Yoga and the hokey pokey | AUA Blog


Claire Shrewsbury MAUA
Assistant Registrar | Student Central & Global Programs
Division of Student Administration
The Australian National University

A happy accident

Have you got the Sunday night blues or a spring in your step when you cross the threshold info your office on a Monday morning?  What about your colleagues?  Do you know or care how they feel when they walk in the door every morning?

When I first started managing staff about a dozen years ago, how staff felt wasn’t something I particularly thought I needed to care about.  While other managers would give feedback with a post-it note and smiley face, I simply got out my red pen (the teacher in me was still close to the surface back then) and relished in finding all of the errors to be corrected.  Back then, I thought I was helping and didn’t realise how people felt to be “red-penned” and what it might do to their motivation.

More recently, I’ve had the great pleasure of leading the self-titled “super-team”, an amalgam of two student service areas not normally found together in a university – student administration and the learning abroad team.  This chance joining of two teams was the result of a restructure which left one team looking for a new administrative home.  This happy administrative accident, has turned into a joyous place where people value and care for each other and this is reflected in the service they provide to students.

So, how did it happen?

It can be hard for a manager to admit, but sometimes success can come from what we don’t do.  No red pen, no micro-managing, trying to say ‘yes’ even if ‘no’ is the first word that leaps to mind.  Taking a step back, not needing to always have the answer, wanting to be dispensable, making space for others’ ideas to flourish and grow and… yes, the hokey pokey!

It wasn’t easy at first.  I like to be right (don’t you?) and people expect me to have the answers.  Isn’t that what a manager is for?  Well, no.  I could tell you it was as easy as hiring the right people – this was important but can often go wrong.  Mostly, it was about communicating where we were trying to get to, joining the dots between the strategic plan and operational delivery but not charting the path. Most importantly of all, it was about creating the environment for people to be themselves at work, giving them the space to try and to fail and setting them back on the path again.  Their path, not mine.  Practically, this meant dragging ourselves away from phones and emails and carving out some time for the whole super team to get together for Friday morning training, at a time when students were less likely to be calling in.

What did we do?

We did Communications 101 where we learned about ‘crossing the line’ in videography.  Trust me, it’s bad! We did the hokey-pokey. Yes, we even did yoga!  But it was how we did it that was more important.  Everyone had a chance to lead, to identify their own special skill and to look at things in a different way where everyone’s contributions were valued and everyone felt like they belonged.

Want to hear more about how you can create your own super-team?

I’ll be presenting at the AUA Conference 2019 in Manchester.  See you there!



Leave a Reply

0 comments on “Yoga and the hokey pokey | AUA Blog