Professor Destressor eNews |
Combining productive work lives and balanced personal lives
Our goal is to bring you news, insights, and information about
leading a balanced and productive life while making a difference.
In this issue, you'll find:
- Plays Well with Others
- Professor Destressor coaching
- Up and coming workshops
1. Plays Well with Others
While crisscrossing the country this year doing workshops on
work-life balance and leadership for faculty groups, I have been
shocked to find that most academic leaders in department chair
or program director jobs have no formal nor informal preparation
for their leadership positions nor have they shadowed those they
are succeeding the semester before they take on the job; no one
even suggests that they take a one day workshop in leadership 101
or a workshop in basic people management skills. As one dean
commented to me: “The problem with this place is that it is run
While many business executives may have majored in business
management as undergraduates and have even gotten masters degrees
in management, most academic earn their degrees in a content area
such as physics or sociology or English. When it comes time to be
honored or cursed with a chance to chair a department or direct a
program, nothing in those content areas prepare the academic leader
for the challenge of a leadership position.
There are three areas that the new leader must get up to speed with
immediately: time management, resource management, and people
management. While leaders have background in managing their own
time management successfully and can apply prioritizations skills
to their new tasks, fewer leaders have experience with managing
resources such as budgets, space, equipment, and scheduling of
course. Very few have any formal course of study in basic people
management skills. This lack of skills hurts them and their
institutions the most since the number one reason faculty give
for leaving academic positions in a poor relationship with the chair.
This newsletter begins a several part series on the skills
necessary to manage the people part of academic leadership jobs.
I very much appreciate the feedback I have gotten from faculty
attending more leadership workshop entitled “Plays Well With
Others: Leadership Skills for Academics.” Their comments on
how the workshop helped their skills develop, helped this material
deepen. Because these skills are skills they must be practiced to
be mastered. I would like to offer a holiday season special,
a half-hour complementary session with me to practice and deepen
your skills. If you sign up before the winter holiday break,
I will give you a full hour even if our session is scheduled
for January. In this issue I am going to cover some basic
principles about people management and introduce the networking
skills that you need for “greeting and meeting colleagues.”
Many faculty tell me they hate to “play politics” on their
campuses. This concept is a mistaken and dangerous notion –
mistaken because getting along with people is a basic human
need and does not usually involve running for the US Senate
and dangerous because an attitude that social skills are a game
played by phonies locks you out from a world of fun and fulfillment
in your work relationship. Instead of thinking about campus
“politics” consider that there are strategies that help you
connect to your fellow humans in ways that smooth out the tough
work of the academy and increase your work satisfaction.
Since the number one factor in faculty retention is the quality
of the relationship with the department chair, both faculty
and their chairs owe it to themselves and to their institution
to establish as good a working relationship with each other.
Humans are wired to be social. Survival of the individual and
the species depends on our ability to connect to others for
mutual benefit. Our cave fathers and mother lived in communities
for safety and specialization of function. All depended on each
other to provide services that no one person could provide for
him/herself. Thus, we are hard wired to live and work in
communities. No matter how much faculty like the autonomy of
their jobs, we must not forget the reality of doing better when
we get the support of others. Some of the autonomy that attracts
faculty to academia can be our downfall when we try to specialize
in being all things to all people. It leads to overwhelm so in
academia, supporting and creating mutual harmony in our support
systems decreases our own overwhelm and helps each other succeed.
It is not game playing or Machiavellian to spend some time and
energy building mutually supportive work relationships. You do
not need to be best friends with these people. You just need to
work with them towards a common goal related to your values
such as education or the welfare of the students or the discovery
and promulgation of research.
Success depends not on what you know or even who you know but
how well you can work with those you know. The research on
leadership and social intelligence shows that across diverse
fields it is clear that success is 1/3 dependent on technical
knowledge and skill in a field and 2/3 dependent on your social
skills and how you use them to build professional alliances.
Good professional relationships lead to access to resources.
A department chair who can talk to his dean can easily negotiate
for resources such as lab space, funding an adjunct positions to
further the goals of a department … a faculty member in a good
relationship with her chair is in a position to have … favorably.
As one chair told me in a workshop this fall, “I try to be fair
in the distribution of resources but I find myself saying yes
more easily to those faculty who treat me well.”
Networking and keeping in touch with colleagues outside of
your department and institution brings new opportunities to you
without having to work hard to seek them out. When people have
a project for which they need a collaborator with your skills,
they are not as likely to think of you unless they have had
contact within the last 30 days. With email it is easy to drop
quick notes of encouragement and information to appreciative
colleagues. Even introverted professor can connect with others
without leaving their offices very often.
Loose new associations are valuable because of exposure to
differing resources and opportunities. Target an occasion or
new group or event to appear at to meet new people.
Meeting and Greeting
When professors take the Myers Briggs Type Indicator,
a personal preference instrument, they often score higher
in introversion than extroversion showing their preference
for hanging out with people they are already acquainted with
instead of taking on the energy to meet new people. What they
need is an easy to follow system to meet people that is not
too anxiety producing.
4 low stress networking principles for introverted professors:
no small talk
When procrastination anxiety plagues you, act and
accept your way to progress and success.
2. Professor Destressor Workshops and Coaching
About the publisher: Susan Robison, Ph.D. is a
psychologist and an independent educator. She is
professor of psychology at the College of Notre Dame of
Maryland and offers services as a professional coach,
speaker, author and seminar leader. She loves to coach
professionals who want improvement in:
If you are feeling stuck on the way to your ideal life,
give Susan a call for a complementary half-hour coaching
- work-life balance,
- strategic career management,
- time management,
- increasing productivity.
Susan provides keynotes and seminars to colleges,
universities and professional organizations on the
She offers her audiences a follow-up coaching session
because she knows that workshops don’t work… unless the
participants apply their learnings.
- work-life balance and stress management,
- faculty development,
- time management,
- leadership strategies for academics,
- relationships skills at home and at work,
- change strategies.
Contact Susan for your coaching, speaking, or seminar
needs at Susan@ProfessorDestressor.com or at 410-465-5892.
3. Up and coming workshops
I am currently accepting speaking invitations for
work/life balance and leadership workshops for
July & September. October has room for one more
presentation and November is completely filled. Contact
me if your group needs a speaker on any of the topics
Title: “Leadership Skills for Academic Leaders”
Date: October 8, 2007
Place: Johns Hopkins University
Title: “Intentional Living: Time Management Strategies for Academic Faculty"
Date: October 11, 2007
Place: University of Virginia
Title: “Staying Sane in Insane Places: Managing Diverse Faculty Responsibilities with Clarity, Balance and Ease.”
Date: November 9, 2007
Place: Eastern Illinois University
Title: “Living Purposely in a Distracting World: A Blueprint for Work-Life Balance for Busy Professionals”
Date: November 15-18, 2007
Place: Lilly International
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© Copyright 2007 Susan Robison. All rights reserved. The
above material is copyrighted but you may retransmit or
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