I’ve taken over as Department Head approximately 8 months ago and our Provost took us to this conference so we could learn some of the tips, tricks, and just generally, the ropes in general about running a department. I have to say I’m impressed. I’ve had a session or two that were perhaps not particularly valuable. But for the most part, most sessions have been extremely valuable. So, to share a little of what I learned (and to document it for myself for future reference), I will share with each of you here my take aways from each session I attended.
1. Thursday 8:00-9:00: Keynote Address from Dr. Carolyn Jarmon, Rochester: “Addressing Traditional Trade-Offs”. She presented something she referred to as the ‘iron triangle’. At each point, were cost, access, and student learning. Changing one affects each of the other corners of the triangle. There are pressures from state legislatures to enlarge class sizes and cut costs. Per the iron triangle, that might suggest that student learning has to suffer. But, by leveraging I.T. and through course redesign, this mandate just might be achievable. Having participated in course redesign at my institution, I found her argument inspiring and encouraging. But, course redesign can be used not just to improve student learning. It can also be used to reduce instructional costs, thus helping to achieve the mandate from many legislatures. Team effort is key from all constituents including administration, faculty, I.T., and assessment experts. Results help to reinforce the use of course redesign. Cost savings range between 5% and 81% with an average of 34%. Improved learning occurred in 72% of the cases. Why not the other 28%? Recall, a goal might be to reduce costs rather than improving student learning. If student learning is already strong but costly, this makes perfect sense. Introductory courses are usually well suited. I am thinking of BCIS 1305 and Marketing 2314 from our department, the introductory CIS and Principles of Marketing respectively. The point is, course redesign transcends disciplines. It tends to use less lecture and involve more engagement. It tends to use more software (that can automatically measure student involvement). It also includes deadlines to provide structure for students. Lastly, course redesign results in increased feedback and opportunity for mastery from students. One interesting side example given was a math lab in which math students from several different courses (algebra, trig, and calculus) might be working on computers, working through problems. A faculty member, along with GAs (it was a particularly large lab) staff the lab and students with questions place a red cup on top of their computer tower whenever they have a question. GAs triage questions and pass the more complicated questions on up to faculty when necessary. It was equated to the one room school house. Her last “take away” was what to do when we got home:
- Identify the problem
- Identify the team and inform others of redesign
- Review other re-designs on NCAT and others
- Review NCAT guide for academic area
- Visit other institutions who have re-designed with success
- Review resources available for the re-design
- Establish the plan and get going (no analysis paralysis)
She concluded with her contact information at www.theNCAT.org and cjarmon@theNCAT.org. Overall, it was an excellent kick off to the conference and as previously mentioned, having gone through a course re-design and now being department head, it has me thinking about some other classes that we should target.
2. My first regular session was “Performance Management Or “Herding Cats”? Strategies to Support Faculty Success by D. Bratson-Prince and R. Bagley of Iowa State University. This one set the bar high as it was one of, if not the best session I attended. LOTS of great information. As department heads, we manage resources. Resources come in several different forms: funding, space, and of course, people. As it relates to people we want to develop successful faculty. But, there are challenges: research demands, lack/loss of motivation, power related issues (tenured vs. non-tenured relationships), etc. To be successful, you must understand “the animal”. To herd cats, you simply have to know what motivates them. We were then presented with two slides. The first was a picture of cats all over the place, doing their own things. The next was of each cat, lined up…at a food dish. Clearly, food was their motivation. Some might argue that faculty fall into a similar camp. What makes working with faculty difficult in the first place? It is by design. They are by their very nature, intelligent, independent, opinionated thinkers. In order to manage their performance, you need to address four things:
- Process (for expectations and providing feedback)
- Formative and Evaluative
- Outcomes Based
But, the benefits of performance management are numerous:
- Faculty know where they stand
- Chairs gain insights into motivations
- It enables you to retain productive people
- It contributes to the overall success of the team
- It contributes to their success-salary, promotion, recognition
Set and communicate expectations, be specific, and hold people accountable. Some of the pitfalls include:
- Knowing what your role is; being unclear is problematic
- Providing unclear, vague, or ambiguous performance expectations
- Avoid minimizing, justifying, or ignoring a problem
- Avoid letting a pattern develop
- You must get to the root of a problem/cause
- Don’t let the past pile on
- Do not make it personal. Keep it professional
- Write a narrative story. See my second to last entry in this post.
- Keep factual, not personal
- Shows you treated them fairly, consistently, within policy
- Proves you put them on notice of expectations, performance, or behavior
- Establishes timeline
As part of this, having an inclusivity or collegiality statement in faculty handbook that covers bullying, harassment, etc might be helpful. They also mentioned the use of DISC four quadrants as being a useful tool to facilitate communications with faculty. Back to motivations, 6 sources include personal, social, structural, … All in all, this was an excellent presentation which opened my eyes as to some of the breadth of my responsibilities as the head of my department.
3. My next session was “Developing a Succession and Transition Plan for Chairs”. I have to admit, this one was a bit odd, particularly since my Provost sat in on the same session. She told me I became department head too recently to be considering succession. Nevertheless, I took away some good tips and tricks from this one as well. Essentially, we have both formal and informal approaches for developing future chairs. Formal methods include having an assistant chair position or support for other leadership positions in which faculty can develop leadership capability. Informal methods include tapping search committee chairs or “Friday Chairs”, those who fill in for the chair when they are away on business/vacation. One of the challenges for outgoing chairs is recognizing that you won’t get everything done that you want to. I can easily see this issue and I myself sometimes feel overwhelmed just with the day to day running of the department. In this sense, this conference did not help as I have identified several holes in how I have run the department so for. So, I have some catching up to do there. Anyway, some of the challenges for an incoming chair include:
- Paperwork (the volume of it)
- Adjustments to relationships (I noticed this one myself)
- Making the department yours
- The feeling that you need to know everything and always be available
Some of the most valuable tools at your disposal as an incoming department head/chair include:
- Consultations and warnings
- Administrative assistants
- Professional friendships: cohorts and mentorships
- Meetings (informal and retreats)
- Forward or CC on emails
- Continuing relationship with previous department chair/head if possible. They can be a great resource due to their institutional knowledge.
Lessons learned for future department head transitions:
- Solve personnel issues first (re-appointments, P&T, etc.)
- Discussion of the budget
- Identify programs or initiatives that need to be kept or can be discarded from the outgoing department head/chair
- Ask the question “Does this decision make the job harder for the next person?”
- Share and include the incoming chair in memos, calendars, and checklists
- Go meet with the Registrar and develop a relationship. They know about courses, scheduling, etc.
- Email students about changes (letting them know that you are the new department head)
- Keep a calendar about important things due so you know what is coming up next year.
This one was not quite as well presented as the first session I attended but the content was quite good. I certainly came away with some great nuggets that I can put into practice.
4. The next session I attended was titled “Developing and Supporting the Diversity of Chairpersons Roles. This was presented by several faculty from Augusta University. It was not quite what the title indicated but the description in the conference catalog is what attracted me to this session. They focused on a Chair Professional Development program that they have at their university. Awesome idea, huh? Why don’t we have something like this? It is included in their equivalent to CII in which they develop not only instructor’s/faculty teaching ability, but also, administrator’s (chairs specifically) leadership ability. They run this out of the Provost’s Office, sidestepping deans so they have direct communication. They have monthly meetings where they discuss resources and develop leadership. They facilitate the sharing of information and how to handle challenges. This one ties in to the previous session in that they emphasized the need to use delegation to help develop faculty for future administrative roles. The outcome of their development program is that it provides a safe place to vent (to your new peers of fellow department heads as opposed to faculty), results in more information sharing, skills development, lessons learned (FAQs), and even a Chair Resource Handbook. I found this one helpful. There was not perhaps the instant gratification of nuggets I could go back and use immediately. But, it reinforced previous sessions AND provided the nucleus of an idea that I would like to see our university incorporate at some point in the future.
5. My second to last session of the day was titled “Leveraging Technology for the Recruitment of Students and Faculty”. This was led by W. Hoon and C. Hirschler. Having an interest in promoting our department and programs as well as an interest in social media, I thought this session had the potential to be an interesting session. In the end, it was not quite what I expected but I did find it interesting. Get the program affiliated with every site you can to increase the links and raise your Google Page Rank. For example, he brought up Learn.Org as an example where he spent some time completing out their profile which to a lesser or greater degree, increases the visibility of his program. I would add Cappex.com as another possibility. I need to spend some time looking into this further but I can see the benefit of doing so. Make sure the university’s site is consistent in terms of content with your own site as well as both being current. Include pictures of students in action, engaged with activities relevant to their major. Video content is another winner. It does not have to be studio quality. Genuine is more important. Include a photo gallery. Lots of photos of students in action. Include multiple people/faculty as administrators to your FB page so they can post pics and whatnot to the page. Make use of Twitter and Instragram as well. They have a faculty member (it rotates) that has lunch in the cafeteria with their students to help answer questions and build a rapport and they just happen to take pictures there and post. They even tried a crowd funding campaign to raise funds for new equipment. This might be a good idea for our AITP to help fund travel to regional and national competitions!!! Include hyperlinks in your recruiting letters, email videos and show them at open houses, connect with alumni via LinkedIn and email students and ask them to like us on Facebook. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is solid and ask for recommendations and use videos. LinkedIn can be useful in finding quality adjunct professors. Overall, this was a decent session though I would not say anything earth shattering came from it. One point that I think they did help emphasize is that this is not easy. It takes work. All these tools are neat but content is king and generating and managing content can be time consuming.
6. The final session of the day was “A Blended Family: Leadership of Multi-Disciplinary Departments” by B. Bonnekessen and C. Patterson of Pittsburg State University. Having both Marketing and CIS in our department, I was interested in getting some of their insight. Unfortunately, I did not get a lot out of it. Their examples included departments with LOTS of different disciplines, in some cases 10 or more. I simply have two so their rationale behind having program coordinators did not seem particularly relevant in my situation. But, having little background in Marketing, this might be something to consider at some point if necessary. One take away I did get was that one of the presenters served as a chair in such an environment as an Assistant Professor. This led to the rather uncomfortable situation of doing performance evaluations on professors who outranked her. Her solution was to name three senior faculty members to a faculty review committee whom she worked with to perform reviews. As a result, she could argue that faculty were evaluated by not just her but also senior members of faculty peers. As a result, she could deflect some of the potential ire of some who might have questioned her legitimacy to review their work. That was a pretty nifty move. Regarding their use of program coordinators, they use a 3 year cycle to not allow anyone to dominate a program for too long. They also indicated that an administrative assistant is a MUST. I have to agree on that. They hold a lot of institutional knowledge. Good admins are invaluable.
The next day, the opening session was a panel discussion. I really did not get much out of this session but I did hear the interesting statistic that the University of New Orleans dropped from being 75% state funded to 25% in, I believe the guy said, 9 years. 9 YEARS!!! Amazing. This is a telling tale about the assault on higher education. We need to re-frame the how and why we invest in higher education. For me personally, I look at it like a research and development investment for a corporation. Sure, a corporation and drop research and development spending. It looks good on the books today. But, the real impact is 20 years in the future. But, that’s just my own little soap box.
1. The first actual session of the day was quite interesting. It was titled “The Four Quadrants of Administrative Effectiveness” by Robert Jenkins. The scales for each dimension were Responsibility and Control. We took a scaled down version of the instrument and while there was some question of validity (the instrument is in beta and we essentially we part of the validation process), many of us, myself included turned out to fall in the High Control, High Responsibility quadrant. More on that in a moment. The Low Control, High Responsibility (LCHR) group tends to represent the best administrators. They are liked and respected. They do not pass blame and they accept responsibility. They share credit and do not micro manage. They hire quality people and let them do their job. They trust people, seek consensus but are not afraid to make tough decisions. High Control, High Responsibility (HCHR), you know, like me;) tend to be well liked, often beloved. They give everything to the job. They sweat detail, start early and leave late. They send emails at 3 AM. They are very effective…to a point. They tend to burn out. They can also burn those around them out too…to the point that eventually, people start to avoid them, not because they do not like them but because they are afraid they are going to have more work assigned to them:( Low Control, Low Responsibility (LCLR) tend to be the least effective. They leave people alone (which faculty like) but there is a complete lack of direction. The are not control freaks and do not micro manage. They do not expect much of others or even themselves. They are rotten leaders because they do not lead. The autonomy is great until you need someone to steer the ship in which case it has to be a collective faculty endeavor. The last group, High Control, Low Responsibility (HCLR) are also ineffective. They can sometimes get short term gains but usually at the expense or morale. They constantly point fingers, take credit, always come from the position of “being the boss”, can sometimes be irrationally demanding, micro manage, sneer at those in the “trenches”. They are usually shown the door but not until they have done great damage to morale. In order to move your point to a more desirable spot on the control dimension, there are four key factors to consider: balance, empathy, transparency, and trust. Regarding balance, he gave the example of keeping all the balls in the air. But, the problem with that is that it is less about balance and more about being OCD. True balance is more about being in the moment, with the people around you, when you are supposed to be, doing what you are supposed to be doing. Balance is about scheduling, de-cluttering, and harmony. In order to do this, you need to prioritize. This leads to the 7 questions of prioritization:
- Does this need to be done?
- Why does this need to be done?
- When does this need to be done?
- Do I have to be the one to do it?
- How does it fit into my personal mission (statement)?
- What are the consequences of neglecting or putting it off?
- Who is relying on me to do this?
Two types of balance include work-life balance (often discussed) and work-work balance, which is what he addressed. Essentially, there are three types of tasks: those we like, don’t like, and indifferent about. We need to find an equitable equilibrium. Over your career, we should be moving to more ‘like’ and less ‘don’t like’. This leads to the paradox of leadership. Advancing to the department head role seems to take a step backwards on the work-work continuum. The choices are to step down, suck it up, or move to a better work-work balance where you are doing more things you like and fewer things you don’t like. Regarding empathy, it takes self awareness and humility. Recognize that you are not the center of the universe and stop dwelling on problems to solve other’s problems. If you understand where people are coming from, you might be less inclined to control everything they do. Transparency is a function of honesty. It requires that you relinquish control. It also require discretion. despite the need for transparency, some things must be “hidden” (i.e. medical issues of faculty). But, you should never have hidden agendas. The last way to move the point on the control dimension is through trust. This is another function of honesty. Trust is a two way street. You must give it if you expect it. Leaders that don’t trust tend to micro-manage. They roam the halls to check up on people which does not tend to go over well with faculty and can have a devastating effect on morale. Trust needs to be your default position. To show trust, treat people like professionals. deal with problems face-to-face, privately. Just because you have one bad apple, do not assume the rest are bad too. Be careful how you respond to complaints. Most complaints require no response whatsoever. Always assume your people are right until you know otherwise. Keep confidences (when able to). Tell the truth and follow through. Be reliable, predictable, and let people know you have their backs. Now, moving the point on the responsibility dimension. Know who you answer to, make sure you meet acceptable standards, and accept the consequences. You may be accountable to many. You may get to set some of the standards. But, you must accept the consequences for not only yourself, but also your academic unit. Integrity is another way to move on the responsibility continuum. It is a function of honesty. To thine own self be true. It boils down to simple truth telling. Fairness is another approach. This is a function of justice. But, it does not mean that life is always fair or treating everyone the same in every circumstance. He gave a little league example in which he would not let a player play a particular position not because he was truing to be mean but rather because they player was not yet performing at a high enough level and was liable to get hit by a hard, line drive ball. However, you do need to insure equality of opportunity. Make sure everyone has the same opportunity. Service is another way to move on the continuum. This too is a function of humility. Set aside egos. At times, step aside and let others lead. Cultivate the leadership of others. He gave the example of serving on a committee within the department BUT, make someone else the committee chair. Finally, you need courage to move on the responsibility continuum. There is the classic definition of courage as not being the absence of fear but rather, conquering some obstacle despite fear. There are several models of courage: personal, physical, political, and societal; self>others>principle, etc. But, you need the courage to do what is right. This will help you build trust and become a better leader. You need courage to take risks. To trust those around you, you need courage to take the risk that they will complete the task. You need courage to buck trends. Everyone says “think outside the box” but they do not really mean it. Not because they fear failure but because they fear being perceived as incompetent. You need courage to lead. “If the leader is going to be an a-hole, the leader might as well be me.” This means there is not leading from behind. True leaders are out front, whether they want to be or not. Finally, you need courage to confront. But, it does not have to be done with negativity. Approach with humility and in a constructive manner.
2. The next session was shorter but really needed a little more time. It was titled “The Art of C.Y.A.: Documentation for Department Chairs” by C. Barrick of the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. The message was clear: keep good records. Why? To support, inform, and justify future action. Evaluations can improve performance, can lead to evidence based decisions, and and provides a picture of what happened. Keeping good records is part of the job as an administrator. It is like keeping grades for faculty. What needs to be documented? Faculty events/incidents (complaints, inappropriate behavior, etc.), significant meetings/conversations, and student events/incidents. But, documentation does not have to only include negative things. You can also document student and faculty awards for example. The speaker the discussed his tool of choice: “Memo For Record”. 90% of the time, this is just for your own record and does not go into an employee or student’s file. It needs to become a record of habit, not just a document. The format does not really matter but needs to include who created, what it is regarding, and the date as well as narrative, bullet points or whatever to communicate the event. The content needs to include what happened and what was said. Do not interject opinion. Just the facts. First or third person is preferred with third being more preferable. Remember who potential reader might be; provosts, presidents, deans, lawyers, etc. Use full names and titles and do not abbreviate. Provide background when necessary or give specific references to previous documentation if it exists. Such documentation should be done as soon after an event as possible. Accuracy and detail are important. This does not mean it has to be a long, drawn out task. One page should suffice in most instances. Clear your schedule if necessary. Perhaps the last few minutes of each day is appropriate. To speed the process, have a template setup. In some instances, you might even be able to record such meetings. To me, depending on the circumstances, this could include using a web cam in the office to record, with everyone’s knowledge, meetings between faculty, students, or whomever. As for who to include, recognize that most MFR will never see the light of day. If necessary, email the dean or other appropriate party. Email provides a time-stamp which can help strengthen your documentation. It was during this discussion that I though about including an MFR template in each faculty Google Drive folder as well as a more generic student folder. File name should be MFR-date-and then the RE line in the memo. The last point he made was on papering. Do not, under any circumstances, start to over document after and event occurred. It is too easy to observe and weakens your case. You must consistently and repeatedly document all events, regardless of who it is.
3. The final session I attended was titled “The Art and Science of Evaluating Online Programs” by M. Smith and K. Alder of A.T. Still University. Having an online program, our MS-IS program, I thought this would be interesting. Also, given my background in assessment, not that I am a guru by any stretch, it just added to my curiosity. But, it was not quite what I expected, not that I really knew what to expect. But, I did still have some take aways. They use TK20 for student surveys. They survey student half way through the semester. They survey them again at the end of the semester. They give their faculty the curriculum (they are some sort of health/medical school) and so the instructors themselves are also surveyed at the end of the semester. They survey graduates and ask questions like what they liked, didn’t like, courses, etc. This survey also includes collecting employer information so they can then turn around and survey employers which they do once per year. They usually have to mail those surveys but the information they get is invaluable and helps them validate their program competencies or objectives. They also conduct alumni surveys.
All in all, this was a great conference. I came away with some great information and some ideas about things we should consider doing at Tarleton State University. I saw real value in this and mentioned to our provost who also attended, that I could see real value in experienced chair returning periodically to kind of “retool”. I highly recommend this conference if you are moving to or are already in higher education administration.http://conferences.k-state.edu/academicchairpersons/