Episode #298: Michael Useem – How To Become A Learning Machine

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Episode #298: Michael Useem – How To Become A Learning Machine

Michael Useem is the William and Jacalyn Egan Professor of Management and director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management at the Wharton School of the 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 Wayand Leadership Dispatches; co-author of Go Long: Why Long-Term Thinking Is Your Best Short-Term Strategy (Wharton Digital Press) and co-author of the forthcoming Catastrophic Risk: How Corporate America Copes with Disruption (Oxford University Press). Mike is also co-anchor of the weekly program “Leadership in Action” on SiriusXM Business Radio.

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The Learning Leader Show

“We know not the future, and cannot plan for it much.  But we can determine and know what manner of men we will be whenever and wherever the hour strikes.”

Show Notes:

  • Commonalities of sustaining excellence:
    • Thinking strategically
    • Communicating persuasively
    • Decisive decision making
  • The power of using real life examples to demonstrate leadership
  • Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
    • He was a learning machine
    • “We know not the future, and cannot plan for it much.  But we can determine and know what manner of men we will be whenever and wherever the hour strikes.”
    • He was a self directed lifelong learner – “I have always been interested in military matters, and what I do not know in that line, I know how to learn. I study I tell you every military work I can find.”
    • He had a mentor/coach – Adelbert Ames was his tent mate and he learned all he could from him
      • He had a disciplined focus on learning from him.  “I asked him every night to tell me what he knew so I could learn”
    • He routinely got outside of his comfort zone – “I will watch myself and do an after action review to analyze.”
    • Get tangible experience
  • The purpose behind taking students and family members to Gettysburg every semester – To “stand where Chamberlain stood.” And to “get you in their moment on that ground.” Recreate the moment as if you’re there.
  • Gene Kranz and Apollo 13
    • “Expecting high performance is a prerequisite to its achievement among those who work with you.  Your high standards and optimistic anticipations will not guarantee a favorable outcome, but their absence will assuredly create the opposite.”
    • Being a decisive decision maker and preparing for those challenging moments with an attitude that “failure is not an option.”
    • “I knew my teams even more than they knew themselves.”
    • Had a great mentor in Chris Craft to help him
    • Teams that are well developed go through experiences together can outperform individuals under stress
  • The motivation behind risk takers:
    • “A calculating adventurer, deriving a thrill from taking a risk and watching it pay off.”  This is how visions are created.
    • How to become savvy about calculated risk
    • Risk tolerance is a learned skill
  • Persuasive communication is an art form
    • It’s a learned skill
    • You can’t hide, you must be persuasive as a leader
    • There needs to be a solid narrative (story), a purpose behind it
    • Every person must know how important their specific contribution is — “Why are we doing this and what is my role?”
    • If you are appealing for the support of a critical group, make your ultimate, shared objectives the platform. Convince its members that the cause is just, the calling noble, the course collective, the challenge critical, remind them that the goal cannot be reached without their energetic engagement.
  • Arlene Blum — “You never conquer a mountain.  You stand on the summit a few brief minutes, and then the wind blows your footsteps away.”
  • Advice to the new manager:
    • Can you become a leader? Yes, it’s a learned skill
    • Don’t be shy — Get coaches and mentors to help
    • Take the next step, STRETCH yourself to grow
      • “Life is a series of incremental growth
  • Why joining The Learning Leader Circle is a good idea
  • Use the “Get To Know You Document

“You never conquer a mountain.  You stand on the summit a few brief minutes, and then the wind blows your footsteps away.”

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Episode 078: Kat Cole – From Hooters Waitress To President of Cinnabon

Episode 216: Jim Collins — How To Go From Good To Great

Episode 200: Keith Hawk & AJ Hawk — Showing Up, Doing The Work, Earning Trust, Helping Others, Winning The Super Bowl, Celebrating #200

Episode 234: Jocko Willink — Why Discipline Equals Freedom

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