Friday, September 28, 2012


Leadership is hard work.  I realize that is a "no-duh" statement, but I was reminded of it again this week as I ran from place to place...from meal to meal...from room to room...from person to person...from meeting to meeting.  Let me state that I loved every minute of it - and I also realize the importance of being on the go so much.  The hard work of leadership is dealing with people - and you can't be with people if you are not at places, meals, rooms, and meetings.  As you read through the following highlights of my week, consider the following thoughts:

  • did you spend time this past week moving the mission of your institution forward?
  • who did you meet - especially who did you meet for the first time - that will assist you in helping move the mission of your institution forward?
  • what events did you attend in which people got to know you a little better - and therefore got to know your institution a little better?
  • who should you have not spent time with - in other words, who did you spend time with that did NOT help you move the mission of the institution forward?
  • what does your schedule look like for next week/month?
  • who do you need to have coffee/breakfast/lunch with that you believe might help you move the mission of the institution forward?  Have you set up a meeting with that person yet?
So here is a quick recap of my week and the really cool people I met and the really fun things I did...

  • coffee with Rebecca Powers (founder of Impact Austin)
  • leadership coaching session with Marchelle Scarnier of Concordia University Texas
  • Thrivent Scholars meeting with Amber Fogarty of SOS Leadership
  • Lunch with Amber Fogarty and Kristen Cantu of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans
  • Introduction to Business class with Tom Lucas from National Instruments
  • Lunch with Concordia MBA alums Jim Weeks and Charlotte Spencer to discuss alum association
  • discussion on COB vision with Lauren Riemer, CTX grant writer
  • observed Conspirare rehearsal at St. Martin's Lutheran Church with friend Doug Bain of Bain Consulting
  • Breakfast at Headliner's Club with Concordia Foundation members
  • meeting with the College of Business Program Directors
  • Lunch with MBA alumnus Daniel Urrea
  • leadership coaching session with Carrie Leising form Concordia University Texas
  • Dinner with Brad Hewitt (Thrivent CEO), Dick Moeller (Water to Thrive Exec Dir), Kurt Senske (LSSS CEO) and Pete Mueller (Pastor ACTS Church)
  • Thrivent Scholars meeting with Brad Hewitt from Thrivent
  • Thrivent Scholars Alumni meeting with Brad Hewitt from Thrivent
  • Concordia Speaker Series with Brad Hewitt, Dick Moeller, and Kurt Senske
  • provost Council Meeting
  • meeting with Concordia MBA leadership faculty
  • dinner with my good friend Mark Anderson who was in town from Houston
Great week...amazing week...intense week...full week...satisfying week...long week...energizing week... exhausting week.  Leadership is hard work - AND leadership is fulfilling work.  Looking forward to what next week brings. Are you?

Friday, September 21, 2012

high performance teams

Yesterday morning I had the opportunity to sit in on a round table discussion of C-suite executives talking about high performance teams.  This round table was facilitated by Texas CEO Magazine, edited by Pat Niekamp and Karin Maake.  Through a serious of fortunate events, I was invited to "listen in" and gain wisdom from a group of people including executives from National Instruments, CacheIQ, HomeAway, The Leadership Refinery and others.  The hour went by incredibly fast as I sipped coffee and furiously took notes.  Here are but a few of the gems I gained from their wisdom and experience:

  • sometimes executives need to make an individual decision rather than involve the team because its faster and better (and good executives know the difference)
  • high performance team members all share a passion for the customer
  • high performance teams know their purpose - in other words, they know what they are to do
  • high performance teams are able to create what one participant called "creative abrasion" - leading to more and better ideas
  • where political agendas outweigh the purpose of the team, there you will find a toxic team
  • high performance teams have a leader who know how to create a high performance team
  • "perfection is demotivating - excellence is highly motivating"
  • task accountability is easy... relationship accountability is hard
  • if Michael Jordan walked into your business, would you know it?  and would you hire him (even if a position did not exist for him)?
I have the honor and privilege of working for what I consider to be a high performing team.  Twice in the last month they have helped me in making decisions that affected the College of Business.  They have listened closely to the issue at hand, they have debated back and forth the sides of the issue, they shared their personal feelings, they considered the mission and vision of the College, they have come up with new ideas, they argued back and forth a bit, and they just plain gave great advice.  Each time we walked away from the meeting feeling better about the team, better about the mission and vision of the College, and better about the decision.  I owe much to Elise, Lynette, Shane and Wayne for their expertise, their guidance, their honesty, and their willingness to engage at such a high level.  

So here's a quick question to consider as you think about the various teams on which you serve: don't ask whether or not you are a high performing team...rather ask do we know what our purpose is and does what happens at our meetings seem to move that purpose forward?  At least that is a start to knowing whether or not you are on a high performing team. 

Finally , Patrick Lencioni's newest book, The Advantage, provides a wonderful picture of what a high performing team should look like.  I recommend it highly and encourage you to buy it today!

Friday, September 14, 2012

tell me a story

There is power in story.  We all know it, and yet we often forget about it.  We become more and more concerned with data...more and more concerned with the bottom line...more and more concerned with reaching our goals...more and more concerned that we meet our numbers - and we forget the power of story.  Early in our lives we asked our parents to tell us another story...we were consumed with reading comics...we listened to Mr. Rogers tell us another story...we even had The Big Book of Bible Stories we pulled off the shelf on a regular basis.  Later on in life, we still find the need to revert to story...we re-read the great novels once again...we wait every week for the next episode of our favorite show...we turn on the radio every Saturday evening and listen to tales from Lake Wobegon...and we still thrill to hearing the Christmas story read from Luke chapter 2 (King James Version, please).  So why have we taken the use of STORY out of our work place?  Here are a few thoughts:

  • it is harder to calculate the ROI (return on investment) from story telling
  • story telling takes time
  • we have forgotten how to listen
  • accrediting institutions ask for quantitative assessment data
  • story telling makes us vulnerable
  • we tell ourselves we need to "get down to business"
  • we have forgotten how to tell stories
  • we spend too much time behind the computer and less time around the water cooler (or coffee pot)
  • we are too busy
  • we are too lazy
  • we are too...
Over the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to see the power of story in action:
  • young freshmen students telling me about their "coolest" moment in high school
  • reading about how story telling can ease the mind of disturbances (Robert Coles' The Call of Stories: Teaching and the Moral Imagination)
  • listening to Brene Brown give a TED talk about her research on how story telling helps people become more vulnerable 
  • being asked to share one of my stories with a colleague - and having him pray with me afterwards about that story
  • hearing stories from my faculty about how our vision is being lived out in the classrooms
So how can we further encourage story telling among our colleagues, friends and family?  One final list:
  • learn to ask questions that elicit stories from others (open ended, genuinely curious, asking people to tell you more, etc)
  • begin each meeting with a story time - connect it to the mission and vision of your organization
  • read more more good the books your were required to read in high school and young adult graphic novels
  • remind yourself to tell one story every day - don't force yourself on people, but see if you can find a willing ear to hear your story
  • get out from behind your desk and walk around, stopping in people's offices and ask them what's happening in their lives - then be quiet and listen
  • give yourself permission to put your feet up on your desk and enjoy the moment of listening to someone else's story
  • eat dinner with your spouse and family at the table rather than in front of the TV
  • believe that STORY has power - really believe it - and let others know you believe it
  • turn on your public radio station this coming Saturday afternoon and listen to Garrison Keillor tell stories from Lake Wobegon
Stories inspire...stories stoke the imagination...stories teach...stories heal...stories help people and organizations align...stories make people laugh...stories make people cry...stories increase faith...stories lift the spirit...stories are what make us human.  SO...what's your story?