Mentoring and Supporting Colleagues

A large part of your role as chair will be to mentor and support those individuals whom you represent, both faculty and staff.

  • Acknowledge your colleagues’ efforts, both large and small.  Whether thanking someone for help or a particular success in their own work, everyone appreciates hearing that they’ve been noticed and appreciated, even for seemingly small things. Particularly for staff, your acknowledgment, as chair, carries enormous value.  Asking for advice on a range of topics will both better inform your decisions, as well as signal that you value your colleagues’ input.
  • Highlight your colleagues’ qualities to others outside your unit as well.  This can lead to other kinds of opportunities for them, as others on campus start to notice them.  Your annual meeting with the President, Provost and Dean of Faculty is an excellent opportunity to highlight particular colleagues’ contributions.
  • Try to understand where each of your colleagues is in their own professional career.  Are they feeling “stuck” in some way?  Can you think of ways to mentor them, perhaps by suggesting resources (conferences, off-campus workshops, on-campus workshops through HR, committee work) that might open up new opportunities for them?
  • Try to provide all your colleagues with opportunities to participate in new ways and to develop new skills by delegating tasks.
  • Don’t take your role as supervisor and mentor to your staff lightly.  It’s tempting to assume that a long history of apparently smooth relations with a staff member will ensure an easy transition to being that person’s supervisor.  But this perspective often overlooks the very real differences in position and authority that many staff feel with respect to faculty.  It’s easy to overstep boundaries by assuming a familiarity or more casual demeanor than a staff member may be comfortable with in a supervisor.
  • Part of your role as chair is to act as an advocate for the staff who report to you.  This may involve mediating interactions between faculty and staff.  Faculty are often able to simply avoid colleagues who might be difficult to work with, but as staff typically can not do this, interactions between faculty and staff can be more complicated.