clear your head and help you think more clearly.
  • Work healthy foods into your diet and avoid leaning on caffeine and sugar to get you through the day.
  • Try keeping a consistent sleep schedule and know you may need more rest in times of intense change.
  • If you feel “stuck” in any particular stage of the grief cycle, consider contacting SMU’s confidential employee assistance program (EAP) provided by Magellan Health.
  • Consult a member of the Employee Relations team in Human Resources for additional specific strategies to help manage yourself and your performance during times of change.
  • Join Wellpower and choose to focus on just a few areas of your well-being.

Supporting Your Team Members

  • Acknowledge that the situation is difficult and if team members need to talk, try to listen without becoming defensive or impatient.
  • Be honest and avoid making promises you’re unsure you can keep.
  • Schedule extra time to stay in communication with your manager and your team so you can keep everyone informed as needed.
  • Individuals leaving the organization will be receiving a severance package which includes career support services. Although it may seem easier to dwell on the negative, try to remain optimistic about their ability to move forward successfully.
  • Allow others time and space to process the changes. Be a conduit for information and support, but try avoid the urge to “fix” the situation for others.
  • Explain or clarify the expectations for any new team member or one whose responsibilities have shifted. People want to understand both “why” their roles are changing and “what” they are expected to do differently.
  • Speak up when you have an idea you think might help your organization move forward. This is a time when creative problem-solving is in high demand.
  • Although we are striving for excellence, perfection is unattainable. Be gentle on your team, while challenging them to grow and adapt quickly.
  • If you see a member of your team struggling more than expected, suggest he/she talk with the EAP. It’s completely confidential and all phone calls are free as are the first three in-person visits.
  • Take advantage of technical expertise and support from OIT and any other types of education and support from Human Resources or other departments.

Taking these steps can help you feel more empowered in your role as a manager and move your team forward through a time of ambiguity and change toward a healthy culture and level of productivity.

If you have questions or want to consult with a member of the employee relations team, email us at or call the HR                                                        front desk at 8-3311 and ask to speak with a                                                      member of the ER Team.