Thursday, February 06, 2020


I came in at the usual time today (before 8am so I could get parking nearish my building), mostly because I'm going to start attending chair meetings with the Dean and other chairs. 

Almost as soon as I got here, a colleague came and stood at my door to chat.  We exchanged the usual pleasantries.  And then the colleague started to tell me about this and that, and here's what we need to do to make the world better, and so forth.  So I suggested maybe starting with step A would be something we could do.  And then I got an earful about how they aren't paid to do step A, and besides, they've already been doing step A (sort of), and we'd really need to start with step A prime.  So I said, okay, so A prime.  And I got another earful about how they shouldn't have to do Underwater Basketweaving 101 so they could develop this new idea.  And I said, basically, that I didn't think that was going to happen, but that there might be a way to do their new idea taking a different approach.  And then they sidestepped to another idea.

And I realized I totally didn't really have a grasp on our conversation.  I was treating it as a colleague saying "I want to do X, and I want you to support that when you're chair" when what they really wanted was to just vent.  And that's fine.  We all need to vent sometimes. 

I recalled what a former chair explained to me once, about how there were colleagues who would go into his office to just vent, and they were going to do that about an hour a week.  And he just had to listen and nod and let them vent.  And then there were other colleagues who'd show up once a semester, and they'd want to vent, maybe, or want to test out a real idea, maybe, or whatever.  And sometimes the colleague who usually vents actually wants to get help with an idea.  And figuring out the actual conversations he was having with different colleagues was key to being effective and getting done what could be done.

I don't think my colleague today feels comfortable enough with the current chair to vent at them, but clearly they feel comfortable enough with me to vent at me.  And I'm sure there's someone else who vents at the current chair and won't feel as comfortable venting to me.

So much to learn and keep track of.

I went to the chairs' meeting and felt like I needed a scorecard to keep track.  I think I need to listen really carefully this semester so that I have a better sense of what's important and how to best serve my department, the college, and the university.

So very much to learn!

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