Life Update From The Past Month +

It has been quite some time since I’ve written a regular blog post on here.  May and the beginning of June just flew by!  The end of college came and went – way too quickly!  I am hoping to start doing a better job of blogging again now.  In the meantime, I figured I would give some updates on what I have been up to during the past month and half or so (In no particular order).  I don’t know if anyone will read this, but just in case…

  • I graduated.
  • I co-chaired the University of Denver’s 10th Annual Diversity Summit on Inclusive Excellence.
  • Earlier (end of April) I competed in the University of Denver’s Inclusive Excellence Case Competition. Life got really busy though and I never wrote about that experience, but my team developed a comprehensive diversity and inclusion strategy for MolsonCoors, focusing on its international business units.
  • I have gotten to know some amazing people.  This includes quite a good number of the international (specifically Chinese) students at the Daniels College of Business.  I am so happy for the opportunity to become friends with so many great people.
  • I went to a protocol dinner.  I have never had sorbet between courses or three wine pairings at one meal.  I don’t even know if I have ever even had a wine pairing… 🙂
  • I attended part of TEDxDU.  There were some pretty awesome speakers.
  • I completed group papers that involved meetings with and research into Vail Resorts (on human resource strategy) and Love Grown Foods (on business sustainability).
  • I saw the University of Denver’s lacrosse team play in the NCAA final four game… on TV.
  • A friend and I created a Wiki with extensive research and best practices about onboarding and orientation programs.
  • I met up with several friends who came back to visit Denver.
  • I went by the Native Student Alliance’s Pow Wow at the University of Denver.  It was awesome and I wish I could have stayed longer.
  • I went to a Cardinals vs. Rockies game at Coors Field.
  • I went bowling and played laser tag with my cousins in Littleton.
  • I had funnel cake. 🙂
  • A friend and I wanted to go camping, but unfortunately that did not happen.  Apparently finals meant there would be a lot of work to do…
  • I worked with a team as part of my MBA capstone class on a feasibility study/business plan for the creation of a Neurology Clinical Pharmacy Specialist (PharmD) position at Denver Health.  We presented to the Associate COOs and several other executives at Denver Health.  The formal ask will be made soon.
  • I have subscribed to Fortune, Fast Company, The Economist, and several other magazines.  I need to stay current and engaged to be competitive and innovative in the marketplace and to engage in intelligent conversation.
  • I went to a lot of goodbye dinners.  Some on the same night.
  • I went to a pool party.
  • I smiled.
  • I cried a little.
  • I laughed a lot.
  • I left my position at the Center for Multicultural Excellence.
  • I moved back to St. Louis.
  • I have been catching up with friends at home.
  • I have been debating going to Las Vegas with some friends but plane tickets are really expensive.
  • I am trying to figure out my future – weighing options, balancing priorities, etc.
  • I have been applying for a lot of jobs and have had several interviews lately.  I am hoping that some positive progress might happen in regards to my future very soon.

That’s a lot.  And there is a lot more.  Hopefully, I will have time to post updates on life, what I am thinking, and interesting things I come across online.

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Thoughts on Graduation

I graduated from the University of Denver one week ago today!  Wow!  I can’t believe it has already been one week!  It is amazing to me how quickly time flies.  I am incredibly behind on my blogging (which I hope to fix soon) so I missed blogging about commencement.  Instead, I want to share a few reflections:

I graduated with a MBA on Friday, June 3, 2011.  A Master of Business Administration degree.  Weird.  My dad tells me that I am the first person in our immediate family to get any degree beyond a bachelor’s degree.  That’s kind of cool.

A lot of people told me that a master’s degree was a big deal in the month or so leading up to graduation.  I didn’t really think of it that way.  After all, I just graduated with a bachelor’s degree a year ago.  This was just another year for me to continue learning, keep growing, and have the opportunity to meet some amazing people.  I guess it was all of those things, but actually so much more.  The MBA seems to already be setting me up and setting me apart for the future.

I was originally a management major before changing to international studies.  I then decided to move back to business for the master’s degree.  I made the right choice leaving business to expand my horizons and skill set.  I also made the right choice coming back to business. 🙂

I have had the opportunity to meet some amazing people at the University of Denver.  I have been friends with many of them for four-five years.  Some I knew for several years, but really only become close friends with this past year.  I have also met some amazing people in my MBA program.  They might have had great experience and/or insight.  They might have been from another country.  I have tried to get to know a good number of the international students at Daniels.  I remember what it was like studying in a different country and I know that each of us has something great to offer.  However I met people and from wherever they are from, I am very happy to have had the opportunity to get to know each of the amazing people and friends this past year and the four previous years.

The hooding ceremony was interesting and a good close to my business education.  I’m glad the business students actually get to keep their hoods.  Who knows if there may be another degree in my future?  Commencement was a good end to my University of Denver education – an acknowledgement and a way of saying thank you.  I was happy to have many good friends close by and to be able to see both the Chancellor and the Provost at the end of my DU experience.  Both this year and last the Provost gave me a hug as I crossed the stage.  I appreciate that.  He has actually been one of the most influential people in my University of Denver career, providing academic and career counseling as well as being a key person for the work I have done on campus.

I was able to celebrate the end of my time at the University of Denver with some of my best friends from the past five years, as well as with many of the other MBA graduates over the course of my last week in Denver.

  • To my fellow graduates, however well I knew you: “Thank you for being a part of my education and my experience.  I appreciate everything you contributed to our successes and our community.  Congratulations!  We did it!”
  • To my friends: “Thank you for being a part of my life and for everything you do for me and for us.  I appreciate you more than you could know.”
  • To everyone: “Please stay in touch and continue to be a part of my life.”

Winter Quarter Class Summary

I’ve now completed my first week of Winter Quarter and am getting ready for the second week.  This quarter may be my most difficult yet.  There will certainly be a lot of reading/work.  Work at CME is also keeping me busy.  This quarter, we have the Diversity & Unity Retreat and Voices of Discovery, two programs I am planning with Thomas.  I am also doing a lot of work for the Diversity Summit on Inclusive Excellence (big expansion this year, held in May) with Johanna.

I am taking four classes this quarter.  Here they are with some initial thoughts:

Strategic Cost Management

This class has an interesting topic that I’ve never really though about before.  I’m hoping to get a more integrative understanding of managerial accounting.  My professor is a nice old guy who clearly knows the material.  However, I’ve already been lost in class and there is a ton of work for this class, most of which has to be done with a partner.  Luckily, I have a good one.

Ethics for the 21st Century Professional

This class is very interesting and multidisciplinary.  It covers leadership, management, law, public policy, etc.  I like my professor a lot.  It has a good amount of work and effectively utilizes Blackboard by dividing up readings, discussion boards, and quizzes into “learning modules”.  I know a lot of the people in this class so that makes it a lot of fun as well.

Strategic Management

My Professor is extremely knowledgeable and has great experience.  We will be covering a lot of material and fast.  It will be a lot of work, but I think I will really enjoy it.  We have several team case analyses and I have a good group with people I know.

Law and Public Policy

I’ve always been interested in this topic and now I get to take a class that also relates it to business.  A good fit.  We have a lot of reading for this one too and several longer papers/presentations on different cases.  My professor seems to be a nice guy.

Personal Leadership Reflection/Vision Paper

Below is a paper I recently wrote for my Essence of Enterprise class.  I was pleased with the reflection that it caused me to do, as well as with the feedback I received.  I figured I would share, in case anyone is interested.

Personal Leadership Reflection/Vision Paper

In first grade I joined an organization that would influence and shape me in every facet of my life.  At that time I had no idea that that Boy Scouts of America would become my education, serve as my passion, and form one of my largest social circles.  I progressed through the ranks, serving as every major youth leadership position, earning leadership, rank, and religious awards, and even developed a youth leadership course for the University of Scouting.  I got involved with Scouting’s national honor society, the Order of the Arrow, and worked for five years on our council’s summer camp staff.  When I received the Order’s Vigil Honor (highest national honor) in April 2006, I spent the night in the woods, alone, keeping a fire going while challenging myself to reflect on who I am and who I want to become.  Throughout all of this, one quote by the founder of the Order of the Arrow, Dr. E. Urner Goodman, stands above all other lessons and has influenced how I act, how I learn, and how I interact with others every day: “Things of the spirit are what count: brotherhood – in a day when there is too much hatred at home and abroad; cheerfulness – in a day when the pessimists have the floor and cynics are popular; service – in a day when millions are interested in getting or grasping, rather that giving” (Order of the Arrow).

I would not be where I am today without the help of countless individuals.  Whenever I see someone in a leadership position, I try to learn from him or her.  Whether the example is positive or negative, there are lessons I can learn and apply (or not apply) to my own leadership style.  Peter Senge writes in his description of the “Shifting the Burden to the Intervener” system that in some cases, it is most effective to “teach people to fish, rather than giving them fish” (Senge).  I have had mentors throughout my life who have taught me how to fish.  When I was getting involved in planning large scale events for the Boy Scouts, I met someone two years older than me and began following his path and having conversations with him about how best to interact with people who would “know what’s best” for me to do, how to lead younger Scouts, and the best ways to give instruction to volunteers who were sometimes five times my age.  I ended up taking what I learned from him and built the largest district camporee in recent history.  I subsequently worked for him at Boy Scout camp.  He now works for IBM as a Business Transformation Consultant and we have had regular conversations about how I might pursue a career in the consulting field.

Throughout high school and middle school, I was part of my synagogue’s youth group.  Most of those years were spent on the board trying to rebuild our membership base and develop creative programming.  I started getting involved in this thing called “social action.”  Our youth group regularly raised money for food pantries, supported assisted living homes, and volunteered at a youth shelter.  This was all inspired by the Jewish notion of tikun olam or “repairing the world.”  Judaism teaches that the world is not perfect so each person must work to change that reality.  Social justice has informed my volunteer and work involvement with the Boy Scouts of America, Hillel, and the Center for Multicultural Excellence.  As well, when looking for an internship this past summer, I very seriously sought out companies that understood corporate social responsibility.  Build-A-Bear Workshop certainly has that understanding.

Personal values inform professional values.  The two are truly inseparable. Our Oxford team discussed this in length when discussing Benjamin Friedman’s quote that “Economic growth not only relies upon moral impetus, it has moral consequences” (Friedman).  In order to be truly successful, one must be happy.  For me, happiness is gained through helping others.  Whether through social justice activities or personal connections, I am constantly striving to improve the world around me.  In my short lifetime, some of the best/worst examples of corporate greed have occurred.  Rather than devoting one’s life to making money for one’s self, one could make a difference in both the corporate and civil spheres.  Through such actions, it is possible to be recognized monetarily and non-monetarily, and thus gain true happiness.

As I have sought paths down which to proceed (or create), I have taken a number of personality and career tests and surveys.  I tend to be skeptical of the results as they rarely fully embody who I am.  It was with that attitude that I received the results of my Insights Analysis – yet, I have never had a more accurate synopsis of how I operate and communicate.  Due to my interpretation of its accuracy, I can actually learn about myself from my Insights profile and work to improve and become a better person and leader.

My Insights profile, lists my “Personal Position” as “Supporting Coordinator” (Insights Learning and Development).  I have often wondered if business is the best place for me to truly make a difference to people.  I enjoy making connections with people, deconstructing and understanding problems, and solving such problems.  My self-reflection did not end that night in April 2006 and clearly, I have chosen to pursue a path in business.  Through this path, I hope to blend my interests and skills and make a difference in the lives of my co-workers and the people affected by the organization in which I am employed.

I often seek out people in whom I see potential for leadership.  My “Supporting Coordinator” characteristics have been utilized in both professional and personal situations.  Four of my five years on staff at a Boy Scout summer camp were in the Business Manager position.  I missed the regular connection with the Scouts in camp that had enveloped my first year on staff so each week of the summer, I found a Scout with whom I would meet regularly to discuss the possibilities for learning and leadership that existed for him.  I might teach him about opportunities within the organization or give him advice on situations outside of Scouting.  Similarly, each summer I worked with one or more first year staff members to provide guidance, experience, and advice.  Each of these staff members subsequently ended up in manager or director positions.

In Good to Great and the Social Sectors, Jim Collins writes of his “Hedgehog Concept,” that your business must find the best of three circles: what you are deeply passionate about, what you can be the best in the world at, and what best drives your economic/resource engine (Collins).  I’d like to apply this concept to my leadership vision.  I will be someone who is passionate about what I do and who I am, who excels at tasks in which I use my talents, and who is resourceful and able to utilize my own resources to ensure success.

Yet, leadership is more than passion and hard work.  Leadership is about learning, applying, and implementing.  I do not think that I will ever be “the best leader”.  That is not said pessimistically; rather it is to imply that I may be “the best leader at any one time.”  My leadership is not a set goal or a science but a continual process that I will work to develop by learning from others and from myself.  I will seek to be the embodiment of best practices of leadership theory and leadership exercise.  Success will be gained not by some career or personal goal post being met, but by the recognition of others.  Throughout the Leading at the Edge Weekend, our group offered each member the ability to serve as a leader for a different activity.  Sometimes though, leadership occurred by offering an idea that the “leaders” or other group members had not thought of themselves.  The same scenario is true in business when lower-level employees offer ideas and advice to managers or when someone steps up while the rest of the group is struggling.

Leaders set the example.  I will be honest with myself and with others.  I will seek feedback and utilize this information for personal improvement.  Leaders are also dedicated and hard working.  I will be a servant leader utilizing a “deeper connection with [my] work” to find happiness and think beyond myself in my actions.  As such, I will embody James Autry’s “five ways of being”: authentic, vulnerable, accepting, present, and useful (Autry).  I will engage my weaknesses to transform them into strengths.  All of this is applicable and true in both personal and professional spheres.  As mentioned, I subscribe to the notion of a “whole person” (Grant).  In this case, the whole person means that who I am as a leader in business involves the same characteristics as my personal life – family, organizations, etc.

I will be remembered as someone who was knowledgeable and who cared, someone who always did his best.  I will not accept the status quo when the status quo can be improved.  In order to create progress and growth (personally and professionally), I will change the systems and frames in which we operate.  Are we asking the right questions?  Whether or not we are meeting a goal, is it the goal that we really need to meet?  By changing one’s frame of mind, it is possible to think creatively and lead others to do the same.

In addition to engaging my past experiences, I must understand where I currently am in my leadership development in order to achieve my vision.  After lengthy reflection, I believe that what follows are honest highlights of my strengths, limitations, opportunities, and threats.  Some of these characteristics have been informed by my Insights profile.

I love learning and seek professional and personal development.  I excel at understanding problems and breaking down the details to allow for effective solutions.  I work well in teams as well as by myself.  An understanding of others informs my decisions and I work to be fair and realistic in all of my interactions.  I smile, am optimistic, and keep my “feet firmly on the ground” (Insights Learning and Development).  I am organized and have excellent time management and multi-tasking skills.  Simultaneously, I sometimes get frustrated when I find the working methods of others to be unrealistic or when compromise is not seen as an option.  While I can establish great working relationships with others, I do not automatically trust others and rarely show all of my true emotions.  I sometimes seek structure more often than I should and may rely too heavily on rules or procedures.  Confidence in some of my ideas is sometimes lacking, even when I should be sharing them.

I am also a good administrator and can focus on task and people issues simultaneously.  My experiences have included business, non-profit, and higher education work.  I appreciate the importance of cultural understanding and I am often successful in shaping my worldview to be non-United States centric.  I will shortly have a master’s degree and I am often viewed as a safe and competent person to confide in or bounce ideas off of.  As I move into the world outside of education, I am well aware that my past experiences and skills are not all directly related to the fields in which I am seeking a professional position.  I have grown in the organizations in which I have been a part to be a recognized leader.  It may be a struggle to start at the bottom of the pyramid in new structures/organizations without being recognized, as I have been the past few years.  I sometimes like to have my own workspace or quiet space that may not exist in new work positions or new living situations.

I strongly believe that all of my limitations and threats can be transformed or overcome while I work to make use of my strengths and opportunities to become a better person and subsequently a better leader.  Most immediately, I am taking feedback from the Leading at the Edge weekend to become more confident in my ideas and actions and more willing to share them.  Additionally, I am joining new student organizations to learn about industries that interest me and in which I do not have professional experience.  Especially when my formal education ends, I will need to take proactive steps to ensure that I continue to develop the qualities necessary to achieve my leadership vision.

I am currently working on improving my communication of expectations for my working relationships.  I will ask specific questions during interviews to best understand the working environment and culture of potential employers.  In that I hope to have a job secured before graduation, I will continue to have similar conversations with class project teams and subsequently understanding and adjusting to the environment immediately upon starting a new job.  The effects of this new understand should be immediate and evident in my working discussions.

By the end of my first month of employment after graduation, I will seek out a mentorship with a leader in my new company.  Within whatever framework exists for such a program, I will position myself to best benefit from such a relationship.  If a mentorship program does not exist, I will approach the appropriate individual (in human resources or someone I would like to develop a relationship with directly) to create such an opportunity.  In the mentorship, I will work on understanding the company, my role and career path, and the structures and systems in place.  This will allow me to work with less restrictions (in terms of self-imposed limitations due to not understanding details of the company’s operating procedures) and progress through a career path more quickly.

During my first six months (and of course continuing into the future), I will work on developing close relationships with co-workers.  I will seek professional development opportunities to gain in depth job knowledge.  This combination will increase my comfort level with sharing new, potentially unconventional ideas and allow me to work with co-workers to support their goals.  In so doing, it is likely that I will receive reciprocal support and thus be able to become a leader in my team.  Within two to three years of progressive job experience and team support (depending on my starting position/company), I plan to achieve a promotion to a formal leadership position.

I will continuously push myself to learn and observe so that I can become a highly effective leader who supports others and myself in all that I do.  My leadership will constantly be developing and show up in who I am and how I am in both formal and informal relationships.

 

Bibliography

Autry, James A. The Servant Leader. New York: Random House, 2001.

Collins, Jim. Good to Great and the Social Sectors. New York: HarperCollins, 2005.

Friedman, Benjamin. The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005.

Grant, Bob. Profiles in Leadership Joel Portman. 2 October 2010.

Insights Learning and Development. “Insights Discovery Personal Profile – Joel

Portman.” Dundee: Intergistic Solutions, 24 August 2010.

Order of the Arrow. OA History – Shawnee Lodge #51. 20 October 2010

<http://www.shawneelodge.org/History/oa/index.html&gt;.

Senge, Peter. The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learn. New York:

Doubleday, 1994.

 

Leading at the Edge Weekend

As is evident by the lateness of this post, I have been extremely behind on my blogging lately.  Midterms, class, work – everything has been extremely busy lately.  Nevertheless, I want to share a few thoughts on the Leading at the Edge weekend experience that I had with my business class October 8-10.

The weekend is held at The Nature Place.  It has an amazing location with fantastic facilities and amazing facilitators.  I highly recommend it.

We were told that our weekend would be great, amazing, etc, etc.  With so much build up, I became a little skeptical.  With all of the business master’s students forced to attend (or you fail your required class), how much fun could teamwork and critical thinking exercises be?

I ended up having an amazing time.  I truly got lucky with the team I ended up a part of.  There were twelve of us.  Five were from China, three were married, several had longer work experience, one was a newly minted lawyer, and ages ranged from 21-31.  It was a diverse and exciting group.  We bonded well and now spend time together in Denver outside of class.

We were in the mountains (about an hour West of Colorado Springs) at a beautiful time of year, with the Aspens changing colors.  We did high ropes course activities, low ropes course activities, orienteering (map and compass), climbing, repelling, leadership, ethics, and critical thinking challenges, and much more.

It was an amazing weekend that I would like to have the opportunity to do again.  I pushed myself and reflected in new ways about leadership as well as had the opportunity to help my teammates push themselves.

Below is a video slideshow of some of one of my teammate’s (Steven’s) pictures.  He is quite the photographer.

The Leading at the Edge weekend is loosely based on the experiences of the 10th Mountain Division in World War II.  The University of Denver’s news service wrote a story about the experience in 2007.

Six Elements of Mental Toughness

Christine Riordan, Dean of the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver, recently wrote an article for Forbes.  A version of this was presented during our MBA orientation to business students.  It is an interesting perspective and, I think, very relevant.

Six Elements of Mental Toughness – From Forbes.com

The business world just keeps getting more complex. Indeed, a recent study by IBM of 1,500 global chief executives (Capitalizing on Complexity) indicated that they felt the greatest issue facing them was the escalation of complexity.

Complexity and turbulence in the business environment may be here to stay, but they present opportunities as well as challenges for leaders. As a business school dean, I run a more than $80 million business in an increasingly competitive marketplace. With over 33,000 stakeholders, I know the pressure isn’t going away, and so do other leaders in my organization. More likely, it will intensify. Still, I say, “Bring it on!”

Let me explain.

My son plays soccer in a competitive league. He practices three days a week and trains in specific skills with his coach. Also, he and I train together. Not only do we run sprints and engage in long bike rides to build speed, endurance and strength, we also work on the mental game associated with playing competitive sports.

Research and common sense tell us that top competitive athletes succeed because of their physical talents and their dedication to training. However, they also succeed because of their dexterity in dealing with the psychological pressures of a sport. In short, mental toughness and resilience are tremendously important for any athlete aiming to be the best in a sport.

As a result, many athletes engage in training their psychological readiness. At the root of mental training in sports is this question: Are you mentally tough enough to compete?

It is not simply a matter of my son’s knowledge, ability and skill in soccer. It is also his psychological preparedness for the game, including skill in dealing with the stress of strong competition, recovering from mistakes and failure quickly, determining strategies to tackle tough situations, adjusting with each circumstance and game, collaborating with a team, celebrating successes but not becoming overconfident and keeping positive before, during and after the game.

Using research and literature from sports psychology, such as James Loehr’s The New Toughness Training for Sports, my son and I actively work each week on his mental game. When we do so, I recognize dramatic similarities to conversations that I have with business executives.

Many have shared with me that their companies have taken a brutal pounding for the last two years, and even those who have had some success are citing fatigue in this new complex game of business. But, just as with athletes, they don’t rely only on knowledge, skills, ability or past success to traverse difficult situations. They draw on an attitude, a toughness that allows them to push through hard situations and face adversity with confidence. As businesses look to the future, their top people need to think about whether they have game-ready leaders who not only have technical skills in business but mental toughness as well.


There are at least six markers of mental toughness from sports psychology that apply equally well to business situations. As with athletes, business leaders need to ask, am I mentally tough enough to compete?

1. Flexibility. Game-ready leaders have the ability to absorb the unexpected and remain supple and non-defensive. They maintain humor even when the situation becomes tough. If something isn’t going well or doesn’t turn out as expected, they remain flexible in their approach and look for new ways to solve the problem. Just like a quarterback faced with a broken play, a leader may have to decide quickly on a different way to get the ball down the field.

Also, leaders must continually be open to re-educating themselves, even in the basics, which they may have taken for granted for too long. They need to exercise caution in defensively falling back on ideas they know and are comfortable with rather than looking for new ways of doing business.

2. Responsiveness. Game-ready leaders are able to remain engaged, alive and connected with a situation when under pressure. They are constantly identifying the opportunities, challenges, and threats in the environment. They understand that they need to think differently about how their environment and business operate.

The problems we encounter now are messier and more complicated than ever before. They often can’t be solved in the ways others were. Game-ready leaders look for new ways to think about these problems and, more important, look for fresh ways out of these problems. They have a sense of urgency about responding to the changing face of business.

Just as a coach may change strategies at halftime in response to the way a game is going based on the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, game-ready leaders in business must respond to changes in the environment and the players.

We must pay close attention to and understand global, national, regional and local economic trends, market trends, consumer trends, industry trends and competitor responses. Relying on old assumptions about how business operates and assuming that last year’s trends still hold today is dangerous. Leaders make decisions and act based on up-to-the-minute and in-depth knowledge of what is really going on in business now.

3. Strength. Game-ready leaders are able to exert and resist great force when under pressure and to keep going against insurmountable odds. They find the strength to dig deep and garner the resolve to keep going, even when in a seemingly losing game. They focus on giving their best and fighting hard until the end, with persistent intensity throughout the game.

The story of Team Hoyt, Dick and Rick, is an inspirational example of drawing on both inner and physical strength. Rick was born in 1962 to Dick and Judy Hoyt and was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. His parents were advised to institutionalize him because”there was no chance of him recovering, and little hope for Rick to live a ‘normal’ life. This was just the beginning of Dick and Judy’s quest for Rick’s inclusion in community, sports, education, and one day, the workplace. In the spring of 1977, Rick told his father that he wanted to participate in a 5-mile benefit run for a lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident. Far from being a long-distance runner, Dick agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair, and they finished all 5 miles, coming in next to last. That night, Rick told his father, ‘Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped.’ At that moment, they formed Team Hoyt and have run many races together with now impressive times. The 2009 Boston Marathon was officially Team Hoyt’s 1,000th race.” (Adapted from theTeam Hoyt website.)


Just as athletes dig deep to find the physical and psychological strength to continue through adverse and tough situations, game-ready business leaders must exhibit the same strength. As James Loehr puts it, top athletes think, “While this is tough, I am a whole lot tougher.” Game-ready business leaders bring the same intensity, through all the continual pounding.

4. Courage and ethics. Game-ready leaders do the right thing for the organization and the team. They suppress the temptation to cut corners or to undermine others so they come out on top. They have the courage to make the hard but right decisions for the organization.

A famous story I share with my son as an example of courage and ethics in sports is that of the tennis player Andy Roddick. In 2008 Roddick was the No. 1 seed at the Rome Masters. He was at match point and about to win. The umpire called his opponent for a double-fault serve. Walking to shake his opponent’s hand, Roddick noticed a ball mark on the clay–in bounds. Roddick got the umpire’s attention and pointed out that the ball had nicked the line but was in fact in bounds. The match continued. Roddick went on to lose the match, and his beyond-the-call-of-duty honesty made him famous as an upstanding person, an opponent who would do the right thing. Game-ready leaders in business do the same. PepsiCo provides a great business example of this. A disgruntled Coca-Cola employee and two other individuals attempted to sell proprietary information to Pepsi. Pepsi received a package containing a sample of a new Coke product and other information. Pepsi immediately informed Coke, which contacted the FBI. Game-ready business leaders ultimately win by making the right and courageous decisions.

5. Resiliency. Game-ready leaders rebound from disappointments, mistakes and missed opportunities and get right back in the game. They have a hardiness for enduring the downs of a situation. They remain optimistic in the face of adversity and quickly change when necessary.They resolve to make things better and are experts at figuring out ways to do more with fewer resources. How about the resiliency of Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga, who was just one out away from pitching a perfect game when Jim Joyce, the first-base umpire, called a runner safe who was indeed out? Joyce had made an error. Galarraga was certainly deeply disappointed, but he continued to pitch and get the next batter out. Afterward, Joyce admitted the error and apologized. Galarraga shrugged it off, saying, “Everyone makes mistakes.”

6. Sportsmanship. Game-ready leaders exhibit sportsmanship. They don’t let the opponent know when he or she has gotten them down. “Chin up,” I say to my son. Clearly we all experience disappointment, attacks from others, an occasional blow to the stomach. However, the behavior exhibited by game-ready leaders after losing or being attacked by others or the situation sets the tone for the rest of an organization. Additionally, top athletes support their teammates and their roles. If teammates start competing with and attacking one another, it is definitely difficult to win.

Living in Denver, I follow the Denver Broncos. Kyle Orton has done an outstanding job of displaying sportsmanship while under public scrutiny. Brought to the Broncos last year, he has been the subject of constant press speculation about possibly being replaced. The drafting of Tim Tebow brought on another press outcry, that Kyle was out and Tim was in. Kyle handled it with grace and dignity. Putting his mind to the game and the team, he got on the field and simply practiced hard, welcoming his new teammate. In the face of even internal competition, Kyle Orton exhibits the mentality of “Bring it on!”

We all need these same markers of toughness to succeed and lead in today’s business environment. We cannot succeed on technical skill alone. Companies have tough questions and situations to address. Game-ready leaders go into today’s business environment with their best mental game and with the attitude of “Bring it on!” After all, who doesn’t love the challenge and fun of a demanding, complex game?

Christine M. Riordan is the dean and a professor of management at the Daniels College of Business, University of Denver.

Politics, Society, Hobbes, And The Tea Party

In one of my business classes today, we discussed the Social Contract as a basis of society (some of the thoughts below are developed based on statements of my professors).  It is clear that this is true whether one thinks about company norms, the Bill of Rights, parliamentary procedure, codes of conduct, etc.  All of these, and more, are based, at some level, on the Social Contract.  Our current notion of the Social Contract is based on Rousseau, but some claim that it is “almost as old as philosophy itself”.  Regardless of its origins, the Social Contract is a negotiation of control between “man” and “nature”.

Law and structure are the basis of society.  Without them, we fall into a state of chaos, controlled by nature only.  When each is out for the self and there are no controls, moral or otherwise, it leads to the destruction of society.  Hobbes described this in graphic terms. When there is no Social Contract,

“…there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death…”
– Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan Chapter 13

The Social Contract extends to politics – although Hobbes says Hobbes is the primary reason for the Social Contract.  It seems as though our government leaders have forgotten how to be civil towards one another and perhaps, they need to reread the Social Contract.  I have read countless articles lately on the topic (most recently in Newsweek, I think?) and you would think that politicians would get the idea.  There is a reason public opinion of Congress is so low – and it is not just about the policies that are or are not being made.

Personality differences seem to have been exacerbated over the past year or so by politicians on all sides of the aisle.There really is no reason for this.  I cannot help but think though, that such (unnecessary) personal attacks seem to have increased with the invention(?) of the Tea Party.  Whether or not I always agree or disagree with the politics of the Tea Party, I certainly disagree with some of the Tea Party’s tactics.  They certainly are effective, but they are effective because these tactics exist in the world without a Social Contract.  They feed on the “state of nature” and contribute to the “the life of man” quickly becoming “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”.