Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New President Interview -- part 1

The City College system is looking for a new College president.  In order to help the search committee choose the best candidate, I would like to imagine an interview with the newly appointed president of the College.   Note, this is just for your information and amusement. Any connection to a real college or librarian  is strictly coincidental. 

Q> You come in at a very challenging time for the City College system and you had what could be considered a dream job as a reference librarian. Any second thoughts about what you’re walking into?

While I love being a librarian, I need a chance to spread my wings and help more people achieve their goals. I’ve been blessed in a lot of ways, and so far the College is a terrific experience. I love being on campus and interacting with faculty and students in both formal and informal situations.

Librarians have a unique position at the college.  They interact, teach and lead anyone from the youngest freshman to the most senior faculty member.  Librarians  teach students and faculty new ways to use information and library resources for any class offered at the College.  They have organization skills and aware of current thought in many fields. Cataloging and other library tasks teach an understanding of following and interpreting rules. We understand the consequence of our actions much better than most faculty members.  It was a natural step to go from librarian to college president.  I had day-to-day contact with students and faculty and I have management skills to run a large organization.

While I grew up and attended universities in other cities, I choose to move and live in this city. The success of a city is dependent on an educated population. No one has a magic wand that can make everything and everyone succeed.  I hope that I can make the presidency my new dream job and encourage everyone in the College to want their job to be a dream job while always preparing for the next step in their careers and lives.  I want them to think about how to get to “yes,” to know when to follow the rules to the letter, and to know when to bend them to help our people and College succeed.  I want to revise approval procedures to save time and help our faculty and staff better serve the students.

I’ve always believed in the role public service plays in the organization. Librarians, teachers and staff are all in the business of providing public service.  Even those working in back rooms have to deal with the public. Public service is something that was inculcated in me from my earliest teaching experiences to my college student days and continues to this day. We are put on this earth to make it a better place. Today is one of those times in life when fulfilling a public responsibility to build a new future is more important than letting other people dictate the future. I have no regrets about taking this new position. 

Q> Is “Getting to yes” going to be a new catch phrase for your administration?

A> No, but the thought will be part of the way I want us to do business.  I don’t want to have any catch phrases.  Every employee should have the information and tools to do their jobs with excellence and commitment to the goal of educating our students. We have to build trust into our administration.  If we have a common goal and the skills to achieve this goal, we can work as partners in the education process.

Q> Peter Drucker talked about "excellence" in his essay, "Managing Oneself."  How have Drucker's ideas shaped your view of organizations?

A> In this essay Drucker says,
  "One should waste as little effort as possible on improving areas of low competence.  It takes far more energy and work to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence.  And yet most people--especially most teachers and most organizations--concentrate on making incompetent performers into mediocre ones.  Energy, resources, and time should go instead into making a competent person into a star performer."
As an organization the College needs to find the good performers and turn them into stars so that they can set positive examples.  No one can be a star all the time, but from the star performers hopefully there will be a trickle down effect. Even the mediocre performers today will learn some of the behaviors that lead them on the way to star performances.  I interpret Drucker to mean we shouldn't waste time on incompetence.  We should work with our people to help all of them achieve excellence.

In Sayings of the Fathers 2:6 from the Talmud,  Rabbi Hillel says," In a place where there is no man, strive to be a man."  For the College this means two things -- take a leadership role and do the right things.  Don't wait to be told to act to solve the problem.  Second, substitute "excellence" for "man" and we learn to be constantly aware of opportunities for excellence.

In the search for excellence we need to encourage staff, faculty and students to understand their strengths,  challenges, values and goals.  Students need to explore a wide range of ideas and thoughts; faculty and staff need to grow and understand how they fit into the organization and community.

 --- to be continued

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