Friday, April 15, 2011

of two minds

Call them leaders and them teachers and them employees and them whatever you want, but within any given organization there are two disctinct groups of people - those who do the essential work of the organization and those who organize, direct, control, and plan (classic management functions) for the organization. While I am all for flat organizations - and for roles rather than titles - and for sharing the workload...I also know that these two groups of people are mostly in those roles because that is how they think. Today's blog comes from a conversation I had yesterday afternoon with one of Concordia's faculty - and the discussion came down to how faculty anbd administrators think - and ultimately how they see the world and act in that world. I have found that the hardest thing we have to do in organizations is to put ourselves in other people's shoes. In my organization, administrators want faculty to think like administrators...and faculty want administrators to think like faculty. Personally, I am glad that they don't think like each other, becasue then one of them would be unnecessary (I know of many faculty who beleive that administrators are unnecessary - and vice versa). Each group of people are charged with different roles within the institution, and they need to live out those roles with that unique set of eyes. One of the potential problems we see in institutions is that those who do their main calling well (i.e. teaching) get promoted to an administrative level (i.e. dean). While there is nothing wrong with that in and of itself, one of the hard shifts that never takes place is that the person receiving the promotion needs to remove their former "hat" and put on a new one. A dean within the University setting is no longer a faculty member and needs to stop thinking like a faculty member in their dean role. A faculty member who wants to act like a dean will often find themself frustrated and make comments or accusations from a place they have never been or understood. That being said, I believe there are people who do think like an administrator and should be given the opportunity to use that thinking - and then be trained for an administrative role in the future. I recently put together an interim sucession plan for my college, and as I went around to the faculty asking whom they thought I should name as an interim sucessor, it was 100% unanimous. The person they all believed should take on the role was the same one I also had thought would be best at it. This person is a tremendous teacher and faculty member - but also shows administrative abilities...and when asked about future goals named an administrative position. Here's what's interesting...this particular faculty member never complains about administrative decisions (not the norm for most faculty). On the flip side, I have colleagues in adminsitrative positions who should be back in faculty positions. They think like faculty, they talk like faculty and they act like faculty. They are - by very nature faculty - and were moved into an administrative position by default most times. I often see them frustrated at the administration (even though they ARE the administration) and see their world through faculty eyes. One of the problems in most organizations is that it is almost impossible to "go back" to previous positions because the pay will be less. I do not know what the solution for this can be - but it sure would help to put people where they can best use their talents and gifts for the good of the organization. A book I read a long time ago, based on the Myers-Briggs personality types, was entitled Please Understand Me. My pleas is that leaders and followers...teachers and administrators...employees and bosses begin to better understand one another. Please understand that each group thinks differently from the other...please understand that much of this different type of thinking has to do with gifts and talents...please understand that when one complains about the other it is through their own unique view of the world and not about the actions of the other person...please understand that each group is doing their best work as they know how and sometimes needs to be told that how they see the world may be in conflict with how the other group sees the world...please understand that those who are REALLY good at what they do can often get myopic and need to reminded of the other group's mindset...please understand that TRUST of the other group can go a long way in building relationships...please understand that each group has a unique calling and vocation that needs to be honored...and please understand that each group needs the other. In my world, a college without faculty would cease to exist as there would be no one doing the work of the institution - and a college without administrators would cease to exist as there would be no buildings, no paychecks, and no plans from which to continue operating. As one who sees the world through an adminsitrative lens, I am thankful for my colleagues who see the world through a faculty lens - I hope and pray they feel the same way about me.

Friday, April 8, 2011

an end...and a beginning

All stories have a beginning and an end. The beginning is often at the - well - beginning; and the end is at the end (nothing gets by me, does it). However, today's story will begin with an end and end with a beginning... The past month's blogs have been mostly about my journey in a quest for the presidency at Concordia University, St. Paul. From being falling in trusting the process - I have discovered a lot about myself and my hopes and dreams regarding my vocation and calling. If you have not yet heard, Tom Ries received the call to be the 9th president of Concordia University, St. Paul this past Monday. I received the phone call informing me of the Board's decision at 3:53 PM. A bit dissapointing...a bit disheartening..and a bit of sadness - these feelings have all come and gone during this past week. It has been an END to a really great part of my life. Over the past 5 months (my inital letter of intent went to the Board on October 30, 2010) I have done the following:

  • read the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on a daily basis off of my Kindle

  • talked with numerous people in the Twin Cities area to better understand the school

  • read multiple books and articles on what it means to be a college president

  • pictured myself in the role and how I would react to different situations

  • prayed with friends and colleagues about the position

  • learned all kinds of things about myself through the lens of a college president

  • learned about all aspects of the University by asking questions of my colleagues

  • explored the housing market in St. Paul and Minneapolis

  • made new friends at Concordia, St. Paul and elsewhere

  • and much, much more...

But that now comes to an END...but rather than close this book and place it on the shelf, I have chosen to let it lead to a new BEGINNING. One of my strengths is that of LEARNER, so I have now begun to ask the question of what I have learned from this experience and how I can put that learning into practice for this new beginning. While my title continues to remain Dean of the College of Business, I am no longer the same Dean I was before October 30, 2010. I have been given a set of tools to use in this position that I did not have before, and my goal is to use those tools in this new beginning. Here's are the questions I will ask to guide me in this journey...

  • Understanding more deeply the big picture of a university, how can I position my College to expand and grow at an even quicker rate?

  • Having put in place an interim succession plan, how will I use that to develop people in their leadership skills and capacity?

  • Having had to consider a vision for an entire University, can a vision for the College of Business now be even more robust and energizing?

  • Having pictured myself in the role of President, what can I take from that to leverage my role as a Dean of this College?

  • With many friends and colleagues having told me they are glad I am staying at CTX, how can I now better serve them in reaching their goals and dreams?

  • How will what I learned about myself through this process prepare me for what comes next in my current role?

  • Having made many new connections, especially at CSP, how will I not only keep those alive but partner with these new friends to serve God's Kingdom?

  • Knowing that a part of my "falling in love" with CSP was its urban/diverse setting, where and how will I use that passion to further the Kingdom of God?

  • Having tasted the role of being a college president, what are the next steps in my growth toward having that opportunity in the future?

  • What questions are important for me to ask - especially over the next month - to fully realize the learning I can receive from this process?

I am excited about this beginning - it is almost as if this is the first day of the rest of my life. And though the ending was not what I might have wanted at this time, I know that this beginning is just that - a BEGINNING that will have yet another ending of which I am not aware. And so, I end this story with a beginning, and share these words which I came across the first morning of my new beginning...

I leave all things to God's direction, He loves me both in joy and woe.

His will is good, sure his affection; His tender love is true, I know.

My fortress and my rock is He: What pleases God, that pleases me.

Friday, April 1, 2011

trusting the process

People often end up in leadership positions because they make things happen - they are often the first to spot a new idea or trend, the first to put new ideas into action, and the one in front often leading the chrage. These aspects are often noted in future leaders, and the promotion to a leadership position will happen in a swift manner. And there in lies the conundrum...people who have made things happen quickly are now in a position where they must wait patiently for things to happen because they have lost the control to make things happen themselves. Over thsi past week, I have been in a position of having to wait and trust the process. Knowing that the decision of choosing the next president of Concordia University, St. Paul lies in the hands of a group of people out of my control, there has been little I can do except pray and wait. There have been times when I thought to myself what I might do to influence the decision...or help the decisions makers in their deliberation...or just wanting to say one more thing that they might consider. And yet, the process does not call for that type of intervention. There is literally NOTHING I can do at this point to influence the outcome. That is not a comfortable position for me to be in - I want to DO seomthing, and yet... So here are some thoughts on how leaders can best LEAD while trusting the process:

  • believe that the process is good, right and proper. Trusting the process means that you BELIVE in the process and that the process will yield the best results for the organization or the individuals involved

  • understand it is out of your control. The instinctive action for leaders is to take control - it is in their DNA. And yet, it is that control that can often interupt and flaw the process. Just as helping the butterfly out of its cocoon will destroy the butterfly, attempting to speed a well designed process along can destroy the outcome

  • trust the people involved in the process. Yes, all human beings are flawed - and literally all thinking is flawed as there are no crystal balls in the room. And yet, almost all people want to make the best decision available at any given time. Believe that people will act in the best interest of the organization and bring all their decision making ability to the table

  • know that there are multiple right decisions that can be made. There is very seldom ONE right decision in any decision making process. In my case, there are three competent people who have interviewed for this position - all three can lead this institution into the future. Thus whatever decision is made will be the best one for this time and place

  • Know that people sometimes make mistakes. This may be in paradox with the above idea, but sometimes groups of people (or individuals) make mistakes and the decision turns out wrong for the organization. For the most part, organizations are resilent and will outlast the poor decision

  • understand the dynamics of groups making decisions. I know that as the Board of Regents for Concordia University, St. Paul gathers on Monday to make this decision, they will be bringing multiple views, values, and assumptions to the table. They will hear and interpret the information in different ways, and they will then decide on a decision making process that best reflects them as a group. Another group might make a different decision - and they might both be right

  • Believe that there is a bigger plan that goes beyond this one decision. As I consider the vastness of God's creation and the idea that there is a big wide world out there, this one decision (or any one decision) is often insignificant in the big (I mean REALLY big) scheme of things. While I consider this a HUGE decision, there are billions of people who could actually care less (that's a humbling thought)

  • Trust that God is always in control. My faith in a God that is much bigger than I can even imagine allows me to believe He is in control of not only this one decision, but of the future of the institution and of my future. This is not only conforting for me, but also for my hopes and dreams for Concordia University, St. Paul.

And so, let me close this "chapter" of my blog (and of my life) with this prayer:

Heavenly Father, as you have promised to be with us always...and as you have promised to even "count the hairs on our head," I trust that this decision is now in your hands. As you have chosen 17 people to serve Concordia University St. Paul in the capacity of Regent, so now use their gifts, talents, and wisdom in choosing that person who will lead your University into the future. Give peace to those who anxiously wait for this decision - and allow the three candidates to see how you will use our gifts, talents and wisdom to best bring about your Kingdom in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead. Help us (and others) trust the process as we place our lives into your hands. Amen.