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Author Topic: Advice before going into Admin  (Read 19309 times)
3crazies
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« on: February 04, 2012, 4:39:23 PM »

Wise Colleagues,

I'm asking for advice.  I'm going into admin later this year and am trying to prepare myself for the transition.  I have wonderful mentors so I think I have some aspects covered, but wondered if any of you who have made the transition have any advice to offer?

I've been a tenured faculty member for some time and am married to a tenured faculty member at the same institution.  My new position will not oversee faculty so there is no issue there, but as you may imagine much of our social network is made up of faculty. 

Thanks in advance for any advice.

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brixton
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« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2012, 7:16:19 PM »

Be prepared to see people who are normally reasonable become unreasonable about things that aren't entirely clear.

There is always a faculty member at every college that has the faculty handbook memorized.  Make good friends with him.  (Sorry it is usually a him.)  He usually delights in being able to site bylaw and page number.  If someone comes to you with a problem that ought to have a policy, use your fac-handbook guru.  This person also usually knows Roberts' Rules; if you have to run those sorts of meetings, use and praise  him/her for the knowledge held.  His knowledge will become a thorn in your side unless you use him frequently and defer to him often.  99.9%, when it comes to college policy, he's right.

When someone is driving you crazy about a particular issue, suggest a meeting.  If it really is a problem, the person will jump at the suggestion.  If it isn't a problem, they'll back out of your office very fast and say that they think they can find a solution.

Always distinguish between "trouble-talk" and "problem-solving."  If the person is just doing trouble-talk, they don't want you to fix things so don't try to.  In that case, a pad with a furrowed brow are your best tools. How can you tell the difference?  See point made, above.

I've said this on other threads, but when someone mentions a lawyer, pull out your "general counsel" script:  Oh, you don't need a Dean, you need our general counsel.  I'm here to help you problem solve, but if you want to talk about your legal options, you'll want to call this number.

Put everything that matters in writing.  After you've talked with someone and you think that you've reached a solution, write a cheerful, upbeat note to them saying:  "Thanks for meeting with me. I'm glad I better understand the issues.  I think what we've decided to do is x, y, z.  I can't start x until you get me a, b, c.  So I'll wait anxiously for that information."  This prevents the month later, angry call that says why didn't you do x, y, z.  You pull up the email and say "Why, I thought I needed a, b, c, for you.  Let me resend this email I have.  Till then --I'll anxiously await that information!"

When an issue on campus becomes contentious, be prepared to be asked what you think.  Or what the president thinks.  Or what the Provost thinks.  Be aware that whatever you say (and even if you don't say anything) will be spread with some odd twists to the original statement.

Be prepared to approach email in a wholly new way.  It is a place where people go to vent.  Never open your email unless you're ready for their vent.  Never respond to vents until 24 hours have passed.  The issue will always look completely different 24 hours from now.

Don't respond to email if your eyelids are hot.  This is a sign that your blood pressure is up, and you will never sound rational.

Answer every email, even the most nasty, with a "Thanks XXX,  That is really helpful information that I didn't initially know." It's amazing how that simple statement can change everything that you say after writing it.  One of my high points in administration was when someone wrote an angry and hostile email about my department.  I used that line:  "Thanks XXX,  That is really helpful information that I didn't initially know."   I added, "I know you're a good friend to my department, the Center of Happiness of Hope,...  Regarding the issue that you raise, it as actually more complicated than that..."  Which, writing it now seems over the top, but we've been good buddies ever since.

No one can get mad at you if you invite them for lunch.  If they were initially angry, the invite freaks them out and they never respond.  If they actually want to solve the problem, they usually say yes, and the world is a brighter place after lunch.

That's probably enough for now, but I'll add more as they occur.
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brixton
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« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2012, 10:17:27 PM »

Sorry, one more:  Make exercise a priority, especially if you can do it at a scheduled time at the end of the day.  At  6 or 7, mark in your calendar (COIP  Committee of Important People).  Then leave your office and exercise.  If you have more work to do after, you can always go back.  But keep in mind: exercise can focus you and make you realise that you really don't have to go back.  The work will still be there tomorrow.

 For exercise, consider shadow boxing, kick boxing, or really anything that involves flailing out at imaginary targets.  Avoid spinning.  That's too close to your work. 

Good luck
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3crazies
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« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2012, 11:26:05 AM »

Thanks, Brixton!  I appreciate the advice and will use it!

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history_anon
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« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2012, 4:23:43 PM »

Thanks, Brixton!  Words of wisdom to live by.
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bevo98
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Dr. Pepper


« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2012, 8:56:17 AM »

Thanks Brixton!  These will be helpful for me as well.  I think the CHE forums might become a form of therapy.
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How you expect to run with the wolves come night when you spend all day sportin' with puppies?  Omar Little
brixton
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« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2012, 12:21:00 PM »

It definitely serves as such for me.  Good luck!
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aandsdean
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Positively impactful on stakeholder synergies


« Reply #7 on: February 19, 2012, 12:41:08 PM »

It definitely serves as such for me.  Good luck!

Lord yes.
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Que scay-je?
itried
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« Reply #8 on: March 04, 2012, 9:19:59 AM »

Avoid spinning. That's too close to your work.

This made me laugh!
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bevo98
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Dr. Pepper


« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2012, 8:48:21 AM »

I am actually thinking about taking up boxing thanks to Brixton. 
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How you expect to run with the wolves come night when you spend all day sportin' with puppies?  Omar Little
dr_prephd
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« Reply #10 on: March 05, 2012, 8:59:22 AM »

Brixton, that was fabulous!
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tw1554
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« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2012, 1:33:43 AM »

3crazies: best of luck...if admin doesn't work out we'll take you back :-)  if you aren't into actual exercise, bowling works to!

Brixton: absolutely fabulous and spot on :-) SWAK!
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barred_owl
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« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2012, 1:59:39 AM »

Wow!  Brixton nailed it in one.  WTG, Brixton!

The only pitiful words of wisdom I could add to Brixton's very astute comments are these, from a former provost (who uttered this thought about a month before I crossed over to the dark side):  "The first two people to visit you in your office are the trouble-makers."

Sadly, fortunately, opportunistically, and in 20-20 hindsight, that provost spoke the truth.  

Case in point:  For me, as a dean of Arts & Sciences at a CC (once upon a time), the first two people in my office, respectively, were an Art professor and an Art History professor.  I suspected that I'd have problems with both of them (per said provost's warning), but I had no idea how those problems would play out.  During the time I served as dean, those two had more battles (including physical provocation, in the form of one purposefully stopping at my office to kick the chair out from under the other) than any of the other faculty, combined.  Unfortunately (I suppose), both had tenure, so both felt free to have at it, as the need arose, without any fear of real retribution.

I regret that the wise provost whose words of wisdom came true for me didn't really suggest a means of dealing with tenured trouble-makers.  I guess that's why he's a provost and I'm not.

« Last Edit: April 15, 2012, 2:00:12 AM by barred_owl » Logged

...I can't help rooting for the underdog underbird.
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