Adapt, Adjust, Overcome: 10 Stories About Leaders Who Constantly Learn To Be Better with Michael Useem

by | Nov 16, 2021 | 0 comments

About Michael Useem

Michael Useem is Professor of Management and Faculty Director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management and McNulty Leadership Program at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.  His university teaching includes MBA and executive-MBA courses on management and leadership, and he offers programs on leadership and governance for managers in the United States, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. 

He works on leadership development with many companies and organizations in the private, public and non-profit sectors.  He is the author of The Leader’s Checklist, The Leadership Moment, Executive Defense, Investor Capitalism, Leading Up, and The Go Point.  

He is also co-author and co-editor of Learning from Catastrophes; co-author of The India Way, Leadership Dispatches, Boards That Lead, and The Strategic Leader’s Roadmap, Fortune Makers: The Leaders Creating China’s Great Global Companies (2017), Go Long: Why Long-Term Thinking Is Your Best Short-Term Strategy (2018), and Mastering Catastrophic Risk: How Companies Are Coping with Disruption (2018). His latest book, The Edge, is what we will be digging into today. 

Mike is co-anchor for a weekly program “Leadership in Action” on SiriusXM Radio Channel 132, Business Radio Powered by the Wharton School.

What You’ll Find In This Episode with Michael Useem 

Michael pours his wealth of knowledge into this transformative episode on how leaders continually learn to ensure that they rise to meet the demands of the job. Leaders know that the job description is about the only thing regarding the position that fits nicely onto a sheet of paper. Many roles evolve as demands emerge and arise from multiple avenues. 

Michael pointed out the irony in the subtitle of The Edge, which is about CEOs learning to lead. He acknowledged that we might assume that CEOs know how to lead, but that’s not always true.They need to learn how to lead provided the circumstances they find themselves within.

 

Michael talked about the fact that for many leaders, what got you here won’t get you there. Although not mentioned in the show, check out Marshall Goldsmith’s book, What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There, which we love.

 

Don’t miss what Michael says about Mark Turner and his learning tour. 

Michael says that leaders need to recognize their responsibility in leading the people they serve. This is what brings them to a point of wanting to learn more about learning to lead. 

Three avenues for committing to learning to be the leader who you want to be:

  1. You need to make your life  a classroom. We can all learn from leaders in history. Read it, watch it. Just learn it.
  2. Gather around yourself really great mentors and coaches, even if it’s informal. 
  3. Get out of your office and start doing it. 

You have to hear why Michael takes students to Antarctica and the Marine Corp.

Michael mentioned Herminia Ibarra’s book on reinventing identity.  Check it out.

Michael says that the single most important thing that a leader can do to grow is to get out of their comfort zone. 

Dr. Useem follows many sources for leadership, but often comes back to the Chief Executive of Progressive Insurance, Tricia Griffith. Learn about how she redefines what it means to be the Big Boss.

Michael talked about looking at leadership as 360 but in reverse. We ought to think about leading our peers and the people above us, not just our subordinates. 

Don’t miss what he says about having more impact. Oh, and yeah, wishing he could climb Mt. Everest.

Michael talked about learning to lead by seeing others do it poorly. There’s a lot to learn from setbacks and catastrophes. Don’t miss how he describes the CEO of Tyco.

Joe was reminded about leading to grow and thrive versus just to get by. 

Michael liked our last question and recalls asking CEOs what they find to be true that they didn’t realize before.  

Lastly, Michael reminds us that leadership never really comes down to one thing, but a mission critical checklist. 

As always, let us know what you think of this with a like, a follow, or a comment. Find us on Twitter, YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, & SoundCloud. And, again, if you want one simple model for leading better and growing faster per month, follow this blog by entering your email at the top right of the screen.

 

TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple by maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster.

 

Joe & T.J. 

This episode was brought to you by GhostBed, a family-owned business of sleep experts with 20+ years of experience. With 30K+ 5-star reviews, you can’t go wrong with GhostBed. Their mattresses are handcrafted, and they come with a 101-night-at-home-sleep trial. For a limited time, you can get 30% by using our code — SH302 — at checkout. And, even if you tell someone about GhostBed, you can earn a $100 referral reward. Go to Ghostbed.com today and use SH302 at checkout. 

No one knew what the devastation of a pandemic would bring in the long run–first graders not knowing how to walk the halls properly or how to manage their materials at a desk. We’ve heard incredible stories of students being oddly possessive of classroom supplies in the younger grades–markers and erasers–trivial things that are readily available. And we’re witness to students up-and-leaving a room without asking in the upper grades–something that they did without asking when they learned from home.  

It’s fascinating to see the skills that are typically taught in schools, yet never captured in any accountability rating or report card, now starkly missing from our students in ways that require tons of attention. This, among other strange byproducts of time away from school, dramatically impacts culture, our well-being, and our abilities. Because we are challenged by such new and different problems in schools these days, we can quickly lose our sense of purpose in what we do. Purpose is such a strong indicator of groundedness that when it’s not clearly defined can bring misery.  

So, as we look within ourselves, we want to approach introspection the best way that we know how, effectively working toward finding our solid ground. Instead of just thinking about ourselves and dwelling on our work or lives, we offer very succinct prompts to begin your professional introspective analysis. 

       Consider the following reflection prompts: 

      •  I know my purpose at work each day.
      •  My purpose at work directly corresponds with my daily activities.

The answer to the first prompt may seem simple and intuitive at first, such as, “Of, course, I know my purpose, I teach. I’m a teacher. My purpose is to impart knowledge.” But, work beyond surface responses that don’t provide the specificity that truly reflects your inner definition of the purpose behind your work. You might come to something like “My purpose is to change lives” or “I plan to influence the system to be more innovative than education typically is.” The grander the statement, the better. Next, ask yourself the second prompt…if your purpose no longer matches your daily activities, you need to reclaim your ground. 

Reclaim Your Ground: Empowerment

No matter what happens, it is within my power to turn it to my advantage.  ~ Epictetus

Once you clearly identify your solid ground, you need to reclaim it. There is serious power in taking control of the things that you can. Despite all of the challenges in schools for teachers and leaders, there are several elements of schooling that we directly impact and that are within our control. A few that we work through in our school leadership training are as follows:

  • Visiting classrooms 
  • Planning with high-yield instructional strategies 
  • Increasing student engagement
  • Empowering teacher leaders 
  • Creating a winning culture
  • Clarifying the vision of the school
  • Praising others and using feedback cycles for school improvement 

The next step is to identify a process goal within a particular area that we can control for the day or week. If classroom management is a challenge, then that can become a clear area of focus. Danielle Doolan, team member of The Career Contessa, which “…helps working women be more fulfilled, healthy, and successful at worktell readers this: 

 

Process goals are the specific actions we take to increase our chances of achieving our outcome goals. These are the behaviors and strategies that we implement that help us set a path to achieve our desired result. Process goals are 100% controllable.”

This is of vital importance as you work to reclaim your ground. Process goals require specific actions. Those actions are under our direction and control. Determining the specifics of what you work on each day creates a greater sense of calm, connectedness, and confidence (The Three Cs of Empowerment). 

  Consider the following reflection prompts: 

      • I feel connected to my work.
      • I see the results of my efforts.

Take the time to think about your responses. If you feel connected and you are seeing results, what is contributing to your success? Name it so that it can be repeated. However, if you are reading this and you find yourself disconnected and frustrated, start by identifying a couple goals that you would like to achieve this month and be sure to identify the actions you need to take to reach success. 

With the clarity of our purpose in mind and process goals for taking action, we are ready to bloom. 

Thrive in Your Ground: Blooming

Attach yourself to what is spiritually superior, regardless of what other people think or do. Hold to your true aspirations no matter what is going on around you. ~ Epictetus

Identifying, finding, and claiming your solid ground will provide the necessary foundation to thrive in work and life. We approach thriving and this journey of development from a different angle than your typical school leadership training. The reality is that we don’t see the effects of all of our decisions right away. Development takes time and is actually a practice of redundancy and habit formation. Thriving can actually seem uneventful at first for those who love to start and try new things. Setting and starting activities and initiatives is fun, but the real work is in the day-to-day activities that will bear the fruit of our labor. 

This pursuit and drive forward flourishes in what Jim Collins describes as The Hedgehog Concept versus what he explains to be the work of the fox. The fox, “[is] scattered, diffused, and inconsistent, while the hedgehog understands that driving toward a concrete destination is what really works.” Thriving is focused and consistent; something that many of us struggle with in a time when so much has changed and so much is still uncertain. Disillusionment is born from doubt, skepticism, and suspicion about which direction we’re going and why. We get back on track when we find our inspiration and we rekindle our passion. 

Consider the following questions regarding how your purpose is congruent with you developing and growing in your role–thriving for the future.

       Consider the following reflection prompts: 

      • I’m inspired by the people with whom I work. 
      • I am passionate about my daily purpose.

We find inspiration in the people with whom we work, not just because they’re doing the work but because they want to get better at it. In all of our findings, readings, and trainings, we’ve realized that the most passionate people are inspired by the company they keep and the strategies they use as a team to improve. We call that a learning culture and a performance culture because it’s based on continuous improvement and a desire to do whatever we can to find success. We also recommend that leaders measure purpose and other aspects of school culture so that we can lead from a point of our strengths and work on the areas that require our attention. 

Assessing School Culture with REPSS

In our book, Building A Winning Team, we developed TheSchoolHouse302 Reputable, Effective, Perception Survey for Schools (REPSS) to measure a school’s culture using the perceptions of the staff. This process can create greater levels of clarity, trust, accountability, support, growth, and innovation in schools–all indicators of highly supportive, effective, and caring cultures.

This month we are completely focused on the purpose aspect of the survey because it sets the stage and tone for the other areas. You’ll find some of the reflection questions throughout the blog post and below as well. Take a few minutes to respond to the questions/prompts to fully unveil your purpose and consider the power in knowing the aggregate answers that your school community might post if they took this survey together. What might you do with that data as someone who wants to lead better and grow faster? After all, if things aren’t as good as they should be…or could be…then we have work to do. 

 

Reputable, Effective, Perception Survey for Schools

Purpose

  • I know my purpose at work each day.
  • My purpose at work directly corresponds with my daily activities.
  • I feel connected to my work.
  • I see the results of my efforts. 
  • I tell a positive story about my workplace. 
  • The school brand communicated to the public is the same as the culture I experience as a professional. 
  • Our school’s core values are so clear that I know what is expected of me on a daily basis.
  • I find the work I do rewarding. 
  • I’m inspired by the people with whom I work. 
  • I am passionate about my daily purpose. 

As always, let us know what you think of this with a like, a follow, or a comment. Find us on Twitter, YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, & SoundCloud. And, again, if you want one simple model for leading better and growing faster per month, follow this blog by entering your email at the top right of the screen.

 

TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple by maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster.

 

Joe & T.J. 

 

This blog post was brought to you by GhostBed, a family-owned business of sleep experts with 20+ years of experience. With 30K+ 5-star reviews, you can’t go wrong with GhostBed. Their mattresses are handcrafted, and they come with a 101-night-at-home-sleep trial. For a limited time, you can get 30% by using our code — SH302 — at checkout. And, even if you tell someone about GhostBed, you can earn a $100 referral reward. Go to Ghostbed.com today and use SH302 at checkout. 

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