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.