TITLE: Famous Last Words AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: April 11, 2014 10:29 AM DESC: ----- BODY: With respect for Rands, I've adapted a paragraph from one of his engineering management pieces to my experience:
You're a department chair now. Congratulations. Either you sucked at teaching and research and wanted to try a different avenue of influence, or you're fed up with every other chair you've worked for and now you're going to REALLY GOING TO SHOW US how it's done.
It's much easier to be fed up than to show people how it's really done. Trust me. This week has been a challenge. I have faced several things that need to be done well. Most of them are, in ways, peripheral to the core mission of the department and university, but they are important to students, faculty, and external stakeholders. If they are handled poorly, the experience people have will undercut everything else we do well. So these are the things that a department head must do well, in the trenches and with not much fanfare. They consume a lot of emotional energy an introvert like me, and they don't offer a lot of immediate, tangible rewards. But they are worth my attention. After a number of years in this position, I have found that it's a lot easier for me to imagine knocking the ball out of the park than to make contact. I keep working at it. In this regard, I have begun to learn to combine empathy with the proper application of a scientific mindset to how people behave. This idea is echoed in a passage from Timothy Burke:
Anything that real people do in the world is by definition interesting. By "interesting", I mean worthy of the kind of investigation that puts curiosity and honesty well before judgment.
Curiosity about individual people and honest communication are generally my best tools in the trenches. Forgetting to turn off the judgment centers in my brain never works well. -----