Academic institutions are challenged today from both without and within. A number of factors combine to put unprecedented pressure on administration and faculty, often leading to dysfunctional behaviors at the departmental level. Administrators, Deans, and Chairs often lack the organizational and interpersonal tools to guide departments through their issues, leading to an escalation of problems over time leading to crisis. This paper describes a method for gathering data from departments, divisions, and areas, analyzing it and displaying it using the tools of Systems Thinking, which in combination with skillful guidance and coaching, has achieved consistently positive results in bringing departments back into organizational and interpersonal health, effectiveness, and sense of well-being.
The integration of individual mindful awareness and constructive collaborative action is at the heart of successful academic environments. Without the desire to be awake and aware of one’s mindset and behavior in the present moment, personal growth is not likely, or perhaps even possible. Without the ability to model and generate effective collaboration, the impetus to build collegiality will not arise. We understand that achieving this balance requires commitment, openness, patience, persistence and an authentic desire for the overall success of the organization. A sense of humor along the way doesn’t hurt.
At Systems Perspectives, we provide individual coaching and facilitated group process in our work with senior university administrators, deans, chairs and faculty, developing and supporting key leadership competencies and growth. Our individual clients learn to pay close attention to their own awareness, practicing new behaviors and assessing results in a continuous improvement loop. At the group level, we attend to processes and agreements that encourage inquiry and constructive conversation. As our work evolves, we observe that the individual development work we do falls into the broad area of teaching mindful awareness. We witness our clients’ improved capacity to deal constructively with challenging interactions and events. We also see that as a result of this focus, they are able to bring increased confidence, purpose and equanimity to their leadership, which in turn improves group and organizational effectiveness.