09/09/2014 01:14 pm ET Updated Nov 09, 2014

Make No Private Deals

Anyone who has run any organization knows there are many traps into which one can fall. A case in point -- private deal-making -- is always near at hand.

Decisions made between a staff member and the head of a college or university are "unhelpful." Those decisions should (almost always) be left to staff meetings.

Staff meetings are best when one get people to be open with their colleagues. While a leader has to be able to act quickly between staff meetings, one will undermine the sense of openness one should embrace, if staff members are allowed to bring matters up privately that should have been raised at staff meetings.

Unfortunately, I made this mistake far more often than I should have. My assistant would remind me, practically beg me, not to make those private deals. Of course, she was right. However, since I always wanted to move the college forward (and I wanted to do so quickly), I succumbed to the temptation to make a decision and get on to the next item on my agenda.

I was wrong. By making those decisions without the input of other staff members, I made two errors: First, I failed to get the benefit of other viewpoints; and second, I did not let the incident serve as a learning experience for members of my staff.

I always wanted to broaden the career opportunities and perspectives of those with whom I worked. By succumbing to a staff member's request for a decision without other members of the staff present, I took learning opportunities away from them.

In my defense, it was not I who initiated the private deal-making; staff members did. I suspect they felt that getting a quick decision would enable them to get more done. However, I also suspect they did not want to subject themselves to questioning by their colleagues.

I should never have made those deals. No leader should.