025: Mike Knopp-Leading a transformational idea [Podcast]

The Spirit of Leading podcast, Leadership podcasting, Garland McWatters Tulsa OK, podcasting, author


Mike Knopp, OKC Boathouse Foundation, transformational ideas, Spirit of Leading podcast

Mike Knopp
Executive Director Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation

Nothing breeds success like success, and the transformational impact of multiple success stories can have a major impact on the psyche of an organization, a city, and a state.

That’s part of the impact that Mike Knopp’s crazy idea of making a dry North Canadian River riverbed into a successful rowing venue has had on Oklahoma City and the state.

In this episode of The Spirit of Leading, I talk to Mike about the origin of his idea and what he experienced bringing it to life.

Follow the podcast using the pdf listening guide. Download now by clicking the listening guide icon below.

Mike talks about the value of persistence, the time and patience it takes for an idea to take root and grow, and the importance of telling the vision story so others can see it and make it their own vision as well.

Mike started out on a law career. His passion for rowing resulted in him and his wife volunteering in rowing programs on Lake Overholser in Bethany, OK.

Mike Knopp, transformational ideas, OKC Boathouse Foundation, Spirit of Leading podcast

Mike Knopp as rowing coach for Oklahoma City University

Mike is now the Executive Director of the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation, and is a guiding influence on the continued development of the Boathouse District on what is now known as the Oklahoma River.


Spirit of Leading podcast, follow along note pages, Garland McWatters

Click to get pdf file

Related links:

The Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation

The history of rowing in Oklahoma


Have we wandered off the wrong path?

Her name is Rita. The voice in my head. She is the voice of my GPS that I can’t get rid of.

GPS, destinations, directions, goals

Rita’s job, when I’m traveling in unfamiliar territory, is to keep her eyes on the map and tell me when to turn so I can keep my eyes on the actual road and drive the car. We make a great team.

There is a fundamental difference in the statements, “I think we are going in the wrong direction,” and “I think we are going to the wrong destination.” The INPowered understand that difference and how to use both the questions effectively.

Have we lost our way?

I think we are going in the wrong direction, indicates we are certain about our destination but have wandered away from the path to it. These distractions lure us and the detours force us away from the things we need to do to get to our goal.

This perspective matters when we are asking the question, “what must we DO to get what we want?” If we are doing the wrong things, we probably won’t get where we intend. Or, we’ll waste a lot of time and resources getting there.

Are we clear about our destination?

I think we are going to the wrong destination, says that the goal is the wrong goal. We can be firmly on the path to a goal, but when we get there, it won’t be the right place.

This perspective is about the clarity of the goal itself. It’s the answer to the question, “What do we want?” Instead of driving around hoping the destination will reveal itself, we know exactly where we are going before leaving the house.

The voice in my head

When I’m working, it’s my job to program in the destination–the exact place I want to end up. I call on the Rita in my head to help me map out the path and stay on it.

Sometimes, I realize the destination I had programmed in is the wrong destination. When that happens, Rita is not helpful until I reprogram the destination.

It’s not good enough just to realize I’m headed to the wrong destination. The sooner I abandon the wrong destination and reprogram the right one, the more effective and efficient I can be.

We must be diligent to ask the one right question: where exactly do we want to go?

I believe in the serendipity of the journey. I believe the journey is part of our growth and adventure.

I also know the aimless wanderer risks a life of almost, but not quite, fulfillment and happiness. They are left trying to reconstruct meaningfulness in retrospect. Been there, done that. But it’s never too late to reprogram the destination.

I’ve learned from my travels to get and keep the destination clear.
And, if and when you realize the destination is not the right one,
reprogram and redirect without hesitation or regret.
Learn this difference, and you will be
Garland McWatters, leadership development, leadership training, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Impact your world–make your difference

We have this innate desire to impact our world, to make a difference. This is not the same as wanting to rule the world. It’s better.

making a difference, helping, Garland McWatters photo

The very nature of INPowerment is to make things better. The INPowered see what needs to be done. Then, they take action. Within that description there are three simple habits you can develop the will make you a person of impact.

Pay attention to what can be better

Anytime people are not getting what they need, want, or expect they have a problem that needs a solution. They are also in some form of conflict from mild annoyance to full blown panic.

It is easy to notice the panic, because people are acting out in exaggerated and dysfunctional ways. The mild annoyances and irritations are not so obvious. For example:

  • A procedure is a little more awkward than it should be and doesn’t get the quality result it should, but it’s almost good enough.
  • A room or office space is cluttered and poorly arranged, making items difficult to find when needed.
  • A co-worker is unsure of their skills and is hesitant to ask for help.

Paying attention pushes you out of your own private chamber where you are so internally focused that you are oblivious to the needs and circumstances of others. In contrast, being totally self-absorbed is one sure of way of having no impact.

Engage others in finding a solution

Solving all the problems on your own is another way of having limited or no impact. True, some pacesetters and inventors work individually on a device or invention that changes the world. However, that’s the exception and not the rule.

Everyday impact is when you involve others in solution finding.  You help them grow their sense of value. Their input is needed and welcome. They contribute.

They see you as a partner in their growth. They got better because you involved them and gave them an opportunity to be more valuable. They are more likely to do likewise when it’s their turn to engage others. Your impact ripples far beyond your direct involvement.

Act and follow through

Actions speak. When you are known as a go to person, you have impact. Talk is cheap; action creates value.

End each day with your “to do” list checked off. I often ask myself before retiring to bed, “What did I get done today the moved me closer to accomplishing my goals?” Then I ask, “What must I accomplish tomorrow to move me closer to my goals?” Then, I work to stay on task and avoid distractions.

Work on making these three steps your everyday habits.
You will be a person of impact.
You will make a difference.
You will be
Garland McWatters, leadership development, leadership training, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Oklahoma

INPowering leaders are clear-minded

INPowering leaders are clear-minded

Leaders are clear minded about their mission and purpose, which allows them to act decisively in the pursuit of it. This decisive clarity attracts like-minded followers eager to engage in support of that mission. They see a place for themselves in that vision.

clarity, clear-minded, making decisions, knowing what you want in life, Garland McWatters quote

Leaders take the first step so we all can move together.

Clarity is powerful. It focuses creative energy on a single outcome. Clarity attracts people who have a sense, a longing, that circumstances could be better. They just don’t know how to get to that place by themselves.

This is where my definition of leadership applies: leaders help us get places we cannot or will not go by ourselves.

This clarity prevents confusion, false starts, and wasted energy. On the other hand, those who lack clarity wander indecisively and often settle for tepid results coming from blurred vision.

Leaders answer these four questions to attract followers.

1. Where are we going and why?

Growing up, I often heard that it’s better to be a meaningful specific than a wandering generality. Have a goal–a purpose–and go for it.

We like to be around people who are going places. Moreover, we admire that they have a vision of where it is they are going, and they can describe it.

In a previous post I listed six steps in the formation and perpetuation of a movement. Expressing the vision comes on the heels of the inception of the idea. Leaders describe the future they envision. Others become inspired to follow.

Embedded in the story is the why. “We are going there so that . . . ” The where and the why are captivating, but they beg the next question.

2. How are we going to get there?

Most of us need a plan of action. How many times have we bought into a grand idea, only to be disappointed in the follow through?

Politicians razzle-dazzle us with their big ideas. They repeat their ideas loud and long with much fanfare, bluster, and arm waiving, let me tell ya. Listen for the plan. Otherwise, it’s an empty promise that isn’t really going anywhere.

Plans have action steps. Plans describe mileposts that measure progress. Plans anticipate obstacles and offer work arounds.

Lack of an action plan results in many false starts and stops that waste creative energy and frustrate everyone. Before you know it, followers have lost confidence and drifted away.

Even with a plan, followers turn to their vested interest revealed in the next question.

3. Will I be OK?

Is the plan doable, and can I do it? Will I make it to the destination? If not, if it’s too risky, why would I even consider going?

Surviving isn’t enough. We need to believe that the future state is better than the current state. The greater the perceived reward, the more eager we are to follow. The reward must be worth the cost of the trip.

4. How will you help me along the way?

Leaders are teachers and providers. In the planning they account for the needs of the followers to make the journey.

There is a difference between a trail blazer and a leader. The trail blazer is on his own quest. Others can tag along, but they are on their own. Keep up or fall by the wayside.

The leader moves systematically ever closer to the destination and helps everyone keep up. Sometime progress is slower. The leader encourages collaboration and teamwork. Everyone grows as everyone goes together.

Clearly answer these four basic questions
so you can be
Garland McWatters, leadership development, leadership training, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Oklahoma


Curiosity is awesome

Please forgive what might seem, at first glance, to be the hyperbole of this blog post title, but I mean the words literally. Curiosity is awesome.

curiosity, wonderful life, wonder, learning, Garland McWatters quote

To me, our ability to be curious–inquisitive about the world around us–evokes awe for me–an overwhelming reverence about the capacity of the human mind.

Within our brainspace, the right hemisphere invites randomness, free association, and interconnectivity. Our left hemisphere insists on order, hierarchy, and routine. That these two worlds can exist side-by-side is awesome to me. Both are information hungry, but handle it differently.

Curiosity will lure me to stick my nose into some of the most interesting and surprising places.

Sometimes curiosity gets me into a little trouble.

The wonder of ideas and life experiences creates a mental wanderlust in me. I can easily invest a day in meandering through the vast library of TED Talks.

I marvel at the amazing true-life adventures of scientists, anthropologists, photographers, computer code writers, mathematicians, social reformers, storytellers, and others who are shaping and reshaping our world in real time.

I am mesmerized by the quantum world, the cosmos, and how they relate to each other. I am equally amazed by what we have learned about the human genome and the interactive workings of body and mind.

As I’ve learned that we humans share the same innate emotions as many, if not all, mammals, it’s made me wonder if they, too, have souls. And in thinking about souls, I wonder which came first, the soul or the theology about it.

See where curiosity leads us?

3 INPowering questions

What sets humans apart from all other species is our ability to imagine something different from our current circumstances. We can wonder. We can pursue the pathways of our curiosity in imaginative ways.

Ask these three questions of yourself everyday:

  1. What if I . . .?
  2. How can I . . .?
  3. What can I do now to . . .?

Be curious about how you can
INLarge the expectations of living in yourself and in others.
You will be
Garland McWatters, leadership development, leadership training, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Oklahoma

and that can be wondeful.