Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The First Few Days

The first few days on campus have come and gone quickly. The people here have made me feel very welcome and a part of their team. I’m earning my keep reviewing ideas and proposals. Those in the know will smile when I say that an opinion shortage is not one of my weaknesses.

This is spring break at Dartmouth, though winter has not let go of Hanover. We had snow and sleet today. The students return on Monday and I'm told that the campus will be a bit more lively then. It's been quiet. Too quiet!

It’s been interesting to see the help desk from the eyes of a new “employee” settling in to a new phone, network, access to printers and the intranet, etc., etc. I found myself muttering more than once that things should not be this complicated, that answers should be apparent or easy to find. Everyone wants to help, and responses are quick. But it still begs the question why things don’t work the first time.

I am reminded of the 1991 film “The Doctor,” starring William Hurt. He plays an irreverent, maverick surgeon who by a twist of fate becomes a patient and is forced to see the world from the other side. In the final scene, after he has recovered, he has a new group of interns arrive for day one at the hospital. He hands out Johnny-coats and says something like “you start by learning to be a patient.” This week, I am that patient.

One of the things I like is the Dartmouth employee technology handbook. It explains the school’s security policies, how to gain access to resources, back up data, change passwords and so on. The irony is that I picked up a copy from a counter during a tour of the school. It made me think of those consumer electronic gear boxes that have a page or two taped to the front of the Styrofoam saying “read me first!” All new employees should find such a quick-start card taped to their phone and laptop when they arrive, complete with the helpdesk phone number and email in bold, with a copy of the trusty technology handbook along-side. Things for the wish-list when I return!

I have had a chance to meet with a few professors and talk about their spring term classes. I selected “Comparative Models of Leadership” to audit. Starting Monday, I get to play student again. One of the interesting things I learned is that for larger classes, required class participation is a competitive venture; guests and auditors need not raise their hands! I’m as interested in hearing the students questions and opinions as the professor’s lectures. This is the next generation of senior managers, and I want to hear how they approach organizations and leadership.

A final note: when I was a student decades ago (was it really that long ago?) I walked everywhere on campus. It is no different now. I walk to Tuck Hall each day and back home at night, about two miles a day--except I notice now how often I am passed by those more fleet of foot!

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