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Tony Allen – 90 in 90

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It All Matters

Problem admiration does not lead to solutions

Many people spend entirely too much time describing and becoming depressed over problems and expend little effort in solving them. Cultivate a pragmatic, problem-solving ethos in your organization that first does everything possible to work creatively within your existing resource base, and only then makes a case for additional support. If you do that, many problems will never reach your desk, and when people have to ask for those resources, you will know they’ve already done their homework.

Your organization is only as good as THE SUM OF ITS PARTS

Nobody in one part of your organization should feel good about the job they’re doing if something’s off the rails elsewhere. Your clients and customers don’t differentiate between your different divisions ““ they know they have a problem with your entire organization. Cultivate a culture that centers on the idea that “It all matters” and that “We are all on the same team.”

Focus on what you can do that your competitors cannot

There is something you believe your organization does better than anyone else, or you wouldn’t be in business. Figure out what that is; emphasize it to your clients and customers; make it a point of pride for your team; talk about it to the world; and keep getting better at it every day.

Meet your customers/clients in the social spaces where they are

You can neither attract nor serve your customer/client base if you are not communicating with them. We live in a world where social spaces are increasingly differentiated by age, income level, personal interests, etc. Instead of guessing, do the work to find out where your customers hang out ““ either physically or virtually ““then establish and maintain a differentiated presence in those spaces.

The responsibility is yours, but the credit always goes to your teams

This nugget is not new, but it is tested, timeless, and authentically true.

You must be comfortable with your organizational identity

If you don’t like your logo ““ change it. If you can’t stand the way people refer to you or your organization, change it. If the work environment is not organized for efficiency and comfort, fix it.It is difficult to project confidence and competence if you’re not comfortable with who you are.

Your narrative is one of your most valuable assets

You often cannot control what others say about you or your organization, but you can always control your message. Be intentional and consistent. Promote the good with sustainable consistency (and consistent language) and get out in front of bad news.

Work through your teams but take care of your people

Never forget that your people have lives that do not revolve around your organization, or you will lose those people. From cancer treatments to car repair appointments, make supporting their lives your organizational priority, and you will build a cadre of incredible loyal employees who will perform miracles.

Understand when time is on your side, and when it’s not

Successful leaders master the art of determining what has to be decided NOW, and what can wait, what’s non-negotiable, and what can be discussed. Don’t put it off when you know it has to be done by a hard deadline, but don’t let other people or organizations impose artificial deadlines on you.

Cultivate a deep, abiding integrity in everything done by you or your organization

In the end, all you have left is how well you lived up to your ideals and principles. Character is determined by what you and your team do when nobody’s watching.


Tony Allen

Delaware State University

Tony became DSU’s 12th president on January 1, after serving as EVP and Provost since July 2017. He led the corporate reputation group at Bank of America and communications for the bank’s Consumer, Commercial Banking, and Wealth Management businesses. Tony’s lifelong commitment to public service includes being the founding president of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League and co-founder of Public Allies Delaware. He is also a Whitney M. Young Awardee for Advancing Racial Equality, the National Urban League’s highest honor.

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