With three words, the new top boss of troubled Pima Community College set the tone for his administration during his first day on the job.
"Call me Lee," Chancellor Lee Lambert told scores of college employees Monday, saying he prefers to connect with people on a first-name basis.
Lambert, a self-professed hater of rigid hierarchies, finds it irksome when those in leadership roles insist on being addressed by lofty titles, such as Ph.D.s who want to be called "doctor."
"To those who have doctorate degrees, I really hope you will be OK with your employees calling you by your first name," he told administrators.
"We're all in this together," he told person after person during a walkabout at PCC headquarters and, later, at a meet-and-greet at one of its campuses.
"Things are going to get better. We're going to make them better together," he said.
Lambert takes power at a time of turmoil for the school.
PCC is on probation with its accreditor, which recently investigated and found a litany of administrative and governance failings, including a "climate of fear and retribution."
Lambert replaces former Chancellor Roy Flores, who resigned last year after eight women accused him of sexual harassment.
Flores also was prone to abusive outbursts laced with profanity, and morale plummeted on his watch, the accreditor found.
Lambert drew smiles and applause as he assured workers that repairing morale was one of his top priorities.
Some employees told him they find it hard to trust each other or their bosses given the punitive atmosphere that prevailed under previous leadership.
Maggie Romance, who works in continuing education, said many employees became "risk averse" - unwilling to propose new ideas for fear of coming under attack if things didn't pan out.
"Be patient with us," she asked Lambert. "We're trying to heal as far as trust is concerned."
Lambert has many more listening sessions planned in the coming weeks.
He intends to pay personal visits to each of PCC's six campuses this month and also has a string of meetings set up with citizens groups and community leaders, including some of the college's biggest critics.
In between, he'll be setting up his PCC office himself, unpacking a collection of books on leadership, philosophy and managing change in higher education.
The titles range from "Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way" to "301 More Ways to Have Fun at Work."
Employees who met with Lambert on Monday said he's like a fresh breeze blowing through an institution that had grown stale.
"I'm excited. I think he's going to be what we need to get back on track," said Wendy Dosch-Turner, a program assistant in PCC's grants department.
"Everyone seems to feel he's a good fit for the college."
Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 573-4138.
On StarNet: Find more education and PCC news and resources at azstarnet.com/education
Did you know
Lee Lambert is the first Pima Community College chancellor who's also a social media geek.
You can friend him at www.facebook.com/lee.d. lambert or follow him on Twitter at @LeeLambert3