Boys on step drinking smoothies

September is Back to School: We’ll go back to basics

The school bus just picked up my youngest child for his first day of middle school orientation. As we all gear up to go “back to school” I thought I’d do a quick sweep of the national “theme” weeks and the primary theme for September. What I found was a mishmash of days and weeks for different awareness efforts. It felt like the people in charge of this month where caught in the same swirl of activity as our household and threw something together.

I did find a commonality, however. The themes that spoke most loudly to me had the thread of getting back to basics; for example, September is National Courtesy Month. 

This month I’ll share a variety of topics that help us get back to basics when it comes to our businesses and our lives. I’ll share curated content on my Facebook page that support the themes of the month as well. If you’re interested, please “like” and you’ll share in the content too. I always appreciate comments and answers to questions I may pose.

Here’s a list of topics that got my attention:

  • National Courtesy Month
  • Patriot Day (Sept 11)
  • Step Family Day (Sept 16)
  • World Gratitude Day (Sept 21)
  • International Day of Peace (Sept 21)
  • Business Women’s Day (Sept 22)

Let’s all get back to basics and share what we learn this month.

Soma

Completely Biased, Unscientific Learning from Potential Job Candidates

At 12:25 p.m. on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 I just finished my first experience judging the #MNcollegiateDECA state competition in Mankato, MN. Between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. I judged six students on their ability to read a case study in the restaurant and food service management area and present their solutions to an ethical and operational dilemma facing a fictitious restaurant chain. The details of their case is not important. That students chose, at such an early hour of the morning, to let their skills be judged — that’s the important point.

When I brought Rasmussen students to the competition two years ago my focus was on the top students. I wanted to make sure my students were among the top ranked: confident, well informed, professional, able to problem solve and think on their feet. My focus is different today. I want to talk about the students who lacked confidence, need more experience, and still pepper their speech with “like” and “stuff.”

The existence of these aforementioned students at the DECA competition lead me to be hopeful for employment candidates in the future. WHAT? How can that be?

These students took a risk and opened themselves up to true feedback. By title I’m judging them, their performance, and their ability at this point in time. Asking for feedback is never easy. Asking for feedback from strangers and intending to improve from that feedback shows true commitment to growth.

As business leaders, we have something to learn. Based on the example of these inexperienced, but dedicated, potential candidates, I recommend the following actions for our personal and professional growth.

  1. Let your business and your contribution be “judged.” In DECA you are not approaching someone who will be judgmental. There is a different. Reach out to customers with whom you have the best relationships. Open yourself up to review from business peers, coaches, and mentors whom you trust to give you an accurate assessment delivered with love.
  2. Review the feedback carefully, then put it away for a day or two. Our businesses are wrapped up in our identities. It’s understandable that we’d feel defensive or emotional over the feedback we receive. Don’t reject the feedback immediately or rush to make changes. Instead, let the emotions fade for a couple of days. Then review the comments again with a trusted mentor. Really discuss the merits, opportunities, and challenges of each point.
  3. Create an action plan. What will you change, by when, and why? Make sure any changes are intentional and add value to your most important stakeholders. By the way; you are one of those stakeholders.
  4. Set your action plan side by side with your business and personal mission statements. If there are areas that don’t align one of two things may be true: 1) your mission has evolved since you’ve looked at it last and needs updating, or 2) you need to revisit your action plan.

The steps outlined here go far beyond creating a to-do list. It’s your opportunity to transform yourself and your business. How often should you go through this process? I would recommend once a year, but if your business is in a state of rapid growth you might go through the steps more often.

The bottom line: Not everyone is at the top of their game at all times. The ones that will break through to success are the ones that will put their assumptions at risk.

Helping Local Communities Strengthen Business Engagement Strategies (via Corporate Voices for Working Families)

Businesses and communities will always be interdependent. What are those on the front lines saying works between community leaders and business partners?

On Thursday, February 11, 2011, Corporate Voices for Working Families’ Ready by 21 team facilitated a “peer learning” call with the Ready by 21 Southeast Communities on business engagement.  Corporate Voices provided an overview of its series of business and community tools, and in particular the Supporting the Education Pipeline:  Business Engagement Toolkit for Community-Based Organizations, focused on helping private and public leaders in comm … Read More

via Corporate Voices for Working Families

From a “Bad Indian Girl” who has become a “Bad Asian Parent”

A colleague recently sent me an article article from the Wall Street Journal about being a Chinese mother. He recommends parents give it a read. Essentially, the author states that shaming a child (for their own good mind you) is cultural, successful, and much preferred to the Western style of parenting. This no hold barred article makes the point that learning should not be fun but hard work, and given hours of practice, memorization, and parental tutoring, all kids can be the best in the class. The author also includes other Asian and some African cultures in her diatribe.

As a kid, I was considered a “bad Indian girl.” I didn’t go to Indian school the two weekend days other kids had free. I didn’t take dance lessons and didn’t stay on the “women’s side” of the house during the endless Indian parties weekend after weekend. Instead, I wanted to discuss literature and politics and business with the men. The Indian men didn’t know what to do with me, but my father always welcomed me with open arms. He let my natural curiosity lead my desire to learn.

Was I pushed to succeed in school, yes. Nothing was as difficult to handle than the pressure I put on myself, however. I started things and stopped things (not easily as my parents wouldn’t let me give up too easily) as I discovered myself and my calling. Why am I telling you this? Apparently I’ve evolved from a “bad Indian girl” into a “bad Indian mom.”

I believe that my kids should be, and can be the best. I work with them on their homework, their music lessons, and yes, on the plays in which they choose to take part. Even wrestling (be still my heart) is an acceptable pursuit. I also think that every child has a unique gift and through persistence and self-awareness he or she can make a difference in the world.

I reject the authors claim that “Chinese” parenting must be so severe that the world must revolve around the wishes of the parent, that learning must be a battle, and only then is success achieved. Instead, this “bad Indian mom” believes in unconditional love, delayed gratification, and working hard for what you earn. I will love my children without limit, but I won’t stand for laziness.

I’m an instructor of business for juniors and seniors in college. I get the value of education. I’m also compulsively driven in my work and education. I don’t like getting less than an A+. So why, with these traits, would I encourage my kids’ teachers to give them harder work so they no longer get perfect scores on their tests? Why do I prod them to take on the challenge words and leadership roles in their classrooms? Learning should be fun at times, yes, but it should also be a quest. It should be hard and messy and frustrating at times.

We don’t learn purely for satisfaction or recognition. I believe we strive to settle an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. If my kids make a mistake, my first question is, “Is it because you didn’t understand or because you made a careless mistake?” If the mistake was preventable we work on strategies to make sure it never happens again; we also practice and practice until the skill is second nature. If they forget their work at school there are consequences until organization and responsibility are reinforced.

Now, if they didn’t understand, that’s exciting! We work on learning the concepts, strategies, practice–rinse and repeat. If they get perfect scores they are the top of the class, but that’s not enough. Their main competition should always include themselves. Where is that in the Chinese model? When do the children of the author take on a difficult task when mom is not there? Why would they?

My kids don’t like to get things wrong on tests. They try to hide it because they know what’s coming…work and more work. However, when they get stuck on something they never hesitate to come to me. Why? Because we embark on the quest together. When the questions get harder the fire is lit.

This “bad Indian mom” will stand by her claim that pull will trump push in motivating kids, employees, team members…etc…every time. Pull them into wanting to succeed by lighting their curiosity. Support their efforts with love and work. Their quest to improve should never end, regardless if it’s “perfect” or not…that’s not really the point. The journey is the point.

It’s just a piece of paper–right?

What are we training for anyway? Is a Bachelor’s degree or leadership training part of a checklist – yup, done. What alarms me about the story I read in the Star Tribune today titled “Fines follow 15 hours of work in 59 minutes” (http://www.startribune.com/investigators/102918284.html?elr=KArksUUUoDEy3LGDiO7aiU), are the self-proclaimed professionals who still consider the piece of paper more valuable than the education. Leadership and training is my “thing.” I’m passionate about it and love to pursue knowledge for the sake of learning and getting better at what I do. That’s what I believe separates quality leaders from the wannabes.

Even in the new age of consumerism a mind that craves learning for its own sake will be in demand. A mind that explores solutions to problems that have not yet affected the bottom-line will drive business forward. To my students I reinforce over and over again the value of education over the attainment of “the grade” or “the degree.” It looks like someone forgot to reinforce the concept with the insurance agents who earned credit without the work.

Is this how training is viewed in your company? Are your employees after the piece of paper that says they’ve met their burden? If so, what are you going to do about it? They are your employees after all. Let’s take a look at a little checklist of our own shall we?

  1. Have you communicated the value of the training within the scope of their jobs and the strategy of the company?
  2. Are you truly committed to the training or are you expecting your employees to stay connected during the critical instruction time?
  3. Will you discuss key learnings after the training and see if any skills can be integrated into individual development plans?
  4. Have you assigned a coach or mentor if the training involved a change in behavior? Is there someone to hold them accountable for the changes in behavior?
  5. Is there an opportunity to incorporate enhanced goals or objectives in performance evaluations?

I could go on for quite a few more bullet points on ways to bring action and accountability to training. What have you tried and what has worked for you?