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April 2003 Issue

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Management Strategies & Tips

By Jan Norton

Email: norton@mwsc.edu

Three Respects

In the past two weeks, I have had the great fortune to work with Frank Christ and his graduate class of up-and-coming potential learning assistance center managers. One of the last questions posed had to be answered quickly because our class time was coming to an end: I was asked what three pieces of advice I would give to learning center directors.

The question caught me by surprise, but I had three immediate responses: respect your students, respect your staff, and respect yourself. Given more time to think, I'd probably come up with three more savvy, suave, or impressive answers, but I'll share these three for now since I think they apply in many different kinds of circumstances and learning center structures. Plus, the question may prompt you to verbalize your own answers.

RESPECT YOUR STUDENTS This sounds obvious, yet I know so many people who are quick to condemn their students' preparations or lack of effort. In some colleges or departments, complaining about students is an accepted pastime, each person providing progressively more outrageous examples. We need that kind of release at times, and yes, we may wish the students were otherwise in some ways, but they are who they are and deserve our respect, attention, assistance, and patience. There are so many ways to be proud of and pleased for students and their academic progress that it's a shame to focus on the negative.

RESPECT YOUR STAFF Your staff includes peers, secretaries, student workers -- anyone who works with or reports to you. I think that respecting staff involves asking for their best, giving your best to them, and appreciating who they are as individuals. Respecting workers is more than just praise and appreciation: you owe them the best possible working environment (physically and psychologically) and owe them feedback with the chance for self-improvement. One of the concepts I'm glad I learned long ago is the idea that a weakness is just a strength gone bad; this has enabled me to have patience in some situations and given me a way to help employees improve. Here's an example: someone is really chatty and talks too much. OK, that's the way to see it as a flaw. But I can also see the good in that: here's someone comfortable with other people, communicative, etc. (he's the natural choice for visitors touring the place) -- it just needs to be toned down at times and balanced with better listening skills. Seeing the behavior in this way gives me a focus for praise and improvement.

RESPECT YOURSELF This is a tough one to discuss, but it's a critical part of the picture. I think respecting yourself is very complex, and so individualized that I can't offer much here. But I will say that I think it includes what I've said above: positive corrections, appreciation of individuality, self-improvement, etc. By receiving and reading this newsletter, you are already practicing some self-respect by furthering your education. Beyond formal education lies a world of professional organizations, publication opportunities, and continuing self-education through conferences, reading, research, and other academic activities. You have to respect who you are as an individual and build upon your strengths.

Respect involves seeing people as worthy of our best, so I hope it is a regular part of your life, including as a recipient of others' respect.


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