Friday, April 24, 2009

never let an opportunity slip by

Last night the Samaritan Center for Pastoral Counseling held its annual Ethics in Buisiness Awards banquet. In addition to a fund-raising evening for them, it was also a small Concordia University lovefest. Our President Tom Cedel served as the Honaorary Chair of the event and was the emcee for the evening; Concordia was one of two major sponsors of the event (Dell being the other one); our students were recognized for the work they did in researaching and writing reports on the nominees this year; several of the speakers recognized and gave "shout outs" to Concordia for their involvement; and I had a chance to address the 300+ attendees regarding the selection process. What a night!

Why do I tell you all this? Because this happened as a result of me getting a phone call two years ago from Nancy Blaich, executive director of the Samaritan Center, asking if I would consider having Concordia students involved in the research aspect of the selection process. I NEVER hesitated - and reponded with a postive YES. Since then, the students selected to help with this project have had an opportunity to meet with some of the greatest people in Central Texas...Concordia has been recognized as THE primary partner in this effort...I have met some really cool people as a result of this project...and Concordia's students are getting an amazing "hands-on" opportunity to learn about and practice such skills as cold calling, interviewing, writing, and networking. All because I did not let an opportunity slip by.

I believe that leaders are always looking for opportunities. Today I am having lunch with a friend from Houston who has an idea to propose to me about partnering with his company in providing strategic planning for social-sector organizations; yesterday I had a gentleman tell me that he wants to be involved in Concordia's big change (reorganizing the curriculum); I met another person yesterday who wants to engage our students in what we called "mini-internships" during their freshman and sophomore years; Tuesday...well, you get the idea.

How does one go finding these opportunities. A few ideas:
1. get out of the office - find neat people and hang out with them (coffee, lunch, networking breakfasts, whatever)
2. be an interested person - ask questions about what people do, what their hobbies are, where they are from, and what interests them. Do not worry about telling others about yourself
3. be ready and able to tell your story - can you share your organization's mission, vision and values? do you have your "elevator speech" ready at any given time? do you know what to ask for when the opportunity arises?
4. don't be afraid to ask - if someone shows interest, start with the prhase, "Have you ever considered__________________?" Give them an opportunity to think about possibilities
5. learn to NEVER say NO - you can't always say yes, but give people an opportunity to pitch their idea, ask questions, consider how it fits with your misison, vision and values, and tell them you will get back with them. Saying NO finishes the conversation (and probably the relationship)
6. be a bragger - when these opportunities pan out and great things happen, tell others about it. Challenge people to consider how they might also get involved. And always point to how this decision made a difference in your organization

NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, let an opportunity slip by - you don't know what it will do for you and/or your organization.

Friday, April 17, 2009

seeing trust

Hve you ever found yourself thinking about something, and then seeing it everywhere? Over the past 7-10 days, I have been considering the importance of trust within an organization (especially my organization) and suddenly see the word in everything I read. I picked up Warren Bennis' Managing the Dream at Half-Price Books and I kept seeing the word "trust" throughout. I invited in a speaker for our Thrivent Scholars program, and he talked about Stephen Covey's The Speed of Trust. I talked with a colleague, and he mentioned how important trust was for his organization. So I started thinking that maybe I should pay a little more attention to this concept as it relates to Concordia University today.

Anytime an organization goes through a change (especially a BIG change, aka "the move"), trust can grease the wheels for that change to occur in a smooth fashion. But there are two items about trust that I consider critical to the process:
1. TRUST SHOULD BE GIVEN, NOT EARNED: how can one really earn trust? If I make someone earn trust, then when they do something I don't like, will that trust automaticaly be withdrawn? How much does someone have to do before I trust them? Who decides what that threshold is? If I make someone earn my trust, I am operating on the principle of law, not grace. But if I can GIVE trust, then I am giving them a gift, which allows them to act in FREEDOM, not fear of wondering if they have done enough. Imagine what could happen in organizations if everyone GAVE trust immediately to everyone else?
2. TRUST SHOULD BE GIVEN ACROSS THE ORGANIZATION. Some may word this to say, "trust goes both ways;" I would say trust goes ALL ways. In my organization, administrators should trust faculty and faculty should trust administrators. I think that often times, people expect trust to automatically flow "downward" but not so much "upward." If trust is to work within an organization, people have to give that trust across the board - and not make some people (or groups of people) earn it.

Stephen Covey says that "trust is the one thing that changes everything." I would agree. He also says that "people respond to trust." So the challenge for leaders is two-fold: first, do you trust those you lead without exception; and second, have you built a culture which honors, values, and rewards trusting behaviors? If we want thing to change, then trust is critical.
What have you done today to give trust to others?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

what's your goal?

It's a worthy question...most people would agree it is important...and it is something we think about all the time, whether it be personal or organizational goals. Over the past two weeks, I was reminded that for organizations to exist, there is really one goal - read on...
In my Introduction to Business class, we were discussing the "fundamental and powerful concepts" within business (fundamental and powerful concepts help shape how one thinks within any given discipline). While many of the comments had to do with customer service or quality products, one young man piped up and said very simply - "profit." His classmates jumped all over him, but after some clarification and further understanding, we all came to the conclusion that he was right. PROFIT is the ultimate goal of business - and any other organization if it wants to exist beyond a short time.
That same weekend I began to read The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt. I had seen this book on the shelf for years, but had failed to pick it up. Not too far into the book the narrator is confronted with the question, "What is the goal of your business?" After many attempts to answer the question (all of them wrong), he realizes that the answer is TO MAKE MONEY. To effectively and efficiently operate a business, one must then figure out what it is that makes money for the organization and begin to work on those processes. would I translate that into a University setting (or a church...or a not-for-profit venture...or any organization that seems to have "more lofty goals" than making money)? It still comes down to the fact that in order for any organization to continue its work (be that making a product or delivering a service) it's goal must be to make money (in reality, to make MORE money than they are spending). At the University level, our income is derived (for the most part) through credit hours sold (what we might call our throughputs). Those credit hours are delivered through classes (what we might call our inventories). And our costs - for the most part - consist of our faculty (what we would call our operational expenses). Knowing that, we have to find a way to increase throughputs, decrease inventories, and decrease operational expenses...while at the same time staying true to our mission and value added propositions.
At least that is how I interpreted Goldratt's thinking for the University. I am not sure if I am right, BUT the book got me thinking about profit in a different way. I would recommend it for anyone who has to think about an organization beyond one day. And by the way, it is also a fun story to read.