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CATS: A New Take on “Herding” Faculty

Tomorrow's Academy

Message Number: 
1456

He started by putting four small stones in his right pocket; each stone was about the size of a thin lima bean. Phil’s goal was to transfer each of the stones to his left pocket by the end of the day. He could move a stone only when he qualified, and to qualify he had to interact with someone (faculty, staff, students—or anyone for that matter) and either “C” compliment them, “A” apologize to them, “T” thank them, or “S” serve them.

Folks:

The posting below looks is a reminder of how the little things we can do every day can make a big difference in the long-run.. It is by R. Kent Crookston* and is from The Department Chair: A Resource for Academic Administrators, Fall, 2015, Vol. 26, No. 2. For further information on how to subscribe, as well as pricing and discount information, please contact, Sandy Quade, Account Manager, John Wiley & Sons, Phone: (203) 643-8066 (squadepe@wiley.com), or see: http://www.departmentchairs.org/journal.aspx.

Regards,

Rick Reis

reis@stanford.edu

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Tomorrow's Academia

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CATS: A New Take on “Herding” Faculty

 

Most of us have come across the expression “Leading faculty is 
like herding cats.” A friend and mentor of mine named Phil, who was a veteran department head, shared a practice that gave me a new perspective on the word cats in reference to chairing. Phil used CATS as an acronym, and he practiced CATS daily. He started by putting four small stones in his right pocket; each stone was about the size of a thin lima bean. Phil’s goal was to transfer each of the stones to his left pocket by the end of the day. He could move a stone only when he qualified, and to qualify he had to interact with someone (faculty, staff, students—or anyone for that matter) and either “C” compliment them, “A” apologize to them, “T” thank them, or “S” serve them.

C

Phil became very good at paying sincere compliments based on something specific. Instead of “nice job,” he would point out to a colleague which aspects in his or her presentation evidenced solid scholarship and how the organization and delivery were strong. I observed him telling his student receptionist how her cheerful smile and pleasant greeting were a bonus for the entire department.

A

Phil’s apologies were genuine and never jaded. He owned and expressed regret for his omissions, substandard manners, or social missteps, and then asked for forgiveness. Rather than saying, “I’m sorry you were offended by my actions,” Phil would characteristically call a person by name and say something like “[Arthur], I owe you an apology. What I said yesterday was thoughtless and unkind. You have earned, and deserve, better from me. I value your friendship and would like to keep it. Will you forgive me?”

T

Phil was known for writing short personal thank-you notes and sending them through campus mail. “To be effective, ‘T’s have to be well planned,” Phil said. “A simple ‘thanks’ doesn’t count.”

S

A typical act of service for Phil was to nominate someone for an award or recognition, or to go out of his way and walk with someone from the parking lot to his or her office and carry half of the load the person had brought that day.

Phil didn’t necessarily employ all
four components of CATS every day. If circumstances called for three apologies or three compliments in a row, he went for it and moved three stones. “You have to watch for and respond to CATS opportunities,” he said. “You can’t invent them.”
Once, when I had been away from campus for a while, I met Phil and greeted him with, “Hey Phil, how are you?”

“I’m nice,” he said, with a teasing smile as he patted his stone-holding pocket. While mentoring me as a new department head, Phil had stressed
the importance of proactivity: “If you publicly declare what you are, even if it’s really only something you’re striving to be, it will usually come true.” Few people knew about Phil’s stones; lots of people knew how nice he was. ▲

* R. Kent Crookston is professor and associate director of the Faculty Center at Brigham Young University. Email: kent_crookston@byu.edu