What qualities are you looking for when adding new members to your team?
“One thing that you have to look at is the person internally. What are their intrinsic motivating factors and how do they believe and how do they think? The one thing that I look out for is a person who feels that if a title or degree gives them the ability, or in their mind that they think they have all the answers and that no other answers or input would be necessary. Those types of leaders, you don’t want. You don’t want those types of people in your institution, you want people who are able to be humble and be able to work collaboratively, listen to others’ input, take it into strong consideration and come out with a decision that is for the best of the institution and the best of all. They must be strong leaders that are charismatic and not so textbook-y. I could cite theories over and over about leadership, organizational leadership and management, the trick is applying those theories and doing them successfully to where you are able to lead an institution of individuals to success and that is what the trick is. And many of those who say they are leaders have that difficulty right there. So, I look for their ability to be open, honest, being themselves, listening to and respecting others, that is the most critical piece. Everybody has a voice, and that voice is very strong. You have to look past what position or wherever they are because we have life experiences that shape us and if you haven’t walked in their shoes, you surely can’t tell them how to tie their shoelaces. But they sure can educate you on some of the things that they have experienced that just might make your answer or solution a lot easier. So that collaborative approach is so instrumental in my book. That’s how I would answer that question,” Bridges said.
When faced with problematic or outdated procedures, what skills would you utilize to move the college forward?
“You should always look at best practice. That should be where you always start, and then that best practice can be adapted or modified based on the institutional idiosyncrasies. In the institution that I’m in right now, we’re doing marvelous work and looking at the outdated processes and implementing new ones. And clearly surveying what is happening in the surrounding area. I don’t know how you can start without looking at what best practice is, that’s a real simple one to me. Once I gather that information, that gives me a foundation for which to build my tree and I literally just modify it with the help of every single person that has a stakehold in it. It has to be a collaborative process. I cannot say that enough. You cannot be successful in any entity, I don’t care where it’s at, without a collaborative process. You must listen because during that process, when everyone has buy-in and they understand the process and how it’s changing or what we’re modifying it from and changing it to, it’s just much more a transparent and respectful process. I currently sit on a IPC committee which is a policy committee, it’s an institutional policy committee, and that’s exactly what we do. We look at policies over and over and processes over and over again, and we refine them. We take out things that don’t work well and that’s what it’s all about. And if you do that on a continuous basis, you will find that your operational aspects within the institution will run a little bit more smoothly. And those kinks that you were always running into or the loopholes of a problem that they were causing, have now gone away. So my bottom-line answer is you must assess best practice, take best practice and modify it to the institutional idiosyncrasies and from there you are good to go as long as you have the buy-in of all of your stakeholders,” Bridges said.
What reservations do you have going into the position of VPAA?
“None. Absolutely none. You must have confidence in everything you do and that confidence is what builds you and what gives you that stamina, the wherewithal, the ability to. I always choose that the statement uh leaders have the uncanny ability, this was the head of Apple actually it’s attributed to him attribute to him, ‘The uncanny ability to hire people that are smarter than them,” and that’s what you should do. You hire individuals that are smarter than you and you look pretty dang good. And when you use those individuals as a team, you just can’t go wrong. There is nothing that I’m frightened of, there’s nothing, there’s nothing that I cannot accomplish and that’s because I’m confident. If you try something and it doesn’t work or you fail, oh well, every successful person, every single one was a failure. Every single one. So I have no concerns, no reservations, none at all. OCCC is an awesome institution. We have had remarkable change over the last six months. As an academic dean for that institution, for this institution which I’m very proud to be, we are on the right track for wonderful things to come. And to be a part of that, and to be innovative, and to be creative, and allow every single person who has a voice, I’ve always said every institution has a ton of Fabergé eggs all you have to do is take that dirty cover off of them. Once you remove that dirty cover, guess what happens? Sparkle, sparkle, sparkle. You have no idea how many sharp individuals you have in your institution. We overlook them every single time, don’t we? It’s not just in this institution but it’s in all of them. They overlook those wonderful people that are employed there, that could make their lives so much easier. That’s my first thing, I’m going to start removing, our current leadership has already thrown off dirty covers, but I’m going to help them. We’re going to take them off and we’re gonna let people shine, we’re gonna let people sparkle, and we’re gonna be an awesome institution. So that’s my answer,” Bridges said.
What do you think most uniquely qualifies you for this position?
“I’m a human and I respect people. Leadership is not difficult, people make it difficult. There’s no magic, it’s from within. If your intrinsic motivation and your heart tells you it’s correct, it’s correct. The whole key is being able to work with people, respect people, respect what they bring to the table in every aspect. And that is exactly what I do, I have never went wrong by simply respecting people for who they are and what they bring to the table. When you do and a collaborative effort is formed, good things start happening. So what do I bring? I’m human, I’m very committed, I believe in people and I believe in what they can do. I probably believe in them when they don’t believe in themselves and that is the key to success my friend. It’s not rocket science and I don’t need a doctorate in organizational leadership and management, which I do have but you don’t need it. It really comes down to some simple skills and I think that some of us in leadership tend to overlook those. We want to go straight to theory-based aspect of it and try to implement all of the theories, and it just doesn’t work because you are missing that very important piece. So that’s what I bring to it. Self-respect and respect of others, and giving them a chance to grow, expand, explore. I can just go with adjectives until the cows come home but that is what I bring,” Bridges said.