August 2011 // Volume 49 // Number 4 // Tools of the Trade // v49-4tt1
Are You Ready to Be an Administrator? A Self-Assessment to Help You Manage Expectations When Assuming a New Role
As a county Extension educator is successful and matures, it is natural for him or her to seek advancement to an administrative position. However, such a role likely has more complex duties related to managing people than the faculty member may have experienced or been trained to address in his or her program assignment. This article outlines some of the differences in duties and perspective that may be encountered when changing from a program-driven faculty member position to one with administrative leadership duties in the form of a self-assessment that may help determine whether you're ready to serve in an administrative role.
In Pursuit of Professional Advancement
As a county Extension educator is successful and matures, it is natural for him or her to seek advancement to positions such as a county director, regional director, etc. However, such administrative roles likely have more complex duties related to managing people and teams than a county faculty member may have experienced or been trained to address in his or her program assignment. Indeed, "Few Extension administrators are professionally trained in the field of management, rather they have been promoted to administration because they excelled in their subject matter discipline." (Patterson, 1997) and yet, in "many states, the county Extension director is now fully responsible for managing all county Extension operations" (Whiteside & Bachtel, 1987).
This may result in a surprising level of frustration and stress because of either a lack of preparation or simply a misunderstanding of the unwritten duties and expectations that are typically part of leadership roles. In other words, becoming an administrator often requires an adjustment in attitude as much as a change in duties. A 2004 survey (Campbell, Grieshop, Sokolow, & Wright, 2004) revealed some of "the administrative workload, satisfactions, and frustrations" of county directors. A self-assessment can help you be aware of these in advance and decide how they may affect you.
Am I Ready for the Transition?
To help you determine whether you're ready to assume an administrative role, it is important to recognize some of the differences in duties and perspective that may be encountered when changing from a program-driven faculty member position to one with administrative leadership duties. The following self-assessment* (Figure 1) is in the form of a list of those possible differences. Some are more applicable to certain roles than others (e.g., county director, regional director, or statewide administrator), some apply especially to a position that combines programmatic and administrative duties (less than 100% administration), and rarely will the entire list be true all-at-once.
Directions: Review the list below and check those items with which you have minimal experience or feel least comfortable in facing:
What Do the Results Tell Me?
Although the above checklist is not meant to be all-inclusive nor is it likely to be an absolute predictor of success or failure, it does provide an awareness of what may be encountered in an administrative role, and some shifts in your outlook that may be needed. If many items make you uncomfortable, that may very well be an indicator that you're not yet ready to assume an administrative leadership position. Or it may give you a better idea of training that will help you be successful as you transition to such a new level of responsibility. Godwin, Diem, and Maddy (2010) offer "essential management techniques and concepts to help faculty gain perspective and build a foundation for success in an administrative assignment," and a variety of books and training can provide needed knowledge and skills.
On the positive side, serving as an administrator can put you in a position to achieve amazing personal and professional growth, sharpen your skills, test your patience, allow you to work with a variety of other people who may be able to use the guidance and inspiration you can provide, and gives you the capacity to lead the organization to be more efficient and effective due to your contributions. Sometimes, it can even be enjoyable. Lead on!
The original version of the Self-Quiz was created by the author for distribution at the "Best Management Practices For a Successful Transition into an Administrative Role" seminar at Galaxy III conference, by Derek Godwin, Keith Diem, and Debbie Maddy. Indianapolis, Indiana, September 17, 2008.
Campbell, D., Grieshp, J., Sokolow, A., & Wright, J. (2004). Supporting the critical administrative leadership role of county directors. Journal of Extension [On-line] Article 2FEA3, 42(2), Available at: http://www.joe.org/joe/2004april/a3.php
Godwin, D., Diem, K. G., & Maddy, D. J. (2011). Best management practices for a successful transition into an administrative role. Journal of Extension, [On-line], 49(4) Article 4FEA1. Available at: http://www.joe.org/joe/2011august/a1.php
Patterson, T. F. (1997). Fundamentally flawed: Extension administrative practice part 1. Journal of Extension [On-line], 35(6) Article 6COM1. Available at: http://www.joe.org/joe/1997december/comm1.php
Whiteside, J. E., & Bachtel, D. C. (1987). Stepping up—Training Extension county directors. Journal of Extension [On-line], 25(1) Article 1FEA4. Available at: http://www.joe.org/joe/1987spring/a4.php