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Good relationships are at the heart of being an effective chair. This includes investing time into establishing, nurturing, repairing, and maintaining our working relationships. The quality of rapport we have with faculty, staff, and students pays off by smoothing the way when things get rocky.
Most of us are uncomfortable when tensions arise, but there are a few key tips keep in mind:
- Prevention and early intervention: Spend time up front building rapport and trust, creating a solid foundation to support you when challenges arise.
- Believe in the other person’s capability, and good intentions.
- Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
- Aim for transparency, integrity, authenticity, humility, and clarity in all your interactions.
- Be curious, compassionate and courageous.
- Have clear expectations and communicate them.
- Anticipate what might be coming, in order to be proactive.
- Provide supportive structure.
- Recognize that stress and other forms of mental health challenges are common and can negatively influence someone’s ability to engage appropriately (for you and the other person).
- Create a welcoming environment.
- Be consistent and reliable.
- Help foster a sense of self-efficacy, self-determination, dignity and control.
- Aim to equalize power as much as possible and reasonable.
- Allow expression of emotion without recrimination.
- Provide choices.
- Work collaboratively.
- Help people to identify their strengths.
- Ask: “What do you want to happen?.. How can I help you?” Not all problems are yours to solve.
As a chair, you are often called to think on your feet and respond thoughtfully to emerging complex issues. Reflective practice is a core leadership capability to assist you in making effective decisions, and to engage with those around you with greater consideration. Reflective practice for workplace leaders in higher education is an article filled with good tips to get you started.