The Chair Academy : Leadership Academy : Sample Reports
Chair Academy    
Mid-Year Academy Practicum Report
(Click here to see another sample report)

The first two objectives of the IPDP were to display the Core Elements document in my office and to administer the document as a survey of my workgroup using a 5 Likert scale. Upon my return, at the beginning of February, I introduced my work group to the document and I posted the Core Elements document on the wall of the IT office. I asked the group to really reflect on how they felt about each element and that we would be doing an anonymous informal survey to help me better assess their level of happiness with our working environment so that we can see what areas we need to work on and I can help facilitate that. Preliminary analysis of the survey indicates that overall my work group is extremely satisfied with their working environment at all levels. There was an indication that the system in general and I personally, can do a better job being clear about individual expectations. I really need to spend more time thinking about what role each person is going to play in each project we are given, how that ties back to their written job description, and how I can clearly define the expected outcomes in terms of what responsibility each person owns to the success of the project.

In objective two I have outlined four ways in which I cam improve the dynamics and effectiveness of my work group (team). The first objective focuses on increased knowledge of and interaction between team members. At our March meeting I introduced the idea of team-building exercises to meet these objectives. I said that I would plan the activity for the April and May meetings but it would be too bad for me to have all of the fun of choosing the team-building activities for each meeting. I stated that I would continue to plan the activities but would welcome them to think about activities that they have encountered, read about, heard about, etc. and lead our group in those activities in the coming months. We had a lot of fun with the first team-building exercise in April and I have another activity planned for May. Two members of my team have already offered to lead activities in June and July. (I was really excited about this as I felt that they were a little apprehensive when I suggested this because they were not sure what kind of activities I was looking for, but after the first "ice-breaking" activity they really seemed eager to do more :. The second objective I outlined, in the team-building section of my IPDP, was to solicit agenda items for meetings and then publish an agenda prior to those meeting dates. I have done this for the March, April, and this week May's meeting. In March and April I did not receive any items. I was encouraged though to receive items yesterday for discussion on next week's agenda. I think that this kind of change in process takes time and I have to work on being patient. The third objective is to rotate roles at the meeting. This has been more challenging for all of us. I have always "lead" the meeting and so it has been a challenge for me to let go of that role and try new roles, and even more difficult for my staff to take on what they consider to be "my" role. I am still not sure if they like it, but we will all improve as time goes on. It has really made me reflect on the fact that even though we are a strong team where every member is valued and genuinely listened to, that I clearly lead and they clearly look to me for direction. The last objective is to build celebration of successes in to department meetings. We have always done this more informally but including it in the formal process has given it validation. I think it was viewed more whimsically as a woman thing that I did and not as a leadership tool and necessary business activity. Sure I think they all though it was nice but I truly see a difference, especially in the men in my department, in how this has been viewed since it has become a regular part of our routine and is tied back to the our roles within the group both personally and professionally. I did not see all of these potential "transformations" when I identified this as an objective but I am thrilled at the "added bonus."

As my colleague Pat has mentioned I have taken special care in working on the Managing Conflict objective. My position as Dean of Information and Telecommunications Technology, as well as my role as the Distance Education leader on this campus, has introduced me to an increasing number of conflicts. My introduction to the 4R's while in Arizona was a Godsend. I have worked diligently to institute them in my personal identification and handling of conflict at all stages. I have documented several instances where I have used them both successfully and unsuccessfully. Clearly my weakest point in the process has been MY EMOTIONAL RESPONSE. In every situation I have been mindful of my need to control my emotions from the very beginning. In those instances where I was successful it was keeping those emotions in check that made the difference. My failures have centered around letting my emotions get away from me as the situation unfolded. (I am weak at holding off my emotions when people constantly bait me. I have been working on strategies to keep me focused on controlling my emotions and reframing as many times as necessary until all parties of the conflict are ready to move to the other stages.) I have a large bulletin board in my office which I have designed in a spring theme to help my focus on the 4Rs. This has allowed me to share my growth experiences in this area with my work group and it has extended to my peers and colleagues. Here is a picture of my board.

My next objective focuses on administration of the DiSC instrument, by an outside party, to my work group. I have asked for a list of qualified trainers in Maine, but that is as far as I have progressed on this objective.

My fifth objective addresses strategic planning. I feel very fortunate that our institute has a comprehensive strategic plan and that my department has developed both an information technology and a distance education strategic plan that tie directly back to it. Our method of updating our plans however needs perpetual work so that they are perpetual documents and not documents that are worked on intensely for a few months and we let sit until they reach their "maturity" date before we revisit them. To this end I introduced the concept of 12 quarter planning that I had learned about in Arizona. This was a Godsend to me as well. In information technology quarterly planning is already a way of life and therefore, I assumed it would be an easy sell for my work group. I assumed correctly. When I introduced this concept at our March meeting I got lots of positive feedback! They did not feel it was really a change other than in the print documentation because we already made changes quarterly but it was only reflected in the print plan annually. Our document, beginning in July, will no longer be in print but online and it will be updated quarterly. Changes will be conveyed to faculty and staff and quarterly meetings. I am really fortunate to have a work group that is so positive! :

My final objective focuses on professional development. I have committed to completing my Chair Academy year and these 9 doctoral credits to date. I have not yet signed up for a distance education conference or a higher education (general) conference. I will report in future journaling that I have identified, registered, participated and reflected on these experiences.

I have also done some additional things that are not in my IPDP. I have read both books by Buckinham and Coffman; First, Break All The Rules and Now, Discover Your Strengths. Both have given me great insight into my role as an effective manager. It has also given me a great deal of confidence and validation that I am doing many things right! This validation came at a time when I really needed it.

Well, I made my decision, and true to myself I have second-guessed it at least a million times since then. I know deep down that I made the right decision for me, at this time in my life, but it certainly was not easy and caused me to reflect on many of the areas we discussed only superficially at the Academy; and perhaps I had left out of my IPDP on purpose because they were to "big" or "uncomfortable" to take on in one year, especially this year. Oh well, as usual, often life goes as it should and not necessarily as we want.

My decision focused around leaving my position here in the world of academia and moving on to a managerial technology position (CIO) for two local hospitals. The pay was much better, the position was looking for someone to accomplish goals that I have already successfully completed here and so I felt very confident I would excel in the position, and it is definitely time for some kind of change for me (or else I probably would never even applied for the position). I found the culture at one hospital extremely inviting. The values and mission were exactly in line with my own and not so different from where I currently work that it would be a culture shock. The other hospital, however had a very uninviting culture and made me feel downright uncomfortable. I was even reluctant to attend the 2nd interview because of my first experience there but the other hospital was such a wonderful experience I decided to do it.

Some of the many experiences I went through in reaching my decision were things I was avoiding doing here and had tried to work around them in my IPDP. The first one was having a concrete discussion with my direct supervisor, the President, about my role, how it fits in to the overall mission of the college now and in the future, what I like and don't like about the way things are progressing at this institute and why, etc. At this point I was also really searching my soul as to whether I am in higher education for the long-haul or not, because a stop-out at this point to another field, might actually hinder my re-entry in to higher education if that is where I want to be again in 5 to 10 years.

My meeting with the President went okay. I told her I was considering leaving and why. (Although I did not tell her that I had a specific job offer). I asked her to clarify how she felt I fit in to the KVTC picture, and how things might change in those areas I had identified as concerns, should I choose to stay. She reinforced her ability to help me grow personally and professionally within or outside our institute and the importance of pursuing the doctorate if my goals included remaining in the academic arena. She restated my importance to the institute and that she saw me holding a position of great importance within the higher education arena no matter where I landed.

In the meantime I had parallel conversations with Pat, my colleague who is in this doctoral course of study with me, and our Director of Finance, as well as my mother and my husband. They offered me challenging questions and good advice for helping me make my decision.

They helped me to be careful not to make a quick emotional response to the offer. I asked for a week to make the decision on the advice of a colleague and my husband. Had I not had the time, I know that on Monday I would have made a different decision than I made on Friday. Certainly it gave me new perspective on the 4 R's as I had viewed them as useful for conflict with others but they have great value for internal conflict as well. I am prone to rash decision-making and so I am now going to work harder at using the 4 R's for internal conflict. Everything spills over and so it can only have a positive effect both personally and professionally.

This also had an influence on the dynamics within my department. Several of the objectives of my IPDP involve the dynamics and effectiveness of my team, team planning, role identification and clarification and their satisfaction. I kept them apprised of my application and interviews for the position, but when the offer came, I did not share with them until I had made the decision. I felt that it would be too easy to be swayed by emotional responses, etc. and would also put a heavier burden on them in many ways. I needed to keep business-as-usual as much as possible. This allowed us to continue to progress with our monthly meeting. It was kind of fun as we fumbled with different roles at this months meeting (June). We all struggled to not fall in to our traditional roles, but I kept stressing that the more we do it the less uncomfortable it will be and that we were handling well (with humor). It was also a relief not to have come up with a team-building exercise this month. I think that the activity that two of my team members picked was excellent and they were very proud about picking and leading it. There were a few suggested items for the agenda this month, as I published it two weeks in advance and solicited input. I was not surprised as the summer months usually are when we can be the most creative and make the most changes and so many ideas get brought forth and discussed in preparation for Fall. There was still an underlying hesitance though as they knew that plans might or might not include me. My department also did something fun to celebrate the upcoming wedding of one of our staff. We performed a skit for this colleague at our Employee Recognition Day which ended in celebration with the entire college community. It was a great deal of fun for everyone and created a department memory for all of us regardless of where our professional lives take us.

I made no progress at all on my DiSC objective. I hope to make this a focus in the next month.

My department and I met and we have gone over our Technology Plan and revised the document in a way to make it easier to begin the 12-quarter planning process next month. It will now be an online document rather than printed annually to reflect it living/breathing nature. This will be difficult for some members of our college community because they are less than bought in to the role technology has taken in our institute, but in all honesty those folks probably do not read the print plan either. The members of my team seem very excited about how this will work. It has been a validation of the pre-planning process that we are always doing.

Professionally a lot of wonderful things have come out of this. First, after 14 years working at the same institute I had begun to wonder if I was still making a worthwhile contribution, if there were still challenges that I could identify and meet (given the way leadership is currently functioning here) both for myself and for the institute, if education is where I really intend to be in my future (What am I really going to do when I grow up), if I was still marketable, etc.

The answers were much needed for my esteem both personally and professionally. I found that I do indeed make a worthwhile contribution at KVTC and it is recognized by those I respect and admire both personally and professionally. I can still identify several large challenges that lie in front of us in terms of technology and distance education in which I can see myself playing a key, successful, role. I have realized that I do want to remain in education and do see my future allowing me to move in to the roles of perhaps Vice President/Academic Dean or President of a small college. Being the final choice for a CIO of two hospitals, from a field of 90+ candidates from around the country, has given me a great deal of confidence, that I did not realize I was lacking, that I am still "marketable" outside of KVTC and education in general. In the end the main reasons I did not take the position were the negative culture at one of the hospitals, and my realization that my future goals are in education and a move to another industry, especially during my doctoral work where connections to fellow educators will be crucial, could be counterproductive. I have not ruled out a move should the right opportunity present itself, and have found this experience overall to have been a very positive one.

I have only shared a small piece of my experience (even though this seems to go on and on) and I am sure in the next few months more of what happened to me throughout this process, will be reflected in my writing.

July Journal

July is one of the busiest months for my department, as this is probably as close to down time as we ever get now that our College is on a year-round schedule. Add to that an outside federal group taking over a large portion of our facility and my being in charge of the event, and mass chaos seemed to ensue. We were up to our ears in security issues and my staff, as well as the rest of the College staff, was looking for me to make things better. I got a much more global perspective of leadership issues from this experience as responsibility and credit for resolution of the numerous issues lay directly on me. I did find time, however, to work on my goals and was able to tie in a lot of what happened at that time into them.

The Core Elements document remains on display in the IT Office. Many other College employees saw it because of the increased number of staff visiting my office to register complaints about the outside agency, and thank me for resolving them. (This is when they could pass security clearance.) I had many opportunities to talk with them about the document and why it was important. It was really great that our Finance Director noticed it and surveyed his own department in hopes of gauging satisfaction within his department and making striving to improve things. In August I intend to work on using charting with Microsoft Project to define roles on projects and to set up automated praise messages for completions logged. I am eager to see if this kind of system would help others understand their roles better and provide positive reinforcement.

Our team building exercises continue to provide a great deal of laughter and insight to all of us. The women in my department seem to be really attracted to this kind of activity more than the gentlemen. They have actually started meeting once monthly outside of work. They also have started taking a fun course together as well. The gentlemen, on the other hand, are finding that the activities have shown they have less in common than they originally thought and at some points it has brought to the surface core values that they do not share which has caused some friction. I am doing a lot better about getting out an agenda for the meetings ahead of time so that we can add items that others may have and everyone knows what they are before we start the meeting. I find I am getting much better feedback on the issues because they have time to really think about them ahead of time and are not put on the spot. We continue to enjoy ourselves with the celebrations as we are a group that does a lot of training and retraining, certification and recertification, etc. The rotation of roles at meetings is not going as well. My group still struggles with letting go of the idea that I must "run" every meeting.

Management of conflict became crucial in the month of July due to the outside group invading our home for a month. While it banded us together here at the College the use of the 4R's became a moment to moment routine. I can now say that I don't have to look at my board to remember them and I find the staff helping to redirect each other in the use of them. This also extended to the larger College community and too many of the outside agencies staff. It actually helped us all manage the numerous conflicts that arose when we all knew that we were trying to use the techniques. (We were still glad when the left, and they actually found out that we weren't so bad to deal with after all. Sort of like when your children leave and find out that you aren't as bad a parent as they thought you were :)

My next objective actually surrounds the administration of the DISC instrument to my workgroup. This has been the most difficult for me to get anything accomplished on and I know Pat has shared my frustration. Helen has not responded to our inquiries.

Strategic Planning was my next area of concern. We have implemented the 12 quarter planning process successfully. This has helped us better determine what new objectives we have, what has been accomplished and what remains to be done. We were eager to find out how faculty would accept the online only format.

My final objective focuses on professional development. As well as the WebCT conference this summer I have attended the Dirigo Institute and Stanley Foundation International Education Symposiums. I also understand the need to develop personally and this summer I expanded on that through the establishment of a walking and running program. In June I did my first 5K (I passed out just before the race began). I completed the race and plan many more throughout the summer and fall. I find that since Pat left in the middle of July it is harder to stick to a daily regimen unless I have planned activities, that depend on that training, in place.

I have read extensively this summer, although not materials necessarily related directly to leadership, and have developed an online course that I will deliver in the fall for our business department (Supervisory Management: The Art of Empowering and Developing People). Every book I have read and the development of the course have in some way helped me reflect upon the Academy program and this coursework. Even though I have been slow in sending the reports I have been working on the objectives and thinking a great deal about how all of life comes back to many of these same principles. Tying it back to Maslow and Herzberg theories on needs and motivation really brings it home for me.

August Journal

August is when the faculty return and there is a lot of activity surrounding the start of school. IT does student ID's, WebCT login, Active Directory Maintenance, etc. This year we also have the blessing/curse of opening a new technology building. It was turned over to us on August 19th and school started on August 26th. I spent at least 6 overnights here in the final approach to school starting. Lack of sleep is not something that mixes naturally with a lot of existing stress with new students, returning faculty, new adjuncts, stressed administrators. Our Financial Aid Director decided to resign and so we began an extensive search and our Title III project of which I am a major player, was chosen to be audited. I am beginning to understand why having a chance to formally submit my work was so difficult.

The Core Elements, while still hanging in my office, really did not get noticed much by myself or my staff. In fact I would never administer this survey at this time of year because my guess is the scores would be at their lowest possible point. This is important because knowing when to administer a survey like this can dramatically impact your results. If you must do it at a "bad" time you should always report the results with the note that extenuating circumstances may have affected the outcomes. This month was our first use of Project to manage project roles in our department. I look forward to feedback in Septembers meeting, but just from my observations, I think people are finding it much more useful. Someone even commented that it help them get back on track. (Understandable given we have so much to do and are pulled in so many directions.)

Team building exercises turned in to a stress relief seminar. One of my staff is trained in massage and she taught use some massage and relaxation techniques that you can do in a short amount of time in a small space (like the elevator or the rest room). Again the exercise brought a great deal of laughter to our meeting and we desperately needed it. The friction continues with the gentlemen in my workgroup. They both feel that I should smooth things over between them. I have reminded them both that I can rule on technical issues but those things that relate to personality they really need to talk about together. I offered to act as a facilitator if they would like. They both refused the offer and stated that men don't talk to each other about their feelings, etc. I choose to stay on the periphery of the situation hoping that they could find a common ground on which to begin a healthy conversation about their differences. This month we celebrated the opening of the new building. Next month we will celebrate the successful opening of school. We held the traditional roles at this meeting as with a little internal conflict and high stress I wanted us to be able to focus as much as possible on the tasks at hand.

Conflict Management was a large focus in the month of August only internally instead of with the outside group. Tensions were so high here upon the return of the faculty because they felt short on time, we had 350 PC's to switch out in 2 days and everyone was feeling unappreciated including myself. I worked really hard to diffuse any conflict before it could happen in order to set a good example. My staff worked 50-90 hours a week in those last two weeks and they did not feel like anyone appreciated the extra effort. I continued to express my appreciation and gratitude and that helped a lot, but it does not replace the good feeling you get from a heart-felt thank you!

There has still been very little progress on the objective of administration of the DISC instrument to my workgroup. Pat has gotten the name of someone else within the organization that administers the tool but we have not heard anything back from her either.

Faculty, although reluctant, have accessed the IT strategic plan on online as well as our policies and procedures. They have responded well though to the ability to give feedback and suggestions for changes/additions/etc., online. They have also responded well to the new hardware and software we have given them.

My final objective focuses on professional development. I ran more races in August and am training for a half-marathon in October. I also started a quilting class. I have recently read Henri Nouwens The Prodigal Son and again am amazed that almost everything I read and do can be directly related back to my coursework and the Academy Leadership Program itself. I have begun to teach the Supervisory Management course and find that it is a very rewarding course to teach online and that the level of input and participation is great (so far 1 week in).

Like I stated previously the lack of correspondence to the instructor is not directly proportional to the effort or time that is being put in to this coursework. The Academy program and the IPDP are always at the center of my thoughts as I go about my daily role as a leader. In my family, church, and work roles I am a part of activities that support my objectives daily. I think this is a tribute to the thought and training I received at the Academy last winter, in writing my IPDP. Had it not been based in what I needed professionally and personally it might be a struggle right now to write these journals, but the truth is that it is right in line with my life and therefore it is an invaluable experience that will remain with me because it applies every day.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]