A dream without plans is
Such is the advice that
Andrew K. Benton relied on
after becoming president and
CEO at Pepperdine University in
2000. After studying the institution’s then 63-year history, the
leader set his sight toward
future goals, but not without
first laying a strong foundation
in the present.
You can’t just make bold
proclamations, Benton says.
You also have to invest the time
and planning to make those
goals a reality. To guide such
thinking, the president enlisted
the help of his constituents to
develop a mission statement
that was both profound and
Eight years later, these efforts
have given Benton solid footing while overseeing a fiscal
2007 budget of $267 million
and current enrollment of
Smart Business spoke with
Benton about the importance of
soliciting feedback and setting
goals and how to find balance
in the process.
Look back at history before moving
forward. [Before creating a mission statement], you really have
to know how your organization
can perform, how it will respond
to stress and how it will respond
I spent some wonderful hours
reading some early radio messages that George Pepperdine
delivered back in the 1920s. Also,
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to
understand the six preceding
The perfection of 20/20 hindsight is a remarkable thing. Every
institution, even the most venerable institutions in America, has
had points of crisis. It’s good to
go back and understand what
caused changes in direction,
what they changed and what
they kept the same.
That’s a lot of what a president
has to decide — what should be
continued and then what needs
to be changed going forward.
To understand the institution
and where it’s been is very indicative and very informative as to
where the institution can and
Keep your mission statement brief.
It’s important to set a vision that
is sympathetic with the end goal
and then to keep it simple and
to keep it easily applicable.
We live in a time when many
institutions have not only mission statements but also vision
statements. One of the things
that I’ve learned [from] being
asked to work on both vision
statements and mission statements is the importance of producing statements that all of
your colleagues and all of your
constituents can readily grasp.
I now look with some disdain
at overlong mission/vision statements. The simplicity and the
profound quality of a very few
number of words can make a big difference on an organization.
Solicit feedback. Put (your mission statement) out for public
The Internet and Web sites are
wonderful things. You can actually go to every member of your
family and you can say, ‘This is
the strategic plan for the direction of the university. What do
It’s not like the old days when
hard copy was flying around. Today, with very few keystrokes,
you can ask every member of
your community to comment on
the direction to make sure that it
is a shared journey. That’s very,
very helpful to get the word out
and then get feedback.
Share your expectations with employees. Your goal-setting strengthens the longer you are in that
position and really have a sense
for the opportunities and the
challenges in a particular area.
There’s no substitute for being
present in the workplace and
being present as much as you
can in the decision-making
processes and the people who
make those decisions. As you
gain greater insight into what
they do and the people with
whom they do it, the better you
are at helping them shape meaningful goals for the coming year.
[When you set goals], employees are more likely to be emotionally well in their position.
They know whether they’re
doing a good job or not. They
know areas where they need
to strengthen their service.
If we know what’s expected of us, and we are objectively meeting those expectations, we are
going to feel better about ourselves, and we are going to be
If it’s loose and very amorphous, it’s very hard to thrive in
that environment. It’s very hard
to look forward to a new year
and new opportunities because
you really don’t know how
you’ve been doing and how you
stand within the organization.
Goal-setting and frank appraisal on a regular basis is absolutely
Find balance. Leaders aren’t of
one type, but leaders tend to be
As leaders, we need to periodically examine how we’re using
our time and to whom we’re
apologizing to for not being able to give more time. ... I get so
busy in the works that I do, but I
hope I never get to a point where
I don’t have time to be a good
friend, also. Family shouldn’t
pay a price for our striving.
The single most important thing
to do is spend the first two hours
of every day by yourself.
I get up very early, I pray, I think,
and I get a handle on what I hope
to do that day. It is the most centering, invigorating thing.
If you get up and you immediately get on the treadmill ... and
you don’t get off that treadmill
until 9:30 that night, that’s not a
life. That may be a career, but
that’s not a life.
Finding time for oneself and
daily engaging in a re-centering,
reflective effort is terribly
HOW TO REACH: Pepperdine University, (310) 506-4000 or www.pepperdine.edu