Bob’s remarks at C52’s Graduation

December 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

 This is an excerpt from Bob Schoultz’s Professor of Impact Speech he gave at Cohort 52’s Graduation on 2 Dec 2011


Up until a few days ago, I was, at least in title, the director of the MSGL program.  And it was part of my job to tell you what I thought you should be getting out of the MSGL program – and you heard me tell you things like:

–         Don’t forget to see the forest for the trees. You have to get at least adequate grades, but much of the value of this education is with the speakers and other events we offer.

–         Learn to compromise and work with people different from yourselves

–         Take advantage of the overseas study opportunities if at all possible

–         Build credibility in your cohort by being a great team player. This will create a network that you can call on for the rest of your life.

–         Learn how to network and build relationships outside of your cohort, through the many other doors that MSGL offers.

–         Pay attention to the things you study in our curriculum that you like, and those you may not like – to help you find where your talents and passion lie.

So you’ve heard me tell you all of this before, and if you didn’t, you weren’t listening.

So now I’m going to tell you some of what I’ve learned in MSGL as the director.   While I haven’t taken the courses in the program that you all have –  You ALL know more about Finance, and Marketing, and Project Management and International Business than I do – at least the academic parts of it.  So here’s what I have gotten out of my OJT of being the Director of MSGL for 6 years:

–         I’ve realized that business is a more diverse than I had suspected.  It runs from being a small business owner, to running a huge multi-national corporation and everything in between.

–         I’ve learned that success has many definitions and is very complicated.  To say:  “He or she is Successful” – means different things.  What does it mean to you?  How you spend our time, your energy, and your resources tells us and others what your values are and how we define success for ourselves.

–         I’ve learned that task oriented and relationship oriented people frequently have trouble getting along – yet they both need each other.   The process, that is, HOW you get something done, is often as important as WHAT you get done.   I hope you have learned that as well.

–         I’ve learned (again) that we have to be careful who we trust – but we do need to trust people and we WILL get burned.  Taking a chance and trusting people we don’t know is something we have to do.  But it is better to be burned sometimes, than to never trust.  Will Rogers said  he’d rather be the guy who buys the Brooklyn Bridge, than the guy who sells it.

–         I’ve learned that Academia is its own culture with its own values, norms and expectations.  These have worked to create the best University system in the world here in the US.  These values and norms are somewhat different than the world of business, or a non-profit, or government, or the military where I spent much of my life, because there is a different mission.   But all of these different cultures – military, business, academia, etc. all seek to serve the greater good, and are made up of people seeking the confluence of their own, and their institutions best interests.  And in all of these cultures, there are people who will put their personal interests above those of their group.  That is just the way it is.

–         I’ve learned a lot from my students. They tell me what they have experienced in their professional lives while in MSGL, and after leaving MSGL.  I continue to hear that good leadership is uncommon.  I have learned that most people who get into leadership positions are unwilling to take the risk to trust other people, nor to delegate.  Perhaps its because they’ve never been trusted by their leaders.  But it’s interesting, most trustworthy people are willing to trust others.  Beware of those who don’t trust anyone…

–         I’ve learned again that building a team is hard work, and requires compromise.  I had a lot of experience with this in my military career – that was different.    The team we built as the staff running MSGL took some work and we had some rough spots, but we worked through them, and I’m proud of WHAT and HOW we were able to do our jobs.    We came from a number of different backgrounds. But we had time and the good will to work things out. For you in this program there was more pressure and frequently, you had little time to work out misunderstandings.

–         Team work is hard.  The French Philosopher Jean Sartre said – “Hell is other people.”  Team work is particularly difficult when working across cultures.  The only thing harder than working with a team to get a job done, is working without a team to get a job done.  People who are good at facilitating working in teams are golden, and rare.

–         Public Speaking – I’ve sat thru Duane Trombly’s Public Speaking class several times, and attended his toastmasters club, where two of your cohort mates are members.  I’m violating half of his commandments in this presentation, but they are important guidelines that I refer to when I am called upon to speak.  I haven’t mastered them yet.

–          Business Ethics – teaching the business ethics class has been fascinating for me.  Cynics say that business ethics is an oxymoron, like military ethics, or military intelligence.  Like a smart seal or marine.   But in fact because there is so much latitude in Business activity, when the only ‘official’ standard is the minimums imposed by the law, it is a very interesting field.

–         I recently read that, while there are a number of great role models of successful businesses which  take care of a broad range of stakeholders and are considered ‘socially responsible,’ there are very few which actually  maintain that standard of business behavior for extended periods.    It seems that there is a certain gravity to ethics in the market – and to the behavior of CEO’s. But as you read in “Built to Last’ – the best companies maintain not only a successful, but also an ethical culture over  decades, aht that is what distinguishes the best businesses over time.

–         Business is NOT a profession – there is no required ‘Ethos’ and no governing body which enforces standards, like there are for law, or medicine, or even the military.   That offers a lot of freedom to those with initiative, as well as less accountability for those who are unethical.  The MBA Oath movement begun at Harvard was an attempt to move Business toward being a profession and it has sputtered. There are VERY good people, who are also good at business.  And as we all know about the bad guys

–         I’ve learned something about project management, but not enough.  If I had taken the PM courses, I WOULD get PMP certified.

SO now that I’m no longer the director of MSGL, and I’ve learned all this stuff, what am I going to do now?   I have been asked this a lot.  And I respond by saying:  “I don’t know. ”

The short answer is that most importantly, I want to work with people I like  respect and trust, and secondly, doing something we enjoy and find useful and meaningful.  So far I’m enjoying being ‘in transition’  – and  I am already learning a lot.   I thought I knew a lot before, but being back in the networking game, and looking for a job,  I’m learning more.  Some of you may have read my blog essay about being ‘in transition’ – and though I’ve only been ‘unemployed’ for 2 days now, I’ve learned a few things thinking about this process over the last couple of months.

So now that YOU are about to graduate, you are moving into a new phase of your lives – you too are ‘in transition.’   You enrolled in this program to either ENHANCE your career, or to help you to CHANGE your career.  Starting this weekend, you don’t have any homework, or any assignments due.  Take a breather, but not too long.  Be thinking about ‘What’s Next?’  and put together your plan.  Good luck….

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