Most of us know the definition of insanity. If you don’t, look it up, Most often Albert Einstein is credited for the statement. Or you will even see Mark Twain credited it for it. But it says that insanity is “doing the same things over and over and expecting different results.”
It’s very clear what it means. If you want to get a different result than you have been getting than you must be willing to something that you haven’t done. Seems simple in theory, but in practice it is the hardest thing to actually do.
I have worked in higher education and training and development for the majority of my professional career. Both of these fields live in a space that I like to call “Important, but Not Urgent.” To steal a concept from Stephen Covey.
Everybody knows that continuing education is important. Whether it is formal education through colleges and universities. Or through on going classes, courses, seminars, training, and coaching. Although we all know it is important, we all don’t think it is that urgent, until it is.
Urgency is usually only created by a significant change in our conditions. Most people and most companies, and especially in higher education. They all get caught up in the moment and it is hard for them to think about the future. When you are not thinking about the future, all you do is what is necessary today to survive another day. Meanwhile you are neglecting the future, being so focused on the present. It is real and it is a challenge, but great leaders and institutions realize that for them to have a better future, they must make time to prepare for it.
That is why training and development and further education both fall into this concept “Important, but not urgent.” As I have already stated, everybody believes both of them are important. But todays work, todays challenges, todays problems, are more important to think about than the skills we will need to tackle tomorrows problems.
Its kind of funny that institutions of higher education that provide knowledge, information, education, degrees, certificates, etc. Are some of the same places that don’t provide the training, education, information, and skill development that their employees need to be more successful.
I can remember meeting with a Chief Academic Officer (Dean of the entire university), and asking them about providing some training to their faculty and staff. And it was almost like I insulted the individual. The training I proposed was skill development training. They put their nose up in the air as if it was beneath them to even talk about such a thing in a college or university.
The longer I am in and around higher education I see this a being the reality for many of the institutions. Why would places of higher learning neglect the one thing that they promote?
One reason, is they never find the time. The second reason is because of their ego. There is a condition most human beings have. It is called “everybody but me condition.” Meaning, everybody but me has these problems, or deal with these things, but I don’t. It has been proven through study after study that human beings think of themselves as better than they actually are.
Two psychologists Justin Kruger and David Dunning, Dunning-Kruger effect. Studied this very thing. Here is their analysis.
People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it. Across 4 studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although their test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd. Several analyses linked this miscalibration to deficits in metacognitive skill, or the capacity to distinguish accuracy from error. Paradoxically, improving the skills of participants, and thus increasing their metacognitive competence, helped them recognize the limitations of their abilities. Dunning and Kruger, Cornell University.
So this fallacy is part of the problem in most higher education institutions, they don’t see the need for ongoing development. This problem starts at the top with leadership. They have to find value in it first.
The truth of the matter is that the people responsible for generating the revenue, ie. tuition for these colleges and universities are getting younger and younger. I hate to say that age is part of it, but I am saying this. A recent college grad usually doesn’t have the experience or knowledge to discuss the issues and concerns most prospective students have, and especially the ones their parents have. Secondly, the admissions representatives are not skilled enough to have the necessary conversations with the non-traditional students.
To get the admissions personnel better skilled and more effective, initial training and ongoing training and development is necessary and required. This training provides processes, techniques, and language they can use to be more successful, but more importantly, it creates self-confidence in the people who participate in the training. That is worth the training by itself. Self-confidence is one of the major lacking behaviors that I see when working with teams.
Does your team need some self-confidence? By learning skills, processes, and techniques to do their job better, people will have the self-confidence that is necessary to be successful.
To your success and your future.
Brian Willett is the owner and creator of the Admissions Advantage Training program. This live and online training program provides anybody who is responsible for recruiting prospective students to a college, university, or any other institution, skills and techniques to be more effective in their positions. More importantly, the self-confidence required to meet the demands of their positions.
Recently, I was speaking with a leader that runs a very successful department inside a very large company. This leader is like most leaders that I work with. They put in the hours. Working hard is who they are. In speaking with them they have very brash and direct opinions on any topic related to people, business processes, politics, leadership, their company, etc.
This leader has made it to their level in the organization through years of hard work and a commitment to the organization. Through all of their successes and self-confidence in themselves, the one area they struggle with is holding people accountable quickly and efficiently when they have to.
In this leaders case, they are around and constantly crossing paths with the person on their team who they need to address some performance or behavioral issues with. I have even seen in some organizations I have worked with, that a leader will go to lunch everyday with the person who they need to have a conversation with, and still wont do it.
I see this play out over and over in organizations everywhere that I work with. Leaders who won’t have direct conversations with employees who are struggling in delivering results or have some behavioral issue that is causing problems in the workplace.
Having spent many years in higher education, I see this condition even more so there with leaders.
Why is that? I think there could be several reasons. But here are a few.
Who really likes conflict? Nobody does. We spend most of our life trying to avoid conflict. If you want to be an effective leader, you have to embrace the conflict. You have to be willing to address the conflict head on and know that it is better to address the conflict than to avoid it. Most leaders have never learned this in their life. So by the time they get in to leadership, they have spent years avoiding conflict and they try to keep doing it.
If you agree, that most of us avoid conflict, which means by the time we get in to leadership positions we are really programmed to avoid it. Then there is only one way to fix this issue.
We must get training on how to handle conflict. Training starts with concepts and processes on how to address conflict. After learning, we must practice these processes and concepts of having conversations with people about behavioral and performance issues. This training and practice is essential because it provides you more self-confidence. By learning and practicing, self-confidence is developed.
Once you learn a process and practice it, you can now actually use it in a “real world” situation. And once you start practicing it in “real world” situations, you will be come better at it.
I tell people who I coach and train this: You should never have a conversation with an employee regarding performance or behavioral issues, until you have had the conversation with someone else. Which means you should practice your conversation before you do it live. Practice with your boss, practice with a peer, practice with your spouse, or someone else. The key is to practice it.
You should never have the conversation until you have had the conversation. If you don’t have the conversation before the conversation, then you should never have the conversation.
Repeat that over and over.
Practicing that conversation will provide a leader the confidence they need. Additionally, they can get some feedback from who ever they practiced it with about how it sounded.
If you are in leadership and you have some leaders on your team that are struggling with doing this, or if it is even you who are struggling with it. What is preventing you from doing it? Is is that you don’t have the self-confidence? What else could it be?
When you don’t address these issues, you are sending a message that everything is okay. This message is being heard by the employee and by everyone else in the organization. You have to take control of the message.
If you are interested learning how to do this more effectively reach out to me. Lets have a conversation.
To your success and your future.
Growing up in a little suburb outside the city of Louisville in Valley Station, Kentucky in the 1980’s and 90’s was probably the ideal situation a kid could have. It was your typical working class area of town and it seemed to me that there were a lot other kids around the same age as me.
We did what all kids did then. We played outside and spent a lot of times riding bikes and getting in to this or that. Both of my parents worked very hard and didn’t miss a day of work, unless something really bad was wrong with them or my brothers and I. Which was never.
Outside of spending time with the kids in the neighborhood, taking the occasional vacation, usually camping somewhere, and visiting our family that all pretty much lived in the city. We lived a pretty sheltered life.
I just think that is how life was. Then if you fast forward to when I graduated high school and I didn’t have a clue of what I wanted to do. I ended up in two-year degree program in electronics.
After I finished that degree, I started working in a maintenance shop. Once again, in this position we were pretty isolated in our dealings with other people. We had to support the facility and the managers of the place where I worked, but we didn’t have a whole lot of interactions with them unless we had to.
From that position, my next position was with a company where I was part of a union. I worked there for a few years. Again this position was very insular. Myself and the other three hundred or so union employees were really focused on the work we did and doing life.
From there, I made a brief stop back to a previous company as a manager where I was leading a team of people to get things done.
But it wasnt until I landed at a university working in admissions until I really started getting a different perspective on life and the life that I had lived compared to others.
First of all, who in the world, would have thought I would have landed in a position where I would be responsible for recruiting students to attend a university? Not me. And my guess is not anybody else I know. I was a C student coming out of high school. I received a two-year degree in electronics, and for the most part my job was working on things to fix them. Usually with a small team.
So here I am in college admissions and it is now my job to work with people, lots of different people. Throughout my education I had been surrounded by diversity and people who were different from me. But I had never been responsible for working with them and supporting them in a way that I was now required to do in working in admissions.
It was now my job to call students who I knew very little about. Early on in my career in admissions, I was responsible to call the parents and guardians of these prospective students and tell them how they should be approaching higher education. It was now my job to speak with employers about their employees professional development and ongoing education. It was now my job to ensure the university that I was working for continued to thrive, because it had enough tuition dollars coming in to support the institution and its initiatives.
Up until this point in my career, everything was just a job. I had a task to perform. I fixed things and prevented downtime. Sure it was an important task, it required me to work with others. But at the end of the day we all wanted the same thing. I didn’t technically have to get those people to support what I was doing and influence them to see my way of thinking.
In college admissions I had to learn skills and techniques to persuade and influence other people. I had to create urgency with the words I used when speaking over the phone. I had to set down with parents who were divorced and tell them why they need to come together to support their children’s education. I had to speak with adults who were going back to college and help them develop a plan so they could see how they could afford their education financially as well as fit it in their already busy schedule.
I had to do all of this with a heart of encouragement and teaching, and at the same time create urgency to get them to act now. The skills that were required in college admissions were different from the ones I had been using up until this point in my life.
The biggest thing that I learned was just dealing with the public and dealing with people and their personal lives. As I shared, I grew up pretty sheltered. My mom and dad were still together. All of my aunts and uncles were still married. Most of my close friends parents were still together. I don’t remember having any friends that were ward of the states, or their grandparents were raising them.
Working in college admissions, I was being exposed to all of this. I learned that for the most part, my life situation wasn’t as typical as I thought it was. In many cases, it was really rare, and becoming increasingly more rare.
Here I am some fifteen years removed from starting my job in college admissions and I am thankful that I had the career that I had, because it taught me things that I would have never learned otherwise. Most importantly it taught me perspective that I didn’t have.
Sure, I learned a lot of skills that have served me well in all facets of my life. I learned business, sales, leadership, persuasion, how to coach people, how to manage conflict, etc. But learning perspective was probably one of the most important things.
And most of us never get that perspective, because we grow up in situations where we are sheltered. We go to school and we hang out with people who are just like us. We then take jobs and careers, and we work with people just like us, at least spend most of our time with people like us.
While working in college admissions and higher education I was forced to work with lots of people and lots of situations that I wouldn’t have done otherwise. And for that I am thankful, because the skills I have now you can never take away from me. These skills are very very valuable to the marketplace, because most businesses don’t require the diverse skills that are required in college admissions and they definitely don’t require you to get in to the personal lives of your customers the way college admissions makes you.
What I learned was most important, but equally important are the opportunities that I have had to grow my career, and the additional opportunities that have spun off from higher education because of the skills I have acquired and learned.
What are your thoughts? What was your most impactful job? If you are in college admissions, do you agree? Or have anything to add to my thoughts?
To your success and your future.
This week I attended one of the bigger conferences that serves the proprietary education sector. Although many of the attendees are saying that the numbers are still down from years past, there was a dose of optimism that was in the air as more people have started to come back to the conference now that we are two years removed from the last election.
Under the previous administration, the proprietary education sector was faced with increased rules and regulations that burdened the staff and caused institutions to invest money in areas that weren’t serving the student and their educational pursuits.
During this time schools also faced daily bad press that provoked prospective students to be cautious of where they decided to pursue higher education. Couple this with the ongoing national discussion around the student loan debt crisis and it was a recipe for tighter budgets, less staff, and schools seeking ways to maintain viability because there were fewer people interested in their institutions.
Under the current presidential administration there is optimism in the air as some of the rules and regulations are put on hold or funding is cut off. Resources are also being allocated to help the same schools get back to operating on an even playing field in the higher education sector.
With record low unemployment and employers looking for skilled labor due to a growing economy. All higher education institutions providing students with skills, certifications, diplomas, and degrees, are in demand and necessary to provide the marketplace with a skilled labor force.
Unfortunately, because the previous administration was focused on limiting higher education options, the skills gap that exists in the marketplace has been increased over the past several years.
These schools have a tall task to help meet the current demands of the marketplace, while also developing and investing into programs of study to meet the skills that will be required in the marketplace in the future.
With any decision I have ever made during my lifetime, I have always made better ones when presented with more information and several options. Additionally, when presented with a problem where I have had different solutions to choose from, I have typically made the right decision for me at the time when I was able to look at several available options.
So options and choices have allowed me to make the best decisions for me. Without a few options I may have made the decision to pursue one thing, because that is all I knew at the time. It may have not been the best fit, but if I didn’t have many choices I had no choice but to pick something.
The value of multiple options, especially in higher education, is that a prospective students learns more than they need to know when they are looking at the different options to choose from. This process is the learning process that helps them make the best decision for themselves.
It is like several years ago when I was looking for a gym to go to. I had two options originally. I had a gym that I really liked that would open up at 7 am. They had great equipment, a pool, and sauna. Another gym that I was interested in opened up at 5 am, but it did not have a sauna. But it also had a great equipment. At that time, I chose to go to the gym that opened at 5 am because that fit my schedule better. Luckily I had the two options.
Then you fast forward a few years forward and I ended up becoming a member of a gym that I could go to 24/7. At that time, I was getting up earlier and I wanted the flexibility on the weekends to go whenever I wanted. Once again, because I had options, I was able to make the best decision for me and for my life.
All institutions of higher education have different paths, programs, support, services, focuses. You name it. And when these options are not available to prospective students, then a person may have to decide on one or the other, that may not be the best fit for what they want to accomplish and how they want to go about accomplishing it.
Bottom line is options provide us education and knowledge to make the best decision for us and our situation. When it comes to higher education this benefits all of the parties involved. The prospective students, the schools, and the taxpayers who provide funding through federal student loan programs.
After attending the conference this week, that is what I am most excited about. Regardless of your form of ownership the government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers in business.
Yes I said in business. All schools are businesses, if they don’t make more money than they spend, they will no longer exist. This why I am thankful for an even playing field where the business that wins, is the business that serves the customer the best based on what that customer needs and wants.
To your success and your future.