Better Together

A hierarchical structure exists in organizations where certain levels of the team are referred to by different titles.  Chief executive officer, executive assistant, manager, director, dean, vice president, administrator, custodian and even master of the universe.  OK, the last one doesn’t really exist (at least I couldn’t get it to stick where I work), but you get my drift.  Labels matter, but so does the way we interact with and refer to the individuals holding these titles.  A key problem with organizations is thinking of the function of these different tasks in limiting ways.  Surely the administrator who is taking minutes for this meeting doesn’t have anything meaningful to offer. Or do they?

Consider the breadth of operations an administrative assistant sees every day.  These people are interacting with different departments/units/colleges to ensure various processes are being executed and followed through with daily.  However, this informal network is often overlooked.  The very nature of the “other duties as assigned” designation allows them to glean valuable knowledge from a large catchment group which renders their advice and insight invaluable to their home team.

As a leader, it is important to bring everyone to the table and treat them as equals.  Furthermore, it is important to foster a community where all employees feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and ideas regardless of ranking.  In meetings, encourage your team to introduce themselves with what they do not the title they have in some HR system or job description.  This gives them agency to describe their function and what it means to the overall organization and its success. 

The key here is to acknowledge that a leader can’t begin to and shouldn’t try to understand the limits of any one person’s competency to weigh in on complex issues.  The more brains involved with solving a particular task, the better.  When we capitalize on the intellectual powerhouse across all ranks in an organization, we open the door to more creative problem solving.  We are literally looking outside of the decision maker box and saying, “You, over there. What do you think about this?”  A welcome consequence of this championing behavior is it builds up the next cohort of great leaders.  Having seen this example, they informally lead their peer groups and foster a collaborative culture.

I encourage you as leaders, in any capacity, in any venue, to keep an open mind and consult with your most trusted advisors.  I guarantee that administrator who has diligently been organizing your meetings for the last 6 months has something constructive to offer.

In the spirit of soliciting advice from stakeholders, what do you want to talk about with me on this blog?  I would love for you to leave me a comment so we can talk about leadership topics you are interested in.  Better together means my virtual blog fam too!

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Danielle Eaton

Administrator champion who believes strongly in advocating for those who are doing the behind the scenes work to accomplish great things in their organizations.

3 thoughts on “Better Together”

  1. Hello my intellectual ally. I would love to know your thoughts on the value that society places on educators as leaders. I believe that the role of the educator has morphed so much over the last three decades; the expectations have increased, but it often seems the teachers have less respect than ever. Thoughts?

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    1. So much to unpack here. I agree with you about the inverse relationship between responsibilities of educators and the recognition they receive. One thought that came to mind was the increase in working parents over generations and their expectation that the career educators can effectively raise their children because they are with them more often. This obviously creates tremendous pressure for educators who might think of it as more of a collaborative effort than a hand off. Then if the educators fall short, there is guilt all around. Everyone feels like they could have and should have done more, but getting to the point of reconciling those feelings is both difficult to admit let alone remedy.

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