Sharing with you what I learned from my staff during my 30-year career will allow me to confront the ghosts of decisions past - ghosts that haunt me for the mistakes I made sitting behind a big desk in a large office, out of earshot of the buzz arising from the tiny desks in Cubicle Land. Some believe it's important for everyone to feel he is part of one big, happy family; others prefer to be left alone to do their work.\n Despite the poor turnouts and inconveniences, we marched on until one evening, when our dean of housing, five academic advisors, and two admissions counselors accompanied me to an information night event where we were greeted only by a lone prospective student, his parents, and his little sister. The Story of Success, Gladwell researched the cause of airplane crashes and discovered that many of them were caused not by catastrophic technical failures, violent weather, or incompetent pilots; rather, they were caused by "mitigated speech" in the cockpit - that is, speech used by a lower-level co-pilot who doesn't want to appear to be questioning the pilot's judgment.
forum Commentary Confessions of An ex-Boss: what I learned from my Staff By Richard J. Riehl my name is richard, and i’m a recovering university ad- my senior who had been the other finalist for the job i had ministrator. i’ve been administration-free for six years, but just landed. i remember well the day my new boss, an old- i continue to have flashbacks to a career that led to this school kind of guy, summoned me to his office to tell me i battle with PASD: Post-administrative stress disorder. had the job. i was no longer to be “dick riehl, everybody’s sharing with you what i learned from my staff during my buddy,” he explained; rather, i was “richard riehl, direc- 0-year career will allow me to confront the ghosts of deci- tor of University admissions.” i understood him to mean sions past — ghosts that haunt me for the mistakes i made that my new responsibilities would force me to make en- sitting behind a big desk in a large office, out of earshot of emies because of the difficult decisions i’d have to make. the buzz arising from the tiny desks in cubicle land. in hindsight, i think he also meant i had to grow up. in my past life i worked at three different universi- Upon returning to my new, more spacious office, my ties, all mid-size public institutions. i was responsible, at first two thoughts were, “now what do i do?” followed by various times, for supervising staffs that recruited and ad- the solemn vow, “never let ’em see you sweat.” i was lucky mitted students, evaluated their transfer credit, awarded to have on my staff a competent, experienced, and well- them financial aid, registered them, checked them out for respected office manager who already ran the office. she graduation, and organized their commencement ceremo- told me what to do and how and when to do it, all while nies. my preparation for this career consisted of a couple allowing me to think that i was the one in charge. That of liberal arts degrees and five years of high school teach- represented the beginning of my education by those who ing and coaching. called me “boss.” Western Washington University enrolled 9,000 stu- i was especially fortunate to have two talented associate dents when i was appointed director of admissions. i directors, including the one who had competed against was 9 years old, with three whole years as an admissions me for the director’s job but who was extraordinarily gra- counselor under my belt. i had never supervised anyone cious in defeat, invariably loyal, and possessed a great sense over the age of eighteen. i suddenly found myself respon- of humor. i learned that he also had never met a rule or a sible for a staff of eight women, all older, wiser, and more policy that shouldn’t or couldn’t be bent or broken. my experienced than i, and a male associate director ten years other associate was likewise a
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