The Commons: A Space for Managers and Leaders

min read

Joan F. Cheverie

Entitled The Professional Development Commons, this new EDUCAUSE blog is intended to be an extension of what a public commons was historically: a collective tract of land or space that was shared by all and not owned by any one person. In this context, it is meant to be a blog space devoted to all aspects of management and leadership—a space where you can explore the many facets of being a manager, delve deeper into the topics that you may have been introduced to if you attended an EDUCAUSE Institute Program, exchange thoughts with others, and find resources from EDUCAUSE and beyond to support you in your professional development endeavors. In short, this is a commons for furthering your management and leadership skills.

Many of us manage and lead people (or, since you’ve taken a peek at this blog, aspire to), and likely all of us want to be a good or better manager and leader. Perhaps some of you are graduates of the EDUCAUSE Institute Management and/or New IT Managers Programs, which are just two of the immersive cohort-based programs offered by EDUCAUSE to enhance your success as a current or future IT manager and leader. For those of you on the front lines in your institutions, you know well that the skills needed to be a professional in today’s IT workforce are forever shifting. IT service models too are in constant flux. The “Bring Your Own Everything” (BYOE) environment requires that IT operations provide seamless service 24/7 and that IT staff at all levels interact with a broader variety of their campus colleagues—from senior administrators to entering students and everyone in between. Being a manager and leader in this current atmosphere is both more challenging and more energizing than ever.

Recently the EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR) published Today’s Higher Education IT Workforce. One of the key findings was that the more than 2,000 study respondents (CIOs, managers, and staff) identified soft skills as most important for success. The ability to communicate effectively—along with initiating and maintaining relationships with multiple levels of administrators, faculty, students, and staff—was deemed critical for both operational and professional success. In other words, the soft skills of managing relationships and open communication were rated (by the study participants) as more important to possess than technical skills, and this was found to be true at all levels of the workforce, including entry-level positions.

How do you develop these skills in your staff and improve your own soft skills to achieve extraordinary results? In this space, we hope to help you do so by exploring and expanding on the themes and ideas introduced during the EDUCAUSE Institute Programs and other management and leadership development research. We will share examples and point you to resources. Guest bloggers will provide additional perspectives, and we will interview those working in the field—bringing a firsthand voice to what many of you are experiencing at your own institutions. The following are some of the topics we plan to address:

  • Being the boss and what that really means
  • What new leaders should do first to build a successful team
  • How to inspire leadership through emotional intelligence
  • The importance of using data to tell your story
  • Why it is important to understand your organization by knowing its vision, the variety of jobs and people, the organizational context, the financial structure, and how teamwork and collaboration is accomplished or not
  • Working the budget and why you should get to know your budget staff[1]
  • Helping your staff to grow professionally and the value of mentoring both for your staff and for you
  • Hiring carefully and the need to be aware of everything else in the employee lifecycle
  • Why being transparent, taking a risk, picking your battles, asking for help, and seeking feedback are strengths to be celebrated
  • Practical strategies for managing stress
  • Being compassionate and why Rule Number 6 is an important concept to never lose sight of
  • Communicating, communicating, communicating
  • Seeing what’s on the horizon—keeping your chin up and planning ahead


We hope you’ll join us in these conversations and contribute your thoughts and ideas to enrich the discussion. The next several posts will feature Bill Hogue, co-creator of The Professional Development Commons blog, who will be talking about the art of leadership. Stay tuned!

© 2014 Joan F. Cheverie. The text of this article is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (

[1] Connect San Diego in January 2015 will feature a session on this topic: “Getting Your CFO or Budget Person to Yes: Making the Case.”  Join us!