Category Archives: Leadership Development

What Rowing Taught Me About Winning, Losing, and Leading a Team – in Business and in Life

In the hot summer of 1973, the Arab oil embargo created gas lines around the block, and the heat was barely tolerable.  A laid back 18-year old with a mop of blond hair was taking a year off from school, and responded to a help wanted ad at Eastern Mountain Sports in Boston. He was shown to a tiny, stuffy, windowless office in the back of a chaotic shipping area, also known as The World Headquarters of the People’s Mail Order Business – or PMO.

To reach the only free chair, which was shoehorned next to the manager’s desk and only half blocked what remained of the “aisle,” he had to wind around tables, file cabinets, a desk, a secretary, two clerks, and a sleeping golden retriever.  Every surface was covered with piles of orders rustling gently from the reciprocating fan as it swept back and forth in a fruitless attempt to relieve the humid summer heat.  A copy of Chairman Mao’s “Little Red Book” rested next to a dead plant on the corner of the manager’s desk – not because anyone was a communist, but simply to tweak the somewhat humorless owner of the company who thought there was something suspicious about a group that worked hard and seemed to have a lot of fun doing it.  The walls were covered with schedules, a clock, shelves with old phone books, scrawled notes with big arrows pointing at nothing, and one large framed black and white photograph hung at eye-level next to the manager.  The photo was a close-up action shot of a collegiate eight oared crew taking the 2nd stroke of a race – strong men, muscles straining, oars bending, stern, focused expressions.  It was a great rowing picture of a great crew.

Dartmouth 1970

The young man stuck out his hand and said, “My name’s Whit Mitchell,” and pointing to the picture, added,  “I used to do that – I rowed in high school.”

The secretary, sitting with her back to the manager and the young man, announced with conviction: “You’re hired!”

“She’s right,” said the manager. “You’re hired.  That’s Manon, and my name’s Bill Pickard. Welcome to Eastern Mountain Sports.  When can you start?”

Forty years later, the two men remain fast friends.

Bill, who had rowed on championship crews at Kent School, Dartmouth, Vesper & Union Boat Clubs, and on several US National Teams, later went on to be the first women’s rowing coach at Dartmouth while earning an MBA at Tuck with Whit as an assistant coach. As coach, he cultivated excellence within a team of women who would go on to become rowing coaches, national team & Olympic athletes, sea captains, diplomats, firemen, doctors, lawyers, vice-presidents of Development, C-level business executives, mothers of successful children, and— as fate would have it— one who would become his wife.

Along the way, he learned many lessons that would contribute to his success in business, in relationships, and in life.

Today Bill heads up his own company, Pickard & Murphy, a Seattle based senior level management consulting firm dedicated to making significant improvements in its client’s strategic or operational business position. He has worked with clients including Boeing, Microsoft, IBM, and more.

A Discussion with Bill Pickard, President of Pickard & Murphy, Inc.

Q: What lessons can athletes draw on to help them achieve success in business?

Bill: All sports to some degree, (but rowing in particular), teach athletes the value of sustained hard work, deferred gratification, high expectations, and the benefits of teamwork. To make a great sword you take the best steel you can find, put it in a fire and get it really hot. Then you beat it flat with a hammer, fold it over, and beat it some more. Then you dunk it in an ice bath, and then you keep repeating the process until you have a strong, flexible, razor sharp blade. Rowing coaches are sword makers and crews are swords that love being shaped. The fire and the ice and the pounding build the physical and mental strength needed to develop the confidence necessary to prevail. That process teaches both the sword maker and the swords to do more than they thought they could do. In business and in life, you get out of it in proportion to what you put in.

A rowing coach’s job is to teach their athletes to “Pull As Hard As You Can.“ Not 95% or save some for the end— as hard as YOU can. When a coach tells a high school student to pull harder, that athlete gets tired and thinks he (or she) really is pulling as hard as they can. But as the athlete matures and keeps training, he realizes that he is capable of much greater levels of sustained effort. What used to pass for intense effort is greatly surpassed. As physical strength, aerobic capacity, and technique improve, the mind strengthens as well. Former limits are left in the dust. Every year, self-imposed barriers are peeled away like the layers of an onion. Hard work and improvement beget confidence, and it is confidence that allows a crew to come from behind and triumph.

The harder you push, the more you learn that you can do even more.

Much of what it takes to be a successful athlete is about breaking mental barriers, and the same goes for business. So much of business is about having the confidence to “go for it”, whether you know everything about a topic or not. You may not have done a specific task before, but you’ve successfully done things similar to it. Taking that knowledge, generalizing it, and working hard while simultaneously being confident enough to know that you’re going to succeed— that is what it’s all about. Having good teammates helps too!

Most of the time the magic works. Some times it doesn’t. But as an athlete, you also learn that life doesn’t end when you lose a race. If you’re going to take a risk, sometimes you’re going to fail— but you’re also going to win.

In business, like in rowing, to succeed you have to work really hard and sustain that level of effort. Always pulling as hard as you can in practice enables you to pull as hard as you can in a race. You know you can sustain it for 2,000 Meters in a race because you have done it dozens of times during all those miles on the river.

Success takes time and breeds more success.

The process is circular. It takes sustained, hard work to build the confidence necessary to continue to work ever harder so that you can improve continuously and ultimately achieve the team’s goals.

Q: What has being a rowing coach taught you about leadership, and how do these lessons apply to leaders within a business or organization?

Bill: Coaching and leadership are all about teaching, developing teams and working through other people. The coach isn’t the one out there rowing— coaches are the ones preparing a team to row and win the race.

Business leaders have to be able to do the same thing. Leaders must effectively transfer knowledge to their teams, delegate both responsibility and authority, and keep them focused so they can do their best. When a team wins, a good leader gives the credit to the team because the team did it; if the team loses, a leader needs to stand up and accept responsibility for the loss and turn the negative energy from the loss into positive energy, preparing the team to win the next race.

Much like a coach, a business leader has to keep a team focused on what they need to do to win and keep improving. In New Hampshire it is cold and the season starts later than in warmer locations. A coach in Hanover cannot let a crew get down if they lose early season races. By setting realistic goals and cranking up the pressure to perform as the season progresses, the coach can keep a team focused on getting better. Metaphorically and actually, wins that are hard to come by in March and April, come more easily in May and June. In business, even with the best of teams, there are often setbacks early in the life of a new program. The business leader sets expectations, pushes for improvement, teaches, encourages, focuses, and eventually success comes. People are individuals and they are unique— good coaches are great communicators and find ways to communicate with people in the ways that work best for them. Good business leaders do the same.

Q: What important lessons or key principles have you learned while coaching that translate into being an effective leader?

Bill: Whether you are coaching 7 year-olds or elite athletes or teams of programmers or engineers my philosophy is that regardless of the activity, people must feel safe and they must be having fun.

They have to feel safe in the sense that when they’re trying things that are really hard, they have to know that they might fail and might not “win.”

If they don’t win, they must come back, keep working, change a couple of things and try again. When they ‘get it,’ as the coach you need to tell them: “That’s it— you’ve got it!”  Reward progress and you’ll get more.

In business and on teams, if people think they’re going to get fired or disciplined or sidetracked if they fail or achieve less than expected, then they will avoid taking risks. No one wants to be the person who gets blamed for a failure.  Everyone wants to hear about his or her successes, no matter how small.

Create a culture that rewards success and risk-taking but doesn’t punish failure.

When senior management sets that kind of culture, they’ll encourage more risk-taking and ultimately more success, whereas if they have a culture that punishes failure, or never rewards or acknowledges success then they won’t have people taking risks or going the extra mile.

“Ya gotta wanna do it!” Regardless of whether they are athletes or engineers, if a team isn’t having fun, they are not going to want to do all the required hard work. Obviously not all aspects of anything are ‘fun’. Great stuff is hard! Five 2K erg pieces in one workout or working for days without sleep on a proposal aren’t ‘fun,’ but in the end the totality of the experience must be rewarding.  Members of a team need to enjoy the experience enough to keep coming back every day and putting in the miles that lead to success. People who are not having fun tune out, get cynical and negative, and drag everyone else down or simply leave.

If you work together as a team, you’ll get more out of people. As a coach if you set very clear and high expectations, your team will rise to meet them. If you don’t, they won’t. Business is the same. Without a clear understanding of what is expected, the team will flounder. If everyone ‘gets it’ then everyone can do their own jobs, and help the others do theirs.

If you want to be effective and win, you must set a goal and say, “this is the goal.” You may have a clear idea of exactly how to get there, or you might need the team to figure out the plan, and then execute it together.

Your team may look at the goal and say, “I could never do that,” but if you are doing your job, by the end of the season, they’ll get there, and they’ll know that THEY did it.

Give your team the tools they need to succeed, point them the right direction, and then get out of the way. They’ll do well.

Q: I understand that you used to send little inspirational messages to your athletes– any final words?

Bill: Sure!

“A diamond is a lump of coal that stuck with it.”

“A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he blames someone else.” – Steve Prefontaine

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.  And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs (1955 – 2011)

Great coaches and great leaders build…“heroic hearts, … strong in will to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” (Ulysses – Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1842)

“…Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir the blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency…”  Attributed to Daniel H. Burnham, 1910

“Doing your best is more important than being the best.” - Cathy Rigby, US Gymnast

“All sunshine makes a desert.”

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The Working in Sync Book: A Leader’s Guide to Working Together, Forming Deep Relationships, and Achieving Business Success

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We are told that success is about strategy. Or innovation. Or just plain luck. Executive coach and author Whit Mitchell learned that success actually comes from your ability to work together and form deep relationships. Whit first learned this lesson when coaching crew at Dartmouth in the early 80’s. Twenty-five years later, Whit was delighted to find that everyone he coached on that team went on to phenomenal success. Working in Sync is the story of these 11 amazing men and the lessons we can learn from their success.

A Discussion with Whit Mitchell, Author of Working in Sync

Q: Tell us a little about the “working in sync” concept and how it applies not just to crew, but also to leadership within a business or organization.

Whit: If you take a look at the front cover of the Working in Sync book, you’ll see a picture of the oars moving into the water. If you can get a crew to be most effective with their work with each other and the oars are going into and out of the water at the same time, then the boat’s going to move very smoothly down the river. With a lot of hard work, energy and humility behind the oar, you’re going to be able to beat the competition every single time.

So the concept of working in sync, similar to rowing, is about figuring out how to take the talents, the skills, the behavior, the expertise, the number of years working in a certain industry and put them together so that there is a give and take on everyone’s part in order to move the boat as efficiently and effectively and as quickly down the course as you can.

When a leader can make changes that impact the team and the team moves faster down the course, everybody benefits. It is my passion to help teams “work in sync” and to help people achieve more than they ever thought possible. 

Q: What inspired you to write Working in Sync?

Whit: I think the reason or the “aha” for the book was the evening that the members of the Dartmouth crew all came back for their 25th reunion. As I made my way around the table with each of the athletes that night, I was struck with the enormity of their accomplishments in their personal and professional lives. Each one reconnected with me in a very genuine way and told stories not just about how they’d worked as the one of the top executives  of  their company, but about how they’d impacted thousands or millions of people in Africa or Asia or India or New York City, or about how as a venture capitalist they’d helped companies achieve greatness that had helped millions of other people, or about how as a physician they’d helped to make a difference in peoples’ lives through brain surgery or orthopedics.

There was no egotistical behavior – they were very humble, and as I heard each athlete’s story I was struck by how they were able to connect some of their own experiences and events that occurred while rowing at Dartmouth in the early 80’s together to some of the lessons learned as they went on to medical school, for example. “I was up for 24 hours and thought it was the hardest thing I’d ever done,” said one of the guys, “but then I remembered back to the day that we rowed 20 miles in the sleet and cold and my hands were bloody and my back was stiff, and in comparison to how hard that was, it was nothing. And that helped pull me through the rest of my shift that night.”

So the book is about how each member of the team has been able to take little pieces of those experiences and stories in sport and apply them to not only their business lives, but into their personal lives, too – into their marriages and personal relationships and into the upbringing of their children.

It’s not a book about rowing; it is a book about college rowers and their personal and professional experiences and how they’ve applied the lessons learned 30 years ago out on the water to their work in business today.

Q: How can the concepts and stories within this book be used to help an organization function more effectively?

Whit: What is wonderful is that each of the 11 stories in this book contains a common theme about leadership, along with tangible exercises and action steps for applying the themes to help your own team “work in sync.” The chapters are set up so that you’ll find out about the success of the individual who is featured in each chapter. You’ll find out what they learned in the sport of rowing. And then you’ll also find out about how these lessons have been applied to their business success in real life. At the end of each chapter I take the leadership theme we’re discussing and give some ways in which someone could take that lesson or that theme and apply it as a leader in their team presently, similar to the kind of work that I do in my coaching, so that an organization can take this book and utilize the actionable concepts within their own organization.

Maybe the team could read a different chapter of the book in order to apply it to something in their work, and then each month discuss what it would take in order to actually apply the lessons and insights to their intact teams. They could also use it as a training course where an internal HR facilitator could work with an intact team over an 8-week period of time utilizing the different learnings in a seminar or workshop setting.

The book could be used for recruiting, training and developing their employees. Recruiters could send a book out to a prospective executive to give them some better understanding of the culture within the organization. So there are numerous ways in which leaders can take the information from the end of each chapter and apply it.

Q: What are some of the key actionable things that people will learn from reading this book?

Whit: Let me give you two examples from the book with some practical tips on what you could do to apply them to your organization.

One of the chapters in the book centers around accountability and how leaders need to be more mindful of helping their teams set up boundaries and measures for personal accountability rather than relying on leaders to hold them accountable. Leaders need to create an environment that’s safe where people can create their own levels of accountability and then set up their own accountability measures (actions or time-tables, etc.) with rewards or consequences for accomplishing what they agreed to do.

So what I’ve done for the readers in that particular chapter is I’ve given them some specific steps that they can apply toward helping their direct reports and teammates to become more accountable.

Another important actionable concept in the book is self-awareness. Sam Kinney states that, “The leading cause of death of executives is lack of self awareness.” And I would say that lack of self-awareness could be around their own behaviors, their intent, and their impact on the people that report to them.

Sam learned and practiced asking for feedback as a freshman oarsman at Dartmouth. He tells how self-awareness helped him build a culture to drive the products to market, and he was extremely successful in his efforts. What he realized was that he needed to find out from the people reporting to him their perceptions and observations of him in his leadership role. And once he uncovered those perceptions he was able to make some behavioral changes that had a significant impact on the team’s ability to perform at a high level. They felt safe that they could give him feedback and realized that Sam was actually listening to the feedback. His direct reports learned that Sam acted on the feedback, and it also was a two-way street in that he felt like he could come back and give them the kind of feedback that they needed to become more self aware as well.

Actionable steps around self-awareness might include organizing a group of people around you that you regularly interact with to come together and give you a 360-degree view of your behavior and impact. It could also involve bringing somebody in – an outside consultant or coach – to actually speak with all the people that you work most closely with to get their observations of your leadership behaviors and the impact of your behaviors in the workplace.

So those are just a few of the actionable ways a reader can apply the concepts of the book to his or her own life or business. Visit WorkingInSyncBook.com to purchase the book or to read more about it.

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Ask, Don’t Tell: The Transformative Power of Listening

listen
In the world of leadership development, we often hear words like “problem solving,” “goal setting,” and “talent,” but very rarely do we hear about the importance of listening and how learning to master this art can transform our workplaces and our organizations.

In this interview, Kevin Toth, Regional Vice President of Mid-Atlantic Operations at Harleysville Insurance, lets us in on the power of listening, his transformative experience with the Inner Circle Coaching method, and why he has a rubber duck on his desk.

A Discussion With Kevin Toth, Regional Vice President, Mid-Atlantic Operations at Harleysville Insurance

Q: What led you to begin working with Whit Mitchell and the Inner Circle coaching method, and what was the biggest insight you had about your behavior throughout this process? How did these insights impact your work and your life at home?

Kevin: I started working with Whit when I reached the point in my career where I knew I needed to learn to really listen to and learn from others. My teams knew ten times more about underwriting than I did.  But in the past, I’d always been rewarded for the answers or ideas I had and for results I delivered.  That got me far, but it wasn’t the skill I needed to succeed at a higher level of leadership.  I had reached a level where my “success” had little to do with what I actually “did” – but it had everything to do with the conditions I was creating for others.

All of this told me I needed to get really good at listening.

The amazing thing about Inner Circle coaching is that it starts with observing our behavior.  What do I do?  When do I do it?  How does it impact others?

This simple act held powerful insights for me:

  • I would ask people questions, but I wasn’t really interested in their answers.  One day I came home from work and asked my wife “how was your day?”  She no sooner got the word “fine” out of her mouth and I was rambling on and on about my day.  The lesson?  I wasn’t actually asking her about her day; I was asking for permission to tell her about my day.  I realized I needed to start putting other people in the center so I could truly listen to them.
  • I would sit in meetings and try hard not to interrupt with ideas or solutions.  It was painful.  “These people must think I’m an idiot” I would think. “I’m not solving any of their problems.”  At that moment, I had a life-changing realization:  I equated “speaking” with “value.”  If I’m speaking, I’m adding value.  If I’m not speaking, I’m not adding value – and I’m a bad leader.  Of course, others didn’t see it that way at all.  In fact, the more I listened, the more value they felt I was giving because they could share and explore ideas in a safe and non-judgmental environment.

These observations were huge turning points for me. So I began focusing on asking questions, “playing back” what I had heard and asking the other person, “Have I got it?”  I knew my behavior was having an impact when people began opening up, sharing ideas, and coming to me to see what I thought.  It’s funny:  The more I let them talk, the more interested they were in what I thought.  And I came to see that when you ask good questions and genuinely seek to learn from others, they feel affirmed and empowered.  And they see that they have the tools to solve problems – so I don’t have to be the idea factory anymore.

For example, one of the teams in my organization was small but very high-performing.  One month, they failed to hit their goal.  Their manager came to me and shared that the team was afraid I would lose confidence in them.  “Okay, let’s meet with them” I said “but one rule:  You and I will not make a single declarative statement during the meeting.  We will listen.  We will understand.  And we will ask questions.”  How did you do this month?  Why do you think you didn’t meet your goals?  Why are you worried about it?  Why do you think I would lose confidence in you?

After a few questions and some long pauses, the group slowly started to speak up.  With each question, the group fed off of one another.  They were talking to one another rather than directly to me.  It was clear that the questions were helping them to process their concern – and to see that they had the ability to overcome it.

I ended with a question:  “So what do you think I think about this group?”

“You think we’re a strong team that had a setback this month, but that we are fully capable of delivering our goals for the company.”

Let me ask you:  Who feels taller coming out of that conversation?   They do. But so do I, because I saw that when I listen well, others tell better stories about themselves.  That’s really what I take away from my work with Whit.

Q: Why was the Inner Circle Coaching model a good fit for you and what you were trying to achieve personally and professionally? What was your experience as you went further along with this type of coaching?

Kevin: When people think of coaching, they tend to think of one-on-one coaching. He’s the coach and I’m the player, right? But Inner Circle coaching is different.   There is a small group of people involved.  I got to choose the group.  And I got to choose the behavior I wanted to work on.  I chose colleagues and peers at various levels of the organization.  But I also asked my wife to be part of the circle.  She understands my mindsets and my attitudes better than anybody. She keeps me honest and humble.

Allowing me to choose the behavior creates a safe, supportive, and forward-looking environment.  It’s not an exercise in rehashing the past.  Instead, it’s “I want to be a better listener.  Will you help me?”  No one is allowed to come back and say “well, that’s great, but don’t you think you really need to work on financial statements, Powerpoint, or putting?” (All of which I do need to work on!)

When I invited people to join the Inner Circle, they were honored and happy to help.  This is the real magic of Inner Circle coaching: We’re creating a community. We’re coaching each other.  We’re creating a commitment to help one another.  When I would sit down with folks from the inner circle, I would say, “We had a meeting the other day — how well did I listen?” It was a safe, supportive and natural conversation to have.

In my Inner Circle, everyone decided to work on improving a behavior.  And they got fabulous results. Just imagine what it would be like to create that kind of commitment across an entire organization.

I wanted to find out.  So I decided to invite anybody who wanted to be a part of my inner circle to be part of it. I got a big rubber duck and put it on the conference table in my office. When people would sit down for meetings, occasionally they would ask, “Hey, why do you have a rubber duck on your table — is there a story there?”

I’d say, “There is, and I’ll tell you but you have to agree that you’re going to help me.”

“Sure I’ll help,” they’d say.

“I have that duck on the table because I’ve decided I want to be a better listener. I’m going to ask you to do something: if you see me not listening, if you see me tuning out, if you see me interrupting, if you see me distracted, if you see me just waiting for my turn to talk, can you pick up that duck and put it at the center of the table? ”

“Absolutely, absolutely.”

“Now here’s what I’m going to ask you — is there a behavior you want to get better at, and can I help you do that?”

It’s amazing the power that conversation has. I’m sure some people think, “Well, that’s a little weird.” But what most people say is, “This isn’t a senior executive who sits in the corner and thinks he’s got everything all figured out. This is somebody who’s serious about improving behavior.”

Q: What type of leader would benefit most from Inner Circle coaching?

Kevin: Inner Circle coaching can benefit anybody. Inner Circle coaching is most helpful for a leader who wants to get serious about picking a single behavior and getting really good at it. Somebody who’s willing to turn themselves a little bit inside out. If you’re ready to create change and to create community in the organization, Inner Circle coaching is a good fit for you.

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About Kevin Toth:  Kevin is the Regional Vice President of Mid-Atlantic Operations at Harleysville Insurance.  In addition to his role at Harleysville, Kevin has been invited to speak before several groups on his journey to becoming a better listener.

[Image by  Bindaas Madhavi]

Is Your Organization Prepared to Fill Critical Leadership Roles?

For a brief moment, imagine your company’s executive team standing in front of you.

Can you see them, clear as a picture?

Now ask yourself two key questions: First, how many of these key leaders are approaching retirement? And second, does your organization have the right individuals prepared to fill those roles and lead the company?

As Baby Boomers continue to retire in droves, the need to prepare high potential leaders for stepping quickly into leadership roles has never been more critical. Enter Clark Callahan, Executive Director of Tuck Executive Education at Dartmouth. In the discussion below, Clark expresses his thoughts on how to best prepare future leaders for the changes ahead and explains the role of executive education in readying emerging leaders.

A Discussion with Clark Callahan, Executive Director of Tuck Executive Education at Dartmouth

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Q: Tell us about the current potential for emerging leaders to enter and fill leadership roles. What is creating this opportunity and what are the results?

Clark: In general, I think there are a couple of dynamics at work in creating opportunities for emerging leaders to step into leadership roles. One of them is that really high potential leaders are actually under-populated in large companies and large organizations, and so there are huge leadership opportunities out there. In fact, if you look at the broad strokes of the demographics of the workforce, there are large numbers of baby boomers retiring, leaving lots of room for emerging leaders to come in behind them. The potential is obviously huge and in fact it raises a question for folks in my business—in executive education—we’re  in the business of accelerating the readiness of high potential leaders, but how we can get even better at it? How can we accelerate that process even more? How can we give people the experience, the networks, the knowledge, to be ready when their organizations need them to step up and take broader leadership roles?

Q: What is the role of executive education in preparing future leaders for what’s to come? Do you see any flaws in the current system?

Clark: We see ourselves as an important component, but only one component of the things that a leader needs in order to get ready to lead. Of course a lot of what they need is determined in their job, on the job, through the experiences that they’re having, and we’re in effect supplementing that with experiences that they might need—we can give them a preview of an experience that they can expect.

So for example, if somebody is going to take a global assignment and he (or she) has never worked outside of his home country, then we can take him on a global leadership development experience. We can accelerate his readiness and help him feel comfortable when he steps into that assignment. Is he aware of what the cross-cultural dynamics are? What are the teamwork implications? What does he do to attain this kind of a global mindset that he’ll need in order to live in this environment? Well, those are things that we can help emerging leaders attain so they can be ready for leadership sooner.

But to give leaders that experience without surrounding them with all the other support that they need: a good talent management system that identifies them for that role; an understanding and support from a boss or a network in the company; the company specific training, knowledge, etc., there’s no point in getting the higher education component right. It’s when you do have all these other things in place that the experience we provide becomes a great accelerator for helping the pieces fall into place.

Q: What changes in the Tuck Executive Ed curriculum have occurred in the past 10 years? Why these changes?

Clark: If I look at it at a 10-year horizon, I would say our business has undergone a very fundamental transformation to the point that we’re really almost in a different business today. Ten years ago, executive education meant helping high potential leaders develop their business acumen, which included leadership, organization, behavior and teams and things like that, but we wouldn’t have said we’re in the leadership development business. In contrast, today we’d say that leadership development is who we are; it’s what we do.

So the business has been transformed from high-end management training in business acumen topics—Finance, Marketing, Operations, etc., to today, where we are still drawing on the same core capabilities, but toward the goal of developing leaders who can transform organizations. We’re developing leaders in the context of a business challenge/opportunity that they have or in the context of a business skill that they need to develop.
Today we still have those abilities, but the core of what we do now is Strategic Financial Leadership.

Another example is not so much to a program as it is to how a particular faculty member might approach a content area. I’ll give you an example from Economics. We have a senior faculty member who is a world-renowned international economist and he can teach a group of executives about the role of China in the global economy, what it means, how a company should ask questions about how this would impact their firms in the future, etc. This is great stuff for anyone in a leadership role in a large company, it’s great stuff for CEOs, it’s great stuff for CEOs in training.

And yet what he’s really doing is using that very useful content as a platform for challenging people to think strategically and to develop their own leadership points of view.  He’ll say, “Here’s my point of view about the global economy, but you need to develop and have an ability to articulate your own and to teach to others to do the same so you create a learning organization.”

And that’s really what we’re doing. So here we have a guy who is a world-renowned economist, which is valuable. The content and context is extremely valuable, too. And yet the reason why I want him directing our global leadership program is that he understands that it is all being used as an end to develop the next generation of leaders.

Q: How can future leaders be best prepared to fill leadership roles? What changes are you/Tuck Executive Education making in the coming years to prepare future leaders?

Clark: If I had to put it in a single headline: Learn how to think not what to think.

That’s not the kind of thing we think of doing too often right now, but it might actually become core. And I think part of it is a result of living in a smarter world where people have learned a lot right out of the business schools. Business schools made some very positive contributions to how business is done and to society.

People get smarter faster, too. When people come to a program it’s not so much of knowledge transfer that they want; it’s a way of framing a challenge. How do we help people to think differently–how do we not tell them what to think, but rather help them understand how to develop their own ways of thinking?

Learn more about Clark Callahan.

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