Every year, I set aside time for self-reflection, focusing on my personal and professional development. This year is particularly significant as it marks my third year as the Dean of Trades and Technology at Medicine Hat College. As someone who loves movies, the number three holds a special significance for me – trilogies, anyone! This milestone year at Medicine Hat College has highlighted three key themes (My own personal trilogy) that have distinctly stood out to me.

100 Coffees in 100 days

When I first considered applying for the job, I reached out to a friend for advice. As a former dean, she told me that one of the most important things she ever did was take the time to get to know her teams. She called this 100 coffees in 100 days. She would meet someone for coffee and chat with no agenda. Just get to know who they are, what they like, and how things are going. This was ambitious and required a ton of caffeine intake, but the underlying reason couldn’t be argued:

Relationships are ESSENTIAL!

Understanding the importance of authentic relationships across our community has been key. These relationships extend beyond our students to our staff, faculty, industry partners, and community. Seeing how fostering genuine connections can create a supportive and dynamic educational environment has been enlightening. These relationships have not just been about imparting knowledge or administrative collaboration; they’ve been about creating a community where everyone feels valued and connected.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

I love Seth Godin. The amount I have learned from him about leadership can not be overstated. I could watch this man talk about paint drying and find it riveting.

Recently, I was reading his latest book, “Song of Significance.” In it, Seth states, “Culture beats strategy every time.”

Culture beats strategy every time.

Seth Godin

I’ve seen how a vibrant, inclusive culture is more effective than any strategic plan. In my position at the college, I have been fortunate to be part of many conversations about strategy and strategic plans. I love these conversations, but I’ve learned that if you don’t have a team willing to buy into the strategy, it will be an aspirational statement at best or fizzle out completely at worst. It’s about creating an atmosphere that encourages everyone in our community to thrive and innovate, and this realization has been a guiding light in my approach to leading our college.

All you need is patience.

Axel Rose said it best when he said, “Take it slow, and it’ll work itself out fine. All we need is just a little patience.”

Another theme has been the value of patience in my role. Change in the educational sphere is often a gradual process, requiring thoughtful consideration and time to be effective. Big, creative ideas are great, but so is the realization that the academic machine moves a little slower than some would like. While frustrating, I’ve also learned that there is a method to the madness and that this perceived “slowness” has been more beneficial than a hindrance. This patience has been essential in ensuring that the changes we implement are meaningful and have a lasting impact. It’s a reminder that meaningful progress often comes not from rapid shifts but steady, considered steps forward.

Not all Trilogies end well.

As I’ve shared my trilogy of reflection, I realize that some might think that trilogies never end well- Does anyone remember Godfather Part III? I would push back that one of the greatest films of all time- The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly- ended the Dollars trilogy on a high note.

Reflecting on these past three years at Medicine Hat College, the intertwined themes of building authentic relationships, prioritizing culture over strategy, and embracing patience have been more than just professional guideposts; they have also been pivotal in my personal growth. These past three years have been a profound learning experience, reshaping my understanding of leadership and community.

As I continue in my role, these lessons remain central, guiding my actions and decisions, not just as a dean but as someone committed to lifelong learning and growth. My experience here is a testament to the evolving nature of leadership, enriched by every opportunity to connect, reflect, and grow. This journey, with its challenges and triumphs, has been an invaluable part of my life, both professionally and personally, reminding me that the path of leadership is as much about self-discovery as it is about guiding others.

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