I am able to accomplish my job effectively because of the informal relationships I have built and maintained throughout the years and the relationships I am building now. My work relationships are based on trust, respect and loyalty. To be able to develop and maintain relationships require that I find connections with others, share vulnerabilities, the values and culture I represent. I am a member of a university community, a community of human beings who have lives outside work. I have worked in the corporate and start up worlds where I rarely interacted with my customers and when I did, it was through phone calls or emails. I came back to student affairs twice because for me, there’s a sense of personal satisfaction, there’s a sense of purpose in what I do. I define myself as a student affairs professional working with technologies and not a technologist working in student affairs. To me, there is a big difference with that mindset. I don’t work for computers and policies. I work for my customers – the students, the staff, the parents, my staff and those who are involved with the university. I believe that my role is to assist the university in providing support and environment for students to develop holistically as scholars, leaders and citizens.
It is because of this mindset that I find it laughable and even feel offended when I come across ideas that in higher education, we are not supposed to talk and share about what we do outside work, the things we do during the weekends because somehow we are wasting time and company resources. Collaboration and communication, to some, may mean talking exclusively about projects, tasks and timelines. I don’t agree with this approach. If we are solely in the business of producing the same widgets requiring no innovation and creativity, then design automated processes where robots do the work. If the concern is that the level of productivity will significantly diminish because of the chatters, I know from personal experience that within these chatters may come good ideas and relationships amongst co-workers/customers develop. In the long run, effective collaborations that yield productivity results come from them. I learned early on in my career that while I believe intrinsic motivation is internal, as a manager/leader of a team, I can help create an environment where they feel welcomed, nurtured and heard as human beings. In part, I do this by promoting time and space for my team to share what we do outside work, our personal interests. For me, recognizing what makes us passionate about life; our value systems are invaluable to me as a leader and as a team. It is my belief that leadership is not just about communication, it’s about making connections. As a team, shared purpose, accountability and vision are keys to success.
I do not know about other industries but I know that the developers/designers I work with are driven by sense of accomplishment, sense of autonomy and the sense that they are able to contribute. Put them in a box where they are not able to express themselves, use command control as a model of management instead of influence, and I think I have a workplace that they do not enjoy.