What’s it like to be a: Leadership Advisor

Michael Monaghan explains his role as a leadership and development adviser

Michael Monaghan is a leadership and development adviser at Liverpool John Moores University’s Leadership and Development Foundation. Along with typical staff development duties, Michael leads a number of strategic ongoing development projects for LJMU, including its apprenticeship levy. He was awarded AUA member of the year in 2017 and 2019.

What is it about your job that gets you out of bed in the morning?
To me, higher education is the greatest platform we have to achieve social mobility and this is what I value most about working in it. At a macro-level, I get great satisfaction knowing we are all working towards the same common purpose. At an individual level, I know first-hand how rewarding a proactive and hardworking attitude can be. There are ample opportunities for staff to enhance their knowledge, work in different areas and gain greater experience. Helping others learn is my passion.

What is the first thing you do when you get into work?
Switch my trainers for my shoes. I park about 2km from our building to give my legs a good stretch in the morning and at the end of the day. Simultaneously I review the colour-coded handwritten (very nerdy) task list on my desk. My task list approach goes back to my days as an administrator when I would have 101 different jobs to do at the same time – it keeps me on track, acts as a reminder, helps with prioritisation and is an explicit update for colleagues in my absence. Five job roles later and this simple prioritisation technique is still helping to ensure I never miss deadlines and am always organised.

Who are the two to three people that you talk to every day?
My line manager, my team and our receptionist. Having worked on reception before I know what a challenging role it can be; on those challenging days a short bit of positive conversation can really remind you that you are a valued colleague. One of the best organisational awareness resources we have in our arsenal is our receptionists. They have some of the largest professional networks in the university and speak to more staff than the majority of colleagues.

What is the best thing about your job?
Variety. Alongside my core responsibilities, I try to get involved in wider projects and initiatives where possible, such as our institution going for the Customer Services Excellence Award and AUA (Association of University Administrators) Mark of Excellence. Our team shares responsibility for looking after the Twitter (@LJMULDF and @AUA_LJMU) and website, as well as being involved in strategic discussions relating to our marketing and communications. I often guest lecture on our undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes, and have volunteered through our outreach team in student recruitment supporting literacy and numeracy development in local primary schools.

What is your biggest challenge?
Encouraging colleagues to see the value in taking time out periodically to reflect and learn from their experiences. We’re often so busy we forget to think about what we’ve done, how we did it and why we did it; exploring our approaches to tasks and challenges and measuring our success against our own expectations and others are essential components for learning and progression. Everyone’s goal should be to make their work more impactful and influential and spending five or so minutes a week to think about this can make a big difference in how you do things next time.

How did you get into your job?
I started as a placement student in 2008 in a marketing and communication assistant role at LJMU. As a schools and colleges liaison assistant I discovered my passion for helping others with their development and working in HE. I began gravitating towards tasks that encompassed helping others with learning and delivery of sessions and activities, working with staff and students.

What is it about your personality that makes you suitable for your role?
I’m friendly, hardworking and a good problem-solver.

Which five words sum up your typical day?
Communication, challenging, energising, enjoyable and rewarding.

If you weren’t in this role, what would you be?
One of our sector’s unsung HE heroes, like the receptionist who asks the student how their studies are going or the staff member who puts on their brightest smile as they serve the coffee in the cafe. Outside HE, I’d love to either be a sushi chef (I am a Level One qualified sushi chef), a stay-at-home dad or a writer. At the moment I’m writing a comedy play called The Wise Wizard of the Tangerine Tree and a sci-fi adventure novel, A Priori: Midas, City of Light.

Want to be featured? Just drop a line to paddy.smith@wildfirecomms.co.uk