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Creating Smiles & Promoting Wellness In the Financial Aid Office

November 1, 2011

It wasn’t long ago when I found myself in a conversation about office morale. I was attending a conference to meet up with customers and share information with them about our products and services. Instead, I found myself in the throes of a conversation about office morale. The conversation wasn’t planned, and the Director I was speaking with began to describe how her staff seemed overburdened and burned out. She zeroed in on sweeping regulatory change, drastic budget cutbacks, and the ultimate increase in responsibility for Financial Aid Administrators. She went on to say that she spends most of her day going around “just talking” to her staff to make sure they feel valued. She also mentioned that she has parties every Friday night to break up the monotony and stress her team has experienced these last couple of years. I was completely taken aback at her selflessness and true concern for her team. She had a deep understanding of the kind of stress her team was under and decided upon herself to do something about it.

I happened to meet this Director at a “Beginner Financial Aid Administrator” training held on her campus over 20 years ago. She was a lightning rod of energy, a plethora of information, and the ultimate leader. I respected her experience, tenure, and chutzpah. Secretly, I was a little intimidated by her title and position, but knew if I at least met her, I’d have an opportunity to someday learn from her…this day came at the conference. I began to see her in a completely different light. The lightning rod professional was still there, but I also began to see her as human. She talked about her team like they were family. She talked about the importance of work/life balance. She wanted success for her team, but not at the expense of themselves or their confidence at work.

We’ve decided to begin a series of discussions, interviews, and articles focusing on wellness and office morale best practices. There is nothing better than to help your team feel better, know better, and ultimately, do better.

I thought I’d share with you some of the things I’ve learned along the way –

  1. Be open and honest with your communication – I’ve had great bosses along the way who shared with me important/relevant information. This made me feel part of a cohesive team and helped me do a better job.
  2. Carve out time for someone, whether you think they need it or not – As mentioned earlier, the DFA above took time to “visit” with her staff. The importance of this can’t be measured in words, and you’ll be surprised at the information folks will share about themselves and how they feel about their job.
  3. Empower your teams – Empowering your teams doesn’t equate to a promotion or title change. Have fun creating teams and make them responsible for fun events within your office. They’ll appreciate the trust and have fun doing it!
  4. Have an offsite meeting – I realize that budgets are tight, but if you can squeeze out a few dollars for an off-site meeting, the benefit will far outweigh the cost. If not, brown bag it and have your lunch somewhere else on campus.
  5. Remember to laugh, just laugh…- I’ve been blessed having worked with really funny people. That said, I’ve also worked with many Financial Aid Offices whose laughter could be heard in the hallway. In every case, the staff seemed happy, but I noticed their students seemed happier. 🙂

I look forward to sharing with you more about how to increase wellness and morale in your offices. I plan to interview several Financial Aid Offices across different sectors to demonstrate how we are all more similar, than different. Stay tuned…

Jon Potter, Western Regional Director (CA)

One Comment leave one →
  1. Melet Leafgreen permalink
    November 2, 2011 5:27 am

    VERY much looking forward to this series!!!

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