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Business Officer Magazine

For the Ambitious Administrator

New to this year's annual meeting programming, the one-day preconference, Future Business Officers Program, aimed to inform would-be chief business officers of the breadth and depth of the CBO role—and ways to prepare for it. The sold-out event included several components:

  • Leadership self-knowledge. Introducing the program, Eric Davis, educational consultant of Professor E Productions, urged attendees to pay attention to their individual styles and how their actions could build cohesive teams, facilitate networking, and be the basis for moving to the next level. Davis, also a consultant to the University of Washington, Seattle, and on the faculty at Bellevue College, Bellevue, Wash., advised future business officers to "know yourself and know what you are good at. Once you reach the cabinet level, issues of culture, ethics, supervising in a diverse environment—your approach to all those challenges is based on what kind of leader you are."
  • CBO evolution. With ever-expanding responsibilities, chief business officers have fast become integral members of the senior leadership circle. That means, said Cynthia Teniente-Matson, vice president for administration and CFO, California State University, Fresno, "you can find additional routes to the top position. Look at the list of responsibilities and see where you can broaden your experience. For example, one route might be facilities management." Matson also highlighted four important areas revealed in a recent higher education leadership competency study: strategic leadership that focuses on the entire organization, leveraged communication that links to the rest of the institution, organizational engagement, and emotional and social intelligence.
  • Tutorial tips. Current CBOs and consultants offered a roundup of recommendations based on their respective experiences. Suggestions included volunteering for committees, identifying a mentor, and establishing networks with faculty.

Sharing Wisdom With New CBOs

As new chief business officers met at a preconference session designed to support their orientation to working in the higher education industry, they all agreed that the slow pace of change on campus is an unexpected cultural reality. In the New Business Officers Program, seasoned chief business officers advised the new CBOs to keep in mind the academic-year cycle and use a long-term outlook when looking forward and implementing new initiatives.

That is but one example of many nuggets of wisdom shared by the workshop leaders, who included Horace Mitchell, California State University, Bakersfield; Connie Kanter, Seattle University; Roger Bruszewski, Millersville University of Pennsylvania; and Matt Hamill, NACUBO. In their role to support the campus, leaders said, successful are the CBOs who learn to underpromise and overdeliver, and who invest in customer service training for their staff.

Other suggestions to be a better collaborator ranged from getting away from one's office and meeting academics in their space—to get to know them, listen carefully, and learn their point of view—to inviting faculty to be part of project teams, such as when one needs an advocate for a new learning management system or another IT solution. When it comes to communicating about items that need faculty support, it is helpful to present options that will help drive down costs for students.

Also, the more regularly CBOs offer presentations about the college's finances, the more transparent things are and the better chance faculty will understand the financial condition of the institution relative to the higher education sector as a whole.

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