Wednesday, February 10, 2010


The last two-three months have been really crazy due in part to an important leadership role in a university service.  All in all it was a really valuable learning experience in regard to how things really work at universities (or at least my university).  I'll share a few take home messages from this in a generalized form: (1)  if you are asked to chair a committee only agree to do so if you have major input into the make up of the committee (probably the most important part of reaching a favorable solution/recommendation), (2) the real action should happen outside the meeting (you should be talking with the key players on the committee making sure they up to speed before the meeting), don't blindside people with big proposals in a meeting and expect them to be on board, (3) get a mentor/confidant, especially if you are new to a leadership role (find someone outside the direct impact of the outcome so they can give you advice not colored by their personal stake, and it has to be someone you can totally trust and share details with so you can bounce ideas off them or get suggestions when things get tough), and (4) work your connections/relationships/networks to get a favorable outcome (this is how things work in reality, not some idealized neutral system so use the system to your benefit to get information or share it when needed with key players).

Overall I'm happy with the outcome of my assignment and it has fit within the best case scenario window identified at the start.  It's a little anti-climactic, but I think that is just exhaustion.  It took a lot more time, and mental energy than I envisioned when I agreed to do the job, but because of my personal stake in the outcome it was worth it.  I also learned a lot about working with people and finding the things that will make them cringe or get on board.  However, it has made me realize that being a good leader is a lot of work, and that's something I'll file in my head for consideration down the road.

Now it's back to the daily grind of teaching, grants, papers, my regular service obiligations, graduate admissions and recruiting, etc.  I'm trying to focus on aligning my time allocation with my priorities research, papers and grants because I find that graduate recruiting and teaching are overwhelming me right now.  I'm trying to follow some tips on this from an article I read in Inside Heigher Ed (thanks Aurora for the tip).  Started tracking my time yesterday and I'm realizing that the ever urgent nature of teaching and appointments seem to suck much of my time.  Tomorrow I'm going to take a writing day to try to focus on getting this in balance (and getting a good draft of my way overdue book chapter).  Also need to regroup and focus on the expectations for promotion to full professor.  (I fear this means ramping up the travel again.)

I'd love to hear your tips for aligning your tim alocation with your long term career goals.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Mommy-Engineer, You've made four very good points about committees and being chair. Often (not always) the purpose of having a committee is to support the chair of the committee in achieving certain goals. It can make for a difficult situation if committee members frequently and loudly disagree with the chair so the choice of members and connecting with them outside the meetings are important as you say.