Thursday, October 25, 2012

Executive Communications

Executive Communications  -- New President Interview -- Part 12

Q> It’s been a little more than a year since you took office.  Now that you made experience one full academic year, are you ready to give some advice to other new executives?

A> Thank you for asking.  In the past year we have had some challenges to colleges in our city that were totally unrelated to academics.  One college had a flood, another had a vermin infestation,  a third had a sink hole open in the street in front of the school’s entrance and the mayor announced plans to build a new campus for a fourth college.

I continue in my effort to keep the lines of communication open to my fellow college presidents.  We meet monthly and other groups such as vice-presidents, department chairs, and deans meet monthly.  These meetings enable us to share best practices and wisdom from people who share similar job responsibilities.

Q> What happened to cause a flood?  I never heard that the city experienced a flood.  Was it in the neighborhood or just the College building?  Tell us more about the communication challenges.

A> The city had a thunderstorm that was very concentrated in the central area.  The north side barely had any rain.  The building had a flat roof and a drain got clogged.  The water went down the walls and later a pipe broke in the walls.  The college sent out a message via their emergency notification communications system.  One or two inches of water were on the floors of most of the first floor offices and the basement areas had several feet of water.

The challenge was two-fold removing the water and insuring the classes and business of the College. The College communicated with the students, faculty, staff and public as well as the restoration vendors who would help.   The next morning, the administration talked with everyone and reassured all will be repaired and the College would remain open.  

Q> It sounds like it was a very difficult time.  What does this have to do with communications?

A> Communications with students, staff and faculty were very important.  The process of telling people the story and what to expect helped make them feel valued.  Thomas J. Peters in his 1982 book, In Search of Excellence, tells us the customer is first.  A wise leader knows that every organization has both internal and external customers.  The wise leader knows that at any given moment the roles of customer or supplier can flip for anyone in the organization.  The supplier has to understand the needs of the customers. Too many organizations ignore or consider customers a nuisance. The truly excellent organization treats everyone as a team member.

Q> Do you mean everyone is a customer even the faculty and staff?

In some businesses internal departments compete with outside organizations. Colleges don’t work that way; we don’t outsource instruction.  We are all information suppliers and consumers.  We prepare studies and reports for our co-workers and superiors.  Each report is a type of communications.  Keeping the communications accurate and abundant is the way to keep the “customer” close people part of the team.

Q> Thank you very much.

*Part twelve of an imaginary interview with a president of the College appointed in 2010. Note this is just for your information and edification. Any connection to a real college president is strictly coincidental.