Thursday, July 7, 2011

No Guarantees


Life has no guarantees. So many people joke about the only guarantees we have are death and taxes. While those are true, they don't really grasp the true concept of NO guarantees. We are never promised tomorrow. I am reminded of a wife who just lost her husband of ten years. His work did involve more risks than the typical nine-to-five. However, It was something that she could never have planned for. So now, she is left with their children and the memories of her wonderful husband. Life has no guarantees. I have all of the plans in the world to grow old with my wife and play catch with my grandchildren. However, there may be a time way before grandchildren when my name is called. In many respects, I have no control over the time I have on this earth, but I do have some control over how I use my time. We all mean something to someone. Life is too short not share time with the ones you love, to complete those goals, and to help others along the way. After all, life has no guarantees.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Piano Man


In the lobby of my building sits a very nice piano. I'm no pianist, but I believe it is a baby grand. I am never surprised when someone walks into our office to inquire about the sign that reads something to notion of, "If you would like to play the piano, please contact the President's Office". We get a large range of people interested in playing the keys in the lobby. I love it when people like Dr. Jeff Hopper come and play. Dr. Hopper is a Distinguished Professor of Music and a very talented pianist. He plays with such passion and zeal that you can't help but stop what you are doing and just listen for a few minutes. However, there are others who play the piano. Some of these “pianist” are lacking in the ability arena. They may have a love for playing, but their love is not translated into ability or talent. Regardless, they play. So this very idea has me thinking about skills that each of us possess. At some place and some point in time people told Jeff Hopper he could play. They probably not only told him once, they told him over and over. His professors and friends probably praised him as an accomplished pianist. Hopper took his passion of music and has translated it into a very tangible gift he can give every time he sits at a piano. On the other side of the coin, there are those who play, but aren't very good. Now I know practice makes perfect, but there isn't enough time in the day for these people to practice and anyone be able to make any sense of what they are playing. The issue isn't that these people are poor pianists, the issue is they could be missing out on their real gifts and talents. So often I meet with students who want to chase the dreams that their parents or mentors had. These students need to chase their own dreams. They need to search within and decide what they can do in their life, and do it well. I hope you aren’t hearing me say you need to run away from any challenges you face and brushing it off, as “that wasn’t what I was made to do”. I’m certain Dr. Hopper faced challenges as he mastered the piano, but he knew he was meant to play. This wasn’t someone else’s passion lived out though Hopper, it was his own. Find what you love and chase that dream. Be careful not to follow the dreams of others and leave your own behind.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Is Social Media Helping or Hurting? (Round Two)


Social media has become more than just a channel of communication; it has become the channel of communication for many users. Again, I am fan of social media, but too much of a good thing may be harmful. Each semester I begin class by asking what is the number one complaint regarding your generation by human resource officers? The answers range from lazy, to quiet, to self-absorbed and the list goes on and on. The real answer is this specific generation doesn’t know how to communicate, especially interpersonally. Sure, the ability to hammer out a few lines in a text or send a clever tweet is a viable option, but when it comes to conflict, how do you interact? We see more and more users texting out their battles instead of having a face-to-face conversation. Why? The inability to deal with confrontation is a cancer to their kind. Confrontation is typically never pleasant. This isn’t just for the young professionals though. E-mail was the start to this. Now bosses of every age choose to send out an e-mail to the entire office instead of meeting with one person face-to-face. For instance, Jack (the boss) tells everyone to be at work by 8am sharp. Peter (an employee under Jack) shows up late four days in a row. Everyone else in the office knows Peter is late because they are there on time. However, Jack sends an e-mail out to the entire office to remind everyone not be late. Seriously? Is that good leadership? This will breed only more false confrontations in the workplace. Can you imagine what the next generation of leaders will look like? Sure, they will be some of the most innovative people, but the lack of interpersonal skills will drive a wedge between them and the rest of the office. It’s easy to have fun and hang out, but firing people is real and shouldn’t be completed via text message. Is this a blanket statement for everyone age 14-24? No, but it should serve as an opportunity to check your communication pulse.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Branding Yourself (Revisited)


In 1950 there were around 3000 MBA’s awarded. We are now awarding about 170,000 annually. What does this mean for you? Well, right away it means your degree won’t set you apart as much as it once did. You need to have more. You need to develop something that the other competitors in your market can’t. You need to brand yourself, make yourself an asset. If you have been reading this blog since inception, you will remember a quick post on branding yourself. Branding yourself used to put you ahead of the curve. At this point, if you aren’t branding yourself, you may not even be charted on the curve. You’re an outlier, and not the good kind. In the digital age you need to control what is being said about you. Do not allow word-of-mouth to be the main outlet of communication for your brand. There are obvious positive implications for word-of-mouth branding, but that is like sitting dirty dishes in the sink and letting them soak in hopes the liquid detergent will do all the work for you. Put the dishes in the dishwasher if you want results. Set the dial to the type wash you want, set a delay, set a buzzer to let you know when they are done and then press start. By doing this you have not only completed your task, it was done the way you wanted it to be done. Using word-of-mouth to carry out your branding message is great, but that needs to be a component that stems from the work you have put into branding yourself. One of the biggest things you can do is synchronize everything. Have the same look and feel on all of your social media outlets as well as items like your resume and portfolio. Maybe there is a logo you created that defines you, put it on everything. I once had a student that created a very cool logo with her initials and put it on her resume. It was very creative and showed those around her she was not the average college graduate trying to get a job. Even the little things make a huge difference. Also, when building your brand, know that you are always being interviewed. There are two types of interviews, formal and informal. Everyone understands the formal interview. These are the interviews that you sit down in an office wearing a suit and sweating in places you didn’t even know you could. You are a nervous wreck but you stumble through only later to find out you got the job. However, the other type, an informal interview, holds much more power. This interview can be taking place anywhere. The tricky part is, you may not even know it's happening. If you are lazy in class and you are not responsive the professors suggestions on how to improve, what do you think your professor will say about you when asked by one of your potential employers? You can take this as far as you would like. Everything from the way your comb your hair to the way you choose to tuck in your shirt, everything says something about you. Some people will be looking at the most peculiar things. But let’s face it; there are so many people in the job pool. Something must be the deciding factor.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Is Social Media Helping or Hurting?

(The First In A Series)
Twitter is something that has really peaked my interest in the past couple of years. I read a great article in the WSJ that gave some pretty good insight to tweeting. The one thing I had no clue about with regards to Twitter was the fact that it can be so much more than just a place for people to rant about the trending social issue of the hour. Twitter is a very strong tool for learning. You heard me; learning can be accomplished on Twitter. Simply by following people or groups that have an interest in what you are interested in, you can gain great knowledge. Twitter is a networking tool for industries. We can use my experience as an example. I typed "higher education" in the search bar within Twitter. I was quickly shown a lot of people and organizations that frequently tweet about higher education. I chose to follow a few that I believed would give me what I wanted, more insight into higher ed. However, there is another side to the Twitter world that I can honestly say drives me nuts. It seems that some like to use Twitter for their own personal attack party. They will toss out clever comments and witty dialogue about a certain issue that is in the media at the time. I'm not suggesting that Twitter is only for professional use, because that would be ridiculous. The biggest problem I have is that is seems to be the meeting place for people who are unwilling to have a face-to-face conversation. Social media has made our culture weaker because we no longer deal with conflict in an effective manner. Instead of making a call or dropping by to see someone we tweet about how much we dislike what he or she is doing. Twitter has many good aspects, but at times it offers an avenue for adults to act like children. You can follow me by searching for @n_b_c.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Leading Change


As a leader, you should never ask someone to do something you are unwilling to do yourself. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in leadership roles that want their underlings to complete the less than thrilling assignment. These people are commonly known as bosses. A boss is not a leader by default. A leader must have followers. A boss has something that resembles followers, but they are better known as employees. There is a distinct difference between someone that chooses to do something, a follower, and someone that is bound to, an employee. At this point, you have probably already asked yourself if you work for a leader or a boss. Well, what did decide? For those of you that work for a leader, you should consider yourself very fortunate. You should send that person a thank you card or at least make it known to them that they are in fact a pleasure to work for and with. The way you are being treated right now is probably the way you will treat the people that will one day follow you. The circle of life will continue, or at least it should. However, there are some of you that aren't quite ready to stand up and sing "Hanukah Matata" with your co-workers. (Did you see what I did there with the Lion King songs? Just making sure you're awake. I promise to never do that again, probably.) Just the idea of going to work each day is taxing on you because you know your boss will come by and ask you to do something unbelievably ridiculous and give no rhyme or reason why the ridiculous task was assigned. Before you try to rationalize it all in your head you realize, that was your boss just asked/told you to do something. After all, you do have a job and you do get paid for this job. This is what you do. You do the little things that your boss finds below them. You think you will do these things for the rest of your life. At this point I want you to pause and take a deep breath. You are not going to fall into this trap. You are not going to fall in line with the status quo. You can turn things around. One of the worst things you can do is gripe and complain as this becomes contagious. It's so easy though isn't it? It's so easy to gripe and complain when the boss is coming down on you. The best part is your complaining boat has now become a party barge as your co-workers join in. You may not be able to change your boss right away, but you can change your own outlook. What would it look like if you started a revolution in the workplace? Don't forget, at this point your office doesn't have a leader, only a boss. The days of office meetings to gripe and complain are over. What would it take to turn the office around? What would it look like if the people in your office searching for a leader found one? In a world that is screaming for guidance and not just a list of instructions, you can fill the void. I have yet to meet someone that enjoys being bossed around. There are tons of people that are willing to follow, they just need someone to stand up and lead. The best part about this leadership model is that you do not have any official role or title, you just are. If you can gather followers from that position, you will make even the biggest bosses envious.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Is Technology Making Us Dumber?


When I was in high school my teachers would get on my case about using Cliff Notes instead of reading the entire book. They would argue that I’m not getting the foundation of the writing by simply reading a sample constructed in a little pamphlet. Cliff Notes were making us dumber. Fast forward several years and every now and then the headline of an article will read “Is Technology Making Us Dumber?” It’s no longer Cliff Notes? Why? Well, Cliff Notes would be too much work probably. Why read a 350-page book when you can read a 30-page pamphlet? Why read a 30-page pamphlet when you can just Google it? The progression will probably not stop there. Research is beginning to show that Google, and search engines like it, are making us less likely to go through the trouble to store information in our brains because we know it will always be there. Information is so readily available now; it is literally at our fingertips. How does this change the way we learn? Well, for starters, we don’t learn the same type of things that our parents did. We learn different things. We learn how to find information quicker. We learn how to disseminate between a legitimate source and one written by someone with a vendetta against the subject matter. Each generation becomes increasingly more information savvy. Does that mean better? I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s fair to weigh the two on the same scale. Sure, 15 years ago a high school student could have told you the plotline and characters of The Call of the Wild by Jack London on the spot. Now students can tell you, but it will take a second or two; just long enough for them to grab their iPhone out of their pocket and Google it. Smart-phones bring up another type of technology that contributes to the tapered use of our brain. When was the last time you had to remember someone’s phone number? When was the last time you remembered someone’s address? These memories are things of the past. We have phone numbers and addresses in our contacts and if we can’t find it, we just text someone that will. Technology is great, don’t misunderstand me, but we must be very careful about replacing our internal memory (our brain) with external memory (phones, computers, and clouds). There are obvious advantages and disadvantages to both; all I am suggesting is that we need to weigh our options carefully.

Monday, May 23, 2011

What Is Your Learning Style?


I remember taking a learning style quiz my sophomore year in college. I would love to say that was a turning point in my academic career, but sadly I can't. In reality it started even more of a downward spiral that had already been in full effect since my freshmen year. The results of the quiz read something like, "you learn by doing". There were several students in the class who learn by reading, memorizing, and it's possible there was even one guy's quiz that said he learns simply by being in the same room as the knowledge. Those people really aggravate me. By simply hearing or seeing something one time, they will remember it for a lifetime, but I digress. It is possible that when I found out I learn by “doing” it may be been the worst thing that could have happened to me. That idea became my crutch. The simple thought that if I am not able to do this hands-on I won't learn, became my excuse. No longer did I spend hours reading textbooks. Gone were the days of paying serious attention in class. The professor was only going to talk about things, never do it. I became so wrapped up in the thought that if I want to grasp this I need to see it in action. When in reality, I should have looked at this as a challenge, not a setback. Sure, I learn best when it's hands-on, but the quiz didn't say I couldn't learn if it wasn't. As I have now been given the opportunity to be on the other side of the gradebook, I am faced with this same thought process any time an assessment draws near. What kind of exam should I give? When it comes down to it, I would love to just give a practical application exam. The problem with that is, not everyone learns like I do. However, that is a problem in itself. The idea behind the learning style quiz is to help you figure out how you learn best. What I try to do is use a curriculum that challenges all learning styles. I don’t want to be an enabler. I don’t want to allow students to put themselves in boxes. I want to help broaden their horizon. After all, isn't that what college is all about? The challenge is not only finding out how we best learn, but how we can find a way to excel when we are put in an environment that doesn’t cater to our specific learning style.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Phones In The Classroom


Whether we recognize social media or not, it's all around us. Students are glued to their cell phones. Clothes are being made that incorporate an easier way to use your cell phone. Phones, like other pieces of technology, are not evil by themselves; it's how you use them. How do I know the student is texting the entire class period? What if the student is taking notes on his phone? What if another student is tweeting ideas from the lecture on her phone? In these simple examples, nothing has been mentioned that would take away from the integrity of the classroom. By encouraging my students to tweet thoughts and questions from my lecture, the discussion continues well beyond the classroom. Cell phones and laptops are very useful tools that, when used appropriately, can add an immense value to overall learning environment. I realize there may be some old-school professors that think all you need is a yellow notepad, a pen, a textbook, and an open mind in class. Well, this may have once been true, but things have changed. Students today don't learn the same way. If they are real students of whatever discipline you teach, they are looking up information online, asking questions in forums, and yes, even tweeting about ideas. This is a very information heavy generation. Some say Google has made us dumber. The truth is we have made ourselves dumber because we rely on Google for answers instead of feeding them to ourselves. With a more proactive approach of research to learn as apposed to research (if it can be called that) to get a quick answer our students will truly be students. Offering cell phones in the classroom can, in my opinion, open up the classroom for a very challenging discussion.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Transistions


If you haven’t seen the press release for the new Alumni Networking Center for the Paul R. Carter College of Business at Harding University, take a look.

My current job has been incredible. I have had the opportunity to meet several people and learn from incredible leaders in higher education. As I begin a transition out of my current job, I am looking forward to opportunities that are ahead. Students are one of the main reasons I like working at a university. This new assignment will give me the opportunity to help them even more. Our main focus in the beginning will be organizing our network so that we can have a higher placement rate among graduates. Just the idea of this new center further shows the dedication that the faculty have to their students. I cannot wait to begin this new journey.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cut The Cord Already...

Is it possible to do too much for your child? What do you think crosses the line? At what point does a parent become "too involved"? I ask these questions because I can't get over the fact that parents seem to be going back to college in record number. These parents aren't actually enrolled in the universities, but they are indeed very much a part of them. This is more of a self-imposed situation though. Last semester I had a student tell me he sends all of his papers to his mother for her to proofread them. This seemed to be something that would come and pass, but this phenomenon certainly doesn't seem to be going anywhere. College is supposed to be a time of self-discovery. Is college really the place where young adults can learn more about themselves? Unfortunately, because of parent's that won't let go, these students aren't growing up. In fact, they become more resilient to taking a challenge head-on. These students find ways to side step the system in place. When they call home, home calls the university and pleads to get their child out of whatever problem has been put in front of them. At what point is this student going to learn about life? Sure, educators can teach them about academic disciplines, but where are they going to learn about life? Are these parents going to have their kids moving back in after graduation? Understand what I am saying, there is a disease in the current generation that is keeping them from learning the hard lessons of life. This disease has spawn from parents who simply cannot let go. There will be a point in the life each of these student's where they will be left behind by their peers who have chosen the path less traveled, and what will a parent be able to do then? You can read more about this topic from this article.

Respect and Responsibility


There are many characteristics of a strong leader. Some suggest a leader needs to be a people person, a conflict negotiator, or even a confident person. All of these are excellent traits. It was suggested to me by a man, Paul Carter, who has met every business leader in the country that having respect for others and always remembering your responsibility to God, family, and company. The very last words he spoke to me were over the phone. His words rang loud and clear as if he was in the room with me, "You have been entrusted with a very important role here. You obviously have the respect of David (the president of the university) and the board. You will honor God, your family, and this university by doing your best." It sounded like something straight out of a movie. The truth though is this is exactly the way Paul Carter lived his life. From the time he was the CFO and number two guy at Wal-Mart to the time he started his own company. His life was a tribute to the way he showed respect and responsibility. What if we used this notion as we conduct our tasks in higher education? If we showed respect to others and didn't ask for it, but in time received it ourselves, wouldn't a university run more smoothly? What if we put our priorities in order and took responsibility for things in our life? Paul Carter, though gone from this world, continues to live on in the lives of many he touched. His character was impeccable. Recently, the College of Business at Harding University was named in his honor. You can read more about the Paul R. Carter College of Business here.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

It's Not About Me

This morning I sat and watched as a page was being turned in the lives of many students. This morning was just like most mornings for me. I woke up at 6:30, got ready, grabbed a cup of coffee and headed out the door. I typically don't go to campus on Saturday's but today was a bit different. Today we took part in commencement ceremonies. As I marched in with my colleagues all I could think about was how long this would take. I wasn't mad or upset that I had to be there, but I didn't actually enjoy it either. Everyone in the stands was smiling from ear to ear. The students could not contain their excitement, and I was left wondering how long I would be in the uncomfortable fold-out chair. As the first row of degree recipients stood up, the pure joy was flowing from their smiles.And then it dawned on me, I was here for them. I was here to enjoy this day, their day, with them. It's exciting to see your students walk across that stage. Today was about the celebration of hard work and finishing the task. Today was not about my feelings at all, it was much bigger. Today, I was happy to be there in support of those students that worked so hard and now call themselves college graduates. In life we may not always appreciate where we are or what we are doing. Maybe it's best to ask, "Is this really about me?" Best wishes to the class of 2011.

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Time For Rest


Most universities across the country are wrapping things up. The summer is upon us. This “time of rest” is so crucial to the overall learning experience of students. The ability to "unplug" is earned and well deserved by those who put themselves through academic rigor. However, the break shouldn't be a time for zero mental stimulation. The next three months are actually perfect for students to spend time on things they like. By simply switching gears to something you choose, your mind can be sharpened. You know what I mean. How many business students really want to take music appreciation and how many music students want to take economics? If you go straight from final exams and then take a three-month break from higher education, full of nothing, only to come back rigorous coursework in the fall, your mind will have to start up again. Keeping your mind sharp during the summer break can make a huge difference for a student who is about to face a tough semester. Even if all you can do is read a fiction novel, at the best that keeps your brain working. However, the break is not for learning every square root to every number. Another option for the summer is to put what you’ve learned into practice. For some, this comes in the form of a summer job. For others, you may have the luxury to volunteer all summer. Being active in your disciple not only looks great on a resume, it actually helps you learn more about path you have chosen in life. Just relax and enjoy the break, but take full advantage of the opportunity to keep your brain waves moving.

Cut The Cord Already...


Is it possible to do too much for your child? What do you think crosses the line? At what point does a parent become "too involved"? I ask these questions because I can't get over the fact that parents seem to be going back to college in record number. These parents aren't actually enrolled in the universities, but they are indeed very much a part of them. This is more of a self-imposed situation though. Last semester I had a student tell me he sends all of his papers to his mother for her to proofread them. This seemed to be something that would come and pass, but this phenomenon certainly doesn't seem to be going anywhere. College is supposed to be a time of self-discovery. Is college really the place where young adults can learn more about themselves? Unfortunately, because of parent's that won't let go, these students aren't growing up. In fact, they become more resilient to taking a challenge head-on. These students find ways to side step the system in place. When they call home, home calls the university and pleads to get their child out of whatever problem has been put in front of them. At what point is this student going to learn about life? Sure, educators can teach them about academic disciplines, but where are they going to learn about life? Are these parents going to have their kids moving back in after graduation? Understand what I am saying, there is a disease in the current generation that is keeping them from learning the hard lessons of life. This disease is spawn from parents who simply cannot let go. There will be a point in the life each of these student's where they will be left behind by their peers who have chosen the path less traveled, and what will a parent be able to do then? You can read more about this topic from this article.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Branding Yourself

Every semester I ask Jim Miller, professor of communication, to speak to my business communication class. He talks about social media and how it relates to business communication. Dr. Miller gives a wonderful lecture on how our students have an opportunity to market themselves, now more than ever. As he speaks about Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn I can tell the students are engaged. I don’t really expect to get a ton out of his lecture, as Jim and I frequently have discussions about social media and the like. When he started talking about blogs and domain names, my ears perked up. I have tried to write a blog before, three to be exact, and the silly things never kept my attention long enough to stick with it. (Consequently, I make no promises regarding this blog) The lecture became more of a question session asking how do you brand yourself? In a world that has information at everyone's fingertips, how do you tell people about yourself? Sure, you can type your name into a search engine and find several pages that say something about you. Is this the information you want people to see? What if the information out there isn't true? That information is out there for all to see. You may think it vain to "Google" yourself, but I would highly recommend doing so. I suggest this to all of my students. The real life application to this is you never know who is searching for information about you. It could be a neighbor; it could be a potential employer, or maybe even a co-worker. The message is simple, if you aren't branding yourself, someone else is.