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#21: Utilizing Your Strategic Plan During Crisis with Jim Knowlton

November 10, 2021 in

Utilizing Your Strategic Plan During Crisis with Jim Knowlton


Strategic planning in the midst of a pandemic is a real challenge. Imagine someone could be there to guide you through it?

Today’s guest, Jim Knowlton, is the Director of Athletics at the University of California, Berkeley. He previously served in the same role at the US Air Force Academy, Rensselaer (Ren-Suh-Leer) Polytechnic Institute and as an interim at the US Military Academy at West Point. After 26 years on active duty in the US Army he retired as a Colonel and began his career leading Athletic Departments.

In this episode you’re going to hear how he formed his leadership philosophy, which is very much a servant leader approach, and how Jim led Cal Athletics through the pandemic by being comfortable with not knowing but having his strategic plan serve as their guide. Jim shares why a strategic plan is critical and the unique approach they took to develop their plan.  

Key Takeaways:

  1. It’s valuable for a leader to be willing to get their hands dirty, it teaches you how to be a servant leader and take care of your people.
  2. A well constructed and operationalized strategic plan can serve as a map during a crisis and keep the organization on track toward the desired vision.
  3. Work/life balance might not be achievable, strive for work/life integration.

Episode Highlights:

  • 10:28 Going to West Point was a defining moment for him
  • 13:38 West Point opened his eyes to leadership
  • 15:16 His family also expected commitment from him as he entered West Point.
  • 17:34 He loves his work as Director of Athletics because he can help student-athletes to be successful in life
  • 18:58 He got the position at Cal because of the many people who helped him along the way
  • 27:25 He suggests celebrating small victories
  • 28:04 He developed core leadership core values by serving many bosses
  • 29:08 Servant leadership, leadership by example, hands-on leadership, and caring for others are the things learned along the way
  • 29:30 His leadership philosophy is taking care of people
  • 30:22 The importance of the organizational vision
  • 32:56 The importance of shared ownership of the plan
  • 38:15 He switched early from crisis management to recovery management during the pandemic
  • 40:00 He emphasizes the need to communicate plans and goals in the pandemic
  • 42:52 Threats to the strategic plan: changes in the landscape and financial support
  • 46:14 He believes in work-life integration.

Resources Mentioned:

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If you need help with your strategic plan reach out at HigherEchelon.com and experts like Dr. Donnie Horner will partner with you to help guide you through the process of creating and operationalizing a powerful strategic plan.

Coaching Through Stories  is sponsored by HigherEchelon, Inc. hosted and co-produced by HigherEchelon’s Director of High Performance, Dr. Eric Bean and co-produced by Siana Sylvester.

To learn more about how you can take your leadership to the next level, check out our service offerings: Strategic Planning,  Resilient and Adaptable Leadership, Executive Coaching, and Change Management.

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