As a Tech Director, the last words you ever want to hear come out of your Network Specialist’s mouth are “our RAID array just failed.”
Because, soon after, he’ll say, “Our Exchange server is down.”
Then, he’ll say, “So is our Radius server.”
To save the technical explanations, this meant that our server storage (files, applications, etc.), email/calendar/contacts system, and our authentication server (how our staff and students get on our wifi) were all gone.
Frankly, it was terrible, stressful, and expensive to fix. However, in the days between the server failures and them being resurrected, some interesting things happened. First of all, my iPhone did not buzz uncontrollably all day long. When at my desk, I was able to complete a typed sentence or a phone conversation without a dozen emails interrupting me. It was actually kind of nice.
I needed to discuss with our HR Director about an interview that was going to take place. So, I walked to her building and chatted about the schedule.
I had to ask our Curriculum Director a few questions about our CCSS plans. So, I walked over to her office and talked with her. We had a few laughs as we solidified some decisions.
Our Special Education Director needed some computers for staff and students in her department. So, she walked to my office and sat down so we could talk about her needs.
Prior to the server outage, all of the above tasks would have taken place via email. No conversation, no nonverbal communication, no relationship building. Purely digital text. I wouldn’t have picked up on any nuances that led me to further questioning; questioning that led to better decisions. Emails would have been exchanged until a decision was made, and we would have felt efficient.
Although the server outage caused me a lot of grief, angst, and occasional anger (directed toward the data recovery company that I felt was bilking us), it also led to some some welcome and unplanned human contact.
The basics of leadership point to the importance of relationships. Trusting one another, laughing with one another, and even disagreeing with one another lead to better decisions, better teams, and a better work environment.
I’ve challenged myself to rely less on the easy and impersonal forms of communication, and spend more time WITH my colleagues, rather than emailing AT them.
So, while I hope to NEVER experience an outage of this magnitude, I am in a way grateful that it happened. I was provided a reminder of why I got into this ‘business’ in the first place: I love people. I love working with, helping, and making a difference with people. In the coming months, I will self impose a few “server outages” on myself, to ensure that I am fulfilling my person to person duties and forging important relationships for the benefit of our students.