Thursday, June 30, 2011

Decisions, decisions

As I move along in my career, the decisions seem to get weightier and weightier. This is no great surprise, I know, but as I take on new administrative roles, I'm trying to get more intentional in my process -- especially since the decisions I'm making now can have a pretty direct and dramatic impact on people's careers (and not just my own).

The one that is weighing on my mind today (and kept working its way into my dreams last night) involves an important hire. The path is not clear to me and seems even less clear to my committee. Even though I thought I had sorted out an answer/direction, I have to work within the structure of a committee. Thankfully, they are fairly malleable when given clear, um, "suggestions." Apparently, much of what my job is as chair is to make decisions and then run them by the committee for "input." What I have come to realize through working with this committee in particular is that too many open-ended questions allows for crazy answers to emerge. It is actually a lot like parenting, give them (committee, kids) choice, but not endless choices.

"Would you like a peanut butter sandwich or egg salad in your lunch?"

Having figured this out is good, but implementing it consistently is still a challenge. Yesterday, for example, we went straight from the last interview into a discussion of the candidates (scheduling a separate meeting was not workable). This meant I did not have time to strategize on my own and figure out a couple of options to offer them to structure the discussion. And the results of said meeting ranged from unclear to downright distracting/unworkable. Two people kept looping back to a solution that has absolutely been taken off the table by the provost -- she won't do it, but they won't give it up!

In moments like these I'm surprised at the me that emerges. Transparency be damned, I'm maneuvering for an interim solution so that we can leave the table and I can do the real work of figuring out the next step. Then I can come back to them with an appropriate version of peanut butter vs. egg salad for them vote on. Yesterday's temporary solution came from the classic, "why don't you let me write up this and that from our discussion and take it to the provost for her input?" And the sheep said, "bah" (yes). I did send them the write up so they could suggest revisions. They didn't, of course. So off I go to "the smoke-filled back room" to plot and plan with those in power after spending several hours plotting and planning on my own. I feel both a sense of accomplishment and a sense of revulsion.

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