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The Newest Member Reflects on the 2022 MOR Strategic Offsite

| September 6, 2022

by Tim Slottow

[Today’s Tuesday Reading is from Tim Slottow, MOR Associates Leadership Coach.  Tim may be reached at [email protected].]


A better title for this Tuesday Reading might be, “Practice What We Preach +1+1+1”.    I’m one of the newest members to the MOR Associates family and I just returned from my first annual 3 day Strategic Offsite with the team (28 total).  To be perfectly honest, my first reflection is that, well, I’m exhausted!  However, I am also energized and grateful, and a few pounds heavier than I was when I arrived at the Lake Sebago summer camp turned MOR Strategic Offsite. 


I am exhausted because for three full days I was asked to constantly:

  • Get out of my comfort zone
  • Stretch and challenge my thinking, practices, assumptions and goals
  • Absorb new material like a sponge (listen with intention), process it and provide my own insight/reflections
  • Get in and out of engaging breakout exercises with smart, caring colleagues who kept me on my toes and never failed to enlighten and create new perspective
  • Practice the 4I’s – initiate, inquire, invest, influence


I’m energized about the future.  Why? Because I have a number of newly acquired skills and capabilities to practice going forward that will enhance my coaching and facilitation.  And just as important, I’m excited about the future of MOR Associates and our plans to reach new levels of impact and evolve programs, practices and operational excellence in our back-office to meet the evolving needs of our leaders, their teams and institutions.


I am grateful because of the overwhelming feeling of “belonging”, belonging to a family of incredibly skilled professionals with deep expertise and experiences, willing to drop almost anything to help me when I ask.  And a team of individuals who share a common commitment to helping leaders, teams and institutions achieve strategically impactful results through leadership.  At some point over the three days, every single member of the team personally reached out to me to ensure I felt included and welcome — leading from where they are, walking the talk of a genuine culture of inclusion and values based behavior.


Reflecting on the agenda as it came to life, I was struck by a several things:


  1. The mix:  The almost equal mix of individual professional development, community building and getting up on the balcony.   In pursuit of individual growth, we completed the CliftonStrengths assessment, enhanced our understanding of leadership styles, worked on coaching for accountability and results, and learned about “latent learning” and how to leverage that phenomenon to improve coaching results.  The community building was especially valuable to me to get to know the team on a personal level and hear all sorts of great stories including how much harder “orientation” was in the old days from the more experienced team members. And of course, as expected, we were relentless about getting up on the balcony together to think hard about evolving trends in higher education, the necessary competencies of effective leaders into the future, the future state of MOR, the gaps, and what it will take to get to that future state.  We even discussed how MOR’s fundamental leadership model needs to evolve to meet those needs.


  1. Hybrid and DEI.  We also looked at the leadership needs of a hybrid-work world and the skills needed to create environments and teams that are Diverse, Equitable, Inclusive and Accessible.  We debated over how MOR programs need to evolve to meet the changing needs of individual leaders, teams and organizations.


  1. Performance AND Humbleness:  MOR Associates has an admirable track record over the last 39 years of developing leaders to make sustainable improvements in their effectiveness.  Over the last 10 years our client retention rate was 90%.  Through the last 3 pandemic years we not only survived but we thrived, with incredibly high client satisfaction rates that were constant through massive change from in-person to virtual to hybrid programming.  I was struck by the juxtaposition of, on the one hand, these great performance metrics and how well the business is positioned coming out of the pandemic to continue to create the next generation of leaders, and on the other hand, the palpable sense of humbleness and a relentless focus on simply how to do even better with every facet of the mission (e.g., program structure, program mix, program delivery, how we connect with and serve alumni, how we enhance the individual and organizational benefits of these efforts, etc.).


  1. Customers:  I was blown away at how much time we spent listening to customers.  We had separate real-time conversations with five highly respected customers who told us what was working and what we could do better.  We discussed results from the “Voices of the Customer” focus groups completed this past year.  And we had substantive conversations about what we were hearing and what that meant for the future of MOR’s ability to continue to “change the world one leader at a time” and achieve strategically impactful results with all of our clients.


  1. Accountability:  This was the opposite of a typical corporate boondoggle.  We worked our tails off for 3 days and walked away with “to do’s” on our own professional development, our coaching practices, and actions to fill the gaps to ensure MOR Associates achieves the desired future state 5 years from now.



  1. Connection with Past Epiphanies:  There have been 11 MOR strategic offsites over the last 20 years.  In our 3 days, we spent time considering priorities coming out of past strategic offsites to evaluate how we did on those areas of focus, reflecting on what worked and what didn’t and discussed how that led to where we are today and what it means going forward.  I liked this reflection, acknowledgement and continuous learning and accountability.


Finally, I’m happy to report that we provided valuable feedback and feedforward to our leaders, Brian and Sean.  Importantly, I think you’ll be happy to know that they said “Thank you”, and incorporated our feedforward into their end-of-meeting “next steps” with clear assignments to themselves and team members.   And even though it was exhausting, it’s a blessing to be part of an organization focused on changing the world one leader at a time, achieving strategic impactful results for every single client, and truly practicing what we preach on a daily basis.  At the end of the 3 days, it is clear to me that the members of the MOR team and those that we have the privilege to serve have this one simple thing in common, we are all working hard each day on being the leaders who we would want to follow.


This Week’s Survey

How often does your team get together for at least a half day of strategic planning?


From Last Week
Last week we asked: How are you feeling about the start of the academic year?

  • 48% said I’m ready for the immediate and the longer-term strategic.
  • 21% said I’m ready for the immediate, but not the longer-term.
  • 12% said I’m almost ready.
  • 19% said I’m in reactionary mode.

For the nearly half of us that were ready for both the immediate and longer-term at the start of the academic year, congratulations and good work on your preparation!  For the third of us who felt somewhat ready but still longed for more, we hope you feel closer to where you want to be.  And finally, for the almost one out of every five of us who feel in reactionary mode: know you are not alone.  The pandemic has perhaps enabled us to build our strengths in being reactive in responding.  While this is an important skill to have, there is also opportunity to adapt and transform in this continually changing environment.