Deans: How To Avoid Sinking Your Ship


You didn’t listen. A dean’s ability to avoid catastrophe is in large part due to the dean’s ability to listen and know what’s going on at the law school. For example, say you have a problem child in one of your departments, and everyone knows that but you. Let’s suppose this person is friends with your most trusted advisor, so you never get to hear about it. You’ve got a serious problem. Especially when you promote him or her and you’re left wondering why half your department staff quit. Why is everyone so mad at you? Because you didn’t listen. The reason you couldn’t listen is because you didn’t ask the right people. People need to feel as though they are being heard, even if you do decide in a way they didn’t want.

You built an atmosphere in which people are afraid to tell you the truth. Ask yourself, do you listen? Of course you do, say your closest confidants. They all agree with you. No problem, right? HUGE PROBLEM, dean. You have been surrounded by “yes staff,” who aren’t necessarily giving you all the information you need to make a decision. How on earth did that happen? It might be that the staff senses, for better or worse, that you don’t listen. Perhaps you dismiss their concerns too easily, without much thought. Regardless, you’re on your way to a complete and total disaster, one that could have been avoided by surrounding yourself with a group of people with sufficiently diverse opinions you’re willing to hear.