Archive for the ‘communication’ Category

open doorI’ve been reflecting lately on the doors of faculty and administrators.   In particular, what does it say about us if our door is often open or often closed?    Is our door closed because we are having a confidential meeting, a secretive discussion, or simply aren’t there?    What does it mean if nearly all of our meetings are closed door meetings?   What does this say about our leadership style?

I believe that the “Open Door Policy” in the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia is noteworthy. At Darden students are freely able to drop by a faculty member’s office to “ask a question about a case, to seek career advice or simply to chat”.    Perhaps this is why Darden is ranked the #1 MBA education experience by The Economist and #1 in student satisfaction by Bloomberg Businessweek.  What effect does this have on student success?    See the blog entry written by MBA student Gloria Lau.

University leaders should carefully consider their open door policies.   An article in Forbes Magazine gives four reasons for an open door policy for new leaders: accessibility, open flow of communication, fast access to information, and closer working relationships.

I believe we can learn a lot about a person by simply observing the door to their office.  I prefer to work in an open, inclusive environment with an open flow of communication.   When a person’s office is often closed, barriers, both real and imagined, are created and trust is lost.

Take a few moments to reflect on your office door.   Is it open?  Are you readily available for discussion?   When you engage in discussions, do you shut your door or leave it open?   If you shut your door during a discussion, ask yourself ‘why?’.   Are you the faculty member you want to be?

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe


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Gordon-Gee-Ohio-State-2009-304Gordon Gee, President of Ohio State University, announced his retirement at age 69 after making a series of ‘humorous’ gaffs at the expense of  Roman Catholic priests, Notre Dame, the academic quality of schools in the Southeastern Conference, and the academic integrity of the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky.   Clearly, there is no excuse for Gee’s weak attempts at humor and his resignation is in order.

It was noteworthy, however, that as recently as 2010, Time Magazine selected Gee as the top university president in the United States.  I have spent the past couple of days reading about Gee.   Here are some of my leadership findings:

1) “Being president of a major public university is the most political nonpolitical office around.  We’re campaigning on behalf of our mission.”  University leaders must make a point of being visible with their stakeholders.   Connect with your audience.   Clearly state the university’s mission.  Be enthusiastic.

2) Most university presidents are focused on internal issues — the tug-of-war among faculty, students and alums — and they don’t have the bandwidth to see how extensive their influence should be.”   University leaders must expand their influence.   The university is a force for positive change.

3)  No elected official more carefully orchestrates a calendar. A typical planning session finds Gee hatching plans to stroke every conceivable constituency in the course of a single week.   Carefully plan your calendar.  Maximize your interaction with stakeholders.

4) We make no apologies for working to ensure that our graduates have the skills needed to thrive. Learning to think critically need not conflict with learning to work productively.”    Stand up for what you believe in.   Offer the win/win.

5) “Through it all, one thing was abundantly clear to me. At this moment, we at Ohio State have great privilege, great responsibility, and great opportunity. I will explain each of those in turn.”      I believe that any university leader must express its mission and values through the lens of privilege, responsibility and opportunity.   Sign me up.

Perhaps Gordon Gee’s tenure as university president is over.   He served as president of West Virginia University, University of Colorado, Brown University, Vanderbilt University and Ohio State University (twice).   On one hand, there is much to learn about university leadership from this man.  On the other hand, there is a cautionary tale here about one’s ego.

Be bold.   Have a grand vision.   Think with precision.

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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visionI recently read the 2012-2013 President’s Report for Clarkson University. In the report I found something very interesting – a “Vision of a Clarkson Education”. Unlike most university mission statements, the focus was on the educational experience offered at the university. I am impressed. The vision talks about the “what the education is designed to enable the students to do” and talks about a the characteristics of their “personal and friendly learning environment”. Bravo!    Below are some of the highlights of Clarkson’s vision statement:

  • The Clarkson University educational experience is designed to provide talented and ambitious students with the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve positions of leadership within their chosen profession.
  • A Clarkson education is designed to enable students to solve real-world, open-ended problems with creativity and risk taking to obtain solutions that are practical and sustainable.
  • A Clarkson education is designed to develop and refine exceptional communication skills with an awareness of potential cultural differences and to lead effectively and work productively within disciplinary and multidisciplinary teams composed of members with diverse interests and backgrounds.
  • A Clarkson student’s education is greatly enhanced by a personal and friendly learning environment.
  • A Clarkson student’s education draws undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and staff together into a cohesive and stimulating learning community, wherein an atmosphere of scholarship and spirit of research is cultivated.
  • Together, these provide a unique educational experience that is directed toward developing the whole person.

I am often struck by the importance of the words that we speak.   Clarkson is speaking volumes.

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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dennis greenDennis Green, former NFL head football coach for the Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals is often remembered for a famous rant after a tough loss to the Chicago Bears:

The Bears are what we thought they were. They’re what we thought they were. We played them in preseason — who the hell takes a third game of the preseason like it’s bullshit? Bullshit! We played them in the third game — everybody played three quarters — the Bears are who we thought they were! That’s why we took the damn field. Now if you want to crown them, then crown their ass! But they are who we thought they were! And we let ’em off the hook!

Is our college what we say it is?   Do we really believe the things we say about ourselves?   After taking a look at our college’s mission and values statements, our college’s strategic plan, and some of the “branding” found in our promotional materials and web site, here are some of our defining characteristics:

  • innovation/innovative
  • able to work in global economy
  • integrated curriculum
  • high job placement
  • academic rigor
  • effectiveness in groups
  • strong internships
  • prepare citizens
  • develop leaders

Are we who we say we are?   In my opinion, the words we use to describe ourselves need to be fully vetted by the faculty and external stakeholders.   Who are we?   Who do we aspire to be?  The words we use to describe ourselves are very important.

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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  • There is a balance between movement and a relationship.  A relationship with no movement is static and exhibits no growth.
  • It is okay to ask to expand a relationship.
  • With each relationship – take time to chat and catch up – don’t be in a hurry.
  • We want to be led.
  • Be aware of fear and anxiety.  Together we will work through these things.
  • Move together; stop together; synchronicity.
  • People are often comfortable being at work but not being engaged.
  • Understand your follower’s language.
  • Ask – “what do you need from me to be successful?”
  • You must establish a relationship – you cannot build a relationship that you don’t have!

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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Teresa Sullivan, President of the University of Virginia, has had a tumultuous past few weeks.  First, she was asked to resign from her presidency by the Board of Visitors and then, more recently, was reinstated by an apologetic board.   During this time there were many articles published concerning the debacle.  To me, the most interesting article was one written by Daniel de Vise, Jenna Johnson and Donna St. George in the Washington Post on June 25, 2012. (“Teresa Sullivan: The ousted U-Va. leader who may regain the post“)   It is an insightful profile of a thoughtful and dynamic leader – Teresa Sullivan.

I particularly liked a description of the “rules” used by Dr. Sullivan to conduct business at the University of Virginia. Following is a list of “Sullivan’s Rules”:

  1. Never surprise an administrator.
  2. Never punish the messenger.
  3. Don’t hide bad news; meet it head-on.
  4. People and time are our greatest resources; don’t waste them.
  5. When dealing with a difficult matter, don’t leave anyone out, or else be prepared for fallout.

What do you think of these rules?  Effective or delusional?

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At our commencement ceremony this year we had two speakers – the Dean and the Outstanding Faculty Member for the College of Business.  Both speakers wished to leave the graduates with “a list”.   Following are their lists:

College of Business Dean

  1. Focus on things that matter.  Don’t let others define your success.
  2. Follow your passion and interests.
  3. Give back to your university in time, talent and money.
  4. Define your core values and stick to them.  What is non-negotiable in your life?  Write them down.
  5. Be a giver not a taker.  Be a mentor.
  6. Focus on results not on who gets the credit.
  7. Become a student of leadership.  Be an authentic leader.

Outstanding Faculty Member

  1. Of thyself be demanding.
  2. To thyself be true.

Both speakers made outstanding points.  What do you think?

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