While students are giving broad, generic answers to the questions I’ve posed, I’ll suddenly transform myself into a character from the case study and I force the students to respond to me as such. This technique creates situations where the students have to manage difficult situations in the moment. These challenges usually gets them into confused complexity, but as the semester unfolds this approach brings them much closer to profound simplicity about how they will be most effective as a leader and they can take the knowledge they turn it into profoundly simple guidelines for action that function well across multiple settings.
At the midpoint of every class I teach, I have my students rate me on a variety of dimensions. I ask them to tell me what they would like to see more of, less of, or stay the same. I go through the responses verbatim and work with the students to address their needs over the remainder of the semester. It also models for them one way in which they can be a leader that empowers their people. This can be painful, but I hold myself to the standard even if means I may have to get rid of approaches I’d planned to take. Not the material, but the way in which I intended to teach the material. This gives me a chance to meet the students where they are. Effective teaching, I feel, has to be that constant adaptation. It’s challenging to honor, but it’s a way to personalize the course for the students.
My research interests focus primarily on safety in health care organizations. Medical error is a huge problem worldwide. Estimates have been made that medical errors cause 98,000 deaths per year in this country, making it one of the top five of killers in the U.S. In my studies, I’m trying to figure out why and what we might do to correct this problem. How can an organization create a culture of safety that minimizes these mistakes?
To that end, I’ve examined the organizational practices (e.g., human resource practices which shape how employees are selected, trained, evaluated, coached, and empowered) that enable employees on the front line in health care to ensure patient safety on an ongoing basis. Specifically, how do hospital nurses staff (the front line defense system), my research explores interpersonal processes of mindful organizing that capture how workgroups catch and correct errors and unexpected events and how mindful organizing gives rise to an organizational culture of safety.
What I love most about Owen students is their entrepreneurialism. I think they’re incredibly entrepreneurial. Anything programmatic that’s really uniqueand help the program stand out has been created by a student. For instance, next year we will host our fifth annual National MBA Human Capital Case Competition. This was created by students who took (and continue to take) the initiative to identify sponsors, secure funding, get faculty on board to help with cases, and other schools interested in competing. The competition is sponsored by Deloitte and GE and it really has elevated our school’s profile with applicants interested in human resources or human capital consulting careers. When Owen students come here, they take our tag line seriously and try to “shape their world” and take some ownership of the school. In that sense, they’re co-constructing the academic experience along with us as faculty and staff.
When I started here I was 29 years old. I was the youngest in my department by several years. This could be seen as a disadvantage because in some ways one can feel isolated as the new young person and may be difficult to connect with peers. Another disadvantage I initially worried about with teaching MBAs was lacking legitimacy. There’s value in having the “white hair.” Although those may have been my initial fears, butat Owen I’ve never had either of those experiences.
Instead, being younger than the average faculty member has been a significant advantage that has made it easy to connect with the students. I’m better able to understand the world through their eyes, readily incorporate the issues they find pressing, and even incorporating different formats into my teaching such as social media and videos.
Five words to describe Owen are dynamic, entrepreneurial, compassionate, playful, and rigorous. I use the word compassionate because I think people actually do care about each other and care about the school in pretty significant ways and I’ve certainly experienced it throughout my time at Owen. Playfulness comes to mind because there is much freedom and flexibility to try new things, both from a student standpoint and a faculty standpoint.
I’ve always loved DJs: Jam Master Jay, Grand Master Flash, DJ Premier, and Mix Master Mike to name a few of my more well know favorites. My wife even purchased a DJ Hero video game for me. If I wasn’t teaching, I would love to be a DJ for a major Hip-Hop act. One who occasionally gets on the mic, of course.
But, more seriously, one of my strengths as a teacher is to recognize inner strengths that people cannot recognize themselves or spend time suppressing. If I wasn’t teaching, I could see myself in clinical psychology helping people tap into their potential and helping them to deal with life struggles they may have.
When leaving my mark as a professor, I would want my legacy to show how I’ve made a difference that matters to real people. In teaching, my goal is to have people say, “I am a more authenticand resourceful leader because of my interactions with Tim.” In terms of my research, the goal is to have an organization say, “We’re able to go a year where no one dies from a medical error” and then be able to say it again every year thereafter.