Taking on a New Role

April 13, 2019

 

By Joe Glover

Joe Glover, pictured with his team (from left to right):  Amanda Dailey-Weaver, Denny Williams, and Stephen Utz

When we are doing a solid job as athletic directors, we are often asked to take on additional responsibilities. We might be invited to serve on a campus committee or sit on a local board. It’s a great way to make new connections and expand leadership skills.

Eighteen months ago, I was asked by the River States Conference, the league my school is in, to take on a new role. But it wasn’t your typical committee work or project leadership. I was approached about becoming the league’s Commissioner, on a one-year interim basis, while it searched for a new permanent leader. If I accepted, it would mean adding this position to my full-time job as Athletic Director at Indiana University Southeast.

I decided to take on the challenge. It may seem insane to try to hold two intensive positions at once, but sometimes a little craziness leads to good things. And in my case, it definitely did. I learned new skills, large and small, and finished the year with a deeper understanding of what is at the heart of being a successful athletic administrator.

A Year in the Life

The River States Conference has 13 member institutions representing five states: Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. It sponsors championships in 17 sports, and its members are affiliated with the NAIA.

In the summer of 2017, our commissioner resigned and moved on to a job at an individual school. The commissioner’s duties include oversight of the league’s 17 conference championships and all conference operations. It was decided that an interim commissioner was needed while a national search was conducted for a replacement.

When I was asked to take the interim job, I certainly hesitated. Who really has extra time to jump into another area when you are already knee-deep in program building, fundraising, and making sure quality athletic events are happening almost every night of the week?

But I decided to say yes for a couple of reasons. Our conference had expanded and changed a lot over the past five years, and I felt very invested in helping steer it through what might be a difficult transition time. I wanted to make sure that we didn’t miss an opportunity or lose a step of the ground we had gained.

I was also looking for a new professional challenge and I wanted to expand my leadership experience. It was a tremendous opportunity for me and one that I was humbled to be offered. I wanted to see what I could gain by taking on something new and daunting.

After accepting the role, I quickly found myself adjusting to the reality of no longer working for just one college president but for 13—each with different needs, priorities, communication styles, oversight, and knowledge of athletics. Working with this diverse group challenged me to rethink how I discussed issues with others. I adapted to more of a situational leadership style, altering my approach depending on the environment, circumstances, or even personality types involved.

It also forced me to up my game when it came to time management and organization. I had to become more protective of my schedule and really map out the objectives I needed to accomplish each week. I found goal setting, planning, and frequent communication allowed me to utilize my time most effectively.

Additional help came by embracing technological tools that could assist me in my daily work. Those I found instrumental were: Zoom (video conferencing), Asana (time/project management and workflow), Microsoft OneNote (meeting notes and to do lists), Dashlane (password manager), Google Voice (additional phone line), Dropbox (file storage and sharing), and Survey Monkey (to conduct surveys).

It Takes a Team

Along with becoming as organized as possible, the best thing I did when taking on the new role was to recruit help from others. I am incredibly blessed to work with fantastic people at IU Southeast, and I learned to delegate in a more productive way.

Three individuals really stepped up to make this opportunity possible, taking on additional responsibilities while I was doing conference-related work. Deputy Director of Athletics Denny Williams, Sports Information Director Stephen Utz, and our office manager Amanda Dailey-Weaver were simply phenomenal during this time. They attended meetings in my place, worked with student-athletes to make sure they had what they needed to be successful, scheduled meetings for me while I was away and couldn’t take calls, covered home athletic events, and were there to help our coaches. My teammates never let me down and we all have learned new skills and have grown as professionals through the experience.

In delegating more of my duties, the first thing I had to do was decide what I needed to keep under my purview and what could be given up. From there, I was careful to select the right individual for the tasks that I had decided to hand over. I thought about people’s strengths and weaknesses and where individuals wanted to grow. Truly knowing your team members is critical for successful delegation. Once I had the right person matched with each task, I worked to communicate clear goals and expectations and followed up frequently.

It was also important that staff members did not feel they were being burdened with extra work and reaping no benefit. I talked with them about how the new duties would help their resume, advancement opportunities, or even their paycheck. And I made sure to issue frequent and heart-felt thank you’s.

What I Learned

There are many things that I learned in my double-duty year. I’d like to share two in particular that were most meaningful and which I believe make me a better athletic director today.

First, I learned that while shared governance isn’t always pretty, it is effective. Giving voice to concerns from varying constituencies takes time and can seem exhausting. But it results in better, fairer, and more accepted outcomes.

A nice example of this is when we changed our conference name from the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference to the River States Conference. It was a lengthy and contentious process at times, but in the end, all the discussion led us to the right answer. And the conference benefited from involving a wide range of individuals who all added to the final design, look, and feel. Now, we all own the River States and we have emerged as a stronger and more unified group.

As an athletic director, I had always felt that shared governance slowed me down and endlessly belabored decisions that should have been simple and quick. After my interim commissioner experience, I see its value more clearly. And this has made me more open to getting others involved in IU Southeast athletics decisions instead of always ruling with a pen from the AD chair.

I now get the opinions of more coaches, faculty members, and most importantly, student-athletes when making many of my decisions. Recently I involved my student-athlete leaders in evaluating our athletic training program at IU Southeast. I don’t believe I would have engaged as many stakeholders in the past, but I now realize that, rather than tying things up, additional voices and more information lead to better decisions.

The second big take-away for me was that, at the end of the day, our jobs are about relationships. Some of the best decisions I made as commissioner came about because I worked closely with others to remove any pain points being felt along the way. Whether it was working to increase pay for officials who hadn’t had a raise in years or changing previously approved schedules due to a special circumstance, decisions always came down to treating people the right way.

A big part of keeping those relationships strong was to hone my communication skills. I tried to always be genuine, which comes from being honest, transparent, and consistent. I also made sure people knew that I cared about them as individuals. Disagreements happen and that is okay, but along the way, I learned that it is always important to listen with empathy.

For any others presented with a unique opportunity to take on a new role, I encourage you to resist the initial urge to say no and to think instead about everything you could gain. In the long run, it’s a journey worth taking. 

 

Joe Glover has been Director of Athletics at Indiana University Southeast since 2010 and currently serves as the 2nd Vice President of the NAIA Athletics Directors Association. He also held the position of Interim Commissioner for the River States Conference in 2017-18. He is on the NAIA National Administrative Council and was named River States Conference Athletics Director of the Year in 2013 and 2018. He can be reached at: joglover@indiana.edu or followed @JoeGlover on Twitter. 

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