November 2002 Issue
Management Strategies & Tips
By Jan Norton
Beliefs & Actions
My staff and I are training a new colleague, and that process once again
reminds me of the importance of consistency. But the kind of consistency that is
important to me isn't just the enforcement of day-to-day operating rules, how we
record data, whether we allow water or food, or any number of specific items.
Anyone can learn those rules and abide (or not) by them. What happens when a new
situation arises, something for which there are no rules yet? How can we each
respond in an appropriate way when we are sometimes supervising someone else's
tutors or interacting with a faculty member who is accustomed to working with
someone else? What guides our decision-making processes?
I think that one of the most important management functions is to establish a
philosophical foundation that provides consistency by guiding individual
decisions within the learning center. The decisions you make about your center's
policies, environment, tutor training, evaluation processes, and other key
functions reflect what you believe. For example, if you fundamentally believe
that student tutors are responsible paraprofessionals, then you don't lock up
the supply cabinet and expect the tutors to ask for a pencil. If your
philosophical foundation includes the belief that learners are unique
individuals, you don't create a one-size-fits-all tutorial service. Do you
fundamentally believe that students in remedial courses need to be treated as
adults and not stigmatized in any way? That belief will guide where they study
in your center, what the decor might be, which software and texts you plan to
purchase, how you will train your tutors - even what paperwork they fill out.
The first step in looking for consistency in your learning center is to write
down what you believe to be true about why you exist and how you want to
operate. Then take a look at all of the individual policies and rules that you
have established for your center. Are each of those rules and operating
procedures reflecting one or more core beliefs? If not, can the rules be
adjusted so that your actions and policies are consistent with your philosophy?
Or if the actions don't seem to fit the beliefs you've written, then consider
acknowledging that you may not believe what you think you do.
These aren't new ideas: I've written them before, first presented them in 1993,
and read them elsewhere. Having someone new around just reminds me how important
it is that he understands not just what to do but why to do it. If he can
understand who we are, he can contribute more appropriately and make all of us
more comfortable with his decisions.
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