Colin Powell made a strong impression when he was asked by one of my fellow junior officers to speak at an event. Powell was asked in part as a role model for the black officers. Although Powell was unable to attend, he sent a note back to my fellow lieutenant with a list of other senior black officers he thought would be good speakers for the event and offered to ask them on our behalf. That was an excellent way of saying no. It is better than simply saying no or informing you that their assistant will get in touch “if there is room in my schedule.” As one administrator responded, her job is simply to respond to emails and messages. Effective administrators need to make sure that those they lead are heard and feel they have a clear channel to communicate their concerns and desires to leadership.
Visibility is an important leadership tool as well. There are those administrators who are happy to show up for photo ops, but don’t stick around afterward to chat with the community. It is important for leaders to be visible, particularly when there is not a crowd expecting them. Intentional visibility by walking around through offices, in classroom buildings, and throughout campus is a great way to show concern and get a firsthand view of how things are going. Greeting students at the schoolhouse door the first few days of classes is a great way to be visible. Joining students or staff for lunch in the cafeteria is another good way of being accessible to folks on campus. Visiting department meetings can be useful as well to better understand faculty concerns. At events, mingle informally instead of only being present for the formal portion. One dean makes sure they have bobby pins, safety pins, and such to make sure they can help address any list minute wardrobe issues at commencement. That sets her apart from the others on stage. Students and faculty know she is there to help. When visiting classrooms, I would often ask if there was anything the teacher needed. It wasn’t uncommon to for me send post it notes, dry erase markers, and other basic supplies to those teachers who had requested such simple supplies.
Time is the most important thing for administrators to give to their faculty and staff. Beyond time itself, administrators need to show sincere appreciation for those who work for them. Being visible and accessible are two simple ways to show appreciation. Most people will work harder for those who are viewed as appreciative. We all know administrators have packed schedules, but helping their schedule by empowering people and hearing their stories and daily experiences will improve both their leadership and potentially the span of their impact.
- How administrators can give campus staff what they need - September 19, 2022
- Make them tell you no - June 21, 2022
- 3 ways universities can work with the student in mind - April 12, 2022