An Exploration of 4 Years Inside A Non Credit Department at the Local Community College
As I continue to reflect upon the last 4 years in the position I hold at the College, I learn more about myself, and about being a human being on this planet.
It is funny to think that leading a team at a small community college in Albany, Oregon, would provide insights of this kind, and yet, they do. Why?
Because no matter where you lead, it’s you doing the leading, for one, and two, all contexts to some extent are the same. Yes, the challenges, people, systems, and structures, are different, yet you are there, and you are always getting to know, and developing yourself and other people. Same.
After spending time in leadership in the private sector, and now having done so in the public sector, there are several things that we will discuss in this new series that are similar; and, in some ways, mirror each other.
In this first installment in this new series, I will lay out a brief outline, if you will, of the posts to come. It will be a way to set the stage for the concepts we will discuss, unpack, and walk through together.
I’m going to frame this first entry, and the following entries, by year, which will provide us a base from which to work through the narrative to follow. Ready? Alright, here we go.
I remember well when the job description for the position I currently hold, Director of Extended Learning at Linn-Benton Community College, landed on my desk. I was working in a program at the college, which was struggling, and in threat of being eliminated. In fact, the program has been eliminated.
I looked over the position description, talked to my wife, friends, and family, and took a walk with a colleague, who asked me this question. Are you an operations man, Jeff? Whoa. Was I?
I was very unsure, and needed to think about it. Here are some of the considerations I made previous to applying to the position, which, I think, are quite generalizable.
- Reflecting upon my work and academic career.
- Reflecting upon what I would bring to the position.
- Doing research about the position.
- Having conversations with the hiring supervisor.
- Having conversations with staff in the department.
There were more, bet you get the idea. It is important when making a life change to make all of the considerations and reflections we feel necessary. What happened? Well, I ended up saying this to my then wife.
If it was meant to be, we will know by getting the offer; and, if not, then not.
Of course, you know that I got the offer, and have been in the position for almost 4 years. And, what was the first year like? Hell and heaven all rolled into one. Kinda like life.
The first year, especially the first six months, was extremely painful. One of the most painful experiences of my life. Why? Because all day every day, I was outside of my comfort zone. I was also, at this time, not treating my mind and body very kindly.
Here is what the first year looked like.
- Breakdown central.
- Remembering who I am.
- Development outside of the college.
- Life coach.
- Breakdown to breakthrough becomes a reality.
- Relationship development, with myself, and the team.
I say often when talking about that first year, that that was the year of relationships. Yes, we did other things, which I’ve written about in other posts, yet the basis for almost every action that year was developing deeper relationships with ourselves and each other. Painful in many ways, yes, and beautiful in many more.
In the second year, things started to move. Meaning, we began to move, well, almost like a team. We were getting closer, and yet, had a lot more work to do.
Here is what the second year looked like.
- Process and system improvement.
- People in the right positions.
- Vision, mission, goals.
- Developing priorities.
- Metrics and measurement.
- Internal advocacy.
- External relationships.
As we then moved into year 3, the team became more aligned, and we began to get traction in all areas of our business. As a matter of fact, in the fall of 2019 we were on pace to grow our service to the local communities by another 10%. Amazingly fun.
Then, as we moved from fall to winter, we continued our alignment trajectory, and, of course, you all know what happened in early 2020. Yep. A pandemic.
Here is what that looked like.
- Team alignment.
- Gaining traction.
- Filled classes, growth, sustainability.
- Creating 5 new business models.
- Community response.
Initially, we were wrestling with questions, such as could we deliver completely remote classes. At that time, we did not have remote offerings, so there were no processes or systems to draw upon. Yet, we ended up taking all 5 business models completely remote, and the community response was stellar.
As we entered year 4, all 5 programs were either creating and delivering remote classes and training, or would be by the fall of 2020. And, there was a lot of work to do to continue the momentum we created earlier that year.
Here is what that looked, and well, is like.
- Creating all new processes and systems.
- From disruption to sustainability.
- Filled classes, growth, sustainability.
- Engagement, relationships, conversion, process and priorities.
- Planning for the future.
- 10 business models?
And for next year? Well, I’ve actually been reflecting upon this question quite a bit. Someone asked me recently, what do you see for our work as we, at some point, begin to offer in-person classes again. First, I think offering in-person classes again is still in the distant future, yet I do have some thoughts.
As we move into the second-half of the 2020-21 school year, we are offering new classes and training, and filling them up with local community members.
I see a 2 to 3 year slow progression from completely remote classes and training, to what I think will be a hybrid-model of both remote and in-person classes and training in the future.
What will the percent mix be of remote and in-person classes in the future? I don’t know. I do think, however, that, unlike when the pandemic started here locally, it will not be sudden. It will take time.
And, that’s okay. There is no rush. We will meet the community needs as they change. That’s part of what we do, and what we do well.
Alright, that completes the overview of the Leading From Within series. I look forward to future posts, where I can share, in more detail, how each of these years has impacted me as a leader, and, even more importantly, as a human being.