New Deans Share Nuggets of Wisdom

Advice from new deans on how to approach your first deanship.

Twice at the opening reception I found myself in conversations involving a long-time dean and a new dean who had previously worked together at the same institution. There surely were other such pairs. Fifty-two percent of first-time deans in AACSB’s 2014–15 Deans Survey were hired from another institution. And 35 percent reported having an active mentor who encouraged them toward their first deanship.

The New Deans Learning Community Affinity Group, for deans in their first three years on the job, gathered Sunday afternoon to swap stories and exchange advice. BizEd caught up with the newbies and asked “What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given about how to approach your first deanship?” Here’s a sampling of what they had to say:

  • Listen, listen, listen.
  • Meet everyone.
  • Communicate often.
  • Be positive when you communicate.
  • Have a vision and go after it at an appropriate pace.
  • Never make decisions that you should not be the one to make, and never make a decision sooner than you need to.
  • Build a great team that you can trust.
  • Be consistent—you won’t please everyone, and that’s OK.
  • Avoid micromanaging to focus on strategic issues.
  • Learn to manage your calendar.
  • Be selective in managing priorities.
  • Stay focused and have a few key areas of priority clear for you and the stakeholders.
  • Ensure your team (including department chairs and associate deans) are all on the same page with the vision.
  • Don’t try to do everything; do what is important.
  • Keep some time for research.
  • Pace yourself. Strive for metered growth and change.
  • Never let the provost be surprised about a situation. Always give him/her adequate “heads up.”
  • Remember you are a university official—maintain good relationships with central administration.
  • On fundraising, engage through transformation. Convince/engage potential donors by selling the concept of “total change.”