Senior Educational Consultant
July 30, 2012
By Amy Gross
At the end of June I had the privilege of helping with the IDEA Department Chair Seminar, held in Chicago. As a staff person, I sat in the back of the room and, like a fly on the wall, got to observe and learn. We had four wonderful presenters engaging us on four critical topics for academic department chairs – and topics relevant to the work I do as well! Peter Seldin addressed evaluating college teaching; Mary Lou Higgerson helped us learn about managing conflict and especially difficult people; Walt Gmelch facilitated a session on leadership and team building; and Susan West Engelkemeyer finished the program with “navigating the white waters of change.” I found myself taking copious notes. While I am not an academic department chair, the work of The IDEA Center is certainly all about faculty evaluation and leadership development – and we are always navigating through change, and I have found that on occasion conflict does arise. I wanted to share some of the nuggets of wisdom and themes that made me stop and reflect about my own leadership journey. Some of the thoughts below came from the seminar facilitators – and others from the wisdom of the participants.
- Change is like a rubber band – the harder you resist, the more likely it is to “snap.”
- You have to commit to doing something different in order to change.
- Value data and evidence that is presented to you, but trust your intuition – it matures with you.
- Develop your own ground rules for managing conflict and set boundaries around how people can treat you. What are your ground rules for engagement?
- “Managing” conflict is not just solving the problem.
- Change and leadership are journeys – not a destination. So manage the journey.
- Reflection is necessary – when can you make time for yourself?
- There are times where you need to step out of the situation and look at it from the perspective of a third person. What would a non-participant observer see?
- Leadership is about building a community of colleagues, setting direction, and empowering and engaging others.
- Leadership style is about your core values (e.g., transparency, “first among equals,” diversity, humor and laughter) and adapting to what a given situation requires.
- It is not what you do as a teacher (or as a leader), but why you do it.
- Chocolate is a great reward and always a favorite whether you are 2 or 82!
Peter Seldin asks his students three questions that I think can be applied not just to improving teaching, but also improving leadership, facilitating change, and managing conflict:
- What are we doing that is helping your learning (or facilitating the change, leading effectively, or helping to manage conflict)?
- What are we doing that is hindering your learning (or change, effective leadership, conflict resolution)?
- What can we do differently to improve?
After all, each of us is a work in progress and we need time and opportunities to reflect and learn. The IDEA Seminar for Department Chairs provided an opportunity for us to step away from our daily work and focus on ourselves. Even as a “fly on the wall” I reflected and learned. I hope you can join us at our next seminar, November 8-9, 2012 in St. Pete Beach, Florida.