How Would You Save A Failing Organization?

Reflections from my June 12, 2018 interview with Dan Elsener of Marian University.

Dan Elsener, President, Marian University

Dan Elsener faced one of the greatest challenges of his career when he became president of Marian College in Indianapolis. Enrollment was terribly low. Their bank cancelled the letter of credit. Campus buildings were broken down.

Imagine the negative attitudes and emotions of the teachers, staff and students.

As Dan recently reflected on what it took to see a 400% increase in enrollment and turn the failing college into a thriving university, he shared with me three specific strategies that were key to his solution:

Prepare. “We looked back on the past, rich with sacrifice, mission driven, with a focus on advancing human good.”

Listen. “We asked, ‘What is needed?’ We heard the challenge, accepted it, and were ready to go forward even against the naysayers.”

Strategic Plan. “We were bold in our planning; not just to save and solidify the college, but to become a university; a medical school no less.”

“Prepare” and “Listen” are two of the eight leadership strategies in PLAN TO BE YOUR BEST …As You Navigate Change. Dan keenly zeros-in on how both should be applied.

Dan Elsener is a remarkable, bold leader. He explained, “Being bold is a natural inclination for me. I believe and have found that it’s easier to do big things, rather than small things.”

Are you navigating change?


Who do you know who has successfully navigated the same challenges you are now experiencing? Make a list, then contact them and ask them to share with you their insights and perspectives.

Who else is involved with and affected by the change you’re navigating? Listen to them to understand what’s needed.


Give the gift of your time and undivided attention to the people working with you, especially to those on your team and those who report to you. The greater the change and set of challenges you’re experiencing, the more they have to say and need to say, and therefore, the more they have a deep need to be heard.