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Posts tagged ‘andy brantley’

Engaging & Empowering Early Career HR Professionals

cupa hr team 7.7.14Don’t just engage, empower!  That’s the rallying cry from our board member, Andy Brantley, CEO of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR).  Andy (far right) is pictured here with coworkers Wes Harmon, Julie Boggs, and Jessica Waddell.  In 2012, Andy tasked this cross-functional team of early career HR professionals with an important member outreach project – and left it to them to figure out how to get it done.  Andy’s post below describes the project and why he felt it was important to not only engage, but empower this team.  Listen to the podcast here with the team about their experience and results.  (Spoiler alert: these young professionals are enthusiastic about the trust and respect their leadership expressed in them and are engaged proponents of CUPA-HR.)  


During calendar year 2012, the leadership team at the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) determined that we needed to strengthen our outreach to and engagement of early career higher education human resources professionals. Our membership had been growing (and continues to grow) exponentially with more and more early career professionals using our services and participating in our programs. We were very excited about this, but wanted to make sure that early career professionals see CUPA-HR as their association and higher education human resources as their career path.

Instead of viewing this through the traditional lens of “which department should take the lead,” we chose to engage three of our own early career professionals to draft and implement the early career outreach and engagement program. By using this approach, we blurred department lines (Jessica was from member service, Julie from marketing and communications and Wes from learning and professional development) and created an opportunity for someone other than a “director” to lead the project.

Jessica, Julie and Wes did their research, created a focus group and developed actions to address the commons themes identified from the research and focus group. It quickly became apparent that they were doing exactly as we had hoped….working as a project team without the barriers of their “day job” in their respective parts of the organization. They then presented their project plan to the leadership team. I was so impressed with the quality of the work and the recommended actions that I asked them to share their plans with the entire CUPA-HR staff as a model for not only early career outreach, but a model for the development and implementation of any project!

Almost two years later, we have had great success in engaging more early career professionals in conference presentations, volunteer opportunities, board and other leadership roles. The key elements of the outreach and engagement plans developed by this group are now embedded in our learning and resource development, our publications, our connection opportunities and the assistance resources we now provide (such as scholarships to our annual and regional conferences). A similar template will be used to developed outreach efforts to other under served membership groups.

The outcomes for our members are cause for celebration, but the real cause for celebration is what happened for Jessica, Julie and Wes as a result of this effort. These outcomes are relevant for our organization, but similar outcomes are relevant for EVERY organization.

  • These early career professionals at CUPA-HR had the opportunity to lead a project that was clearly tied to four of our six strategic priorities. How often do we give early career professionals the opportunity to lead work that is related to our most important priorities?
  • They were able to spend time focused on a project for which they were passionate. By giving them to opportunity to lead, they were clearly able to incorporate their personal passions into the project.
  • The project emphasized the need for us to know our colleagues’ strengths, passions (at and away from the job) and areas for growth. There is never a one size fits all approach to leadership and collaboration. Taking the time to know our colleagues as individuals and making the effort to connect their interests and passions to their work is always going to be a win, win, win!
  • The project gave them more autonomy than would have normally been possible in their regular roles. Giving a group like this the autonomy to define the issues and the scope of the project was definitely a very positive and meaningful experience.
  • The work provided the opportunity for the three of them to more directly interact with the VP and Chief Operating Officer, the VP and Chief Learning Officer and with me. It’s sometimes tricky to “blow up the chain of command,” but it’s also quite liberating to emphasize that the “chain of command” can create hurdles and barriers to collaborative, creative outcomes.
  • Every “initiative” must be sustained and we will take the best elements of this initiative and apply them to other projects. The ultimate success is that the elements of this outreach and engagement effort are no longer owned just by these three individuals. The elements are now incorporated into every element of our work to emphasize our commitment to early career professionals.
  • Some work assignments fit neatly into one department or area, but most assignments do not and should not! Amen!

Did we hit some bumps along the away? You bet. We will continue to assess how Jessica, Julie and Wes continue to have some role in our early career outreach and engagement while ensuring that the key elements of their great work are incorporated into everything we do. We will also continue to minimize and eliminate departmental barriers that limit opportunities for collaboration and that also limit opportunities for each of us to utilize our strengths and our passions.


Andy Brantley

President and CEO

College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR)

Mentors, Inspirations and Trailblazers

mentorToday’s guest post is courtesy of our board member, Andy Brantley.  Andy is  President and CEO of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR).  This post, concerning the mentors and others who inspire us, is timely as we look ahead to a new year.  Who’s been your greatest inspiration in your career?

Stop for just a minute and think about your life and your career. Who are the people who have had the greatest positive influence on you personally and professionally? What did these individuals do that influenced you? Were they mentors? Were they leaders you admired from afar? Were they authors of books, blogs or articles? Were they coworkers? Were they friends or family members? Were they individuals who dared to blaze a trail? There have been, and continue to be, people in each of these categories who have impacted and inspired me personally and professionally.

Mentors … I have never been fortunate enough to be part of a structured mentoring program, but I can tell you that there have been many individuals who have helped and guided me in many ways, be it through one-on-one conversations, through e-mail exchanges, through phone conversations or through their actions. For me, mentoring is not as much about a structured program as it is a commitment to guide and support others and a willingness to seek guidance and support from others. Who are your mentors? Could you name at least two or three people who have, in some way, mentored you?

Leaders admired from afar … The recent passing of Nelson Mandela has given me reason to pause and reflect on my own personal efforts to seek unity. His strength will forever be a source of inspiration to millions. The words of Maya Angelou frequently inspire me and give me strength. I follow her on Facebook so that I can periodically receive words of wisdom directly from her. The opportunity to spend time with Charlayne Hunter-Gault this past fall will always be a source of inspiration for me. Her achievements, including being one of the first African Americans admitted to the University of Georgia and her work in South Africa, give me hope that the America I live in will someday truly be open and accepting of everyone. Of course, there are many other leaders who I admire. Can you name leaders who you admire or who have inspired you?

Coworkers and my CUPA-HR colleagues … In every one of my work experiences, there have been coworkers who have positively impacted me personally and professionally. I could try to name names, but I know that I would leave someone out! To the people I worked with at the Chrysler Corporation, the University of North Carolina at Asheville, Davidson College and the University of Georgia, thanks for the impact that you have had on me. To the people that I am fortunate to work with now at CUPA-HR, thanks for the impact that you have on me every day. I acknowledge that I am not perfect (far from it), but I am better because I get to have open, honest dialogues with you every day. Who in your office, college or university would you identify as an inspiration?

Family and friends … I am fortunate to have great family and friends who I learn from every day. My family doesn’t just include my sons and others who are related by blood or marriage. It also includes some pretty incredible people who have truly become family over many years. When you think of your family and friends, who are those people who have helped and continue to help you be who you are?

Trailblazers … Last, but not least, I am so appreciative of those who been, and continue to be, trailblazers. You know who I am referred to, those leaders (at all levels) who tactfully and effectively challenge the status quo, have great ideas that they put into action and are committed to making their organizations better. I am so fortunate that I have had the opportunity to work with and be mentored and inspired by several trailblazers. Who are the trailblazers who have most impacted you? Better yet, how are you the trailblazer that others look to as their mentor and inspiration?

Related Posts:

Daring to Fail 

Stop and Smell the Azaleas

Singing the Performance Review Blues






Enjoying Work & Life: Stop and Smell the Azaleas

Brantley collageToday’s guest blog post is written by our board member, Andy Brantley.  Andy is President and CEO of CUPA-HR.

When was the last time you were involved in an event or activity that caused you to look around and think, “I am so fortunate to be here?” To be honest, I never really thought about this very much until recently.

A few “I am so fortunate to be here” moments for me during the last several months:

  • Getting to hike in and out of the Grand Canyon with one of my sons;
  • Hiking in Zion National Park (and experiencing one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen);
  • Seeing hundreds of wild azaleas in bloom during a hike to Gregory’s Bald in the Smoky Mountains;
  • Running along the shore of a local lake as the morning fog lifted;
  • Spending time with friends and family on my screened porch;
  • Successfully finishing an intense P90X plyometrics workout without feeling like I was going to throw up;
  • Celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the move of the CUPA-HR national office from DC to Knoxville;
  • Participating in this year’s Association Leadership Program with CUPA-HR’s national, regional and chapter leaders from across the country;
  • Seeing CUPA-HR’s new learning framework “come to life” through the programming for the upcoming annual conference in Las Vegas;
  • Having a friend and colleague tell me how much CUPA-HR has impacted her personally and professionally.

I could list a few more examples, but the point for me is that I am trying to do a better job of enjoying and embracing important moments at and away from work. The event or activity does not have to be as “grand” as hiking the Grand Canyon. The point is that we stop the speeding train that is our life long enough to acknowledge and enjoy the ride!

We HR types have talked about work/life balance for years, but for me it’s not as much work/life balance as it is a commitment to enjoying the things I do at and away from work. Not every portion of my work role is enjoyable (being stuck in an airport for hours) and not every part of my life away from work is enjoyable (my house is always clean, but I hate housecleaning). But I can tell you that I approach every day with a “my cup is AT LEAST half full” attitude and that I continue my quest for those “I am so fortunate to be here” moments. I challenge you to come up with your own list of “I am so fortunate to be here” moments from the last few months and to commit to continuing to seek more of these moments every single day.