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Mitchell Reiss, President and CEO of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Mitchell Reiss

Mitchell Reiss is the President and CEO of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. He has a long and illustrious career in various areas – in the private sector practicing law, in the diplomatic space as the ambassador for the U.S.A. in Northern Ireland, in academia, in running Washington College, and for the past three years, in running one of the most iconic institutions in the U.S.

In this episode of The Culture Gap, Mitchell shares the things he has learned as a new CEO, his thoughts on moral courage and its importance in an organization, as well as his insights on identifying and closing gaps between culture and strategy. Welcome to The Culture Gap.

Key Takeaways

[:42] Daniel’s guest for this episode is Mitchell Reiss, President and CEO of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

[1:38] Who is Mitchell Reiss?

[2:10] When Mitchell arrived at Washington College, what was in his mindset of how he was going to bring the college into a 21st Century context? Who were some of the groups he met with early on, and why did he do that?

[4:41] Mitchell shares his story of how he came to find himself in the kitchen of one of his predecessors. How did the slogan “What is best for Washington College?” become a part of the ethos of how Mitchell led the college?

[6:25] The next segment focuses on the idea of moral courage. How did moral courage shape the vision statement for Washington College? What are its implications for driving employee behavior, and creating a sense of trust among people? Mitchell shares his thoughts on this very personal topic.

[11:27] What was Mitchell’s mental model of a CEO as he took the helm of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in the first 60-to-90 days?

[14:46] Mitchell takes us through the gap-closing process he undertook at Colonial Williamsburg, and the fundamental changes he made within the institution.

[18:39] If the gap between the strategy and behaviors in the institution didn’t close, what would that mean for Colonial Williamsburg?

[21:29] Mitchell convened groups of leaders across Colonial Williamsburg to define the organization’s vision and mission. How did his process in Colonial Williamsburg differ from his actions at Washington College? How did he empower his employees and deal with that empowerment in terms of letting go?

[25:24] What is Colonial Williamsburg’s mission, and what does it mean?

[28:22] What is the gap that is happening in larger America today? How can Colonial Williamsburg play a role in closing that gap?

[34:05] What advice would Mitchell give himself on his first day at Colonial Williamsburg?

[35:45] Mitchell shares some of his thoughts on what a CEO needs to succeed.

[38:45] What advice does Mitchell have for other CEOs on how they should structure and begin to close the gap between strategy and culture?

[43:15] What has surprised Mitchell the most about being the CEO of an institution?

[46:12] What is the most surprising thing that a teacher visiting Colonial Williamsburg for the first time would discover?

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The Culture Gap Podcast


Learn more about:

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

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