The Six P’s (Keys) to Success

Recently it was my honor to host a group of more than 30 female leaders from 12 colleges for the “Breakfast with the President” series held by the Massachusetts American Council on Education—National Network for Women Leaders (ACE-NNWL).

It was wonderful to have such an accomplished group of women on campus and to be able to share our experiences and encourage each
other as female college leaders.

As host of the event, I was asked to share about my “Life’s Lessons from Inside (and Beyond) the Academy.” The key focus of my talk was what I consider the six keys (or Six P’s) to success.

Passion – If you don’t love what you’re doing, do something else.

Planning – As is often said, if you don’t know where you’re going, any path will take you there. Consider what you want to achieve in your personal and professional life.

Perseverance – Develop the focus and have the “grit” to carry it out. Be willing to adjust your goals as needed.

Performance – Results matter. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. If your manager doesn’t hold you to performance goals, set your own and communicate them.

Play – Consider what brings you joy. Surprisingly, even as an equestrian, a hobby I love, I have learned a few lessons in leadership. For example, the importance of focusing beyond the jump, of applying firm and steady pressure to the horse, and being willing to adapt to the horse’s reactions.

Positive attitude – Demonstrate a positive attitude about your abilities and your organization. If you don’t believe in these, how can you possibly expect others to? During an interview at Nichols, we often ask the question – “What makes you think you’re the right person for this job?”

I hope that you will find some of these tips helpful as you move forward in achieving your own goals.

Alumnus Jack MacPhail ’65

During the September 21 and 22 homecoming weekend, it was a pleasure for me to meet up with many of our alumni. A special highlight of the weekend was the Alumni Awards Ceremony on Friday evening.

During that event, one of the award recipients, alumnus John “Jack” D. MacPhail ’65 delivered a speech that eloquently captures what many alumni have told me about Nichols. Here is an excerpt from his talk.

As I look back at my time at Nichols and wondered why I travelled the distance to be here and will continue to come this distance, I realized this: Very simply, Nichols took me in, nourished me, grew me, sometimes coddled me, sometimes was much more aggressive with me and in the end, brought out my potential and made me feel very good about myself. So, I think that’s what makes this place so special.

I think of it very much as an incubator, a place where women and men of previously undiscovered talent come, are nourished and are launched out after that four-year cycle Susan talks about in her writings, to very simply flourish many times beyond where they ever thought they could get to. That’s the ultimate draw for me to this very special place on the Hill.

And so I’d close with this: Look around you, take a run up to Dresser Hill Road tomorrow and look back at this very special, beautiful place. In my opinion, much of the work has been done: The physical part is impressive; the faculty first rate; the administration equally first rate-all that work has been done.

Thank you Jack for sharing about Nichols’ memories so close your heart. Your words will ring true for years to come.

A favorite recent read is “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. The book discusses how hundreds of habits influence our daily lives, and how organizational habits or routines yield hundreds of “unwritten rules” that influence how companies operate.

Duhigg articulates a process on how to effectively change a habit, which involves: (1) understanding the “cue;” (2) identifying the “reward;” and (3) starting a new “routine.” This book is a must read if you personally have persistent bad habits you would like to break, even ones like weight loss that you have tried and failed at numerous times in the past. It also provides great insights into effective change management in organizations.

The book includes many examples of individuals and organizations that have seen dramatic results from changing habits. Duhigg states “If you believe you can change – if you make it a habit – the change becomes real. This is the real power of habit: the insight that your habits are what you choose them to be. Once that choice occurs – and becomes automatic – it’s not only real, it starts to seem inevitable…” (p. 273).