Archive | April, 2012

Stelos Alliance Awards

29 Apr

We are wrapping up another great academic year tonight with the Stelos Alliance Awards banquet. We have the incredible honor to reward fourteen extraordinary student leaders for their service with scholarships and fellowships. They are the “stars” and it is our mission to make them shine brighter.

Tonight we will also honor four professionals for creating opportunities for these super stars. The inaugural Stelos Alliance Awards celebrate individuals and their organizations that support our mission by providing post-graduate opportunities for dynamic young people who assume the responsibilities of leadership while in college. The recipients cultivate a workplace that empowers young leaders and nurtures them through those first crucial years of their careers. The first award recipients are:

Each of these deserving award winners will have someone that they have mentored speak on their behalf at the banquet. I can’t wait to hear what they have to say. Thank you from all of us and those stars that you have made shine brighter.

I would also like to express my gratitude for Kim Brewskie Booker and Sandler Training for sponsoring this evening’s event. When we half-heartedly put out a general request for an underwriter, Kim said yes within fifteen minutes. Her faith in the mission of the Stelos Alliance is appreciated by us all. Thank you.

This is the fun stuff. Honoring, recognizing, awarding, and shining a light on the great work that these students and professionals do every single day. I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday night.

Shine Bright!

Van Horn, Texas

23 Apr

Running virtually across the state of Texas is once again proving to be a challenge. With working, adventuring and recovering from the injuries sustained while adventuring, I am having a hard time getting in the miles and am pretty far behind schedule in both running and writing. A few weeks back I blew through Van Horn, population 1,907 and falling fast. I suspect that a fair percentage of the “locals” are in the federal witness protection program. This little community is 140 long miles from the state’s western border outside of El Paso.

The town is not named for U.S. Army Major Jefferson Van Horne who passed through the area in 1849 on his way to taking command of Fort Bliss. It is, instead, named for Lt. James Judson Van Horn who ten years later commanded an army garrison near some local springs that were strategic in this desert environment. Lt. Van Horn’s post was seized by Confederate forces in 1861 and he was taken prisoner. I guess that neither rank nor military success are requirements for having a town named after you in far west Texas.

The world might little note what goes on in Van Horn if not for two interesting developments. The first is that Jeff Bezos, of Amazon.com fame, bought 290,000 acres of land north of town as a launch site for his space tourism business, Blue Origin. The company is working to lower the cost of space flight so that we can all go. They actually have local job openings posted on their website. Pretty innovative stuff.

The second bunch of crazies working in Van Horn is a group of scientists from the Long Now Foundation. The foundation provides a counterpoint to today’s accelerating culture and helps make long-term thinking more common. They hope to creatively foster responsibility in the framework of the next ten millennia. The group is building a 10,000 year clock deep inside a mountain outside of Van Horn. This is an implicit statement of optimism about the fate of civilization. They are building the clock just so that you will ask why they are building the clock.

Admittedly, Van Horn doesn’t look like much on the surface, but there is some strange stuff going on out here where no one seems to be paying attention. Next stop on the journey is Balmorhea for some underwater meditation in the middle of the desert.

Gratitude

21 Apr

We wrapped up the Stelos Alliance’s spring session of the Housley Principled Leadership Program yesterday on the fourth anniversary of Kevin’s death. This scheduling coincidence made the gratitude offered by the students a perfect tribute to our departed friend. The lessons learned in “Housley” memorialize a great man and set extraordinary young leaders on a learning path that will last a lifetime.

The topic of the final session is, “Service: Choice or Obligation?” This is a conversation about what we as citizens owe to our country. Is there something required beyond lawful behavior and paying taxes? Since it has now been two generations since we last had conscripted military service in the United States, even defense feels like a remote responsibility. How then do young citizens acknowledge the advantages bestowed upon them by their heritage? Is there a debt that is due to our patrimony and, if so, how and to whom should it be repaid? These are questions for us all to consider.

While we talked about the changing national ethos regarding service to country we concluded that the benefits that accrue to the giver are substantial and that systematically uniting the privilege of citizenship with responsibility is essential to preserving the long-term health of the republic. The students in the Housley program can articulate the benefits of being raised in the best country on earth. Far from being needy and narcissistic, these student leaders are prepared to dedicate themselves to serving their country and setting an example for their peers.

This is something that would make our friend, Kevin Housley, very proud. He offered himself to the community in numerous official roles and to the country in countless other capacities. He lived by the principles that we teach in the program. As the HPLP instructor and giver in this instance, I can positively proclaim that I benefit at least as much as the students. This goes well beyond the satisfaction of hearing their voiced appreciation. I learn from teaching, and it is making me a better leader. The program is both a gift from and a tribute to my good friend. It seems like yesterday that we gathered in the church to say goodbye. After four years I still miss him very much. I offer my gratitude.

The Hokey Pokey

18 Apr

Van Gresham claims that he does not do the hokey-pokey during Virginia Tech football games. For a proud Hokie that invests considerable sums of time, energy and money into pre-game tailgating festivities, this is a little hard to believe. They play the hokey-pokey at Virginia Tech because you can dance without having to speak with an actual female. At an engineering school this is a big deal. All that talk of differential y and differential x doesn’t leave much room for actual sex. Given the odds stacked against him in this department, let’s just say that Van “got lucky.” I am sure that his wife, Chesley, will agree.

Born and schooled in Virginia and living in North Carolina, the boy knows how to cook a pig. I have enjoyed the product of this particular skill. He may have gotten a little above his raisin’ in the beverage department as he pairs his grilled pork tenderloin with fine California cabernets. Not what you would expect from a pedigreed hillbilly.

In addition to his culinary and rhythmic abilities, he has dedicated himself to raising money for brain cancer research as a participant in “Angels Among Us” which supports the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at (take a deep breath and look past the ACC rivalry) Duke University. Family is apparently more important than football.

I have enjoyed watching Van grow as a professional and develop into a trusted advisor to his clients at Kalypso. Not only do they count on him to get things done, they seem to like him quite a bit as well. His greatest strength is his character. It shows up day to day in his client service work. You can learn more about him here.

Millennial Myths

16 Apr

Last month, I recommended that organizations seeking growth from innovation should “Overdose on Youth” to give them a performance enhancing boost. The response to the charge to load up on smart, talented, energetic young people was met with skepticism and anecdotes about the needy and narcissistic Millennial Generation that want everything and are not truly committed to the organization.

Then along comes an article in the latest issue of Strategy + Business by Jennifer Deal of the Center for Creative Leadership titled “Five Millennial Myths”. It lends my position some weight using empirical research into the behaviors and beliefs of those in the millennial generation. Ms. Deal found that the stereotypes are “inconsistent at best and destructive at worst.” At 2 ½ pages, you should read the entire article, but here are the five myths she identifies:

#1 Millennials don’t want to be told what to do. This proved to be flat out wrong, the young people of this generation turn out to be much more willing to defer to authority than Boomers or Gen Xers (try telling me what to do). The research says that they want to know what the expectations are at work.

#2 Millennials lack organizational loyalty. The fact is that each generation has historically changed jobs more frequently when they were in their 20s than they do later in life. Young people are looking for jobs that help them learn. When they switch it is not due to a lack of loyalty, but a yearning to grow through challenging experiences.

#3 Millennials aren’t interested in their work. No one of any generation is motivated to do the boring work that gets pushed down to lower levels. Don’t assume that younger people are not able to take on meaningful tasks. Find the superstars that are capable of doing more and whip the fast horses. If some portion of their job doesn’t captivate their imagination, you deserve to lose them.

#4 Millennials are motivated by perks and high pay. The extensive research showed no difference between generations. Yes, when you are younger and making less money, you are likely to be slightly more motivated by extrinsic rewards, but pay and perks are not going to engender loyalty.

#5 Millennials want more work-life balance. This is somewhat accurate, but is likely the result of a societal shift and related to life-stage than generation. Millennials want the flexibility to make their contributions and enjoy life at the same time. Work is more integrated into life than ever before.

This research gives me the opportunity to reiterate my recommendation to pack your organization with talented people under the age of 30. Make sure that they have interesting work to do and the opportunity to learn, develop, and advance. You will reap tremendous rewards from their contributions. Youth is like an innovation performance enhancing drug that will make the pulse of your organization beat a lot faster if taken in large quantities. I am sticking by my advice to overdose.

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