Current Position and Institution:
Senior Director of Student Engagement, Rutgers University
First Position and Institution:
Facility Coordinator – Werblin Recreation Center, Recreational Services, Rutgers University
I had just been selected to lead the grand opening and management of a $20 million recreation facility. I was 22 years old, fresh out of college, and hungry to make a difference–but there was so much work to be done. On the outside, I tried to project an image of strength, confidence, and infallibility to gain respect from colleagues and those I supervised. On the inside, however, I was terrified and overwhelmed at the enormous challenge ahead of me. I was so fearful of making a mistake that I felt compelled to control and weigh in on every project, every staff member, and every last detail of each and every task. It was time-consuming and ultimately unproductive. My style was impeding my staff’s ability to do their best work and resulted in people waiting for my blessing and direction, rather than taking initiative on new ideas and opportunities.
My micromanaging tendency was affirmed when I received results from a 360-feedback evaluation in which peers, direct-reports, and my supervisor identified this practice as a major weakness in my leadership style. As I processed the situation with a respected colleague, they reminded me of the difference between managers and leaders–that management was about allocation and accountability of resources, and that leading was more about rallying and inspiring others to a brighter tomorrow–a tomorrow that staff themselves felt a part of the making. He went on to tell me that I would never reach my potential until I trusted and empowered others to make their own informed decisions. Of course, this was and is easier said than done, but I quickly realized the value of this wisdom and the multiplicative effect it can have on an organization.
The moral of this story is that if you set high expectations, establish clear values, and truly believe in others and their potential to do great things, they will seldom let you down.
The #SATBT series asks higher education and student affairs professionals to share a picture and reflect on a memory and/or one of the most important lessons the learned from their first job in the field.
Consider contributing your story for potential inclusion in the book version…