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.