Author: Don – Page 2

Leadership Communique, 10/27/2013

Good Sunday to each of you.

Another week of the Fall semester has evaporated as we move deeper into the academic term.

Halloween this week to be followed in rapid succession by the Thanksgiving holiday, final exams and term projects due, and, suddenly, it is Fall Commencement. Activities and deadlines will escalate over the next few weeks.

It is sound counsel, however, for you to keep your ” eyes on the prize”, hold fast to your priorities and successfully complete the term. A dimension of that success is “life in balance”, often easier to suggest than to actually achieve, especially when the demands of deadlines approach. Planning and preparation in advance are reliable allies when multiple responsibilities begin to crowd your agendas.

This is Homecoming Week at UCO when alumni and current students celebrate the legacy, creativity and energy of this historic university. Amidst the other opportunities during these days, I encourage you to participate in some of the many events packed into these few days.

I am certain that some of you are connecting with friends in your organizations to be part of the “Cheer and Dance” competition on Friday evening, November 1st. This has been a “must attend” program for years. I am sure I will see many of you that night. The next morning we will all gather for the Homecoming Parade, this year with a record number of entries. The tailgate party is at noon and the football game follows at 2PM. Throughout the week, we will celebrate “There’s No Place Like Central”.

This week, Lessons in Leadership is pleased to welcome Dan Boren as our guest leader. This is a young, accomplished Oklahoma public servant you will want to hear and meet. Dan has served with distinction as a member of the US House of Representatives for the 2nd District of Oklahoma which includes most of eastern Oklahoma from Kansas to Texas east of Tulsa. During my tenure at Northeastern State University, I had the opportunity to work with him on initiatives relevant to the people of our state. His record of public service and his perspective of the vital role of leaders at both the local and national levels are admirable and will enrich the few minutes we will have him with us on Tuesday. I urge you to learn about his work in Congress and his current emerging leadership role with the Chickasaw Nation and economic development. Dan Boren will be a continuing, leading figure in Oklahoma for years to come.

When you find these comments on the blog site, there should also be access to articles and comments I place on Twitter. Today I will post a link to a fascinating piece that appeared in the November 2013 issue of The Atlantic.

James Fallows, an award-winning writer, surveyed leading scientists, historians and other to create a list of the defining invention and discoveries since pre-history. The result is “The 50 Greatest Breakthroughs Since The Wheel”. In his subtitle comments, Fallows offers this framework. “Why did it take so long to invent the wheelbarrow? Have we hit peak innovation? What our list reveals about imagination, optimism, and the nature of progress”?

What follows is an informative and stimulating sequence of humanity’s technological progress with linkage from one discovery to another. By offering the list in reverse order, from 50 to 1, Fallow invites you to make your own list and sequencing.

We know that imagination, creativity and innovation have strong links to leadership development. I encourage you to take a few moments and review this article.

There will a many public events this Homecoming week and I look forward to seeing you throughout the coming days.

A thought for today is from Socrates: “Wisdom begins in wonder.”

Take care,

Don Betz

Leadership Communique, 10/20/2013

It is Sunday, and we are reaching for our UCO sweatshirts this morning. The young maple tree in our yard has begun its transition toward winter as its leaves move from green to shades of light red and burnt orange. Given the wide variety of plantings across the campus, we will see the full spectrum of autumnal colors at UCO in the coming weeks.

Here in the USA, this past week saw the country move away from political deadlines and financial cliffs as last minute, temporary compromises in Congress produced legislation that re-opened the federal government and authorized the country to raise its debt limit and thereby meet its immediate financial obligations.

But anyone seeking lasting relief from the contentious issues that have divided the nation must wait for another day. The current “fix” has been characterized as “kicking the can down the road”. There was no resolution of the outstanding issues because there is no consensus on priorities or direction. It should be noted that the impasse and the continuing absence of basic consensus is being perceived outside the USA in less than favorable ways. Given the interconnected nature of our planet, there are few issues and decisions that do not have multiple global consequences. We are inextricably interconnected in countless ways to the world physically beyond our borders.

Martha Burger is a highly respected UCO alum who shared her experience and insights with us. She focused on key leadership concepts, developed them with cogent examples and left us with a “quotable quotation” to exemplify each precept. I believe that Martha exemplifies the very characteristics she highlighted. Authenticity, vision, strategy, communication, legacy and other leadership ideals were among her litany of preferred traits. Martha was adept at linking concept with application. She also offered pragmatic advice relevant to securing and keeping a professional position.

I found her four-part response to preparing for success highly useful. She advised to volunteer, over-deliver, present solutions and pay it forward. In the end, how you demonstrate what you know, how you learn, how you collaborate and that you are trustworthy clearly positions you for optimal possibilities.

Never underestimate the power of persistence linked to talent, initiative, passion and a sense of purpose. As you know, we often link the discussion on growing leaders to public service and civic engagement. These are community and society-building initiatives that can change lives and transform states.

For your community, for the state, the country and beyond, you become a vital actor in the growth and change of society. Human talent is our true sustainable asset which will guide us in successfully addressing the unending list of opportunities and challenges that will define our current and future circumstance. This is one of the reasons why we at UCO place a focused emphasis on the intentional encouragement and development of leaders. To care for this place, be it local or global, your neighborhood or the planet, authentic, visionary caring leaders are needed. To encourage you in your development is why we gather together in PLC, LOT and Lessons in Leadership.

Make a small difference in a big way this week.

Take care,

Don Betz

Leadership Communique, 10/13/2013

Good morning.

It is Fall Break Sunday and I trust that you have made the most of this extended weekend to enjoy some of your favorite interests.

I know that among you are volunteers who participated in the “Alternative Spring Break” rehab work in Shawnee and other locations with Jarrett. I hope that the time and energy you spent assisting in various ways was as meaningful for you as I am sure it was helpful for those who you assisted.

It is in those moments that theory meets reality. Participating in such worthy work together, as a group, often builds new bonds among you and you learn about one another and the power of collaboration. I know that many of you are seasoned veterans of volunteer work from your high school days, and these purposeful projects should reinforce your resolve of why you undertake such work in the first place.

There has been little movement this past week in breaking the Washington DC impasse. With the partial federal government shutdown now into its second week and the rapid approach of the limit on government borrowing which funds government spending, both Congress and the President are approaching a rare moment in America’s political history. While the government was brought to a halt briefly in 1995, the combination of the layoffs of federal government employees and the halting of certain government services simultaneously due to the inability to borrow, is unusual with some analysts contending that it is unprecedented.

Blame and finger-pointing must be replaced soon by collaboration and bi-partisanship for the well-being of the country, including America’s international reputation. Democracies have always been characterized as fragile systems because they rest on a foundation of consultation, compromise and the willingness to accept an outcome that does not meet 100% of any individual or group’s list of aspirations. Our unique political system rests on the three branches of government acting as separate institutions sharing power and that partisan interests are brokered to address the “common good”. It may be safe to say that now that there is not a shared sense of what that public good actually is among two of the branches and the political parties.

These are difficult circumstances that call upon the best in us to see beyond our own interests. It is the moment for leadership and statesmanship to prevail over more narrow measures of “winning and losing”. There are examples and lessons in leadership, or its absence, all around us.

We are truly pleased to welcome Martha Burger to the Lessons session this week. Martha has risen to the highest level of leadership in her profession and has worthwhile professional and personal lessons to share with us. She is a UCO alum and a highly appreciated supporter of the university including serving over the past few years as the co-chair of UCO’s highly successful “Always Central” fundraising campaign. She can speak to us about the pathways to success in corporate America and about her leadership experience. She is engaging by nature, so I encourage you to be ready with questions for her either during the dialogue with her or individually just after the session.

A thought to consider this week is anonymously attributed. ” When all the choices are bad, leadership emerges.” There are those moments in life when circumstances call out to someone, to you perhaps, to step up and help clarify whatever impasse may appear as insoluble. Such leadership is, by definition, selfless, and may be effective only in that instance, and at that time. But, at that moment, it becomes a critical factor for success.

Tomorrow is Columbus Day, an official remembrance of the man who for generations was credited with the European discovery of the New World. We now know he was a vital player in the opening of the Americas to European colonization, but not the first to walk on Western Hemisphere shores.

Learning and the search for knowledge, understanding and truth continues.

I wish you a marvelous week and continuing success.

Don Betz

Leadership Communique, 10/6/2013

Good morning,

Did you walk outside early on Saturday morning? The overnight showers were accompanied the first genuine blast of fall weather. The temperature on campus about 6AM was 46 degrees. Those UCO sweatshirts you may have on a shelf somewhere are finally going to be put to use. By Homecoming weekend in early November, we should see autumn colors across the UCO grounds.

This week David Cid offered you portraits of globally-lauded leaders and simple, clear reasons why each is revered. From Gandhi’s vision to Churchill’s relentless focus on success to Martin Luther King’s capacity to inspire actions here in the USA and around the world as well, David’s profiles in leadership create a challenging list of suggested attributes. An enduring aspect of leadership behavior is the discipline to focus. David counseled to “think deeply about your art and your profession”.

He quoted the maxim used by Malcolm Gladwell that success is rooted in passion, talent and the infamous 10,000 hours. He is lauding the power of persistence, patience and discipline. In his volume, The Outliers, Gladwell undertook extensive research among those who excelled in a variety of professions and endeavors. From champion European hockey teams to accomplished musicians, those who responded affirmed that 10,000 hours of diligent effort is the minimum to attain a level of accomplishment. The old New York comedy routine has more than a seed of truth when it quipped, “So, how do you get to Carnegie Hall?? Practice, practice, practice!”

He also emphasized that we don’t achieve success in isolation. There is a team, a posse, others, individually and collectively who during our lives serve as our mentors and collaborators as we strive to develop our abilities and capacities to learn, to lead and to serve. David Cid counsels us to give credit to those who have inspired and taught us, as often by example as by word.

This was another week of impasse in US domestic politics as the parties appear to be unable to find common ground. As the lack of consensus persists, concern mounts both domestically and internationally, increasing anxiety and a sense of instability. Within two weeks the Congress and President will face the existing controversy of raising of the debt in order to fund government operations. Those serving in federal leadership positions are facing tests of their abilities to lead in this moment of sobering challenge.

I have recently returned from a combined journey to China and South Korea. The mission had multiple purposes including visits with existing university partners in both countries, signing new agreements with a number of new institutions to encourage both faculty and students exchanges as well as promote UCO as a preferred educational destination in the USA. We also met with a spirited group of Korean UCO grads in Seoul with the intention of creating a UCO chapter in this highly developed country with a rich cultural history. I will share more with you later, but UCO’s global profile is attractive to international institutions, faculty and students alike. Enhancing our students’ global and cultural competencies is one of UCO’s key high impact practices in what we call “transformative learning” which places you at the center of your education.

Savor the fresh breeze out of the north today, a serious change in our weather pattern for the past several months.

Former US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, years ago offered this perspective on one of the consequences of learning : “Man’s mind, stretched to a new idea, never returns to its original destination”.

May this week be filled with opportunities to to test Holmes’ assertion.

Take care,

Don Betz

Leadership, Communication And Checking The Compass

Good morning to each of you.

It is another Sunday as we now sense the onset of fall.  This rain reminds me of my early days as a boy in Seattle. A gentler drizzle than we usually experience in Oklahoma, but the refreshing of the air and the nurturing of the land and us is the same.

This past week was dominated by political struggles in the country and touch-and-go diplomacy abroad related to Syria, Iran and other issues.  The world’s leaders will gather this week at the United Nations headquarters in New York City for the annual opening of the UN General Assembly, the body to which all 194 member states are officially accredited. Much closer to home are the issues of immediate interest to you.

But this session will be a particularly relevant and closely-monitored gathering given the gravity of the issues facing the international community.  Heads of state and governments will address that Assembly over several days.  President Obama will be speaking early in the session, likely this coming Tuesday.

We were indeed fortunate to welcomed Oklahoma Senator Clark Jolley as our Lessons in Leadership presenter this past week.  Senator Jolley is a staunch advocate for higher education in our state.  As you know his district includes UCO and he is most helpful to the university is its relationship with the Oklahoma legislature.

I appreciated Clark’s message on leadership under fire.  He and all who serve in pivotal leadership positions quickly experience the maxim that someone is going to be unhappy with whatever decision you reach or action you initiate.  As a leader you deal with criticism.  How you do so differentiates affirming, successful leaders from others.  He was most helpful in counseling that we differentiate the policy differences from the personalities advocating or challenging them.  This can translate into demanding choices where there is not fully a right or wrong answer.  In those moments, transformative leaders are guided by a set of values and an implicit understanding of the short and long-term impact of the decision.  Clark spoke to earning the respect of colleagues and even adversaries if you are honest and transparent in your motivations and actions.

None of this is easy.  No one should pretend that it is.  Hundreds of volumes and countless addresses and seminars have been devoted to exploring the depths and modes of effective leadership. Clark’s counsel about the primacy of communication as a potent leadership tool is among his most actionable advice. The prime facets of communication, speaking, writing, reading and listening, can combine, over time and with practice, to be key in a leader’s ability to serve others no matter the role or circumstance. Listening, active listening, can be among the most effective tools of effective leadership.  Like all mastered skills, it requires practice and persistence and, I believe, the clear motivation for the use of the tool and the leadership position. What moves us to accept an opportunity in the first place?  A possible topic for a later conversation.

By now you should have a clearer measure of expectations for success in the university environment.  I hope that you are making connections with organizations and activities that interest you, and that you are beginning to identify reliable and motivated learning partners here among the class as well as with other students.  It is not too early to begin the search for a mentor or mentors, those members of our UCO community, factory and staff, with whom you make a connection and can offer you guidance, encouragement and perspective as the year continues to unfold.  Jarrett ( our Dr. Jobe) is a most likely and useful place to begin, as I am sure many of you have discovered.  Please overcome whatever reticence you may have and reach out.  There is an entire university community ready to assist you as you sort out the opportunities and complexities of decision-making.  We are here to help you learn and succeed.

Make this last full week in September an occasion to review your first 6 weeks at UCO and insure that your compass is set on “true north” for you. I know it can seem like you are frenetically moving from one class, event and demand to another without making the clear connection between what you are doing and why.

We all need to check to be sure that we have our “eyes on the prize” as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once counseled.  I highly recommend it.  This personal checklist helps me often during the week.

I wish each of you a week of discovery, of learning and creating new connections with others, and also a time to refresh with friends and have fun.

I believe in you.  You will make a difference.

Don Betz


Lt. Gov. Lamb, a 9/11 Community Moment and a first look at Syria

Good Sunday to each of you,

Another week has flashed by in a flurry of classes, activities and events.  Over the past few mornings there has been just a hint of fall as the temperatures and humidity moderate just enough from previous weeks.  Leaves are beginning to dot the campus as a prelude to the coming seasonal transition.

And then there are the crickets, and another national news story chronicling the natural challenges many associate with Oklahoma. We are known as a hospitable people, but I believe I am safe in concluding that all will be ready to bid these swarming visitors goodbye.

This week we were delighted to host Lt. Governor Todd Lamb twice in as many days.  During his time with you at L in L, Todd spoke about his story, his road to the public service office he now holds.  His current position has him traveling almost all the time, crisscrossing Oklahoma promoting economic development and job creation.  Both he and Gov. Fallin hold the distinction this year of serving as the chairs of their respective national governors and lieutenant governors associations.  Oklahoma has never before enjoyed this spotlight on its state leadership.

Todd clearly believes that the state’s future is built on the quality of its citizens which, in turn, rely on the quality of its education and its leadership.  I have mentioned to you that human talent is society’s only truly sustainable resource.  Simply stated, the Oklahoma, our nation and the globe invest in securing the future by investing in youth, the citizenry and “leadership-in-training”.

Todd was speaking to you AND about you. We create programs and opportunities to cultivate your and others leadership understanding, appreciation and capabilities precisely because our communities, state and national leadership pool must be consistently replenished with talented, motivated, principled men and women who choose public service as a life pathway.  We are investing in you.

Todd focused at L in L on each of you refining yours skills and your ability and passion of learning, leading and serving, and then openly encouraged you to use your knowledge, expertise and passion right here in Oklahoma.  He does not mean that you should not seek knowledge, experience and skills in other places.  Rather, the message is to focus your collective energies and expertise here in state to help our people and communities grow and prosper. I know that many of you are sorting out what your interests might be, and what major disciplines and careers you might pursue.  The message is that as you are about this important process, keep in mind your opportunities as a citizen and leader in the state.

Our 9/11 ceremony Wednesday at Broncho Lake was a moment to remember.  My appreciation to all who organized the event, and to everyone who participated in creating this powerful community activity.  Lt. Gov. Lamb reminded us of that fateful morning now 12 years behind us.  Some of you were in early primary school.  It was a profound, disturbing, collective time for our country when the President was deliberately on the move in Air Force One, fears mounted about the possibility of more attacks and a strange silence fell over our skies when for the first time in history there were virtually no planes allowed into American skies.  Everyone here and many abroad have stories to relate to generations to come.

Our answer to such assaults is not to hunker down in fear.  This is precisely what such enemies would want.   Rather, we returned to our work and our lives more resolute to preserve and protect our communities and country and at the same time uphold the freedoms for all that are the unique characteristics of the American system.

Gov. Lamb was truly pleased to spend time with you on both days and appreciated the questions you posed both before the class and in person. You represented yourselves and UCO with distinction.

This has also been a week of global focus on Syria, the USA and Russia as global diplomacy moved in unpredictable ways to address the Syrian civil war, use of chemical weapons on Syrian citizens with the resulting tragic loss of life, and the impending vote in Congress to authorize President Obama to undertake a military response.  All of this is swirling in the traditional and social media countless times per day.  But from last Monday until today, the result of what Reuters Press Agency in the United Kingdom characterized as “seat of the pants diplomacy”, a coalition of the moment has emerged between the USA and Russia to identify and collect all of Syria’s chemical weapons in an operation still to be determined.  There was lightening quick agreement among several parties to proceed, and thereby, at least for now, postpone the Congressional vote and the US military response against Syria.

There are endless details, and an historical, political and sectarian prequel and backdrop to all that you may see or hear about the current circumstances.  What should be noted at this point is that circumstances can shift suddenly and mutual strategic interests can bring nations and leaders together in common cause that just days before may have seemed impossible.  Leaders from different countries and organizations are making decisions, or not, that are influencing how the world and the USA takes next steps.  This issue is broader and larger than Syria and has truly become an international crisis requiring the full measure of attention by the USA and the international community.

There are lessons in leadership all about us every day. Watch this global issue continue to unfold.

I wish you a particularly fruitful week.  I am truly pleased that you are members of the UCO community.


My best wishes,


Don Betz