Author Archives: Joel Westa

Summiting Mount Antero

I’m going to take a blog session off from my series on alignment to share some thoughts from my recent week of serving as a mentor for West Point cadets in the collegiate peaks of Colorado though an organization called Officers’ Christian Fellowship. The purpose of OCF and specifically the Rocky Mountain High Program in which I participated is to provide young cadets beginning their military careers with seasoned advice from an experienced (old) and retired (washed-up) senior officer (me) on how to operate and live as Christians in today’s military.

As I wracked my brain thinking and praying about the topics I’d wished I had known in my early military years, it came down to a couple key thoughts, around which I structured all of my lessons.
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Your Vision for the Future

My last post talked about developing strategic alignment within your organization. The first step in accomplishing this is to develop a clear, agreed-upon vision and strategy. The essential task of any leader is to discuss and determine with your boards and with your staff what the “main thing” is for your school.

I often find that there is some confusion between mission and vision. For the purpose of this series of articles, vision is aspirational. It should be a short statement describing the clear and inspirational long-term desired change resulting from an organization’s or program’s work.
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The Important Work of Strategic Alignment

When giving an assessment of an organization for its upcoming strategic planning efforts, I was asked what advice I would give the leader as the organization moved forward. After thinking a bit about the organization, I was at a loss for anything specific.

I really didn’t know the inner workings of the organization, having only watched them from afar and having dealt with some of their constituents. It is a solid, well-led organization that is meeting the needs of its customer base. What I did recommend was the process of a thorough examination of their personnel structure and organizational structure.
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Kale Is My Friend

I’m on my ninth day of a juice fast. I won’t tell you how long I’m planning to go, because I’m afraid I won’t make it. I’m doing this to lose weight, to detox my body, to try something difficult, and to change my poor eating habits. As I sip my lunch bottle of apple, orange, and kale, I’m still waiting for that claim of energy and vigor to kick in. Nine days without coffee. Nine days without chewing. I miss chewing.

Before you think I’ve lost my mind and am just rambling, I have learned a few things about myself and the world we live in, and I’d like to share them with you.
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Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing

I spent 25 years of my life in the Air Force, flying, teaching, planning, and later commanding heavy bomber units. The experiences and stories I have from those days are often the source of some pretty hysterical leadership lessons. I want to share with you one event.
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Filed under Governance, Personnel Issues

Called to Community

CSI just finished its annual installment of the Principal Development Institute (PDI) in Orlando, Florida. In addition to the joy of getting away from Michigan in February, this event, perhaps more than any other CSI event, highlights for me the importance of serving together in a community of likeminded schools.
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Filed under Governance, Trends in education

A Biblical Model for Board Succession

One of the topics I often cover in board development workshops is the concept and practice of establishing a model for board member succession. Whether the transition of board members happens based on the expiration of the defined term, in crisis due to disciplinary reasons, or in the event of the resignation or death of a board member, your board policy should clearly lay out the exit and replacement procedures.

It struck me the other morning while reading Acts 1 that God’s Word provides us with a great example of board succession in a crisis situation—the sudden death of a board member. (If he had not died, he would have been removed for disciplinary reasons, I might add!)

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Feed the Beast

In my 25 years of military service, I spent a good deal of time on the planning staff of some high-powered generals. On one assignment I worked for what we referred to as a “fire breather.” He was high maintenance, egotistical, narcissistic, power driven, and at times tyrannical. He drove his staff to the point of burnout, with weekly firings and one-sided screaming matches the norm.

I worked 85 hours a week for a year and a half straight, with little or no vacation. I remember one year driving 20 hours non-stop from Tucson, Arizona, to Belle Fourche, South Dakota, and back to hunt deer over a three-day period because that was all the time I could have. The last five hours of the drive home were spent with my head out of the truck window, singing at the top of my lungs, trying to stay awake. I must have been quite a sight!

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Board Governance: The Consent Agenda

Dan VanderArk wrote a piece, posted on December 15, titled “Board Meetings in Under 90 Minutes.” As someone who currently sits on four CSI boards and two other private boards, I can attest to the fact that 90 minutes is indeed a lofty goal! It is, however, achievable, using some tools to streamline the process.

One tool that I see used with great success is the consent agenda.

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Board Truisms

Recently I had the privilege of watching two of CSI’s boards meet together to wrestle over some major decisions with regard to CSI’s US pension.

Members of the CSI Board of Trustees and the US Pension Board all thought the issue was so important that they traveled from all over the US and Canada in order to come together to discuss the issues face to face. For six hours these two boards deliberated, weighed the data, discussed options, and heard the feedback they received from many of you.

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