Today marks my six month anniversary at the new job. As I chat with folks about the transition they often ask what this new role is like, what the differences are and how I am managing the increased responsibility.
As I think about the whirlwind of actions, emotions and learning over the past half-year I realize that leading a department is like being an RA again.
As an RA, everyone knows your name and you have to do your best to learn the names of everyone around you rather quickly. In this role everyone either knows my name or knows me simply as the “new Linda” (my predecessor). I employ mnemonic devices to remember names. Sometimes I just wish people wore nametags every day.
As an RA, you have a segment of residents who adore you, a group who are indifferent to you and a faction of people who are leery of you (either because of who you are as a person or simply because of your role). This is similar to my current experience. Sometimes people change their perception of you; sometimes they don’t. And that is OK.
As an RA, you often hear that you are not around enough even though you are always on the floor. This is no different than leading a unit where your daily meetings take you out of the office for most of the day and people may wonder where you are. The key is to be as transparent as you can about how you spend your time and how it adds value to your department and the student experience.
As an RA, I was always asking for money—for programming, door dec supplies, resident recognition, etc. In my daily work I am constantly asking for money—to expand our professional development budget, to create staff new positions, to advocate for salary equity bumps and to provide new resources for students. Learning how to become more savvy about the “ask” is probably the only difference now.
As an RA, you have to ensure that you do not show favoritism as this can cause friction among the floor. I think about that often in this role. I always say that I have the exact kind of relationship with each person on staff that they want to have with me. This means that I will happily accept an invite to coffee or to attend a weekend event but I won’t personally extend those offers to individual people unless the situation warrants it. If I can’t provide a similar level of attention to everyone then I need to seriously consider if I should offer an invitation. When I am no longer employed as their supervisor I will happily pursue individual relationships with these talented folks. Many of my closest friendships have developed after the supervisor/supervisee relationships had ended. You know who you are. 🙂
For those of you who are relatively new to a position what have you learned this year?
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