Is Different Better?

Ok… here’s how it works.  First I tell you a story.  Then I ask you some questions.  Then you answer in the comment section.  It’s like a discussion where people exchange ideas, and we all learn something.  Perhaps you have heard of it before. It’s fun.  Let’s play.

For a long time I was the Coordinator of Professional Development at my school.  It was a nice gig.  I developed a mentoring program for new faculty.  We held weekly “lunch and learn” sessions on implementing best practices and integrating new technology into our curriculum.  We had whole days of learning and folks attended lots and lots of development sessions, both on and off campus.  It was helpful.  Yada yada yada.

Before I started the job, there wasn’t a comprehensive program.  They hired me to develop it.  It’s not hard to be considered good when you are inventing something from scratch.  Everything you do seems interesting and innovative.  It’s difficult to mess up something that never really existed.

But then I got a new job, and someone took over my position.  Almost instantly everything changed.  More importantly, everything got better.  I handed my successor hundreds of files.  She digitized everything and tossed the files in the trash.  In fact, she created a digital system for the whole kit and caboodle.  The entire system was better organized and easier to use, from sign-ups to food ordering to follow up.  She made the cafeteria serve a decent lunch and introduced new topics and speakers.  She developed a website so that all the information was in one place.  Then she started recording the sessions so that others could attend any time.  It was better, a lot better.

You know what?  She got a new job and someone else has now taken over her position. The new version of Coordinator of Professional Development is only a few weeks into the job and is already making it her own.  Now we use Edmodo, a networking site that not only organizes all our information, but also allows us to talk to each other online, to share ideas and comments.  It’s like Facebook for teachers and students can use it too if we want.   You know what I love? Her emails are funny.  A little learning here, a little laugh there, she’s a master of appropriate humor in the workplace.  She’s even introducing some fun into our programs.  Next week we are playing trivia at lunch.  Our team is called The Delusionists.  Who knew work could be fun?

You could probably conclude a bunch of different things from this story, but for me the lesson is pretty clear.  It’s easy to keep doing the same things because they’re working pretty well.  But now I know it can also be awesome to mix things up every few years and give new ideas a try.  Not everything works perfectly, but novelty can be really invigorating.  It sparks conversation, increases participation, and encourages innovation.  And who doesn’t want that?

Wait.  Don’t answer that.  That’s not the real question.  That one was rhetorical.  But there are some questions I really do want to ask.  Now’s the time where you chime in with your brilliant insights.  Here we go. 

  • In your workplace, do titled positions turn over on a regular cycle, say every five years or so, or do your leaders keep their positions until they are promoted, retired, demoted, or fired?
  • Do you think titled and untitled positions should be changed periodically and if so, how often?
  • Do you think it is possible for a leader to hold a position for a long time and remain effective, innovative, and frankly awesome?  If so, what do they need to do to make this happen?

Thanks for reading.  And more importantly, thanks for commenting.  I really do want to know what you think.