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1.16.15
Another afternoon away from actual work, this time participating in a Birkman evaluation with my boss and the other two people in my office who manage employees. I'm a little wary of personality tests, and while taking this one was very similar to some of the ones I've taken earlier in my life (like the Meyers Briggs and the MMPI), the results were very different.

It's pretty hard to explain quickly, but they assign you one of four colors in three areas, and then use those same colors to represent your style of problem-solving. They also rate you on a scale of 1-99 on about twenty different patterns of behavior, showing you on the one side the kind of behavior you typically exhibit, and what you actually need internally in that regard (the most interesting for me: I scored 99 on the activity scale, meaning that I typically am very busy, but on the need side, I only scored a 2, which means that, left to my own devices, I wouldn't feel compelled to always be in motion, and that disparity felt pretty spot on to me—I'm incredibly busy at work because that's what my office and my institution demand of me, but I'm actually a pretty serene person who is perfectly comfortable with non-activity).

It was interesting to see what the test had to say about my tendencies and needs, but it was much more interesting sharing my results with the others, and having conversations about the results about how our tendencies and needs affected how we worked together, and how we might be able to use this understanding of how we each prefer to work to come up with better ways to collaborate and manage our teams with more cohesion. Again, I'm pretty wary of things like this generally, but I really feel like I learned something new about each person in the room (two of whom I have worked with for over a decade at this point), and I think we all have some new techniques to add to our toolkits when we're trying to run the office together.

The facilitator said that most people find the test to be 75-80% accurate in terms of capturing their personality, habits, and desires, and seems about right for my results. I have yet to read through the full report—the main point of this session was to focus on the very highest level results and discuss how the personality types in our leadership team impact how we jointly manage the office—but I'm looking forward to digging deeper into the report to see if there's anything in there that I hadn't consciously realized before but which hits home as the truth.


1.15.15
This afternoon I had management training to review the university policies on harrassment and discrimination in the workplace, and while I liked the guy who gave the presentation, I found the scenarios they showed us on the videos to be pretty ludicrous. I mean, almost every sentence that came out of everyone's mouths was completely offensive and wasn't reflective of even the worst offenders I've encountered in 20 years in office environments.

Also: it didn't seem to be so much about training us as manager of human beings how to handle difficult situations as if we were human beings too, but rather to remind us that we are to be reporting robots with zero discretion and personal judgment. I guess that's the way things have to be in today's litigation-happy environment, but when this whole training session was prefaced by a discussion about how trust is such a big part of creating a strong, productive team, the instructions they want us to follow when it comes to certain kinds of behavior ask us to explicitly violate the trust we might have with our employees, especially those with whom we might have a personal relationship with that extends outside of the workplace.

I'll do what my employer asks me to do, but from my perspective, they way they want us to handle this stuff could easily lead to an environment of paranoia and distrust to the point where there would be serious underreporting of problems, simply because employees who might want to ask advice about how to handle an issue in the workplace won't be willing to do that for fear that anything they say might lead to a full-blown investigation that they don't believe is warranted given the current state of things.

But again, that's not my call to make. I just think there needs to be a parallel presentation to the people who work for me making it clear what my obligations are when it comes to this type of stuff so there aren't any surprises when I do exactly what I've been told I must do.


1.14.15
There has been a proposal for a new software implementation that I've been working on for MONTHS, and I finally turned it in today. It's not that I really needed that much time, but I developed some sort of mental block about finishing it, to the point where I had to ask my VP to give me a formal deadline for it (and that formal deadline was today, even though she gave me the deadline a month ago).

I've been trying to figure out why I've gotten so stressed about this one, because it's clearly the right thing to do for the future of my office, and I have 100% confidence in my team's ability to implement it on-time, and I think it's because of the pushback we're likely to get from some other groups at our institution. There's one team that won't like it because they will lose a decent portion of their budget (we're their largest customer, and the new product will completely replace what they do for us), and there are other groups that don't like the precedent it will set by us taking almost complete ownership of our process rather than relying on centralized resources that don't know anything about our actual busines process, and not only do I not like fighting those kinds of political battles, but I also don't like the fact that there's a possibility that one of the governance committees could actually say no to it, even though it will save us a lot of money and take pressure off of some of the teams that support us.

Luckily I have my VP and my dean on my side, and they have a lot more clout than I do, and they also know much better how to fight these kinds of battles. So it will probably take a couple of months to go through all the approval processes and involve several committee meetings that I won't enjoy (including one committee where I'm normally a voting member), but writing the proposal was a grueling process for me, and I'm glad that that part is over now.


1.13.15
Pretty much all the applications have been processed at this point, and despite cutting two weeks our submission cycle (we moved the RD deadline from January 15 to January 1), we're going to blow away the previous record for applications at my institution, likely beating the previous record by about 3,000 apps and going over 20,000 apps submitted for the first time ever.

Some of this is likely due to the work we've been doing over the previous couple of years to improve our marketing and become more focused about where and when we travel, but that's too big a jump to be explained by just these things, especially given that the early data we've seen from our peers is not leading us to believe that this is an industry-wide trend. My best guess: all the stories about Ebola that put my institution in the national spotlight.

I can imagine that it was a pretty strong pull for the natural sciences/premed types to see our school front and center in this battle, and I wouldn't be surprised if our pool, which is already heavy with those interested in biology and chemistry, saw most of its growth in these areas.

Anyway, it's a good thing, no matter what the cause, and although it's going to be a bit of challenge to read all of those files (our staff hasn't increased in size, and the growth in the pool is the equivalent of nearly four full-time readers' worth of files), I'm anticipating being able to recruit one of our strongest classes.


1.12.15
So yes, it would have been nice to beat the Patriots and go on to the championship game, but I'm really satisified with how this season went overall. We got back into the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years, our offense was as good as it's ever been, and our defense should bounce back strong next year, especially with Ozzie having a whole offseason to fix up the secondary.

And I think the Ravens proved that, despite barely squeaking in, they belonged in the playoffs. They beat the Steelers handily in Pittsburgh last week, and if not for a weak secondary that a quarterback like Tom Brady was built to take advantage of (and a coach who knew that—New England didn't run the ball a single time in the whole second half), we would have won that game in Foxboro, because the Patriots defense (which has been called their best since 2004, the last time they won the Super Bowl) couldn't slow us down. It was a shootout that we lost, and one that we lost solely because we couldn't stop the short and medium passing game.

A lot of this offensive explosion this year has been thanks to Gary Kubiak, and I'm praying that he'll be back next season. That's what he announced over the weekend after being courted for several head coaching positions, and I wish I could believe him, but just today Denver fired its head coach, and he has a lot of ties to that city and to GM John Elway. So we'll see. But hopefully even if he's not around, we'll be able to find someone who is familiar with his system who can take over the OC position and keeps things relatively stable.

So, it looks like the Patriots and the Seahawks in the Super Bowl this year. Yes, Green Bay has a chance against Seattle in next week's NFC championship, but Indy is going to get killed by the Patriots. But that's okay, because two weeks after that the Seahawks are going to dominate New England, and we'll get to see lots of Brady angry faces on the sidelines. True, I won't be so much rooting for Seattle as I am rooting against New England, but nonetheless: Go Hawks!


1.9.15
Only one full week back at work, and already I'm ready for a break. Luckily we only have one more week til we get another short week due to the MLK holiday. But then there's that long, painful stretch where there's nothing between MLK and Memorial Day—that's a pretty brutal way to come off a month and a half of holidays.


1.8.15
Yes, I know it's not snowing like it is up north, and I know it's not nearly as cold. But it's too damn cold for Atlanta.


1.7.15
I thought it would take a while to get back into the swing of things at the office after so much time away, but the week so far has gone by quickly and with a minimum of stress. My schedule has reminded me anew of just how much of my day is spent in meetings, but that's my role now, and I don't struggle with it nearly as much as I did even five years ago.

It looks like we're in for a banner year in terms of our application poo, which is nice—we've been working very hard to elevate our presence in the market over the past couple of years, and although there are some external factors which likely had a strong influence on our bumper crop, I have to think that some of the long-term plans that we've been patiently executing is also having a major effect.


1.6.15
When we lived in Baltimore and I could watch all the games live because they were broadcast locally, I used to have a ritual for watching games: gin and tonic with Hendrick's gin and extra limes, and chicken wings. I haven't done either of those things since moving to Atlanta due to the odd times I typically have to watch the games, and due to the fact that I usually have to watch them sitting at my computer in the basement.

But Saturday's game was nationally broadcast because it was a playoff game, so I got to watch it upstairs on the flatscreen, and I was so nervous that I decided to reinstate the gin tradition to calm my nervers. I was superexcited that we had made the playoffs, and every game was going to feel like a bonus game because I'm really not sure this team deserved to be in the playoffs (although we deserved it more than any of the teams behind us, and certainly deserved it more than Carolina, who won their divison despite a losing record), but Pittsburgh was the one team I didn't want to see in the opening round. Because every game against Pittsburgh is a huge, emotional game, and to lose that to end the season while having to watch them march further into post season would have been an extremely bitter pill to swallow.

But luckily, the playoff version of Joe Flacco, who has been nearly perfect his last two trips to the playoffs (and was as close to perfect as you can get when they won the Super Bowl after the 2012 season) showed up, and the defense prevented the run and really kept Ben Roethlisberger off balance and making bad decisions. It was a solid, decisive 30-17 road win in one of the least pleasant road stadiums in the country against a team that had beaten the hell out of them on that same field earlier in the season, and I couldn't ask for anything more for this team this season. There's nothing better than sending Steelers back into their home locker room with their tails between their legs, and its even sweeter when it happens in the playoffs and ends their hopes for another Super Bowl run.

Baltimore plays the Patriots in Foxboro next week, and even though New England is probably the team I hate the most behind the Steelers, I'm really pretty relaxes about this game. Even if we don't win, we still sent the Steelers home to think about their home loss all offseason.

It's pretty freeing being the underdog lowest seed playing against the top seed: the pressure is all on the Pats. If we lose, well, that's what was supposed to happen. But if the Patriots lose, they'll be subject to criticism from the merciless New England sports commentators for months and months and create more frustration among a fan base that is rabid but unforgiving unless you bring home a championship (something the Patriots haven't done since 2004 despite two trips to the Super Bowl and 8 playoff berths since then).

And the Ravens have had success against Brady, going 2-1 against him in playoff games in Foxboro. I know, I know, that's not predictive of future success, especially given the turnover on both teams since them, but at its core, it's still Harbaugh-Flacco against Belichick-Brady just like it has been for the past several years. Baltimore isn't going to go up there and play scared, and a win is not out of the question, especially if we can rattle them early and the weight of their fans' expectations suffocates them.


1.5.15
Well, the Ravens sure had an interesting few weeks during my time away for the holidays. When I last wrote about them, they held their playoff fate in their own hands, needing to win out against Houston (led by a fourth string quarterback) and Cleveland (to be led by a practice squad quarterback by week 17) to clinch a playoff spot no matter what anyone else did.

But in week 16 they got clobbered by the Texans, while their AFC North rivals Cincinnati and Pittsburgh both won their games and clinched playoff berths. And San Diego also won, putting them in a tie with the Ravens, and holding the tiebreaker due to a heartbreaking 33-34 loss where the Ravens took a 10 point lead into the fourth quarter and lost the game anyway. So in addition to needing to win their last game against the Browns, the Ravens also needed Kansas City to defeat the Padres.

It was nervewracking watching that game, especially with the slow start that has unfortunately become a Baltimore signature for the last several weeks—they were behind 10-3 entering the fourth quarter—but the Ravens, particularly quarterback Joe Flacco, rallied and came back to win 20-10. Meanwhile, the Chiefs took care of San Diego in a game that was happening simultaneously, so mere seconds after celebrating a season-ending victory, the Ravens and their fans were celebrating a postseason berth.

It was the sixth seed, true, and thanks to the outcome of the Steelers-Bengals game in which Pittsburgh beat Cincinnati and claimed the AFC North title, we would have to play a road game in Pittsburgh, where we got beat badly (6 touchdowns thrown by Ben Roethlisberger in a 20 point victory) a couple of months ago. But still, anything can happen in the playoffs...


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