Abridgements of two from Insider Higher Education. Full articles here and here.
5 Mistakes of Rookie Deans
July 24, 2015
Welcome to the world of being a dean — one of the most daunting and rewarding jobs in academe. …
In my journey, I have talked with many deans and identified the top five mistakes rookie deans make, along with some helpful advice on how to avoid them.
1. Underestimating the knowledge, skills and abilities it takes to do the job well.
- Develop the mental capacity to know a little about a lot versus being narrow and deep.
- Envision what you want success to look like so that you lead your team in a positive direction.
- Understand how to delegate.
2. Overestimating the power and influence one has in the role.
- Take seriously responsibility “power,” but don’t let it go to your head.
- Always share the credit.
- Focus on how to engage people enough that they want to follow your lead.
3. Lacking sufficient knowledge about managing oneself.
Take charge of your schedule and priorities.
- Manage your time.
- Control your ego and develop a thick skin.
- Managing stress. Sort and prioritize and delegate. Talk out tough issues, be honest, reflect and work for clarity, take breaks and stay active.
4. Lacking sufficient knowledge of how to generate and allocate resources across the enterprise.
5. Underappreciating the art and science of relationship building.
Pursue each relationship within our college and our university and relationships with alumni, donors and friends of the institution as opportunity to build a lifelong, mutually beneficial relationship. These can be pursued through listening tours, outreach to other deans, strategic planning committees, faculty/staff town hall meetings and road trips.
A Few More Rookie Dean Mistakes
July 27, 2015 – 9:26pm
The five mistakes it highlights, it gets right, but I’d add a few.
Applying the standards of proof for an academic publication to daily decision making.
I remember being struck by how quickly a few facts or anecdotes became conclusive. If you start picking those apart, though, you quickly discover why: if you wait for anything decisive, you will wait years. So you have to learn when the call for more analysis is actually helpful, as opposed to when it comes across simply as a delaying tactic.
Taking the first answer as the last answer.
Many people will respond to any suggestion with a knee-jerk “no” that sounds definitive, but is really a version of “I’m not used to that yet.”
Acceptance of new ideas isn’t automatic. It’s a process. That means building some of that time into your process, and accepting that some initial reactions may be discouraging.
Being the smartest person in the room.
When teaching, it’s easy to fall into the trap of being the smartest person in the room. But in administration, if you feel the need to prove yourself all the time, you’ll burn bridges and look ridiculous.
The best administrators I’ve known make a point of surrounding themselves with very smart people, and listening to them. That can mean allowing someone lower on the food chain to win, simply by having the better argument. When you defer to the better argument — when you allow truth to trump rank — you create an environment in which all that intelligence becomes an asset. [emphases, Ryan] If the chief has to win every time, then the organization is limited to the vision of the chief.
Every college has quirky arrangements that make no sense on paper, but that work. Or they’re the least-bad compromises among warring factions. It can be tempting to regard those as low-hanging fruit, but be careful. Ask questions first, and listen for the pauses. The part of the sentence that tails off is often the most important. “We would have changed that, but, well, you know…”
Remembering Too Much
Finally, accept that you’ll make mistakes, and sometimes have best-available moves seen as mistakes. Learn from them, but don’t dwell on them. Forgive yourself the honest goofs, own them, and move on.