This week I'm at Penn State for the Academic Leadership Academy, a leadership development institute for academic leaders. On Sunday I visited the Berkey Creamery as soon as I arrived, and enjoyed a delicious (and decadenty large) scoop of bittersweet mint ice cream. It's a surreal time to be in State College, where the sadness behind Jerry Sandusky's actions and convictions lingers in the air. But I am glad to be here, and have already picked up valuable communication tips as have developed relationships with people I never would have met otherwise.
All conference events are taking place at the Nittany Lion Inn, where even some of the cookies have the Penn State logo. Being here reminds me of what it was like to grow up in Columbus, where all the regalia was about The Ohio State University.
This afternoon's session was about the legal framework surrounding higher education in the United States. The clearest advice we received for dealing with tough personnel issues, from conference organizer Dr. Robert Hendrickson, was "be fair and just." He repeated this often. It's a deceptively simple piece of advice, something that seems intuitive but is actually very hard for well-intentioned people to achieve.
During the afternoon break I strolled the halls of the Nittany Lion Inn. Turns out that the evening Rotary Club meets at the Inn every Tuesday. A table in front of one of the adjoining conference rooms contained postcards advertising the Rotary Club's 4-Way Test (picture below).
The four questions we must ask ourselves about any endeavor:
1. Is it the truth?
2. Is it fair to all concerned?
3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
I loved the connection between the afternoon session and the 4-Way Test. Here's a way to check yourself, to make sure you are really being "fair and just."
The cynic in me claims that the 4-Way Test is too high a bar, that there is no way to honestly answer "Yes" to all four questions. But the optimist in me knows it isn't true.