Mike Dewey is Director of Campus Services in the Office of Information Technology at Rice University. He leads groups that provide desktop computing support and help desk services. He is also interim director of the Teaching, Learning, and Scholarly Technologies group.
To be honest, I did not know what to expect when my CIO asked me if I would like to attend the MOR Advanced Leader’s Program. When she described it to me, it sounded like a great program. However, I had attended other management training programs and was usually disappointed in what I got out of them. What I didn’t realize was this was not a management training program; it was a LEADERSHIP program and the first session alone resulted in many AHA moments and learning experiences.
The first AHA was probably the most uncomfortable but rewarding exercise… that of relationship building and the 4 I’s. Being an introvert (which is NOT one of the 4 I’s) and someone who was not very good at extended conversations made for a bad combination in relationship building. It generally took me twice as long as others establishing relationships in the workplace because the time it took me to get comfortable to initiate a conversation. The exercise of standing out in the courtyard at Wash U and striking a conversation with someone I really didn’t know and maintaining that conversation for more than a few minutes was a major victory for me. It is amazing that those four simple words… Initiate, Inquire, Invest and Influence had such a profound impact on my ability to strike up a meaningful conversation with someone I didn’t know.
My next AHA probably could be more accurately be described as an epiphany since I came to the realization that I had been doing the wrong job for the last two years… I was more a “super” manager than a director. I was doing a lot of managing and doing, but undertaking very little leading. This took me on a mission to spend more time leading and in order to do so, I had to do much more delegating. It was hard at first trying to calibrate what I should and shouldn’t be delegating but it is progressively getting easier for me and my staff. Now that I had a “little” more time on my hands, I spent more time with my staff looking to the future and planning more. I set aside an hour of weekly (short-term) planning on Mondays and an hour on Friday’s for longer-term planning. As a result, I am getting better at planning and establishing a vision for my group but just as important, I think I am doing a better job at developing my staff to lead and take on more responsibility.
There are many more AHAs that I could mention but I want to finish on the relationships I have established during this training and how they have helped me develop just by interacting with member of my cohort. I like to borrow good leadership traits from all that I meet and I can say that, to a person, I have pulled away tools and behaviors from each of you (instructors and classmates alike) that I have incorporated subtly in my leadership style. I also believe the interaction with my Rice cohort during this training has improved our relationships and given me a better insight as to how each of them think as leaders and how to be a better teammate for them.