I learned the hard way (multiple times) about the need to say what we mean, and to do it often. When I served as a department chair I found myself regularly stuck between a rock and a hard place. Should I advocate for my department members who had an understanding of content and pedagogical expertise? Should I advocate for my leadership team and hold true to mission/vision and other initiatives? How could I marry both of these so that I would end up advocating for students first and foremost?
Unfortunately, I found it difficult to find that middle ground, and often ended up veering too much towards either my department members or my leadership team. Someone was always disappointed.
And, when I served as a rep for our collective bargaining unit, this divide, and lack of balance, was even more pronounced.
The lesson I learned was that rather than attempt to appease all, it made sense just to lay all cards on the table and to be blunt. By saying it like it was, I never lost any sleep. I was putting all the facts in front of people, and then engaging in dialogue and difficult conversation to try and come up with a solve.
What makes this approach so much better than the behind the scenes negotiation (even though there is a need for that from time-to-time) is that all aspects of the decision-making feel real to all those involved. This also makes it easy for people to invest in a problem-solving approach. With everything made available, there is no worry about what is hidden. Instead, we can all consider the pieces we have, and figure out, together, how to assemble them.
While I know that bluntness isn’t always appreciated, I for one, appreciate it daily. The more tangible and open we are, the more capable we become of dealing with the really big issues that always arise!