Connecting the Dots Transcript

Dr. Carine Feyten:
Well, hi, everyone. Comó estan?. I have the privilege to be your chancellor and president here at Texas Woman's University. And I thought I would spend a few minutes, well, maybe like 10 minutes is what I told I would have, with you to talk a little bit about leadership and the kinds of things that I have sort of learned in my life. So I am titling this Connecting the Dots. And the reason I'm calling it that way is, to use Steve Jobs' famous quote... You all know who Steve Jobs is? Yeah. The one who started Apple and the iPhone and all that. So a really smart man.

And what he said is, when you make decisions in life, and you choose certain paths, you do certain actions, you do that based on your own beliefs, your values, and you do what you think is the right step, each step of the way. But it's not really until later when you look back again at your life, and you look at all these different events that you have done and participated in, that you actually see the thread between all of them. That's how you can connect the dots. It's later, when you look back at your life, that you can do that. So I'm going to try to tell you a couple of stories about some dots in my life that I think have really influenced me, or where I see that reflect my own values, beliefs. And so, after the fact, as I look back, I'm like, "Oh yeah, that made sense. This and this and this, and how they all influenced each other." So I hope it'll be helpful. And I hope you can walk away with a couple of thoughts that hopefully will stick with you.

So my first one is a story that happened to me like a long time ago, maybe 15 years ago, maybe a little more. And I was doing a live TV show in Miami, Florida. And so I had been asked to talk on TV about this whole program and second language acquisition at the time. And we arrived at nine o'clock in the morning at the studio to prepare for the actual live TV that was going to take place that afternoon. So we practiced all morning. I was on the panel and moderating. And we had teleprompters and we practiced everything. And okay, everybody's really great. Comes the time, three o'clock in the afternoon, to do the live show. So it's not a videotape that you can edit. It's live, with who knows how many viewers.

And so we get the signal, five, four, three, two, one. The live comes on. And what happens, the teleprompter stops, and nothing. And I'm the one who's supposed to start with the whole discussion. So in that fraction of a second, I mean, fraction of a second, your mind analyzes the whole situation. You think, "Okay, I can either dash right out of here, or hide under the table, or just go with it. And I guess, my lesson to you is that, in that moment, and I guess that it's less than a fraction of a second, you don't have really time to analyze all the pros and cons and all of that, but you have to trust yourself and you have to trust yourself that you have been prepared for this moment.

And what I mean by that is, that whole day, as I mentioned earlier, we worked all day. One, this was an area of expertise of mine, so I knew what I was talking about. Two, I had been preparing all day with the teleprompters. I knew what we were going to say, et cetera. We really spent a lot of time. We did our homework. So then, when the time came, I could trust myself that it was okay and I could make that jump, and trust that I was going to be okay because I was prepared. My whole life I had experienced, studied this, and now, I had done all the homework. So it was okay.

And so the lesson, I think, is that when there are these moments, don't be confined by a script, or by the box that you've been put in. At that moment, when you have been prepared for something, and you've done everything it takes to be prepared, take a chance, take a risk. Jump. And it is really liberating, and you learn so much about yourself. And you learn you actually can do it. So it makes you more confident. So the next time around, it will be even easier to step up to the plate. So the last thing you want to do is retreat. So really, I would say, trust yourself is the big message here. And be prepared. Do the homework and do what it takes. So that was my one takeaway, I guess, from the big TV station experience.

And I would say that a corollary of that also is that when this thing happened with the teleprompter, you sort of have to be in the moment. Your mind cannot be somewhere else. You have to truly engage fully in the moment, be present. And at that moment, then you can also look at things as an opportunity and seize the opportunity and go with it. So it's similar, but a slightly different take on that.

So another story. It was several years ago. I was an assistant professor at the time at a university. And I had gone to a conference at a university where the president of the university gave a welcome to all the participants. The normal, usual thing. And I remember sitting in the audience and looking at this president, and she seemed like a just wonderful, warm person. Also, very, very smart, had just written a book. I mean, just everything about her was really impressive to me. And I remember sitting in the audience as a young assistant professor and thinking, "Wow, if ever I were to be in a role like that, that's how I would want to be." So I'm telling you that story... Because actually I long forgotten. This was many, many years ago. But then as I think back now, and I look back, I can see how I have done certain things and acted certain ways, based on that. This particular role model, so to speak, influenced me.

And I think the message here is that everything that you do sends a message to other people. And so think about that. Everything you do is sort of a role model for others as well. And at the same time, when you look at other people, everyone, anyone could be a role model for you. And what I mean by that, not necessarily that you have to like everything that they do, but you might look for certain aspects and think, "Ooh, I really like this, or I definitely would never do that." And those are all really, really helpful experiences that help us prepare for the next leadership situation. So again, remember, be mindful of the people around you, watch what they do, be present, notice. Because you will pick up a lot of things. And things that you really like, make a note to yourself. And eventually you might do them. And similarly, remember that everything you do, and how you say it, and how you behave also will be a huge message to everybody else.

And related to that point, I want to talk to you about one of my favorite topics. And that is that when you have a message for someone, we often think that the words that we use and what we say is the most important thing. And we'll think a lot about that. Whether you send an email, or a text, or when you speak to somebody face-to-face. And what we forget is that only 7% of your message that you try to communicate to someone actually comes from words. That means that 93% of your message gets communicated through everything else. Your body language, your intonation, your eye contact, or lack thereof, everything that you do, everything about your behavior, your behavior in general will send way, way, way more messages to the other person than the words you use. So that goes hand in hand to what I was just talking about earlier with being a role model. Remember, it's not just what you say. It's who you are, how you are, how you interact with people sends so many messages to everyone else. So keep that in mind.

All right. So one more story. For about three years in a row now, well, within this year, because it was discontinued, but we participated in Outdoor Nation. It was a national  championship with universities around the country around the idea of being outdoors as much as possible, and do activities and enjoy the outdoors. And so we participate with all the universities around the country, many. And we were coming in third, we were coming in second. And we thought, [inaudible 00:08:48]. So finally, last year, we pulled all stops and we won. We were number one in the country in terms of number of outdoor activities and number of people who participated.

And we were invited later on at a conference and talking about why, at Texas Woman's, did we think that was so important. And basically, a lot of what we talked about is that when you really shoot for something that you think is important, and we can reach that goal, even though it looked like... We were competing with university in Utah, in Colorado, had the beautiful outdoors. We are much smaller. We university primarily for women. So it seemed like there were a lot of factors that weren't in our favor. But we showed everyone we could do this. When we set our goal to it, we set our mind to it, nothing stands in the way. We can do it when we work together. And it was a real partnership with Fit and Rec, the various units in the university, and everyone participated. And that is the power of engagement and the power of bringing everyone together.

So how am I tying this to my message to you about leadership? Well, the one aspect about this particular championship was that it was aspirational. It was something that we at first would never have thought was achievable. But once we set our mind to it, it was an aspirational goal. And we went with it, and inspired everyone at the university. So everyone really participated in it. And that's what made the difference. Everyone's heart was in it. We managed to inspire people.

And so, as a leader, a big aspect of your leadership role is to share your belief, and have an inspiring message and something that everyone can really relate to and see the importance of it. In other words, you talk about why you're doing something. Not necessarily what you're doing, but why. Why are you doing this? Because it is something you really believe in it. You can describe that part of it. 

So, anyway, I don't want to go on too long. I know that I'm probably running out of time already. But I wanted to just give you a couple of those dots, events in my life. And again, going back to what I said in the beginning, is when I look back at all of these, I see how they all make a thread and are sort of a logical path to where I am today. So I went to an all girls boarding school when I was young and in high school. And here I am, at a university primarily for women. All of these various decisions, learning to step out and take a chance, take a risk. I am from Belgium and here I am in Texas. So all of these different events and opportunities that I took advantage of along the way is what led me here and why I feel so wonderful about being here with all of you.

So I hope this has been helpful. I look forward to meeting you all when we can see each other face-toface. I would love to get to know you. And please reach out if you have any questions. Thank you and enjoy your day, and happy weekend. Feliz fin de semana.

Page last updated 11:15 AM, October 8, 2020