Confused at a higher level

The view from Carleton College's physics department

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Deaning is managing people, expectations, and priorities. And managing people includes managing yourself

Posted by Arjendu on October 5, 2011

I haven’t checked in for a while, mostly because I’ve been horrendously busy. The Carleton Dean of the College office downsized over the course of the Spring term, to be consistent with the pressures we are putting on the rest of our resources, from three deans to two deans. The true effects are just hitting us. The term started with a bang: We’ve launched a giant strategic planning process. We just opened out biggest building in years with a splash that’s still rippling. We just sent off a couple or three giant proposals. I’ve lost track of how many weekend days I’ve worked this term, as have so many others I know. I’m feeling it. So is everyone else. The term’s only accelerating, unfortunately.

Possibly because of how different this is from anything I used to do in my previous lives (a student or post-doc or professor) where I feel it most is in the arena of ‘management’. It’s a large part of the job as previous posts have probably made clear.  A ‘meta’ insight that I am currently experiencing is what I’ve made the title of my post.

The term ‘managing people’ (and managing self) is less well-defined than others, and I’m still struggling with it. For now, let’s construe it as something to do with how you pay attention to demands on time and health. And feelings, too. Whatever it is, I have to remember that in being a designated middle-manager I need to recognize myself and everyone else as the objects of management, equally full of foibles, and equally in need of sympathetic and neutral encouragement.

I offer that as I check out for a much-needed sanity break overnight.

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One Response to “Deaning is managing people, expectations, and priorities. And managing people includes managing yourself”

  1. David Davis-Van Atta, '72 said

    Hello, Arjendu, and all. I appreciate this post on two levels. First, it’s a very nice update for me to read about the big things at Carleton this term, now. I had not realized that the Dean’s was had downsized by a Dean. I saw my successor in IR there a an IR conference last weekend, and I know well that he is really feeling some of the pressures, particularly the (Steve P.) strategic planning process. Those are often very big undertaking, with some real consequences (hopefully). And for them, the data needs are often enormous, cross-cutting, ask questions in ways that the data have not been previous assembled, and the like. I can well imagine it’s all really big for you as well.

    On the other level is that what you describe feels so familiar to me given more or less a full professional life now in college administration, although mine spent doing research to support good administration, not much in the direct management role (at which I’m fairly sure that I would be very good actually). So my hat is off to you for being able to do such work! I note though that I think that it is almost universally a very large life undertaking to do a profession in the general area of college admin. This very weekend in fact I am doing nothing – just so that I can recover (I hope!) from a punishing week – bad sleep deprivation, work way overload, travel to and from the conference throw in just to make things rougher. I saw, up close, how very hard everyone in Carleton’s Deans Office works. I think it’s in the nature of the job, and also in the nature of the people who occupy the positions. I wish you the best in this position, and my hat is off to you for taking it on. I am sure you will be excellent for Carleton, and excellent in this role.

    So here is a question: Having tasted of both now, academics and administration, at the same school, was either more demanding than the other? I would really be quite interested to hear your perspectives on this. I know of only one of the worlds. And I know well how we all say, rather often, and I believe genuinely feel, just how big (sometimes awful) our workloads are. I think I know too that they genuinely are big, demanding, overwhelming at times. I fully believe this to be the case, in fact. But I’ve never known if there is any good comparison. I guess it has seemed to me that, probably, they are about equal, academic and admin. There are only so many waking hours in a day, in a week, etc. And statements (not all that uncommon) that (essentially), “I work harder than you do. My job requires me to work harder. (Implication: I have it harder than you do.)” might be heartfelt, but are probably not true objectively, in fact. Perfectly good perceptions, perhaps. But not fact. Still, having had only the one perspective to draw on, I’m not sure of my own perception! I guess workload is always a perception, maybe an objective reality but perhaps not. So, I wonder what your perception is now, given your privledge to do real work in both.

    Best wishes!

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