How To Keep Them Talking About You

Posted 02.04.2011

Jmu-logo My oldest son, Andy, is a senior at James Madison University.  A couple of weeks ago, he told me a story about Ron Carrier who was president of JMU from 1971 to 1998.  In other words, Carrier retired as president of JMU nine years before Andy arrived as a freshman. More than a decade after he retired, JMU students are still telling Ron Carrier stories.

There’s a leadership lesson in there.

Andy told me that a few times a year Carrier would walk up to a student on campus and ask them about their GPA.  If it was solid, Carrier would tell the student to take the next day off from their classes. Carrier would attend their classes for them with the promise of taking excellent notes that he would pass on to them.

How brilliant was that? In one gesture, Carrier made a student happy, created an opportunity to personally check on the quality of JMU instruction, meet a bunch of students when he attended the classes and generate a lot of positive word of mouth buzz throughout the campus. Buzz that was so strong that students like Andy are still talking about President Carrier thirteen years later.

Simple yet elegant. What are the easy to do, likely to be remembered things that you could do as a leader to learn more about your organization and build connections at the same time? (Here’s a hint – anyone seen an episode of Undercover Boss lately?)