• Client Service

The First Year of Your First Presidency Is Your Make-or-Break Time

Thus far, you’ve completed the first three months of your first presidency at an institution of higher learning. You’ve acclimated, begun engaging your constituencies, and started forming town-gown relationships. You’ve started to settle in to your new role and to define your presidency.

During this time, you’ve spent most of your time and energies on day-to-day operations. The work you’ve started during this time doesn’t end there, but will continue. It pays to think of these first three months as a prelude to your action plan for the rest of the year.

Your constituencies on campus will expect you to initiate changes. It will be incumbent on you to make changes to demonstrate the positive impact you bring to your new role.

You’ll need to formulate what to accomplish the rest of the year, starting with your strategic plan. No doubt, you’ve already had changes in mind when you were hired to lead the school as president. Now you’ll see what differences may exist between your picture of what you thought to change and what you can actually do.

When you arrive, the strategic-planning process may already be underway. You can now contribute to the plan. If the process has yet to begin, you’ll need to work with your board to develop a strategic plan with input from all constituencies like board members and faculty and staff.

To make the strategic plan work, you’ll need to determine the leaders on campus—those individuals whose participation and cooperation you’ll need to rely on. In the process, it will be imperative to correctly read your constituencies—their priorities, the questions behind their questions, and their understanding of you personally and your vision.

Two, critical dynamics come into play at this stage:

  • Meeting the challenges that lie ahead: You’ll need to know what short-term and long-term challenges you may face in the coming months, whom you’ll need to involve to take action, and how you’ll resolve these challenges.

  • Addressing the concerns of students’ parents: Parents will regard you as the educational mother or father of their sons and daughters whom they’ve entrusted to your leadership and care. They’ll be most interested in how the college or university under your presidency will provide their sons and daughters with the education they need, not just to graduate, but to be employable after graduation.

As a newbie to the office of president, you’ll need to learn as you lead. It will be up to you to determine how to be maximally effective in this role. At this critical juncture of your career, be open to having the board allocate a budget for a mentor for you. Everyone, no matter what stage in their career, need to rely on a mentor, either at times as a coach or just as a sounding board. Presidents in the private business sector engage a coach from time to time, to help them translate their vision of what’s to be, into productive action. In the long run, it will pay for you to have a coach do the same for you.

Snowy Mountain Sunset