Issue Number 26: Leadership and The Chevrolet

While I love taking pictures of classic old cars (check out the Chevy), I do have to spend some time earning a living. One of my favorite jobs was leading the economics program at the International Programs Center. When I joined the faculty I faced the challenge of finding guest lecturers for our courses. Being new, I had to find my own guest lecturers, and that took a lot of time. Most of them had full-time jobs and were volunteering their time to teach a class session, so you often had to beg and plead.

The first time I was able to talk someone into being a guest lecturer, I did what you would have done – I sat in on the class session and took notes, looking for points I thought were especially appropriate for the course. Then I spoke with the students after the class session to learn what they thought.

The next day I told the lecturer I was going to send a thank-you message and, stumbling upon a technique I have used ever since, asked: “Who would you like me to include on the distribution list?” Armed with my class notes so I could be specific, comments from the students so I could quote them and guidance from the lecturer about the people whose goodwill he wanted to earn, I sent the message.

I was astounded by the response. I not only received a thank-you call from both the lecturer and his boss, but both of them volunteered to speak at future class sessions and gave me names of other people who would be good guest lecturers.

By linking specific praise to the progress of the course and recognizing the importance of the goodwill the lecturer wanted to earn, I was able to generate enough guest-lecturer resources for all my courses from one thank-you note.

This technique is ridiculously easy, and it still surprises me that so few people take the time to use it. It separates you quite vividly from those who appear to take others for granted, so let’s keep it our little secret.

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