Dear colleagues and friends,
Another academic year is upon us and I can sense the machinery gearing up for students to return to Augustana. In the past few weeks I’ve seen more employees on campus and there is an urgency abound as we scramble to get summer projects accomplished and finalize plans for 2018-19.
For me, it’s an inspiring time of year.
But, before getting too excited about the future, allow me to reflect on the summer of 2018.
My kids have a “summer bucket list” on the refrigerator at home and they have been faithfully crossing things of the list and incessantly reminding us about things on the list left undone. Those activities I’ve been able to participate in have been a joy. Jennie has been able to participate in a few more than I and I am grateful that she’s made the time.
And, while it wasn’t on a bucket list, one activity in which Martha (14) participated was a week-long art camp. Her instructor sent us a picture of her working and it made my head explode.
Not only was I able to spend some time with my family, I also saw some old friends at a high school class reunion in Gering, Nebraska and spent a weekend in Connecticut with college friends with whom I lived during my first-year at Gettysburg College (it was a gathering or Political Science majors, none of who work in politics or public policy). It was great to spend time with these old friends.
I also made time read during the summer months. I enjoyed the following books:
Ron Chernow’s biography of George Washington, “George Washington: A life.”
Marshall Goldsmith’s, “What got you here won’t get you there”
Nathan Grawe’s, “Demographics and Demand for Higher Education”
Simon Sinek’s, “Start with why.”
Ian Flemming’s, “Thunderball”
As my father would say, I “read at” the following books:
Rogee Roger’s “The luxury buyer: Path the Purchase Psychographics”
Randall Storss’, “A Practical Education.”
And, I re-read one of my favorite books, Richard Hackman’s “Leading Teams.”
Finally, I worked with many different team members to reflect on the past year and make plans for the coming year. There was much to think about and I am excited about many of the things we will introduce in the coming year.
I hope you had a good summer. What did you do and what would you highlight about your summer? Drop me a line so I know what’s been up with you in the last few weeks.
A thought I can’t get out of my mind
I am pretty sure that the most impressive people I know are graduates of liberal arts colleges.
My college friends are an impressive bunch doing really cool and challenging things. And, the many students I’ve worked with at Etown and Augie are an equally impressive group of people.
But, I must say, I can’t point to one particular major that stands out and has led to success for these people. And, while I get that major matters to many and sometimes it feels like a particularly important marker for those most committed to the liberal arts, I am convinced that these amazing people I know are so impressive because of how they’ve been taught to think and experience life, regardless of how liberal artsish their major was.
The common elements I see in all of these impressive people transcend “a liberal arts major,” but instead reflect the hallmarks of liberal education.
These people are creative and critical thinkers and they know how to identify and solve real problems. They have an appreciation for the world at large and they operate with a moral compass that I admire.
Sometimes we are confronted with new ideas about new programs and balk about the connection to our mission as a liberal arts college. I don’t know about you, but I would like front-line health care workers, elder care givers, law enforcement professionals and many others who I encounter in daily life to think, act and serve they way these liberal arts college graduates I know so well do.
Maybe liberal arts education is less about a specific list of majors offered or studied, but developing the skills and dispositions that I see in all of these amazing people I know from spending 30 years studying or working a liberal arts colleges.
Two things I think are worth reading (if you haven’t already done so)
Your strategic plans aren’t strategic, or even plans—This is a great article from HBR. The author, Graham Kenny, is biting in his criticism of most strategic plans. But, he offers some really interesting ideas that I think are worth considering. Among the most interesting take-aways he offers is the following:
“The key to strategy is that it’s the positioning of one business against others”
It’s that simple! Yet, most processes I’ve participated in tend to be more focused on becoming similar to others, rather than positioning against.
Strategic planning sessions in which I participate in the future are very likely to have Kenny’s quote on the wall for everyone, including me, to think about.
Five stages to becoming a leader—I was preparing for an upcoming workshop for new enrollment leaders during which I will be speaking about a couple of topics. While gathering resources for the sessions I ran across the chart to which I linked above. I thought it was a helpful reminder. The stages include: Connect; Relationship; Trust; Value; and, Influence.
These are helpful reminders no matter where you are in your leadership journey.
Something for you (and me) to think about
This past spring I asked direct reports and others with whom I interact frequently to complete a 360 evaluation. It was a tremendously humbling and helpful process for me. It reminded me how very important it is to ask the people who really matter, “what can I be doing better?”
After quite a bit of reflection, I shared the results of my 360 with all of the people who completed it. I still am not sure it was the right thing to do, but I believe it was important for everyone to know what happened to the information they shared.
One of the reasons I felt like I needed to share it is also because I want my colleague’s help as I work to address the handful of things that need attention. In short, I need those people who surround me to hold me accountable for the changes that I need to make to be the best leader I can be.
How are when are you asking for feedback from those who matter most? And, would you share the results of your 360 or am I a fool for doing so? Let me know your thoughts.
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