Some We’ve Worked With
• AAA Baseball
• Al-jon/Vezzani Corp.,
• Bandag Manufacturing
• Brand Central Station
• Burlington (IA) Chamber
     of Commerce,
• Chiropractic Centennial
• Dahl Ford
• Deere & Co.
• Dubuque (IA)
• First Midwest Banks
• Galesburg (IL) Chamber
     of Commerce
• Galesburg Economic  
     Development Corp.
• Illinois Association of
     Public Health
• Iowa Development
• Kartridg Pak
• Life University
• MidCoast
• Mod-Form Manufacturing
• MPA Media
• National Seal Co.
• Palmer Chiropractic
     University System
• Quad-City Thunder
• Quad-City Times
• Quad-Cities Vision
     for the Future
• Sears Manufacturing
• The Marketing Advantage
• The Residential Specialist
• Today’s Chiropractic
• WDG Communications
• White Dog Studios




NOTE: How do you transform a corporate culture? Well, it starts with a statement of the values you want employees to agree with and espouse. This piece became a booklet presented to all new employees at Life University.

LIFE on the RISE
Inspiring a Culture of Learning, Creativity, Teamwork and Joy


You Have What It Takes

Culture Change SampleWhat would it take to make coming to work a joy every day?

Most of us believe it would take more than high pay and good benefits, at least after the first few days. It also would take more than having the right schedule, your tasks clearly defined and an agreeable boss. Coming to work with joy would require a sense of accomplishment, wouldn’t it? And it would require that your accomplishments received some recognition, at least once in a while. It would require a belief that your job was meaningful, perhaps even an expectation that the world might be a better place because of it. Moreover, it would require that you and your co-workers did your daily tasks in harmony. Wouldn’t it be a joy to work in a place like that?

We want Life University to be a place like that. That’s why Life nurtures an institutional culture called R.I.S.E. We want you to contribute to that culture. Here’s how that acronym breaks out:
    R — roles & responsibilities
    I — integrity
    S — student-centeredness
    E — excellence
The more you understand and act upon the principles embodied in that acronym the more you’ll find Life a joyful place to work.

Actually, the principles are simple, but, as you might suspect, living them under daily pressures can be complicated. In fact, these four principles actually have deeper implications than providing rules “for how things are done around here.” Life has handbooks, policies and procedures for that. No, this booklet is about how to make the values that under gird those rules and practices a part of what you do and even who you are. The intent of R.I.S.E. is to help each of us rise in competence, self-worth and collective effectiveness. R.I.S.E. is about leadership, learning, management, craftsmanship, creativity, friendship, cost-effectiveness, respect and intellectual growth, among other things. R.I.S.E. is about helping us ascend and soar like the eagle on the cover….

Let’s take a closer look.

Roles & Responsibilities

Your role is the critical part you play in the overall function of the institution; your responsibility is defined as outcomes. Often we use the word “task” to describe things we do, but no matter how important tasks may seem at the moment their value is ultimately determined by what they contribute to your effective functioning and those desired outcomes.

Fulfilling your role and responsibility really involves balancing the personal with the collective or institutional. When we fail to fulfill either, we impact the other. To illustrate: A department sees its rightful responsibility to include contacting Life alumni for information and recognizes the need to build a database of that information and access it effectively. So it purchases special software and proceeds to contact the alumni for the desired information. It is fulfilling its defined role and responsibility. End of story? Not at all.

At Life University many people and departments may need to access the wisdom and experience of alumni. Must they now purchase their own software? Do these various pieces of software readily interface with a central database for all constituencies to access? Are the alumni going to be bombarded with surveys and requests from several different sources at Life with questions that overlap? Are some of these requests or the sheer volume of requests likely to be counterproductive, alienating the alumni who may feel they’re being harassed for money, time or proprietary information? Whose responsibility is it to control access to all this information and, further, whose responsibility is it to determine how this information can be used to benefit the entire institution?

Those who have worked for any time in either academic institutions or middle-to-large businesses recognize that the example touches on a major obstacle to institutional effectiveness—the creation of “silos.” Traveling through the agricultural Midwest you may see tall grain silos—towering, round metal structures without windows that store grain until it is shipped to market. These silos do not connect with each other in any way. Well, human nature often drives us to be protective of our grain, that is, of the information and knowledge we can gather. In the workplace we want to be in control because we become easily frustrated when circumstances or co-workers block or delay our ability to get done what we feel it is our responsibility to do. However, unlike storing grain, a university or business must connect throughout every fiber if it is to be effective, let alone extraordinary.

How you fulfill your role and responsibility, then, is determined not only by your conscientious attention to your job description or the function of your department but also by the impact that what you do has on others. Do you need to talk with others before you act? Do you need to think about the long-term impact as opposed to the short-term fix? Do you have a clear definition of the things you must ask permission to do, those things you have to report on after you have acted, and those you can do on your own? Do you promote a spirit of both diligence in doing your own job and awareness of how you can help others do theirs? Your ability to act wisely will determine how effectively you reduce frustration and increase the satisfaction of both yourself and your co-workers.


Integrity is drawn from the word integer or “whole number,” and it refers to things being complete, consistent and without flaw. At Life University we emphasize integrity as fulfilling implicit or explicit expectations; in other words, if we agree to do something, we follow through. And, of course, in a general sense integrity brings to mind high personal and professional standards such as honesty and trustworthiness. A person who agrees to work 40 hours a week doesn’t shave time so he or she only works 35; we don’t use company equipment without authorization; supervisors don’t expect their employees to do personal work for them, and so forth. However, as with the other R.I.S.E. principles there is an institutional aspect as well.

For example, the Life Student Honor Code requires that students take responsibility for others who might cheat on tests, and instructors or test monitors are called upon to initiate possible discipline of those caught cheating. This illustrates the fact that we ought to take responsibility not only to be individuals of high ethical standards ourselves but also to uphold the integrity of the institution rather than just walk away when we see things not done as they ought to be done. However, we’re not talking about just refusing to tolerate unethical behavior. We’re also talking about encouraging a more effective institution.

Suppose you hear people in your department bad-mouthing another department or individuals. What do you do? Join in the demeaning talk? Or, do you just sit by and decline to participate? Or do you actually reprove those denigrating others because you realize that negative talk increases cynicism, the death-knell for any enterprise that aspires to be successful? Can you even go one step further? If there is validity to the criticism, can you help determine the nature of the problem and take whatever steps are necessary to move toward a fix? Perhaps you can get the people on opposite sides together. If not, can you exercise “shuttle diplomacy” and find common ground. You get the point. Integrity involves not only standing up for personal values but also fighting for institutional unity and a spirit of teamwork.

A chain, the saying goes, is only as strong as its weakest link. Life University will only be as strong as the people who live in it.


8 great ways bookIt ought to go without saying that without students there wouldn’t be a Life University. Still, given the pressures of our daily activities and the difficulties those students (and prospective students) sometimes present, it’s easy to overlook our need to be student-centered every day in every way. Because we’re daily involved with students as colleagues, it’s easy to forget they are first and foremost our customers. They pay our salaries. In effect, then, they are our bosses, as difficult as that may be to swallow in some circumstances.

But what does it mean to be truly student-centered?

Being student-centered begins with putting ourselves in their place, demonstrating understanding of their circumstances and empathy for their feelings. Sometimes you’ll hear people say about students something like, “They’re adults. We can’t hold their hands on everything. They need to step up and figure out some of these things on their own.” 

That may sound reasonable in theory, but how much knowledge of students’ circumstances and feelings does that really reflect? Consider, for instance, a student’s state of mind during the hours of orientation. He or she may be under tremendous pressure from many factors.

Perhaps she’s away from her family and on her own for the first time in her life. Maybe she’s traumatized by driving in Atlanta traffic or still getting lost in the crazy quilt of roads around here. Perhaps she’s dealing with moving into a new apartment, getting her utilities turned on; maybe the furniture got delayed or damaged in the move. Did you realize that moving has been listed as one of the most stressful events in our lives—just after losing a loved one in death, divorce and loss of a job?

Any number of personal problems or issues could be distracting her from getting off to a good start at school. Now add in the glut of information she has to assimilate about financial aid, her academic schedule, and simply what to do next with whom, and you can begin to empathize. It’s not just the one thing you are talking to her about; it’s the deluge of things she’s dealing with even before she started talking to you about it. Can you understand how she may not be able to process everything quickly? Are you still surprised that she’s easily frustrated and maybe even rude in her dealings with you? Have you heard about the straw that broke the camel’s back? Are you putting that last straw in place? How would you react if you were in her shoes…?


Businesses and other enterprises have been searching for excellence in the more than two decades since author Tom Peters first advocated it, but the ubiquitous mediocrity of products and services shows not everybody’s finding it. Excellence as we search for it at Life University means rising to meet or surpass agreed-upon expectations and standards for performance.

The noun excellence draws from the verb excel, which brings to mind competition against others or perhaps against one’s own earlier achievements. Let’s face it, we’re in a very competitive environment, and we can never rest. Excel also carries the idea of not only achieving top quality but also of the desire for ongoing improvement. Such pursuit of real quality almost always involves attention to the less noticeable aspects of a pursuit because, as the saying goes, “the Devil is in the details.” Ironically, although excel makes us think of a competitive arena, with spectators cheering us on, people committed to excellence demonstrate it—in fact are obsessed about it—even when nobody is looking or likely to know what was involved.

Excellence is in the execution of a task—doing it just so—but it’s also in the attitude that one brings to the task. That includes understanding exactly why the task ought to be done, and as this booklet mentioned earlier, the outcome to which the task contributes.  In other words, it comes with the determination to “do the right thing” as well as “to do things right.”

It’s about the why as much as the what. Perhaps you’ve heard the old story about three stone masons giving an account of their work. The first said he was “cutting stone.” The second reported he was “building a cathedral.” The third said simply that he was “serving God.”

Why do you come to work every day…?

So, excellence sometimes proves to be a complicated matter that demands not just doing one’s best—and frequently working longer at it to make sure it’s done right—but doing one’s best under the circumstances, which entails exercising good judgment. Often it means a wise choice of what not to do. 

Yes, You Have What It Takes

With all four of the R.I.S.E. principles, then, there is both a personal and an institutional component, and the two go hand in hand. Each individual must fulfill his or her role and responsibility, keep her integrity in the face of temptation and pressure, exemplify student-centeredness daily, and be striving for the highest standards of excellence in the job. Yet, even that is not enough. We must practice the principles together, trusting that others will do their best in all these areas. If we don’t see that, then we should challenge one another to be better tomorrow than we are today. That’s why we all have an obligation to be persons “inspiring a culture of learning, creativity, teamwork and joy.”

Earlier we mentioned that communication must always be a two-way street. So, we want you to react to what you have read here. Talk to your supervisor and others you come in contact with about these principles. Challenge others to act in harmony with them, and set the example yourself. When you’re given an assignment, figure how it relates to R.I.S.E. so that you can see the real purpose behind a task no matter how small. When you see others living this way, praise them to the skies. Positive reinforcement lifts us all. Yes, you have what it takes to help shape the culture of Life University.

In the final analysis, your job is to inspire both others and yourself. That’s how you can soar like an eagle and make Life University a joyful place to live.




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