When crises arise, administrators need to spend extra time on the issues, putting regular activities aside, according to social psychologist and Indiana University Bloomington chancellor Sharon Stephens Brehm, PhD. Brehm offered advice on becoming an academic administrator during a presidential invited address at APA's 2003 Annual Convention in Toronto.
Some other tips she offered for administrators starting a new position:
Avoid the mistake that will haunt you forever. Don't launch a "major initiative" or talk about your "vision" for the university before you've even settled in, she said.
Learn the people, the politics and the issues. Even if you've already been at the institution, you still don't know everyone and everything you need to know. Brehm advised new administrators to "go everywhere and do everything" possible on campuses.
The first year, she said, administrators should focus on learning the ropes, but also plan ahead for actions in the second year.
"If you move too slowly the second year, you may miss the boat," she said.
Be accessible. Brehm keeps public and private e-mail addresses, and answers both herself. However, she said administrators should recognize that there is very little private speech for an academic administrator.
"Much of what you say or write will get back to a wider audience," she explained.
Work hard and tell people what you're doing. Academic administrators are often stereotyped as being after money and power. Brehm said the best way to combat that stereotype is to work hard and communicate to faculty what's getting done.
Create a strong team. This is a very important task, she said. No one can be a successful administrator alone. It takes a team that works well together to make a significant contribution to the institution.
Understand that strategic planning is essential for you and your institution. "It is very important to know what your goals are, how far you've gone in achieving them and what you need to do to further them," she said.
Brehm also spoke about crisis management, offering a number of suggestions for how to deal with sudden, high-profile events that take a great deal of time and energy to address:
A good communications staff is essential, and you need to work closely with them, Brehm advised.
Give the issues the time they need, and usually they need a lot of time. This means not doing other things; even other important projects have to be set aside, she said.
It's crucial to communicate the appropriate core message for the institution, she said, and to designate an appropriate spokesperson.