We all know that administrators have busy schedules. They and their assistants often comment on the number of meetings and events that they have scheduled on their calendars. Administrators are known for having long hours. Getting in early and staying late are common for administrators. However, the “busy administrator” may not be the best approach to leadership as we emerge from COVID and move into whatever our “new normal” may be.
First, the issue of busy is no different from the “there is no money for that” approach to leadership. Nearly every educator can remember at least one time when some project, set of materials, new technology, or additional staff were identified as a great idea, but there was “no money available” for the project. Except for those schools or districts that were literally bankrupt, there is always money. It is a matter of setting priorities. Budgets are simply a fiscal method of setting priorities. So, sadly, “there isn’t any money for X” is a potentially polite way of saying, “that is not an institutional priority.”
A more honest approach might be to ask staff to make recommendations as to where to cut if the new ask was to be added to the budget. Most understand budgets are finite, but sometimes there are ways to reduce costs to include new projects.
In the same way, administrators who are not able to schedule time to meet with faculty or staff are stating their priorities. Many have worked with the administrator who is happy to chat with you at an event while looking around to see if there is someone more important to chat with and then quickly ending the conversation when such a person appears.
Scheduling is the same process. One of the simplest ways to provide access to staff is to schedule open door or drop-in hours in the same way faculty schedule office hours for students. Providing at least a few open hours for faculty each week sends the message that an administrator is available for faculty and staff. Alternatives can include providing sack lunch times, coffee and donut times, or similar venues on a regular basis. One provost used to host a lunch every other week for any interested parties on a predetermined topic. These could be done virtually for those working in remote situations as well in traditional settings.
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