I have been working away at a post about my experience at the Educause Leadership Institute for weeks now. In particular, I have been trying to contrast it to the Learning Technology Leadership Institute, a similar program from the same group, but with different faculty, curriculum, and type of attendees. I have realized that I just need to get my review out so here goes…
I’m a day late on this one, and I will in fat roll the last two days into just this one post. Some of my thoughts have been formulating over a while anyway. Plus, due to some technical issues, I am having trouble effectively composing posts from anywhere but our meeting room. So it just hasn’t been easy.
One thing that has really impressed me, as my team has been working on our presentation to the “executive council” (played by our faculty) and while talking to other attendees, is that so many of the attendees have made these kinds of presentations already. They have already been on the radar of their upper tiers of their organizations. In a way, this means that this really isn’t all that hard of a task and that arguably attendees are far closer to being high-level leadership positions than perhaps I had anticipated. I figured everyone would be high level directors, but the director of, say, all customer or systems support for some major state university is pretty high up there. Even in terms of scope of work, what I do as CIO at Menlo College is not that far off from their work. The only difference I’ve generally felt about my role has been its scope. Not so much even by now, before the workshop has even ended. It’s really impressive.
As far as the workshop itself, a few things have jumped out at me. The first is that, while we did spend time talking to our executives as prep work so that we understood that level of leadership. So that we could separate really high level strategy from the “tactical” work we do. This was very useful, but we haven’t really returned to the strategic during the presentations as I would have expected. We’ve talked a lot about regulations, about what we need to worry about as leaders, and even how to manage relationships, but that’s really it.
Without an explicit, ongoing emphasis on strategy, it’s really easy for us to all get “into the weeds” and talk tactics and specific solutions during our conversations. We get out of the strategic. There are some important points here and there. Looking at governance from a high level (see my note below about emphasis on size of institution making these solutions less relevant to me, however). Examining IT security as part of a general campus risk security model is a powerful one. But those were not really the core emphasis of some of these presentations.
Also, and I’m borrowing from another attendee here, there hasn’t been a lot of talk about how to maintain innovation while handling all these other issues. Yes, we need to care about compliance and cyber-security, but what about our responsibility to foster creativity and the ability for faculty to be free to be innovative?
Finally, there is the empahsis on large institutions. The faculty are all from fairly large ones, and I can understand a bias. But while it’s always diffficult for me to take ideas and apply them to an institution of our size, all the talk about deputy CIOs, relying on large staff with multiple layers, etc makes it tougher than I had thought. I’m getting stuff out but, in the case of governance, for instance, I was generally taking information from about 1/3 of any other institution’s solutions, with full knowledge that I hav no capacity to dfo the other 2/3s. That is truly frustrating, and more of an effort than I had anticipated.
On a more…personal interaction note, I really need to learn to shut up more. We all have great ideas, and they will conflict at times. It’s not quite an issue of “put 7 leaders together on a team and it’s chaos,” but if some don’t step back, it is a lot of discussing and less productivity at times. And I personally feel that I’ve been contributing less valuable content than others. In no way has my group made me feel like an outsider or have they ostracized me in any way. I do feel that my opinions are contrary to the general flow perhaps more often than not, but that itself doesn’t mean I should step back. But for the sake of getting things done, I need to sit back more and just listen. Of course, this is a lot easier when the overall work of the team is really excellent.
The jury is still out on whether this will be a good educational experience. I’m learning more through direct conversations with the faculty than the curriculum, it seems, We’ll see.
The last week of June, I attended the Educause Institue Learning Technology Leadership program. This is an intensive, week-long workshop (that’s the best term I can think of it – it’s not a conference, it’s not training, and I don’t really think it’s a workshop, per se, either) on how to be an effective leader at one’s institution. It is aimed at those working in educational technology (instructional technology, teaching and learning, lots of other names), but it goes way out to how one might do presentations for new programs to executive officers, handling 6 or 7 figure budgets, and a number of other high level topics.
Overall, it was a very positive experience. But the real “meat” of this post is a bit more nuanced than simply whether I learned a lot or not. For instance, in terms of just leadership skills ranging from one’s team to one’s institution, there was lots to learn. But that’s not entirely why I attended.
As a CIO, I must admit I felt a bit out of place. But we don’t have an educational technology program so it’s not like there was someone else to send. And we want to start one up, so we did want to send someone. But, while I did have these very relevant reasons for being there, I definitely had a different perspective than most. To be honest, I think this caused a bit of…disconnection and possibly abrasion with my teammates. I am sure they are all gracious enough to disagree with me, but if I’m being truthful, I think at times my tendency to think about issues such as liability and institutional fit instead of creativity and pedagogical impact was a hindrance to overall productivity. I apologize to a great overall team for that.
When I signed up for the workshop, though, my key question was “is there something about leadership in learning/educational/instructional technology that is different than leadership in general?” (more…)
I didn’t get to write a post yesterday because I was exhausted. Our teams do presentations on the 4th day, yesterday, that is meant to “make the case” for some proposal for a fictional institution. We worked late into Wednesday night, I was rehearsing my section of the presentation even later than that (into Thursday morning), and then the presentation itself certainly was a high pressure situation. We were all just very, very tired.
I’ll have a recap post at some point of the entire experience but, as was the case the first couple of days, a quick reflection is still important.
With all the work done to find our strengths so that we can apply them effectively, I have come to appreciate that strengths can actually be weaknesses themselves. It’s all about context. When working in a team where everyone is a highly-motivated, potential formal or informal leader, strengths such as being an Achiever (wanting to accomplish things), an Arranger (always understanding how things work together), and Input (wanting know more and more) can be a problem. They can make me inpatient, they can make me potentially disruptive. Considering the effort put in by my fellow teammates, I can only hope that I did a mildly effective job of keeping myself in check. Perhaps most of the time.
This means that there is even greater nuance to dealing with strengths and weaknesses than I had realized. Before, it was know your strengths, which helps you understand your weaknesses, then either address the weaknesses head on (out of your comfort zone) or find a complement. But strengths themselves can be weaknesses. My, this can get complicated.
One thing I saw during the building of our presentation was that all of us having to just buckle down and get the thing done allowed our “executor” strengths to come through, and then our other strengths could rise above that. It was almost like a base or “safe space” for us to start opening up. I felt a lot more comfortable knowing we all had this common goal that included a timeline, where we really knew we had to just get down to it. But even so, no one stopped indicating those existing strengths. I found this fascinating and I truly enjoyed just turning to others and saying “I’m not good at this, someone please help me.” Others rose up, gave me ideas, and things came together.
Considering that “leading from where you are” is a fundamental part of leadership in general but also key for those of us that are parts of larger organizations, this was pretty cool to watch.
I want to thank all of those at LTL 13, and to my teammates on team 5 in particular for an amazing experience.
So..I’m really tired, and this is going to be short, to be honest.
Last night my team worked on finishing the presentation we will make today to the “senior administrative leaders” that the LTL faculty will be “playing.” We are to pitch a specific idea, with implementation, budget, etc., that will address a strategic concern of a college.
Until last night, I have to admit that I haven’t felt completely at ease with our group. This is not a statement about the people, much less about any one person in particular. It’s about trying to form a team made up of people that have all come to a workshop designed to build leadership. This is a group here to become better leaders. Putting us in groups is going to cause some unease.
But there is nothing like a project, trying to make something concrete, to bring people together. As we worked together, our skills and strengths emerged naturally. Even more impressively, the way we offered to help just flowed. Someone would ask for help (I know I did several times) and others would start working on solutions. One person made headway, and ideas were thrown about, and we ended up with a great product. When we did a run-through, we all gave feedback equitably and fairly, and we have, I think, a solid product.
I don’t know what today’s reflection piece will be, but I know that last night’s collaborative experience will be the sticking point for me for the day.
I a still at the Learning Technology Leadership program from the Educause Institute, and the latest reflection piece we’ve had is on leadership. Unlike the first assignment, this one was done in the morning, before getting on with the day. So it’s shorter.
We were asked to discuss how the first day’s discussion may have changed our views on leadership. My response follows, and additional commentary past the jump.
While the concept of leading from within a group (rather than at the forefront) is nothing new, the discussion that stemmed from the governance committee model at Northwestern still struck a chord. Even at a small institution such as mine, where working with anyone means working with everyone, maintaining a steady focus on communications and sharing the ownership of knowledge and understanding is a powerful tool.
Unfortunately, this also takes a lot of energy. I am inspired by the prospects of what such shared communication can provide. Yet I am also concerned about the sheer amount of effort required to sustain such a program. At a larger institution, you not only have more resources in terms of number of people from your own organization to attend these meetings, but just more people in general. At a small institution, at some point, these committees are all the same people, and you have to watch for burn-out, disillusionment, and perhaps even annoyance with the process. That is completely counterproductive.
It will be a delicate balance and I will be adding “informal” to many of the names of these governance/communication groups, but it certainly has great impact, regardless of institution size. And that means it’s worth the effort, in almost any case.
Day 1 of the Educause Institute for Learning Technology Leadership came to a close last night. For just a half-day session, I am truly exhausted. I am also excited that such a dynamic experience will span the next 3.5 days. I’m sure I’ll get a lot out of it.
We are asked to reflect upon a specific topic each day. Last night, we focused on the results of our StrengthsFinders surveys. This tool, which I’ve used a few times now and find quite useful, tries to identify 5 strengths based on a big, long series of survey questions. They are actually statements, and you have to choose which one better describes you. For the most part, they are not opposed, which means it’s not easy to decide which one fits you best. So you make a decision that is a combination of logic, thoughtfulness, and gut.
Below is a slightly-edited (just tightened up) version of what I wrote in our internal Yammer group.