Meet Tara Wenzel
Tigrett Leadership Academy Instructor
In January 2015, Tara Wenzel retired from a 38-year career at the Department of Defense, where she worked in training, finance, intelligence analysis, signals collection, and counter-terrorism. Just a couple of weeks later, a close friend asked, “So, Tara, what will you do with the rest of your life?” She quickly dismissed the question as premature, but added that “I think I’d like to get into some kind of teaching, as I really enjoyed doing that during my government service.”
Tara’s friend pounced and insisted that she meet Tigrett co-founders Antigoni and Everett Ladd. Tara and the Ladds met shortly thereafter, and they hit it off immediately. By the spring of 2015, Tara was sitting in on Tigrett classes, which quickly led to team-teaching with Antigoni—and soon she was facilitating classes on her own.
Three years later, Tara is one of Tigrett’s most popular instructors, teaching Tigrett’s Lincoln program as well as the Eisenhower/Churchill program. She is also the lead guide of Tigrett’s “World War II in Gettysburg” tours, conducted in a partnership with Gettysburg Battlefield Bus Tours.
Recently, we had a chance to sit down with Tara for a brief “Q&A” about her career—and what “makes her day” when teaching for Tigrett.
How did you get into leadership training?
"I had spent a lot of time overseas doing the ‘hands-on’ and was able to bring these literal war stories back to the classroom and show my students that the stories I was telling to help them do their jobs better was directly responsible for making the world safer. That’s the passion I try to instill in my students, regardless of the job they do—to show them that they’re much, much more valuable than 'Oh I’m just a [fill in the job title] at their organization.' To see them get excited about their work with this new perspective is a total jazz for me.”
What prompted you to wear period costumes in your classes?
“It started during my technical training for the government. The subject matter could be somewhat boring and overwhelming, so I started wearing regional costumes and involving students in a discussion of the costumes’ significance—and they ate it up. In addition to remembering the costumes, the students later reported that they were retaining much more of the content. When I started training for Tigrett, I suggested the costume idea to Antigoni, and she let me try it. The rest is history (pun very much intended!).”
What makes the historical figures used in Tigrett training more compelling than modern business case studies?
“It’s the stories. While case studies have value—and we used countless such case studies in my years in government—they typically are just recaps of names, dates, and places. What makes the Tigrett programs so compelling are how relevant the challenges of historical figures are to 21st-century business challenges. For example, as a new President, Lincoln had to contend with issues—secession, a bickering cabinet, the Civil War, insufficient resources—that have remarkable, and vivid parallels to what organizations face in 2018. Such parallels also attach to Eisenhower and Churchill’s conduct of World War II.”
What do you most enjoy about working with Tigrett clients?
“Getting to know the participants. Because we spend so much time together, we have the opportunity to chat with them one-on-one—and learn from each other. It’s magical.”