President of Hobart and William Smith Colleges and former director of the Peace Corps
When new managers join organizations, they are usually cautioned to take their time and learn the culture. That is frequently good advice, but I have learned not to follow it blindly. You are asked to lead organizations for what you know and have done and because you already have good judgment.
When I was appointed director of the Peace Corps by President Clinton, I thought that we should create a new part of the corps specifically for short-term assignments. It would send former Peace Corps volunteers into crisis areas for six months or less to help during emergencies. The seasoned workers would already know the culture and the people and would therefore be effective from day one.
Since I had never been a volunteer in the Peace Corps myself, I was cautioned to take time to think the thing through before I started the Crisis Corps. I waited a year and a half, and there were a lot of emergencies during that time -- hurricanes and floods in Central America and relief efforts in East Africa. Our alumni could have made a big difference if they had been ready to send in.
You have to strike a balance between taking the time you need to get a sense of a new culture and making the appropriate changes. I believe that one of the biggest mistakes you can make is not to trust your instincts. I lost time and ground because I sought a broad range of opinions for starting the Crisis Corps even though I knew it was a good idea. Today it exists -- and it is one of my proudest achievements. --From an interview with Mike Hofman
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