Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Sharing Three Management Lessons with a Gifted Colleague

Not long ago I received word that one my American University School of International Service’s most brilliant, multifaceted doctoral students, Prof. (Dr.) Christine Chin, had assumed one of my former responsibilities, Director of the University’s Center for Teaching Research and Learning - CTRL (formerly the Center for Teaching Excellence – CTE) . More recently I learned she had been named as the School’s interim Dean.  Happily she is slated to return to CTRL after a one-year term.
These appointments led me to reflect on and share three lessons that I drew from my own years as a manager.  While they might not be relevant all cultural contexts, they served me well..
Lesson #1. “Bad news” is the “news” a manager most needs to know and the hardest for her (or him) to get. Don’t only be open to “bad news” seek it out.  Edwin Catmull expresses the same truth differently in his marvelous book on effective management at Pixar, Creativity Inc.  “If there is more truth telling around the water-cooler than in the executive suite the organization is in trouble” He observes.
Lesson #2. If you want to have staff members be effective, find out what the like to do best and, no matter what is their “job description,” create opportunities for them to do it. Applying this principal transformed several mediocre performers into stars.
Lesson #3. Commitment to serve. I also shared a practice that contributed to the distinctiveness and reputation of CTE/CTRL University-wide.  At a point in our beginning-fall-term day-long welcome and orientation for more that 50 new and old staff members I would ask the assembled group – “if you receive a request from someone seeking information or assistance from (CTE/CTRL), whatever the request may be, what are the four words with which, if you respond, may result in summary dismissal?  The answer: