At the supervision workshop, we received some questions about how to implement the strategies we discussed when their boss wasn’t a great supervisor, when others had lower standards than we were suggesting or when the previous supervisor had not established expectations. My answer: “pocket of greatness.”

It is a term used by Jim Collins in the uber-influential book Good to Great and the accompanying Good to Great and the Social Sectors. Collins writes that “It might take decades to change the entire systemic context, and you might be retired or dead by the time those changes come. In the meantime, what are you going to do now?” He goes on to write: “Every institution has its unique set of irrational and difficult constraints, yet some make a leap while others facing the same environmental challenges do not….Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.”*

To all the aspiring superstar supervisors we had in the workshop – and to all the readers of this dot – I would urge you to heed Collins’ advice and focus on what you CAN do and start there. You can have a great department, even if the rest of the organization is dysfunctional. You can become an influential boss, even if yours isn’t. You can change lives, even if you are the only one doing so.

We often become overwhelmed thinking about how big the problem is when we would be better off focusing on the small steps we can take to make things even a tiny bit better. Consciously choose to start today toward creating your own pocket of greatness.

*p. 30-31 Good to Great and the Social Sectors – A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great by Jim Collins, 2005

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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