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Collegial advice for power couples

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

Irvin and Pamela Trotman Reid learned this year what it’s like to work as both the president of a higher-education institution and also as the president’s spouse.

Irvin Reid heads Wayne State University in Detroit, and Pamela Trotman Reid is president of Saint Joseph College in Connecticut. Although Irvin planned to step down from his post later this year, the Reids are possibly the only couple to serve in two college presidencies at the same time.

Here’s some advice they prepared for presidents and their spouses:

For new presidents:

  • Say as little as possible for the first 90 days, and listen up.
  • Find out what your predecessors have done before delegating your time. Whatever you choose to do will set a pattern.
  • Ask people to put their suggestions in writing. You’ll find out who’s serious (about half of them).
  • Don’t wait to let go of people who are clearly failing. It’ll only become harder.
  • Try to walk the campus regularly. Groundskeepers, custodians and cops have good ideas, need to see that you care and need to see that you want them to care.

Best idea: Keep a hideaway office where you can work without interruptions.

For spouses:

  • Pick activities carefully. If you attend everything you’re invited to, you’ll wind up spending all your time at events and be taken for granted.
  • Establish friendships slowly. Even your existing friends may want access to the president.
  • Be gracious and respectful. You help shape the president’s image.

—Adapted from “2 Colleges, 2 Presidents, One Marriage: Advice to the Upwardly Mobile,” Robin Wilson, The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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