Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ithaca College President Reaches Out with Condolence

This is the second in a series about leaders who understand the need to step off the operations train from time to time...

We look to leaders for direction, strategy and goals, project reviews and (dis)approvals. Sometimes, our leaders provide inspiration ... and sometimes they are called upon to provide sympathy. 

A leader cannot be too busy to care.

Thomas Rochon, Ithaca College President since 2008, hits the ground running each day-- at whatever hour the day demands.  He responds to the college, the community, and the hundreds of warm connections honed during an education career that was launched nearly 40 years ago at the University of Michigan, and progressed to span three continents (and many time zones!)



Dr. Rochon, "Tom," has plenty of valid excuses to opt for a sympathy email/text/tweet, or delegate staff to send "a nice floral arrangement," but he does not.

"Whether it is a professional contact or a personal friendship, there are certain times in anyone’s life when they most need to hear from you -- when receiving the simple message that they are in your thoughts will be most cherished and remembered.  Being a leader means maintaining an active and caring connection with lots of people.  That is why I take the time to write a condolence note whenever anyone in my network experiences a loss – sadly, that is often two to three times per week."

If you are in a leadership capacity (and I am talking to store managers, daycare directors and factory foremen)   remember this:  
when someone in your universe of operations loses a loved one, don't just wonder who's going to cover for them. Take out a pen and paper and express some sympathy.  Starting points include:

  • I am very sorry for your loss.
  • Losing your [state relationship] is a hard part of life.
  • You have a real knack for _____; did you learn that from ___?
  • When my [comparable relationship, ie. mother/wife/grandma] died, I...
  • At times like this, we realize how comforting memories can be. 
  • [if you know] I remember you telling me how _____ loved to...

It's okay if it takes awhile to put the words together. Draft it on scrap paper, first. 

In sharing thoughts about a leader's role in condolences, Tom noted, "I am experienced at writing those notes now, but when I was getting started Deborah Chappa’s book was my go-to resource!"

Who is waiting to hear from you?
Thank you for caring!


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