A Toolbox for Success: Leadership Insights From Victoria Wright
Prior to her promotion to the Office of the President at Case Western Reserve, Victoria Wright attended AACSB International’s Leading in the Academic Enterprise® series. Here she shares insights from her experience.
Victoria Wright, associate vice president for University Planning & Administration at Case Western Reserve University, exemplifies the type of leader many academic institutions seek for administrative posts. She previously spent 23 years in financial services, formulating and leading strategic initiatives in lines of business and administrative units. She devised and executed complex strategic initiatives related to enterprise-level programs, national sales management, product management, and process improvement for a top 20 regional bank.
In September 2013, after working for more than two decades in the finance industry, Wright joined Case Western's Weatherhead School of Management as the associate dean for Finance and Administration. In March 2015, she was promoted to her current position in the president's office.
Prior to her promotion, Wright attended all three seminars in AACSB International’s Leading in the Academic Enterprise® series. Below she shares insights and knowledge gained from her experience completing the series.
- What does it mean to solve the “right” problem, and why is important to do so?
Appropriately solving the “right” problem means you end up with the desired result. You are more likely to capitalize on an opportunity, prevent or resolve an issue, or address a potential or known weakness. The change and/or outcome is satisfactory and consistent with the desired results.
It’s also important to solve the “right” problem because of the opportunity costs associated with potentially directing valuable resources to the wrong problem. If faculty and staff spend important time on efforts to drive results that are not achieved or are inconsistent with the desired outcome, their morale can be negatively impacted.
- Tell us about your experience attending the Leading in the Academic Enterprise™ series.
In most, if not all, of my three sessions in the series, I was the only non-academic administrator in a room of academic professionals. This dynamic was advantageous for me in that I gained academic perspectives, and I also felt my breadth of experience in finance, human resources, operations, technology, and strategy added value to discussions and team exercises. I recognize the importance of working closely with faculty leaders to drive meaningful change and benefited from the interactions with faculty leaders from other institutions.
While I always felt confident about my approach to complex problem-solving, my “tool box” of processes and techniques for engaging others in discussions, problem identification, and solution formulation was significantly expanded as a result of this series. I am fortunate to work with brilliant thinkers, and while some move quickly in identifying root issues and ideal solutions, I learned through the series to leverage these exceptional minds while also thoughtfully engaging others for quality input, thoughts, and suggestions. Engaging others may validate, expand, or challenge the identified problem and/or recommended solutions.
Through the series, I also learned approaches to identifying and engaging stakeholders to drive change. Some stakeholders drive change and actively support initiatives. Some others are neutral, while others yet resist change. The series provides meaningful insights and productive techniques for assessing and engaging stakeholders.
- How do you value the knowledge gained from this series?
As a result of my participation in this series, my approach to capitalizing on opportunities and addressing complex challenges is more thorough, reflective, and engaging. I take more time to fully understand the perspectives of others and ask more probing questions about history, processes, developments, challenges, etc. If someone seems frustrated about a situation, I inquire about the facts, history, and motivations and generally learn a great deal from those discussions.
In terms of identifying and engaging stakeholders, I seek out those who strive to drive desired change and also those who will be vocal about both their frustrations and ideas. Listening goes a long way to build trust, collaboration, and commitment.
The series also taught me to be aware of my own biases as well as the biases of others. Biases can trap us from making progress or from making the right progress. The series offers ideas for overcoming biases for the best quality outcome.
I take pride in getting along well with almost everyone, but we all have an occasional interpersonal challenge. This series helped me develop my own process for reflecting on the values and motivations of others and how those align with my personal values and motivations. Now I am able to arrive at a more insightful understanding of how and why someone else’s position may be in conflict with my own. While interpersonal differences in the workplace are uncommon for me, the reflection has led to better interactions, improved collaboration, and more “win-win” outcomes for the occasional, yet challenging, situation.
All in all, the most strategic and complex work is best achieved with more upfront time spent in gathering perspectives, effective probing, building early support and engagement, and identifying the desired outcomes. Previously, my personal tendency was to move forward expeditiously with pursuing opportunities and resolving issues. This series helped me to be thoughtful and thorough in my approach, especially in the early stages of strategic work.