Full Circle – From Participant, to Sponsor, to Associate

By: Sue Workman

[Today’s Tuesday Reading is from Sue Workman, Leadership Coach and Workshop Facilitator at MOR Associates.  Sue may be reached at sueworkman@morassociates.com or via LinkedIn.]

MOR is 40 years old!  What started by one man with a vision (Brian, that’s you) engaging with others, has successfully grown and benefitted 6,000+ of us as leaders, as well as our institutions.  Thinking of this success makes me a bit nostalgic.

I first met MOR and Brian McDonald 17 years ago when I was selected to attend the IT Leaders Program in the first cohort from Indiana University (IU).  A big shout out to my CIC-1 colleagues from Michigan, The Ohio State, Minnesota, and Iowa, and IU.  At the time I thought I already knew how to lead, but I was in for a big surprise, and one that I had no idea would change my life.  Brian led our workshops and coached us along with Lori Green, Gary Augustson, and my coach Jim Bruce.  They were all terrific people who put everything they had into growing us as leaders.  It turns out that often one not only grows as a leader, but also as a person.  I learned so much from this experience from Brian and our coaches, and also from fellow cohort colleagues, many who are still friends to this day.  Sadly, at least one is no longer with us.  I used my learnings from MOR almost every day of my career after that as I progressed, from director and then AVP at IU, and then to VP and CIO at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU).
While MOR teaches us so many skills and gives us tools to apply these learnings, the three most valuable lessons for me so far are:

  • Leading with intention - a determination or plan to do a specific thing
  • Building relationships – a connection between two people
  • Navigating the 3 lenses – Strategic, Political, and Cultural

These skills have been so very valuable to me in my career, and also quite valuable at home.       

IU continued to develop leaders through various cohorts over the years.  Around 2012, I was given the charge to figure out how to bring the very decentralized IT groups together to leverage this very valuable human capital resource to build an even better IU IT team without any mandate or centralization at the time.  One that would work together to serve the IT needs of the faculty, staff, and students in unity, oh and on all 8 campuses (at the time).  Not an easy task, but one that was necessary to move the University forward toward achieving its strategic plan.  One thing I learned as a MOR participant was that I could not do this alone.  I had to build relationships, but not just my relationship with the centralized and distributed IT folks.  I had to figure out how to build their relationships with each other.  To achieve what was asked, I needed help.  Working with other senior leadership at IU, we were able to bring MOR to IU to facilitate an on-sight cohort of our distributed IT leaders.  It worked.  This special cohort developed relationships with each other and with the central IT staff.  They worked on projects with people they had never really met from other schools and departments.  They got to know each other as people, not as “the people in that other school” or even competitors.  Out of this, the 1IUIT concept was born.  We began working with each other, leveraging talents from the various schools and campuses, and tackling big issues as partners.  IU continues to this day to utilize MOR to help build strong IT leaders.
When I then went to CWRU, I knew I had to build a team within the IT organization.  A real team, where we all win together and we all lose together.  No one could win at the expense of another.  Again, I called on MOR to help.  The first cohort were the senior IT leaders.  They learned and grew immensely with every workshop and every coaching session.  They began to trust each other, support each other, and work together, and they became a great leadership team. They have had many successes, and a few knocks, but they would always come together.  We decided that we wanted to progress with a MOR experience for anyone in the organization who was a manager or above or had a technology leadership position.  I was soon hearing phrases, like “may I offer you some feedback” and “let’s get out of the weeds”.  It was working.  Then, the president asked me to lead a centralization of all of the University’s IT to be placed under my leadership.  Another monumental task.  I knew that my team and I were ready and able to do this.  We did.  Again, with the help of MOR and the coaches who worked with our newest team members.
I had a great career, supported by MOR and many great coaches and mentors along the way.  After 8 years, I needed a change.  This time I went in a very different direction.  It was time to give back.  After leaving a very capable team at CWRU, I wanted to use my leadership skills to help others to grow theirs.  After several talks with Sean and Brian, I knew MOR was the new home for me.  I am now working as a coach and workshop facilitator.  I’m enjoying every bit of it.  The biggest rewards come from watching others realize they are leaders, they can use the skills and tools to make a real difference, they can think strategically and spend time on their own professional growth and the growth of their institutions.  This brings me great joy.
So, I have come full circle – first as a MOR participant, then as the sponsor of MOR cohorts from 2 universities, and now as an Associate.  The people of MOR have changed my life.  I thank you all.  I wish the company 40+ more years of success growing leaders.  I also thank Brian for the many years of standing beside me in various roles, challenging, supporting, and growing me and my teams.  You have been here for me and I will be here for you.

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