Ryan P. Hall, University of Cincinnati
Teri K. Slick, George Mason University
Moving into a Director of Advising role is both exciting and challenging. New advising directors are generally eager to succeed in terms of personal performance and team performance. However, the authors of this article remember some “unforeseen” challenges from our initial stages of being new Directors of Advising. Rarely do advising directors receive training and development opportunities in order to be successful in these new roles. Moreover, higher education in general seems to lag behind our more corporate counterparts in providing appropriate formalized mechanisms for future advising directors wishing to transition into management/supervisory levels. In fact, we talked to other more seasoned (i.e. at least 5-10 years) advising directors, and these directors told us that there were no manuals or training sessions provided to help guide them smoothly into their roles. Consequently, simple questions related to how to address faculty advisors or how the classifications of different advisor types (unclassified administration professional versus classified or waged) can impact an advising director’s ability to “direct” their advising centers. As we can see, entering into a director role can create more ‘unseen’ challenges and this article helps new directors to navigate around those challenges.
We represent only two of many different types of advising directors that exist in higher education, but we felt that because of our experiences in having to blindly find our way in the first couple of years in our director roles, perhaps future advising directors might appreciate learning from our experiences. Thus, we decided to work together to present at the October 2012 NACADA Annual Conference in Nashville, where we were pleasantly surprised to present to a packed room. While we weren’t able to necessarily cover all of the points we set out to cover, we feel that we achieved our overall objective of trying to lay out the framework of some very basic ideas. It is also important to note that our presentation did not assume that the attendees were seasoned advising directors. Instead, we wanted to focus on very new advising directors who may have been unsure of how they were leading their groups, and to offer them encouragement.
- Effective Leadership Characteristics
- Do’s and Don’ts of an Advising Director
- Collaborating with Faculty/Staff/Graduate Advisors
- Identifying and Developing Advising Talent
Effective Leadership Characteristics
- Establish clear expectations
- Learn the culture of the department
- Ask many questions – ask them often
- Take one day at a time
- Share credit with the team – praise team members when a job is well done (lose your ego)
- Expect that advisors will always follow your guidance
- Treat everyone the same – always be fair
- Expect to have all of the answers immediately
- Try to solve all of the advising problems in one day
- Sweat the small stuff
For example, the culture of an organization can communicate to a director what is valued, what communication style may be preferred, what attire is appropriate, and even who the adversaries are in and out of the office. The culture is the reality versus what a mission statement may be. We have two eyes and two ears and one mouth for a reason: to observe and listen more than we speak. Observe and listen early and often, and a new advising director is off to a good start.
- When possible, provide access to an advising handbook or frequently used advising documents
- Provide shadowing opportunities
- Provide feedback opportunities
- Micro-manage unless absolutely necessary
- Be afraid to tap into veteran advisors to share expertise in training sessions/meetings
Focusing on the first “Don’t” here – provide your team with resources and relevant job knowledge, and then get out of their way. While successful directors are visible and are there for their team, try not to micro-manage any member of the team. Micro-managing can stifle creative thinking and limit opportunities that may come from a creative environment. The only time to micro-manage is when a team member is suspected of doing something egregiously wrong – stealing from the department, sharing student information with others that may violate FERPA, etc. Then micro-managing is warranted as a means to a potential performance action plan or termination.
Collaborating with Faculty, Staff and Graduate Advisors
- Use humor – not everything has to be so serious
- Utilize a weekly forecast – How are you doing?
- Establish consistent means of communicating updates to them
- Establish CLEAR expectations from Day 1
- Address any faculty as Dr. or Professor in your 1st meeting (unless instructed otherwise)
- Operate in a silo when scheduling meetings, especially one-on-one with faculty members
- Underestimate the leverage and potential influence of tenured faculty advisors and other faculty members
- Take it personally if faculty advisors do not respond to your requests immediately
- Assume that everyone is going to always follow your directions exactly as you envision
When working with faculty, please respect their titles – when in doubt, call them Dr. (or Professor) when initially meeting them. This small gesture of courtesy can go a long way in building and maintaining positive relationships with any faculty member. Further, if a particular college has a strong faculty presence which influences campus decisions, be mindful of how to support and leverage that faculty influence. We are not suggesting to be disingenuous, yet if you work well with faculty and meet them in the middle (and even in their offices, as suggested above) on projects, they may be able to support some of your departmental needs, especially if a mutual benefits exists for your department and the faculty.
Identify and Develop Advising Talent
- Determine needs and limitations
- Identify potential areas for talent growth
- Encourage professional development
- Social networking online (NACADA sponsored list serves, LinkedIn group, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
- Assume that replacements can always be hired with the same pay level
- Be shocked at how long it may take to hire or replace a position
- Assume that new advisors will have immediate access to necessary advising tools (i.e. SIS systems, degree audits, etc.)
Bottom Line – when entering into a new Director role, observe the culture, work with key stakeholders (including faculty), and hire, support, develop and retain talented employees.
Ryan P. Hall
Director of Advising & Registration
University of Cinncinnati - Clermont College
Teri K. Slick
Director of Student Services
George Mason University – New Century College
Cite this article using APA style as: Hall, R., & Slick, T. (2013, March). I’m a new advising director – now what? How to lead faculty and staff advisors in harmony. Academic Advising Today, 36(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]