tip tuesday-01

The effectiveness of any department or program is dependent on how strong the foundation is. In my 20 years in higher education, and as coach and consultant, I’ve seen this concept overlooked time and time again.

Many leaders jump right into bringing consultants in for a day of strategic planning, team building, keynotes etc. But if these consultants don’t address foundational issues, the entire day is nothing more than a silver bullet. And silver bullets won’t help the department move forward, meet goals, improve staff cohesion, or effectively meet student needs. Eventually, the consultant leaves, taking their high energy and hope with them, and you find yourself at square one again.

Look, I understand. I’ve been there and have spent a lot of funds looking for that silver bullet, only to realize it’s the foundation I need to pay attention to and ensure it’s solid. And when there is a crack in the wall or the foundation begins to slope, I have to invest in fixing the crack, not just patch it up because patching almost never works.

Think about your department like a house.

I remember when I was getting ready to sell my mother’s house that she’d lived in for over 30 years. When everything was taken out of the house and off the walls, all the cracks began to show.

When I had the house appraised, the report stated the foundation had shifted, which caused severe cracks to form in the walls and the floors to slope.  I had to invest some money and time to fix the foundation, just to be able to sell the house. New concrete needed to be poured and entire walls needed to be replaced.

The cracks on the walls were an indicator of a larger issue, and that was that the foundation had shifted. If I had just done a quick patch-n-paint job, the cracks wouldn’t have been visible, but I would still have known they were there and ultimately, so would every potential buyer.

How many times have you just patched up the walls of your department without checking to see if the foundation is strong and solid?

When a department/program foundation is not strong, you’re not able to accomplish your yearly goals, overall mission, or best meet the students’ needs. Without a solid foundation, you simply cannot work together effectively.

Strategies to Rebuild Your Foundation:

Have you noticed any cracks in your foundation? Have you ignored the cracks? How is it affecting the team dynamics and workflow? And how students perceive your department/program and the quality of the services you provide?

  • Take a close look at your foundation and assess how your team works? Are there clicks? Do they work together collaboratively and effectively?
  • Develop a strategic plan to assess and enhance your foundation. Get everyone involved. Trust me, you’ll have more success when there is a greater buy-in from staff members.

If you need help creating a solid foundation for your department, please get in touch with me. I love helping higher education leaders, teams, and programs/departments gain the confidence to best meet the needs of their students.

Debra Griffith is an Associate Vice President at San Jose State University| Trainer Facilitator | Strategist | Key Note Speaker | Coach