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Granger lives, shares that practice makes better

  • Practice makes better:
    Practice makes better:  Tatia Granger, clinical associate professor of organizational behavior at William & Mary’s Raymond A. Mason School of Business and former university ombuds, counts leadership coach and mentor among her many roles.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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William & Mary has produced scores of amazing, influential women who profoundly impacted this campus during their college careers. Any of them would make for fascinating reading. During this celebration of 100 years of coeducation, we’re offering an occasional profile of a few who presently make this university one of the nation's most respected. - Ed.

Tatia Granger’s path, role and message at William & Mary’s Raymond A. Mason School of Business may be unique, but they created one another.

 Granger, clinical associate professor of organizational behavior, has more experience in education and conflict resolution than money making or business strategy. But her skill set is a match for an area of study that emphasizes that people’s attitudes, behaviors and relationships have a huge impact on how organizations work.

Her personal mantra is that “practice makes better,” and Granger shares it publicly as a means of creating some accountability and commitment, she said.  She wears a necklace that reads “practice,” and sports a version of the word on her car’s license plates. The initial idea for the concept was linked to her leadership coach training and reflection about her evolving teaching philosophy. She was also exploring yoga, so the word kept coming up and she took that as a sign.

“I had this kind of idea in my head about coaching and about teaching, that it’s the active and purposeful practice of whatever you’re doing that advances you,” Granger said. “I wanted to be able to say to my coaching clients and my students and myself that this is going to take work. Whatever you say it is that you want to focus on and get better at is going to take some work.

 “What I like about the word practice is that it’s not terribly intimidating, but it does represent a commitment. It’s a noun and a verb.”

For Granger, the noun refers to her career as a practice of teaching and coaching by both giving and receiving information. The verb reinforces the idea of actively doing.

“Practice reminds me to go after it, whatever it is, every single day,” Granger said. “And practice makes better, instead of practice makes perfect, is my way of reminding folks that no matter where you are career-wise, academically or personally, you can advance to a better space. But it’s going to take some work.

“And you’ve also got to figure out what that work, or practice, looks like. So the physical and visual cues are my way of reminding myself to stay focused and intentional. I also like taking perfect out of the phrasing because perfect just sets you up for failure. But better is attainable and intentional.”

It has other applications as well.

“I work with a lot of women, and I think as women we really set ourselves up for failure a lot by trying to figure out what the perfect scenario for us looks like,” Granger said. “And as soon as we can let go of perfect, I think we have a much better option or opportunity to flourish and to thrive.”

Granger holds a Ph.D. in higher education administration and worked at several college and universities before serving as W&M ombuds for 10 years, handling various employee issues. She learned a lot about conflict, she said, and carried that knowledge into her role as an adjunct instructor and eventually her current faculty position.

Organizational behavior is the study of how organizations work, covering both the individual employee’s and the organization’s perspectives and is informed by a variety of other disciplines including psychology, sociology, anthropology and economics.

Granger’s clinical position focuses on teaching and, as with the approximately one-third of Mason School faculty who serve in clinical positions, brings a combination of professional and academic experiences to the classroom. Her goal is to introduce and guide her students to a place of personal understanding and skill-awareness so they can become more effective leaders in the workplace.

“I think at its core organizational behavior is all about people,” Granger said.

Outside of W&M, Granger coaches emerging leaders including clients in higher education, government and corporate industry. She often references that work in her classes, she said, encouraging students to pay attention now so they don’t have to pay a coach later.

Having benefited from mentor and coaching support both formally and informally, Granger points out that she feels obliged to provide it herself.

“As I reflect on my career, I can think about who those people were and how they encouraged me,” she said. “I see their faces and I hear their voices when I’m not convinced that I’m up for some challenge, and they remind me that I can or don’t need to do something.

“Even today, I feel like I can call on a variety of folks from my network when I’m thinking about doing something new or different, and they respond with sound counsel.”

Casting a wide net, Granger has followed her own advice that “you have to broadly align yourself with a network that is intentional and purposeful.”

“And that can’t always be the case if everybody in the network is like you,” she said. “A perfect example is in schools of business where black females are not a majority constituency. And so if I’m going to be successful in this environment, I’m going to have to find and trust people that don’t look like me.

“And in most cases in B-schools, the majority constituency is the white male. I am fortunate that I have found some really good allies in this space.”

She reminds her students that the path of professional accomplishment often is not straight, and that to really appreciate the journey it’s also important to embrace the curves.

“While not perfect, I have figured out how to blend the professional and the personal,” Granger said. “I have two teenage daughters and a husband, and I like spending time with them. And so it was also important for me to find professional experiences and spaces that while challenging and engaging, didn’t prevent me from having a personal life. As I said before, ‘practice makes better.’”