Sunday, 24 January 2016

In many regards, a difficult week, thanks goodness for such positive colleagues

Well it was a difficult week last week. Now you might ask, what in what some have described as the possibly cocooned world of Prof T would make life difficult. It wasn't the cold mornings that required the frost to be scraped off windscreens, or the very busy diary requiring frantic dashes across the campus (usually in the rain), or even the many desks, chairs, shelves removed from our admin office up-grades but which appeared never to have travelled any further than the corridor and serving only as some kind of pop-up obstacle course for the unwary.

The large number of requests to complete 360 degree assessments on my colleagues and peers was an irritant, particularly as I am not 100% convinced of the approach or its ability to initiate sustainable change in behaviour or attitudes.  And whilst completing these assessments (20 mins a form) ate into my time, these didn't really add to my weeks difficulties. But interestingly one of the questions asked was about the staff member’s ability to control their own emotions when dealing with others.

I have often taken this question to refer somewhat to the Rogerian idea of extending unconditional positive regard (UPR) to others. It was Carl Rogers who developed this approach, and in particular its use in person centred therapy. Practicing UPR means respecting others ads they are without judgement or evaluation. It’s a completely different from unconditional love, indeed UPR doesn't require love or even affection, it simply involves the acceptance of others, whether one likes them or not.

It’s a difficult thing to practice and I speak from trying for most of my working life. UPR shouldn't be misunderstood as being nice or pleasant with others whatever they do; and while any thoughts and feelings are okay, not all behaviours are acceptable. However, in person centred therapy, acceptance can possibly create the conditions needed for change. But I think it was a slightly different kind of emotional context that made my week difficult.

As Pink Floyd once said  'in a momentary lapse of reason' I had decided to exchange a role as being the Dean of the School with the longest name in the University with a role with the longest title in the University. My new title is: Industrial Collaboration Zones (ICZs) Programme Director and Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor. This new role leads on the University vision and the development of 4 ICZs. Each of these zones will allow students to work closely with industry (using the term in ts broadest sense), and in so doing, apply their academic learning to real world environments. For my academic colleagues each ICZ will provide a different kind of place to develop knowledge and expertise, and for enhanced research and enterprise collaboration with industry.

Now whilst I was excited over the prospect of a new challenge and the privilege of leading on this work, I wasn't looking forward to telling my colleagues in the School. I broke the news last Wednesday at our School Congress. It was one of the most difficult things I have done in the 9 years of being Dean. I found the emotionality of the moment totally overwhelming and had to leave the room rather abruptly to avoid total lack of emotional control. However judging by the wonderfully supportive message I received later that evening and the following day, my colleagues truly extended their own form of UPR. 

This is my penultimate blog as Dean. I am writing this on my return home from celebrating the family's only triplets (Sophie, Amy and Charlotte's ) 18th birthday. It was great party and wonderful to look back over their years of growth and development. And so next week I will take the opportunity to look back at my time in the School, which as events last week showed, made me feel as close to the School in a way I wouldn't have expected.