Storm-Proof Strategy: Strategic Execution in Times of Change


Storm-Proof Strategy: Strategic Execution in Times of Change

July 2, 2024

About this episode

When it comes to navigating turbulence and developing strategy in the face of challenges, few industries are more weathered than education. With how quickly education standards and practices are evolving—and how many stakeholders are involved—it’s hard to think of many areas that have more lessons to offer to all manner of strategists.

This week, Larkin Briley, Assistant Vice President of Strategy and Transformation at Belmont University, speaks with Joe and Jonathan about how higher education is navigating turbulent times, including the looming "enrollment cliff" and the decreasing perceived value of degrees. Larkin shares his insights on strategic planning and adaptation, highlighting the use of the OKR framework to align goals and emphasize impactful outcomes.

Join us as we discuss:

  • Effective methodologies for setting priorities and measurable outcomes
  • Balancing qualitative and quantitative measurements in strategic planning
  • The importance of embracing fast iteration and learning from failure

Guest Intros

Storm-Proof Strategy: Strategic Execution in Times of Change

Larkin Briley

Assistant Vice President of Strategy and Transformation @ Belmont University

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Transcript đź“ť

Jonathan  0:02  

Hello Hello everybody. Welcome back for another episode of the strategy gap in today's conversation we'll have a great conversation on all things, navigating turbulent times building a strategy executing framework and navigating a career in strategy leadership. Joining us today for this conversation is Larkin Briley. Larkin currently serves as the Assistant Vice President of Strategy and transformation at Belmont University. There he spearheads University strategic planning framework and many transformational efforts in Israel. He also helps align university initiatives with Belmonts aspirational aim for 2030 and enhance his presidential efforts and strategic objectives. He's currently pursuing a PhD in strategic leadership at Belmont, and maintain certifications in strategy execution. Interested in the beyond academia Larkin embraces the entrepreneur entrepreneurial spirit from founding his own video production company, to opening and managing multiple franchises of Chick fil A, which Joe and I love very much. He is also an active community member in Nashville, serving in various nonprofit boards and community engagement efforts. Larkin, welcome to the show.

Larkin  1:11  

Thanks for having me, guys. I'm excited to be here.

Jonathan  1:15  

Awesome. Well, Mark, and we're planning on getting into a lot during today's conversation. And to kick things off, I wanted to get your take on how turbulent times can impact an organization and really how to build an approach to work through that. Most industries are facing some sort of turbulent times. Sometimes it's a little bit of a cliche of a term, but post COVID, whether it's remote work, profitability versus growth at all costs, or or some other circumstances, there's a lot that organizations are facing. When we last talked, I really enjoyed learning about the current challenges that higher education are facing over the coming years. And do you mind just kicking off the conversation by talking a bit about what that challenge is for higher education specifically around the enrollment cliff, and how you're approaching that in your role?

Larkin  2:00  

Yeah, thanks. Thanks. Great question, Jonathan. Real quick, little bit of internet issue occasionally, that freezes you. I think I got most of the questions. So I'll jump into the enrollment Cliff a bit. But I might have to ask you to repeat something at some point. Yeah. To let you know. Yeah. So yeah, great question. The enrollment cliff. Yes, the the phenomenon called the enrollment cliff, definitely plaguing the minds and hearts of all people who are working in higher education right now, if you're not familiar, the enrollment cliff is a phenomenon that's really been driven by declining birth rates in the United States that really started in the 2000s, but accelerated in the 2008 financial crisis. And that's led to a dramatically lower number of traditional college aged students who will be coming into college readiness and 2025. And that kind of goes to 2030. So a lot of projections, there's, you know, lots of different models out there. But a lot of anticipation is that the declining enrollment is going to be around 15%, over the next decade or so starting next year. And in this, I don't know if this happens in other industries, maybe this clearly where there's a demographic shift. But it's really clear for us, you know, we can't go back and create more 18 year olds, that's sort of locked in right now. And so we've got, you know, three or five years where we're really looking at our primary sort of, quote unquote customer are traditional college aged students that will be entering the college university age years, where we know that's going to decrease sharply and dramatically. And so you add on top of that, you know, there's a report last year from the higher education landscape 2024 survey that, in addition to that degree of competence in higher education, the value of a degree is decreasing sharply as well. So that's decreased about 20 to 25%, over the last eight or 10 years. And so in other words, you've got, you know, fewer 18 year olds, right, and of that pie of 18 year olds, less of them think that that college is a good bet, right? You've got student debt crisis that's looming. And so there's just a lot of disruption, there's a lot of challenge. And so students are looking elsewhere, like non traditional paths, like technical degrees, you've got employers that are offering on the job training, right Google career certificates, you get pretty good earning power right out of high school without a college degree. So a lot of people are framing this sort of like a next Netflix moment for higher education, where, you know, we're, we're blockbuster in some ways we see the disruption coming, we know it's happening, we see it, we feel it. And are we going to dig our heels in for the traditional model? Or are we going to respond and innovate and be responsive to the needs of the students in the future? Right, and this is gonna be a big challenge for smaller schools and rural areas. You know, the elite schools that have large endowments, and things are going to be a little bit more a little bit more resilient. But I mean, even this week, there are several announcements of closures. And so we're not talking about a light trim of an administrative budget. This is going to require a complete reorientation of holistic strategy for a lot of colleges of the next five years and I don't know what you think the reputation of higher education snares, but it's not exactly known for pivoting at lightning speed. So we're gonna need to be a lot more strategic in our thinking. And we can talk all about, you know, some of the ways that we might think that might be useful. But all this is in service to the mission, we want to develop the leaders of purpose and character for the future who want to make the world a better place. And so this is all in an effort to be more sustainable in that impact. And we have to think critically about how we deal with that disruption in turbulence. 

Joe  5:25  

It's interesting, you mentioned that because the higher education is experiencing issues from a, from a birth rate perspective, and then you have healthcare on the other side of the spectrum that's having the issues with an aging population, which they have needs that are higher volume more expensive, and they're kept tackling with how do we how do we do that with less people coming in the door to then become new payers that are coming in? So it seems like a pretty common trend where people like what are where do we go next? And, and to your point, how do you then begin that conversation around? Can't be business as usual? You have to straddle the line between being alarmist but also being realistic? And how have you been able to at least get those conversations going? Because a lot of organizations you probably can imagine, to stick their head in the ground, they'll say this will pass this too shall pass. How do you How will you manage that whole interesting type of conversation?

Larkin  6:14  

That's a great question, Joe. And quick comment on the healthcare thing. You know, that's exactly right. You know, and there's, there's more of our aging population. And the last graduating nurses, for example, in 33%, of nurses every year, quitting after their first year, you know, because it's such a difficult profession. And so, as you're saying, it's a huge problem to deal with. And we have to figure out how to engage these problems. And one of the things that we're trying to really think critically through is, you know, there's the Marshall Goldsmith book, you know, what got you here won't get you there. And that's a really important mindset. And it's not one that I think higher education has had to deal with this critically on this level and scale ever before, as an industry wide kind of problem. There's certainly been disruption across different industries and sectors of higher education. But it sort of feels like for us, it's sort of we need to cross a forest, but there's a thick layer of fog. And, and maybe the temptation for some folks is just to get a little bit of data, like I don't see a tree directly in front of me in the fog. So we're just going to run fast in that direction. And if you're not getting the right type of real time data to respond, that is going to run right into more trees that you didn't see coming. And maybe another temptation is to freeze and go super slow to make sure, okay, in these turbulent times, we need to make sure we don't make mistakes, because resources are scarce. And we don't want to make any large bets on things that might not work out. And so I think what we're trying to do is be somewhere in the middle of that, where we really trying to challenge the existing strategies that we're looking at, start the conversation and reimagine what a higher education institution can and should be, not only to remain competitive, and stay sustainable by keeping the lights on but to be successful in our mission. You know, this is, ultimately for us, we're a nonprofit, private institution. And this is about the mission to help educate, inform diverse leaders of character that will help change the world. And volatility I think, has been written about pretty extensively in business strategy pretty extensively in here got all these different models for for dealing with uncertainty with scenario planning, and real option analysis, you know, all these things. But I think, for us in higher education, we're gonna have to be more comfortable with rapid iteration, embracing failure, trying new things quickly, and, and having the right frameworks that allow for agility to respond quickly to the things that we're learning. And when you talk more about that sort of that entrepreneurial mindset is a big piece of what we tried to embrace. But those frameworks and methodologies for approaching goal setting is something that we're really trying to lean heavily into in terms of our strategy execution that we are rolling out right now.

Jonathan  8:43  

Yeah, honestly, I think that's a great place to go next. And I'll give you a little bit of credit, you're talking about edge higher education is maybe not having the best reputation for being lightning quick on changes. I don't think that's anything unique to higher education that you look at, you know, their legacy industries, legacy institutions, it's not only that they've been able to be resilient through these changes, but they also have more people that they need to get on board with the changes, right? It's not just, Hey, I'm in a start up, and I can make a change that impacts are 30 employees, it's no way to impact our alumni, our students, our staff, the community or future students, there's a lot more that you have to take into account before you can make these transformations. But with that, in knowing all those considerations, knowing the upcoming changes in higher education, I know you're at kind of the cutting edge of edge of taking a new framework for stretch strategy execution. Let's talk about that. What are you doing from a strategic decision standpoint, to change the way that you're thinking about strategy and the future of the organization? 

Larkin  9:46  

Great, great question. And one that's really important, I think, and we we've over the last couple of years. We have a new president that came in a few years ago, President Greg Jones and really is a extremely visionary leader who's pushing us to reimagine how We do things, you know, taking a step away from business as usual. And what does that sort of expanded imagination about the role of an institution of higher learning. And so we developed some some things that we, we knew we needed out of a framework. And we wanted, you know, some of the clear things about strategic planning, right annual priorities, what's the way we demonstrate alignment and transparency, those kind of things. But we also wanted to lean heavily into this idea of impact over activity in real time data, where those would be sort of two guiding emphases sort of cultural signpost to say these are things that we're trying to change the culture a little bit on, because higher education typically can get into sort of a rinse and repeat sort of thing. You know, if you get new students every year, we did this last year, let's try it again. And so we've sort of landed on an OKR framework, objectives and key results, which I'm sure many of your listeners are familiar with. And, you know, core value of that sort of pairing a qualitative objective that that has some inspiration and aspirational qualities to it a why sort of and, and pairing that with a quantitative measurable outcome or key result to sort of balance, that concrete target that you can measure progress against, but also preventing that gamification or box checking, because you're not over indexing on things that don't matter in the system, you really clear on the why behind it. And, and we're not just taking exactly what maybe Google or Intel, or some of these tech companies are doing, it's a little more challenging to apply to higher education. But, you know, we, we found that this framework, this philosophy, that undergirds the OKR framework, is something that we think can be really effective in higher education, and one that we don't see often in strategic planning efforts, you know, over the last year or so, I've I think I've probably read like 100 or so strategic plans from other universities. And, guys, there are some just absolute doozies out there, just you know, 150 page documents with, you know, 300 people on the committee's to try to sustain it, and you just get through reading and you want to take a shower. Well, this is so much to take in, I don't even know where to start. And you can even think about being agile with that, because it's such a heavy overbearing framework to be a part of. And so that's kind of how we've tried to keep it simple and agile, but also get really clear on some of the why

Joe  12:10  

The OKRs, I mean, ultimately, we pride ourselves at achievement as being methodology agnostic, and it's just like, pick a framework that works for you. And stick with it. A lot of times when it's like a cafeteria style where like, little bit OKRs, a little bit of Oh, GSM, a little bit of this, it's this doesn't, there's no rules of the road. So OKRs are fantastic. And followed as well as other methodologies. OKRs are great, because there's a scoring mechanism to it, which I think most people would enjoy the fact that it's not just we accomplish this, how well did we accomplish this? If we accomplish it at 100%? Maybe that's gives us a four. And if we are 110%, we really did really well, it's a five and that gives people something to strive for. So definitely a fan. So thank you for bringing that up. Because a lot of people struggle with like, what should we even start with? Okay.

Larkin  12:53  

Just to put a finer point on that, Joe, I think that's an incredible point. And one of the reasons why we're not trying to get too overbearing with what we call it, you know, for us, it's really about our goal setting methodology, we're not trying to, I think even I can get pretty cynical about all the different methodologies, it's sort of like put the alphabet in a blender and whatever letters come out, just create a goal setting. You know, what, what helps you evaluate where you are, strategize about where you want to be and measure progress along the way, I think is all that we're trying to do and be really simple about that. But we do believe there has been some progress in the research that that can show that qualitative piece of OKR framework is really helpful for organizations that are really connected to their sense of mission and impact, to really tie us forward with that, while also providing the structure for that measurement that you mentioned.

Joe  13:43  

It's interesting, because I guess the what I would love to hear from you about is like you get these OKRs in place. And what we're talking about is a fundamental shift in the way that we're delivering what we deliver. And, you know, leaders are typically born, at least as were thought about working together, shoulder to shoulder on campus doing things and that might look like different things going forward. But with the advent of online degrees, or some organizations that are kind of hybrid where they have a huge online presence, but they also have a physical campus. The question is, Can leaders be formed in a remote setting? COVID has kind of explained, at least for my personal experience, we work with our customers, we try to go face to face, the COVID time that we had, we tried to do a lot of that remotely. And not to say that it wasn't effective. It just wasn't as effective. I've just I've done enough, the sample size is large enough for me to say, unequivocally that's the case. So how have you had straddled the conversation around like, this is a fundamental precept that maybe we believe in that we have to get people together, but we're also fighting against people that can sign up and to take your classes from anywhere. And that's a very powerful push and pull. Like that's a fundamental phase shift. So how does that conversation sound?

Larkin  14:54  

Yeah, it's an incredibly tough balance, right? You know, one of the things that you see a lot of them Darcy's doing is going all in on what we call asynchronous online education, which is where you don't have a professor necessarily that's guiding you on a week to week basis, you're not meeting all at the same time with any classmates. And that can certainly be a model that can be helpful for some people sort of that, how do you go back and get a certificate and something that can help you I've done that, and it's been beneficial to me. And also, as you mentioned, in your introduction, I'm in a Ph. D. program right now. And the learning outcomes, even for myself, even though it's still an mostly online program are way higher, just because I have a group of people to kind of go through that with. And it's something that we're always trying to balance in, figure out, what are we trying to do to differentiate ourselves? You know, some of the core components of what we believe, like a Belmont education is about is really deeply connected to a sense of purpose and character. And so even when we roll out those online programs, we want to figure out what it looks like for us to differentiate ourselves in the way that we care for those students and a whole person context and really invest heavily. Because we know like you mentioned, emergency use of zoom does not equal effective online learning. Like it's just totally different thing. And so trying to stay on the forefront and the cutting edge of the best practices of online learning is something that all of our campuses really trying to wrestle heavily with, and get real clear about the type of impact that we want to have on those student learning outcomes.

Jonathan  16:24  

Yeah, I want to go quickly back to what you were mentioning a few times about impact over activity. I think Joe can certainly speak to this as well. What I see a lot in organizations is that they definitely know the activities that they should be doing. A lot of times they even know the goals that they want to accomplish, where they struggle is how do we actually connect these two together to understand this is overall the impact that we're trying to drive for the organization? So you mentioned in your organization, the qualitative component is important. How do you balance the qualitative with the quantitative and really align everything to be able to drive that impact and make sure that you're doing the right things to get to the proper outcomes?

Larkin  17:07  

It’s the million dollar question, if I had the perfect answer, this might be a really highly listened to podcasts, I don't have the perfect one for you. But the way that we're trying to do it, you know, this idea of impact over activity for us, the heart behind that is that as an institution that's been around for so long, you can so quickly fall into doing things just because that's the way we've done them in the previous year, we have these projects and initiatives that maybe worked for students really well 10 or 15 years ago, and the students just every year change a little bit more and a little bit more. And then all of a sudden, you are dealing with a whole new type of student that needs to be reached in needs to be taught and formed and in a totally different way. And the path of least resistance with really busy, passionate professionals is just to kind of do the same thing. And so for us putting a cultural shift on impact of activity, and I think culture, just sort of what's the embedded DNA of how everyone interacts? That cultural focus of impact of activity is all about trying to shift away shift the focus away from just completing a project or starting and completing a program to directly what is the impact that we can have on a certain stakeholder, whether that's a student, a faculty or staff member, community member that we're partnering with or otherwise. And to do that, we need to get really clear on how we're measuring success. That's really what we think about in terms of impact, what's the measurable outcome of success related to that, that why behind the goal that we're setting, and it's sometimes in that in higher ed, that's really easy. You know, in certain offices, it's a little bit challenging on on a university level, because it's really like a small city, it's, it's you've got, we've got dining, we've got housing, we've got campus security, we've got learning, we've got all these different administrative offices and, and what might work really well to measure progress for fundraising necessarily at a university might work really differently in terms of formation and leadership development, right. So those ways that we provide opportunity, we want to have an open table where people can sort of see, here's all the ways that you might measure success in your area and what what might work best for you in your area. But we have to get really clear on not measuring just the warm, fuzzy feelings that we have about completing a project, but what we intended the impact to be. And if we've never measured it before, then we need to establish some baselines about how we get there. So in terms of your your questionnaire on qualitative and quantitative, you know, for us, we really want to have a number associated with a lot of the things that we're measuring, because that's that's sort of the pendulum swing for us. We've had a lot of qualitative measurements, at least in our institution where we've sort of said, Hey, we we believe that this program has done well because of these anecdotal conversations. And we've done some qualitative surveys and things but want to get more clear for us around that quantitative piece. So that's where the key result measurable outcome piece. We're trying to get really clear on what that is, and that's going to be an ongoing conversation. For us, because how do you I mean, how do you measure the generational effects of students who are more resilient and able to participate in civil discourse? Right? Like how do you even even measure an intervention in someone's freshman year on how that affects them? 15 years later, when they get a promotion at an organization they're part of, it's really difficult. But we're going to be committed to trying to do that, because we think it's important to measure the impact.

Joe  20:25  

It's an insert a pop culture reference, I'm a huge wire fans that came out 22 years ago, show has always been quoted and all these things, but like one of the one that you see constantly, besides Omar, the idea that the old days, they're the old days, and a lot of times, myself included, we are nostalgic. For the old days, what we have done is what we should probably continue to do. And it's easy. It's like a warm blanket. And so ultimately, making people realize that things game, the game has changed, it's become slightly more fierce, let's say, we need to rethink our thinking. And the end of the year, we can't sit around and say I think we had a good year because look at all the stuff we did. And it's not enough. It's the same evolution that marketing has gone through in the last 20 years. It's in the old days, it's like we're sponsoring a golf tournament. Okay, what's the ROI on that? Oh, we get our name out there, you know, it's all good. I got a couple of free tickets from my friends. But like, it's not enough. How many leads Did you generate? How much revenue? Have you generated all that good stuff. Colleges, Universities are starting to feel the same thing. If we invest in this project, which meaningful KPI that exists in our world would be impacted either short term or long term, have a blend of leading and lagging, but there has to be an answer other than I don't know. And if the answer is I don't know, then we shouldn't be truly shouldn't be doing that thing. And that's sometimes a tough conversation. And we had a recent podcast, a pod cast guests show up and mentioned, the idea of the four stages of team formation. And the second one is that the storming phase, and it's all about like figuring out, like how to push back on things. And if we're not pushing back on people in the strategic planning process, and say, that's not good enough, that's qualitative, it has to be quantitative, we have to have a measurement, we have to increase, decrease or maintain something. So please, let's figure out what that is. And like, to your point, if we have to get a baseline, that's great. But it being hard is not a reason to not do it. And we have to do it, we only have so much time and energy. So do you give people like a target and like I listened, I need one to three measurements from yourself, you give them something small to start with, like the critical view and has that then made them more comfortable the next time around, maybe they'll give you a four or five?

Larkin  22:31  

Yeah, so the way that we've framed it this year, we're rolling out a brand new methodology this year with our framework, and people are setting kind of their three to five big rocks, so to speak, their big priorities for each of their units across campus that are aligned to our aspirational aim, which is our strategic plan for 2030. And each of those broad objectives that they have that represent an area of priority will have, hopefully three to five measurable outcomes that represent those key key results. And, and those in our instructions have to contain the number that maintains increases or decreases, like you said, so we're on the same page there. And then then they sort of come up with a list of initiatives or projects that they think will influence or move the needle on those measurable outcomes, right. And those what we describe those as is your best hypothesis for success. And so what we don't want to do is say, lock in your initiatives and your projects for the year and don't deviate no matter what, what we do want to say is if you're trying something out, and the data that you're getting back, is not moving the needle on that desired outcome, then you need to change course, we need to pilot quickly learn quickly iterate quickly, and learn where we're having impact and where you're not, and have the freedom to sunset things that are not having a desired outcome. And so separating out those outcomes, or the key results from the initiatives and projects that are that people are putting in place has been really key for us to distinguish how we're measuring impact and and what are sort of the projects initiatives put in place to provide momentum towards that impact?

Joe  24:07  

How do you how do you overcome the the stigma potentially, of people saying this idea that I thought was good, didn't work out didn't come out to the way, the way I expected were six months in and let's just say it's not going well. That's not something people are like, gonna like jump up and tell you have you had any tips or tricks related to coaxing that type of information out of people saying, We can't let a whole year go by on a project that we knew for months and was gonna go poorly, just because of the stigma attached to it. So if you do anything to break down that stigma to say, like you bringing it up as an issue is actually something I want to encourage and I'm going to put you on a pedestal. How's that look? 

Larkin  24:44  

Yeah, it's a great, it's a great point to raise. And I think one of the ways that we're going to try to do is give out some sunset awards. It's kind of a funny way that we think of, you know, how do we highlight and incentivize through recognition that people who have raised their hand and said, Hey, we tried this thing. It did. move the needle and the way that we thought we did, or we thought that it did. Or we've been doing this thing for five years. And we're gonna sense it that and as a team, think about a new way to move the needle on a particular outcome in our area, and tried to raise the level of recognition and sort of give those awards out. And you know, maybe we maybe we send a, you know, some some cookies or, you know, a thank you to them say, hey, great job, that is the behavior. That's the type of culture that we want to set where people are responding to the data in real time. One example will be the the FAFSA debacle. I don't know if you're familiar with this right now. But the department of education is to put it kindly had some challenges rolling out their new FAFSA form, which has delayed the information that incoming students will have about their financial aid by several months. And that's created all sorts of disruption in what we are expecting for enrollment. And the worst thing to happen would be for our Student Financial Services team, to just be worried about what that means. And to be like, oh, gosh, our deposits are down. Our admits are down, you know, all these things are down, let's let's keep, let's just hope that it turns out, right, let's keep doing what we've always doing, the best thing for them to happen is to raise their hand and say, Hey, we need to bring additional attention, what we're doing has to completely change. So let's try some new strategies. Let's stop what we're doing. Let's do new types of preview days, let's reach out to students on social media in different ways and create new strategies mid year to try to have the desired effect on their intended outcome, which would be deposits and ultimately, newly enrolled students. And so that's an easy one to think about in terms of enrollment, because it's such an easy thing, like we got to pivot no matter what we got to try to get this outcome. It's harder for more traditional academic programs to think in those ways, particularly because they're not honestly measuring frequently, the things that that are the outcomes that they have in mind, right. So the completion of a particular program or initiative is usually the thing that they've imagined as success. And so they don't know if they're being successful until that program is done, right. And we want to have more leading indicators, more quantitative feedback, like you've mentioned, that can help us get on board earlier. And so a lot of incentivizing a lot of trying to recognize behavior at all hands meetings and those kinds of things, to try to show people hey, this, this is the type of behavior that we think is is going to help us be successful going forward.

Jonathan  27:15  

Yeah, this has been fantastic. I feel like we could go on for an hour about this. And maybe maybe six months from now we'll we'll check back in and have another conversation about the framework and how it's progressing. But I didn't want to slightly pivot to one last topic. When we last connected for the for the audience listening, Larkin was very modest about the fact Hey, I'm, I'm still learning, I'm doing this role. I'm developing, I think that's the position a lot of people find themselves in is they're in a new role they're learning on podcasts, or webinars, or whatever the case would be like, you get these experts that have been there and done that. And it's hard to understand, hey, how do I navigate through this journey? So I wanted to get your perspective. You're newer in senior leadership role and strategy, you spent a lot of time on various strategy roles throughout your career, but what does that transition looked like for you? And what advice would you give to other people for navigating through that transition?

Larkin  28:08  

Yeah, thanks, Jonathan. Yeah, it's a great question. I think, as I reflect back on my career so far, and sort of someone who has worked their way up in the organization, and tried to always sort of be known as somebody who could, could just execute, you know, like, I want to always be known as the person who's like, I got it, I'll take care of it, that kind of posture. And I love the big ideas. I love the visioning. But I want to be somebody who couldn't really get things done in whatever role I've had on campus. And that served me pretty well, you know, and, and have the opportunities like you've mentioned this past year to step into this new role in strategy execution and strategic planning with just amazing colleagues that I can lean on for for that success. But the fact of the matter is, like you mentioned, like, I'm on the younger side, as professional and mid career. I've been doing this for 30 years, and some learning on the job trying to learn as much as I can, you know, doing doing programs and certifications. But, you know, I think the way that I've tried to approach this is to really try to lead by influence and persuasion rather than authority, mainly because I don't necessarily have the authority on the experience or positionally right now in my career. And funnily enough, as I've, as I've stepped into this role, I think, even if I were to get 25 or 30 years into my career, I would still want to lead this way. I think that's what I've learned, is, you know, this idea of authentic or servant leadership, you know, coined by Robert Greenleaf in the 70s, but has really taken on a lot of research in the last few years as is it's a very effective framework for embracing empathy and persuasion and commitment to the growth of others. And when I when I reflect on the best leaders, I've been around, you know, they're the ones that have treated me that way and treated their teams and it's something that I want to continue to guide my work in my own career. So, you know, it can absolutely present some challenging opportunities for persuasion. You know, when you're kind of mid career Learn how to lead peers that are much more experienced and, and senior to you in a lot of ways. But I think that sort of framework of just trying to invite people into how do I help you be successful, rather than coming in and telling them what to do you know, what, what is the way that I can provide something of value, to your experience, to your role to your leadership to help you be successful in maintaining that trust with leaders, we're going to execute well together, but it's all about us working together in partnership, is something that I would encourage any kind of mid career professional that's working with colleagues that that may or may not be on the on their sort of organizational level or above, really get known for executing well, being somebody who brings solutions to the table, not problems, and then trying to lead by persuasion and influence, you know, building consensus, and helping other people be successful, rather than trying to come in with your own idea that you think is perfect, but being willing to that sort of designing with, with teams in mind. And, and so all of that amidst you know, a great team and leaders above me that look out for me and bring their wealth of experience and wisdom to help guide my efforts as well. I have a lot to learn, I'm excited to learn and implement new things. And it'll be fun, like you mentioned, to see in six months where we're at, maybe you can come back and say, Hey, we missed it all. And we had a lot of learning opportunities and growth edges, and we're gonna pivot. But hopefully it all goes as well as we hope it will.

Joe  31:28  

The idea of being a piece of the success is not the centerpiece all the time, especially if you're working with subject matter experts that truly are critical to your plan, like letting them celebrate their success at the end of a project and things of that nature. So being a facilitator and the idea of leaders eat last right, all the servant leadership stuff that we hear about, there's a lot of real, hefty research behind the fact that that's a good way to go. Especially if you're managing people at different points in their career. First thing they're looking at you is with skepticism. So you have to meet them, and over over, prove that you are going to do all the things you mentioned and eventually earn their trust. And once you have it, it's hard to break it. And that's a fantastic bit of advice for our listeners. But as we begin to close out the web of the webinar, and as we begin to close out the podcast today, we always ask our guests one final question that creates continuity across all episodes. The question we always ask is if you can go back in time and speak to yourself, as you're going into your your career and your new role within strategy, what advice would you give yourself on day one, to help you even better in your role?

Larkin  32:38  

As I think back, I think one of the things that I would want to be more comfortable with is embracing the right type of failure. You know, when you're young, when you're mid career, you think you need to do everything perfectly, you know, you gotta nail it the first time, and otherwise, people are gonna throw you out and and say, Oh, well, he's inexperienced, he's too young, he can't be doing this. But I think as I've learned, more and more, there's a great article from a researcher at Harvard Business School, Amy Edmondson who talks about the spectrum of failure, that that I think, could be a really great read for folks, but kind of talks about like preventable failure, which is like fraud and laziness, like things that you could absolutely prevent unavoidable, fail, unavoidable failure, which is sort of the the nature of complex systems COVID, and different things that that shake up things and cause failure. But she talks about intelligent failure, which is the right type of sort of iteration, embracing learning and failing, cheap and quickly and fast sort of that entrepreneurial thinking and mindset, that I think my personality leans a little bit more towards that perfectionism. I think I could I could have could have embraced that earlier, to sort of be willing to step out and try something new and quickly learn from it quickly, and be comfortable with it not being in its its final state, right upfront, and kind of that beta mode mentality. And I think that would have helped me be a little more successful and quicker to the learning opportunity earlier on, and maybe something that some of the listeners might benefit from as well.

Jonathan  34:06  

Great luck, and well, we appreciate it. It was a great conversation. I know the listeners will learn a lot from your insights and we'll definitely be sure to check back in and I'm confident they'll either be wildly successful or based on your last answer. You have learned from those things that were not quite as successful as planned. So lurking thanks for joining us on the show.

Larkin  34:23  

Thanks so much for having me, guys. This has been a blast. Thank you.

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