(CI)On-boarding: Epiphanies 60 Days In

Phew. Sixty days today. Status?

I know people ✓
I know our services, systems, solutions ✓
I can recite the University strategic plan, mission, goals ✓
I’m aware of our strengths ✓
I’m more aware of our weaknesses ✓
I see the puzzle ✓
There’s been some turnover ✓
First draft of the IT Strategic Plan ✓

I found my closest campus coffee ✓
I sit in the same seat at the President’s Leadership Team meeting ✓

It’s a Season of Disruption, then Soothing (REPEAT)

You come in. You rapidly acclimate. You share ideas. People nod and give positive feedback. The campus at large is excited, responsive, supportive (like it hasn’t died down at all), ON BOARD. Internally, within the team, you start to map out the tactical moves. Response gets slightly quieter. You start actively implementing on the ideas. (screeeeeeeech) There’s a bit of panic. Morale hits a bump. You pull folks together again. You share ideas. People nod and give positive feedback… And repeat. Many of the quick wins people LOVE. They still get nervous and look warily at the sustainability of it all, but that will settle over time as it does IN FACT clearly translate to easier sustainability. Then the bigger things. Team members point out all the issues and gaps. You begin assessments. (screeeeeeeech) Suddenly the gaps and issues are fond favorite memories. In reality, they’re safe spaces. Comfort zones. People aren’t pushing back in non-support. As you execute on change, pushing back is innate. They want the improvement, but there’s latent fear. Just keep moving forward, keep visiting with people, keep your visibility as high as possible and address concerns as you hear about them. When a change leader enters, comfort zones naturally dissipate. It’s worth the investment in people to help them identify their new normal, their new comfort zones.

Always remember: Without people. there will not be long-term success. “A boss has the title. A leader has the people.” ~Simon Sinek.

Assessment Time

Network. Infrastructure. Systems. Architecture. Apps. Data. Policies. Procedure. This is my ‘kicking the tires’ phase. I need to understand everything because I need to be able to speak to our environment across all levels, to a wide audience, in whole and in pieces. The entire landscape is a puzzle to solve. The most baffling, yet exciting part of my job. This is what I love. I need to know where we’ve been, where we are, where we want to be and in what priority to define each and every next step. I’ll reach an auto-pilot phase within the next six- to nine-months, so I’ll enjoy every minute of this in the meantime. Learn the whole environment. In some ways, it’s like embracing a thrown set of pixie sticks and sitting down criss cross apple sauce and joining the game.

Assess the situation. Bring in fresh eyes if need be. The more ‘settled’ the more fresh eyes will help. Develop the roadmap. Get moving.

Time for Socializing, Seeing, Be Seen

I have had the great fortune of walking into situations where a legacy weakness was campus engagement and lack of communication and customer service overall. You have to meet people. All the people. It’s been 60 calendar days. I’ve been to a Governor’s State of the State luncheon, I’ve met the Mayor of Tulsa (he seems almost as awesome at the Mayor of Rogers), I’ve met with Faculty Senate leadership, all the Deans one-on-one, local peers, Athletics, housing, security, vendors, accreditation campus leaders, I’ve driven to Arkansas in the name of sharing wise people I know with online learning gurus – I am best friends with the campus dog Goldie. You have to put yourself out there. In short: You have to model the behavior you want embodied by your entire team. It’s a lot. But it’s so-so important.

The relationships you develop in the early days carry you through the inevitable roadblocks and spinning wheels. Make sure your first impression isn’t the only impression. If you meet once and never again, chances are that opportunity for a reciprocated and respected relationship is now an uphill climb.

Lingering stressors I just need to complete:

Need I remind everyone I bring this on myself. It’s a feature of me. These are not anticipated or expected deliverables with tight timelines. But I want to get these tasks behind me:

  • Educause. Well of course in the midst of a job transition, whole family out-of-state move what life change would be complete without a looming Educause presentation? Interestingly, the topic is timely for just about all of us: Changing the Lead: The Art and Impact of Moving On. Presenting alongside three of my favorite professionals-dareisay-friends I can’t wait for us to really dig in. But we’re lagging on the presentation. We’ve started, but I need to finagle us all together a few times before early October.
  • InnoTech in OKC. A lunch panel the week after Educause? Why the heck not. I need to introduce myself to fellow panelists.
  • First pass as Vision/Goal chart. I thank Sheila Davidson, technology committee chair for the Board of Trustees at Fairfield University for this one. This tracks and roadmaps accomplishments in line with the IT Strategic Plan. I need to be tracking these items throughout the year.

I was asked today by one of my team members, “You still excited to be here?” I keep getting asked this. And I recall being asked this at previous institutions. Be prepared to be asked a variation of this question repeatedly. Everyone thinks their university condition is unique and in an absolute state of incomparable despair. Also, there’s no chance of convincing them otherwise. Let me be clear, I never lose my excitement to serve an institution. I am always energized by the campus. Every day is a fun challenge and I recommend you keep that lens on as long as you can. So far, I’ve not let others dull my sparkle. I’m certainly not starting with that nonsense now.

By 90 days? I should have the strategic plan finalized, the roadmap and the wants/needs list ready and likely each unchecked audit box with be firmly CHECKED. Happy fall y’all!