Dear colleagues and friends,
This time of year is jammed packed with so many year-end activities that I find it hard to keep track of them all.
Out of all of the activities, though, I think I enjoy commencement most of all. I can think of no more important marker of the importance of our work than watching graduates walk across the stage at the end of their college experience. I love the pomp and ceremony of it all—singing the national anthem, the alma mater and watching the procession!
When I worked at Elizabethtown College, EVERYONE—faculty and administrators alike—was expected to attend commencement and march in regalia and that’s where I think I caught the graduation bug. While administrators, regardless of role marched in the back, we were there. A tradition I really enjoyed at Etown was having the graduating class pass between two lines of faculty and administrators before the ceremony began. It was uplifting and rewarding. And I’ll admit it—it could be tearful. Augustana has a similar tradition following the ceremony and it’s equally enjoyable. I also enjoyed the pre-commencement brunch and the soccer coach passing out Twizzlers before the ceremony began. It was joyful.
I must admit, though; I can’t say that I’ve always enjoyed commencement speakers. The commencement speaker for my own graduation was the acclaimed sociologist Noam Chomsky and his speech was downright miserable and never ending. On the other hand, television’s Judge Judy gave a commencement address at Etown and it was brief, entertaining, and provided great life advice to graduates..
This Sunday Augustana College will graduate another amazing class of students and I’ll be there enjoying every moment as a reminder of the impact of our work.
I hope all of you will enjoy a graduation or two this year.
A thought I can’t get out of my mind
Ever since March Madness I’ve had a single image in my head about teamwork and I can’t let it go. These were a few seconds in the Kansas vs. Villanova game that stood out for me as someone who tries to pay a lot of attention to teamwork and team dynamics. Those of you who watched the game might remember it, too.
I remember being impressed when I saw it while watching the game that night and was once again reminded when the parent of an Augustana player re-tweeted Mike Russell’s video of the play, which you can see here.
Russell’s caption/tweet says it all, “(below) is what a TEAM looks like. One man goes down, four sprint to his aid. You can’t fake this stuff. Beautiful!”
It was really neat to see that night and I have the tweet bookmarked to go back and watch it periodically to remind me of how beautiful great teamwork can be.
Do you have examples of this kind of teamwork within your organization? I can think of a few, but also think there is room for improvement.
Two things I think are worth reading (if you haven’t already done so)
“5 Options to Improvise Strategic Thinking Questions”—Over the past several years I’ve really enjoyed getting a morning think-piece from Mike Brown of Brainzooming. A few weeks ago a piece about being stuck in strategic thinking stood out to me. Brown offers the following suggestions that I found useful:
*The first question is: What has worked in this situation or with this client before? Return to that technique, framework, or outcome. This creates continuity.
*The second option: Look for what has worked elsewhere in comparable situations. This takes advantage of lessons learned.
*Option three: Look for different, but similar, situations that could apply and frame discussion or decision in light of those. Here, it’s all about the power of analogies.
*The fourth option: Ask, “What can I pull out of my rear to experiment with and see if it will work?” This is total improv.
*If all else fails: Call a break in the activities to clear your mind, think and pray for more strategic thinking questions to imagine and try.
This is an excellent framework and is something that a person can apply in countless situations, especially when “doing the same but better” won’t work. If you don’t subscribe to Brainzooming, you might want to consider it.
“Shifting From a Scarcity Mindset to an Opportunity Mindset”—This piece by Amit Mrig from Academic Impressions is worth reading and considering. What I like about it is that it is measured in its approach. It doesn’t argue that institutions need to “go big or go home.” Instead, it suggests “frugal innovation.” That’s an idea that most people can get behind. I think the best takeaways are the three questions Amit suggests we ask of ourselves:
- How can we achieve higher levels of quality and services through our own efforts?
- What investments can we make to create sustainable long-term returns for the institution?
- How can we use our current constrained environment to re-energize and re-focus the institution?
Man, I like these questions!
Are you asking these questions consistently on your campus or in your operation?
Something for you (and me) to think about
As mentioned last week, I just completed a 360 review, which has given me some insight about some areas to work on and work through. It was a very useful process and I am grateful to all who participated. As part of my own effort to reflect on my leadership, I’ve been doing a bit of reading about Gen-X leaders.
A great article, “Why You Need to Pay Attention to Gen-X Leaders,” from Fast Company was helpful and was almost like holding up a mirror. I might have even uttered a couple “Amens” while reading it. Maybe I should have read this prior to the 360!
I share it with this group because the article cites one expert who says that 51% of leadership positions are held by Gen-Xers and we all probably need to become more familiar with their characteristics and qualities.
Let me know what you think about this article.
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). I try to get one of these out every Monday. Past issues of my musings can be found at my blog @bowtieadmission