The Listening Registrar 

I am 3 weeks into teaching an undergraduate course on the history of leadership and management and, as usual, my students are teaching me too. One of the topics we are covering is how leaders have made decisions and how they write about their own reflections on the decision making process. In an online discussion forum, my students have been dialoguing on the differences and similarities of four management theorists from the early 20th Century regarding management decision making.

I summarized the theorists similarities this way: “A manager’s professional life is wholly concerned with an organization which is both the stage for his or her activity and the object of his or her inquiry.”

One of my students said, “How I interpret this is that when a manager acts, he or she is looking for results but also needs to be concerned with the consequences of his or her actions. In addition, the stage is set for the manager to also inquire of herself, ‘What am I doing?” as she subconsciously draws on the organizational knowledge she has accumulated to make the best decision on how to act….This process is fundamental to the development of any organization that wants to be a learning organization.”


To take this one step further and apply it to the Registrar world, I ask you, “How do you reflect on your decision making process?” What feedback mechanisms do you use?

Here in British Columbia, Canada, where I work, I am fortunate to be part of a professional association of Registrars who have a very active email list-serve, where no question is too dumb and where almost situation has been encountered before. I hope you are part of a similar group. If not, consider how you might get such a group going. It is a valuable way to listen and learn as well as contribute to your colleagues.

It is also valuable to have feedback loops for us to listen internally. We all know pretty quickly if our web registration system isn’t working. But what’s your method of discovering how your policies are working? How do you know how your office is being perceived by faculty and students? Are you being avoided at all costs?

One way to listen for this is to pay attention to whether departments are working around you, setting up parallel, redundant systems, or whether they are coming to you for a solution or to discuss an idea. If your office is being worked around, you have a problem.

One way to address this and do as my student suggests and act-reflect-learn is to be direct in asking for feedback. Put yourself out there and ask Deans, Chairs, and leaders how your office is doing. Get around the university and be deliberate about dropping in to the schools and faculties you work with, and listen to their concerns. You might be surprised what you hear, but you might also be surprised at how relations with them warm up quickly.

As I teach for the next several weeks I am conscious that I need to demonstrate to my students how I am a learner. And I need to demonstrate this to my staff and the university at large if I hope to contribute to the learning organization.

What about you? What feedback loops do you use? Please leave a comment and help us all learn together.


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