No-one dies here

As a clinician and leader in a previous role, this Unit Coordinator applies the skills learnt then to this role. She provides practical and useful advice. More...

I held a senior role in the health sector prior to joining the university full time about 11 years ago.  I left the sector because I was tired of the control, the regulations and also the shift work.  I coordinate a large cohort of undergraduates and a small postgraduate group in clinical practice.  I enjoy my role because of the teaching, the flexibility and autonomy it affords and also because the university supports evidence based practice.  As a leader in my previous job, I was used to managing people and developed good organising and prioritising skills which I apply in my current role.  I send regular email updates to my team and try to keep everyone together.

When I started here I found it difficult and had to learn quickly.  I thought that unless I took a pragmatic view and asked my colleagues for assistance as needed I would sink.  I did not assume anything and asked a lot of questions. Fortunately, they were approachable and happy to help me out.

One difference I have observed between the sectors is that in education, there are many variables and you have little control over the outcomes.  New Unit Coordinators seem to struggle with what is acceptable so I tell them to get organised, do their best and recognise areas not in their control. They seem to want to do it all but I reassure them by saying they don’t have to; that less is more.  I add that we all make mistakes and the important thing is to learn from them.  This may sound callous, but I remind them that no one dies here, unlike in a hospital setting.  Managing their time and trying to be strategic are keys to handling the work load and student learning remains our priority.

As a learning leader it is difficult to describe the subtleties of building capacity in a team. I am not a good delegator but my approach is one of facilitative collaboration.  I support my team as much as I can and I mentor them as needed.  I was fortunate in finding a good mentor who modelled good practice for me.

I am prepared now to let go and be less of a perfectionist.  I quarantine my time and close my door so that I can pursue my research.  There are those who ignore the closed door and come in anyway so I listen for a while then walk them to the door.   Academia is competitive and I realise that if I am to get a promotion I have to be mercenary.  I no longer work on weekends because I have learnt that I can live with the tasks not done, so I think my balance is almost right.

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