Inheritance Opportunities

Incoming university administrators rightfully assume that the staffs they inherit have the competencies to perform effectively and successfully in the higher education positions they occupy.  In an effort to assess staff competencies, new administrators often request dossiers of their inherited staff.  Based on the current university environment, some incoming administrators (especially executives) may be advised by their new employer to discharge the current staff and create a clean slate.  

As an incoming administrator, what will be your approach to staff appointments and development relative to university positions?  Will you acknowledge and consider the various scenarios that might have contributed to the capabilities of your inherited staff –regardless of their perceived competencies and value?  

For example, a staff person you inherit may have been a protégé of a mentor who has moved to another position.  The protégé will need continued guidance during the developmental stages of his or her university career.     Regardless of the circumstances that produced your “inheritance,” will you personally determine their value and possible need for enhancement?  Will you provide opportunities for your inherited staff to demonstrate their competencies and potential?  Will you use an assessment of the person’s independent performance, in addition to their ability to complete tasks assigned by you?  Will you acknowledge any under-developed competencies and have confidence in your ability to successfully mentor and develop a cadre of well-prepared individuals ready for successful higher education careers?  Will you recognize the competencies of high-performing staff and provide opportunities for further development and advancement?

The value of inherited staff to the institution may depend on your ability to lead them and your willingness to enhance their professional value in a higher education career.  Developing and mentoring qualified and experienced leaders for university positions should be a priority of every higher education administrator.  Would we have career success if someone had not directed our path, provided us career development opportunities, and given us a chance to perform?  Doesn’t every inherited staff person deserve the same opportunities for a successful college or university career?

D. A. Buchanan is a 30+-year higher education administrator and a member of the educational leadership graduate faculty of a historically black university in the southeast United States.

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