Dear colleagues and friends,
Last week was a very busy week for me. Yes, it was mom’s birthday.
But, the week also involved a trip to Richmond, VA for a meeting, a campus lunch & learn dedicated to summer construction projects at Augustana, a soccer tournament in Cedar Rapids and then an Augie hoops game with Ben on Saturday night.
In addition, I collaborated with a few colleagues to refine some really important materials to guide our philanthropic efforts at Augustana.
And, finally, I put together a very exciting proposal for a donor that I think has a ton of possibilities.
Overall, it was a week during which I felt fully engaged and saw team members at their very best.
It was a full and fun week.
I hope you can find that great balance of fun and full in your weeks ahead, especially as the pressure mounts as May 1 nears for those involved in recruitment and fiscal year-end approaches for Advancement.
There is much to do, but it’s achievable if we are having fun while we are doing it. Are you having fun?
A thought I can’t get out of my mind
I continue to slog through Ron Chernow’s “Grant,” which I highly recommend. While reading this weekend, I ran across the following passage, which Chernow cites from Grant’s memoir, and it has me thinking:
“I thought I could run the government of the United States, as I did the staff of my army. It was my mistake, and it led me into other mistakes.”
While this passage may be another argument against candidates who run for elected without political experience, that’s not the reason it stood out to me. Instead, I think this passage stood out because I, myself, have been tempted to think that I can simply replicate a success I’ve had in one place somewhere else.
For me, it has been the tendency to refer to, or try to duplicate, something accomplished at a previous institution or in a previous position. Sometimes this has been successful, but there have been plenty of occasions where the proposed solution does not fit the system or environment.
It took me some time to understand this and fully appreciate that I am not always able to duplicate the circumstances within which an idea worked elsewhere.
I know I’m not alone in this, though. I often see leaders try to change an organization to adapt to their style and system. Sometimes it works, but most times it doesn’t.
I think many leaders have a tendency to think that the system will adjust to their style, approach and experience. I understand this and think most leaders do, too.
However, Grant’s deep reflection on his “mistake” is worth noting. It makes me wonder how can leaders see these mistakes happening in real time, rather than waiting until writing a memoir?
*How do the most successful leaders learn the systems within which they need to operate?
*How do the most successful leaders adapt their gifts to work within the system they enter?
*How do the most successful leaders build in the necessary feedback loops to make sure one mistake does not lead to more mistakes?
I pose these questions to all of you and welcome your thoughts and responses.
Grant, as it turns out, was highly secretive and his command and control background from the military prevented him from building a consultative network of people who he could trust to advise him. I have to believe that had Grant had a network he could trust and had established meaningful feedback loops, perhaps these mistakes he describes would not have occurred.
Two things I think are worth reading (if you haven’t already done so)
Lead with emotional intelligence: 6 ways of Doug Pederson, Coach of the Philadelphia Eagles—I am not an Eagles fan. But, I am impressed with Coach Pederson and his approach. He has an edge—a competitive edge—that I really like. He also has a bit of chip on his shoulder that he seems to use as motivation. I also really, really, really like his hair!!! Honestly, he seems to have a lot going for him and this article is an excellent read for anyone in leadership. The author, Kristen Anne Dudley cites the following as keys to leading with EI:
- Practice self-awareness in order to achieve emotional intelligence
- Exercise empathy – put yourself in your team member’s shoes, look through their lens.
- Create a culture of transparency – stay visible and grow trusted by your team.
- Invest time in the relationships you have with your team members and give freedom for relationships to grow between them.
- Never allow adversity to get you and your team down – change the narrative to see challenges as opportunities.
- Provide a purpose higher than self. Give your team the opportunity to align with something mission-driven, it will elevate them.
This is excellent advice and something we should all aspire to. What do you think? How do you incorporate these into you daily work?
Sold-out spring games and a ‘rock star’ coach: Frost Fever hits Phase 2 at Nebraska—OK, I am a Nebraska Cornhusker fan. But, I offer this as something to read not just because I am fan. This is a great description of what happens when there is alignment of purpose; in this case the fans, the team and even the administration! But, more importantly, it seems to show just how badly people want to believe and be associated with a winner. There are two quotes that stand out and reinforce that it’s not always necessary to be cutting edge or particularly flashy to get people excited. These are the two quotes:
“Our goal is going to be simple,” the 43-year-old coach said. “It’s going to be to get better, day by day to get better. And that means waking up and being better than you were the day before. Any challenge that comes in front of you, you’ve got to conquer it and overcome it, put your head on the pillow and get ready to do it again the next day.
“Nebraska football used to be built on being physical and tough and working harder than the other team. There’s some missing pieces here that we’re going to try to get back.”
“This is going to sound a little glib,” chancellor Ronnie Green said at the time, “and I don’t mean it that way, but I’d love to be back in mid-1990s. Right? I don’t need to say more.”
Hank Bounds, president of the University of Nebraska system, immediately added his two cents.
“The truth of the matter is,” Bounds said, “why not? Why shouldn’t we have those aspirations here?”
There is something to both of these quotes, in my view. I view both of these a recognition that in order to be the best we can be today, we need to honor the past and maybe even long for it a bit. It seems like a nice way to honor deep traditions, but within the context of a new day.
Finally, this particular article serves as an example of how important it is for all of us to create excitement about what is happening. Scott Frost and his coaching staff haven’t won a single game in Lincoln, but they are building a base of cheerleaders who they will leverage when they hit the field in the fall. It seems to me that Frost is leading in a way that doesn’t diminish or discount the past. I like what I see and read. #GBR
Something for you (and me) to think about
A colleague of mine tweeted a statement attributed to a school counselor this week that included something along the lines of “I’ve used the word genuine so many times in letters of recommendations this year that it feel disingenuous.” This captures something I find myself thinking about a lot. I often wonder if acknowledgments, thank yous and brief check-ins can come across the same way. Do they feel authentic or do they feel forced? I think this is something that deserves a little bit of thought.
Is there something you’d like me to muse upon?
If you are curious about a topic or would like some musings about something in particular, please let me know by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
P.S. If you know of someone who you think I should add to my distribution list, please let me know and I will gladly add anyone who might benefit (or have mild interest) to the list. I try to get one of these out every Monday. Past issues of my musings can be found at my blog @bowtieadmission