Sabbatical Day 0. Friday April 22nd was my last day of work prior to starting my 3-month sabbatical, and it was also the start of the LDS MBA conference. I didn’t even need to change out of business casual – I arrived home from work, ate, and headed over for the 5:30 check in.
Although I have considered getting an MBA in the past and my father taught strategy at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, I haven’t made the leap to get one. I have a masters degree in Information Systems, and 50% of the curriculum was MBA courses (strategy, marketing, organizational behavior, etc.) taught by MBA professors. While I’m sure I would learn a lot and build a good network, I don’t think getting a traditional MBA is in my future. Check out Josh Kaufman’s The Personal MBA – he proposes taking the time and money you would have spent on a traditional MBA to give yourself an education.
Regardless, the lineup of speakers was amazing and I didn’t want to miss it.
- Stephen M. R. Covey – son of Stephen R. Covey (7 Habits), author of The Speed of Trust, CEO
- Robert Gay – early partner with Mitt Romney at Bain Capital. He gave a 2002 convocation address at BYU’s Marriott School which I read a few years ago. His stories about his father working for Howard Hughes and the glut of Wall Street (Paris vs. Hamptons) really stuck with me.
- Dave Ulrich – HR guru, has written over 30 books
- Liz Wiseman – former executive at Oracle, author of Multipliers and Rookie Smarts
- Tom DeLong – Harvard Business School professor of Organizational Behavior
- Aaron Skonnard – co-founder CEO of Pluralsight, an online training company which has raised over $135m and has a valuation of just under $1bn
- Steve Shallenberger – serial entrepreneur
Note taking is one of my super powers. I took a ton of notes throughout the conference. Unfortunately, right now I’m on vacation and don’t have any of those notes with me. Rather than summarize the speeches, I want to share an awesome overarching principle that was reinforced for me:
Write thank you notes.
I stayed up late on Saturday night writing personalized notes to the speakers or Tweeting a thank you. You see, they all donated their time to speak at the conference. They weren’t getting paid, they were paying. They bought their own flights. Two of them had wedding anniversaries that weekend but made the quick trip to speak to us before flying back home.
My goal in writing was just to say “thank you”, and to say it in a meaningful way which demonstrated that I was listening and that I learned. The replies I got were far more than I expected. Here they are:
Stephen M R Covey
@StephenMRCovey thank you for donating your time and coming up to Boston for the LDS MBA conference this weekend! Enjoyed your presentation.
— Derek Christensen (@derekdac) April 24, 2016
Sent a very personalized and thoughtful reply, included three essays relevant to my email, and mailed me two of his books, The Why of Work and Leadership Capital Index. I’m looking forward to reading them during my sabbatical.
On Friday night, prior to her Saturday presentation, I was able to speak with Liz for a few minutes (conference tip – it’s easier to talk to speakers before their presentations). I had listened to Multipliers on Audible during my daily commute and it made me ask a number of questions about my own leadership style.
I couldn’t find an email address for Liz, but following Jason Calacanis’s wisdom that you can generally reach a founder at firstname.lastname@example.org, my email went through.
She wrote a thoughtful response and even offered to help me as I implement my grand plan: be very successful in business, research and write, then speak, consult, and teach. She also invited me to connect with her on LinkedIn.
Tom lives in Boston and offered to make time for me to come into his office to discuss more about the organizational behavior concepts he covered. I may even assist him with some research while I’m on sabbatical.
Aaron is extremely busy, being CEO of a large company and having a large young family. I was excited and a bit surprised when he 1) wrote back, 2) added me on LinkedIn, and 3) followed me on Twitter. Above and beyond.
Next time someone volunteers, speaks, or does something that you appreciate, take time to write a thank you note.