Have I ever experienced excellence? I trained as a fellow in transplantation at the University of Minnesota during its peak, and worked with many truly great surgeons and founders of transplantation. I look back at that period fondly, but at the time I was mostly stressed and tired. I think it is not uncommon to realize “after the fact” the excellence of a program or specific teacher. For more on this, I recommend the book “Strings Attached: One Tough Teacher and the Gift of Great Expectations” by Joanne Lipman and Melanie Kupchynsky. Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, these authors spoke at Interlochen.
What is the common ground between these examples that gives me this perception of excellence? I think in large part it is the gift of high expectations. Expecting great things from students tends to yield great things, and not expecting great things will yield less than great, or even worse mediocre. Of course, we all need a kick in the gluteus maximus sometimes to make this happen. The trick for those doing the kicking - coaches, band directors, business leaders, principal investigators, parents, etc is when and how hard to kick – to motivate and push without creating resentment, discouragement, or self doubt in the receiver; to help them see the greatness in themselves that they can’t yet see. I guess this is the gift of those that create excellence, and something I am certainly trying to develop as a parent, lab leader, and physician. What is the result? Huggy Rao, Profesor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resources at Stanford, says that excellence is “when people do the right thing, even when no one is watching.” As a PI, business leader, teacher, and especially as a parent, what could be better?
For more information see:
Strings Attached: One Tough Teacher and the Gift of Great Expectations by Joanne Lipman and Melanie Kupchynsky (available at Amazon or your favorite bookseller)
Scaling up Excellence: Huggy Rao at Tedx University of Nevada.