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.
I have this one friend who I grew up with and went to high school with. He is a great guy. He has a great personality. He is a hard worker. He does the right thing.
Since high school, we don’t hang out at all, but over the last twenty-one years. Yes. That is how long ago I graduated from high school. We will see each other every few years in passing.
The conversations I have had with him over the last twenty-one years are always the same. He is either about to get in to something that will change everything for him. Or, he is getting over something that he got involved in that was really difficult. It is always the same story.
The people on the job were out to get him. Or this next job will be the best job ever, and he will make so much money. He was in a relationship and she took everything he had. Or, he is currently in a relationship and she is amazing.
In reality, we all know that it isn’t the job, it isn’t the people on the job. It isn’t the old girlfriend. Nope. It is him. He is the problem. He is impulsive. He doesn’t know what he wants. He changes like the wind. He has never taken the time to make changes in himself to have the life he wants.
The chances are you have met this person before as well. We all have a friend or a former friend like this.
I believe that Higher Education is a lot like this friend of mine. Especially when it comes to marketing and enrollments. Most institutions are looking at the next big thing with digital marketing and online strategies. They are buying lists and creating elaborate strategies to these lists. They are focused on the next new and shiny object. They either just purchased something and are really excited about the possibility that it will solve all of their enrollment problems. Or they are coming out of contract that promised to do the same thing. And it didn’t.
And just like that friend of mine, who never took the time to take a look at himself, and work on him. Higher education institutions haven’t invested the time or energy in their most important piece of their marketing and enrollment process, which is investing in the people who are responsible for their recruiting efforts.
The next new and shiny object will always be right around the corner, or it is already in front of your face. The next software that promises to bring more leads and retain more applications is always going to be pitched to your school. But all of those systems and processes will never be as good as your people “could be”.
Yes. I said it. Your institution will never be as good as it could be, until you take the time and money and invest it in the people who work for the schools skill development.
Todays world is different from yesterdays. You know that. In an SMS (Text Message) world, a Social Media world, an email world, people are not equipped to communicate the way we really want to be communicated with.
If you have a younger staff, the chances are they haven’t been trained or really know how to develop personal connections with people on a face to face level. They are not comfortable with it. They don’t know how to do it.
If they are responsible for recruiting students to your school, then you will never get the results your institution could get with all of these new digital strategies to engage more students. Because at the end of the day, someone has to get on a phone or sit down with someone face to face and have a conversation that inspires that prospective student to take action. And that is a skill that has to be taught and trained on.
This morning I read four different articles from very reputable sources in higher education on how to stop declining enrollments. Not one of them mentioned skill development of the Admissions staff and people who are responsible for enrollment for a college or university.
As I told my friend the last time I saw him. I am going to suggest the same to higher education institutions and their management. Focus on you is what I told my friend. That next job will work out if you are better. The next girlfriend won’t be that bad if you first figure out what you want out of a relationship and then go and find the right person that can provide that for you. Fix you first.
Higher Education can spend all the money they want on these new and old digital strategies, traditional marketing, and any thing else. But until they look inward and focus on developing the skills of the people interacting with their students and prospective students they will never get the results they want.
To your success and your future.
Brian Willett Group created the Admissions Advantage. This is a process on how to recruit and retain prospective students to a college or university. More importantly, the Admissions Advantage develops skills and self confidence in the participants of the training. This one thing will change the whole enrollment process. If you want to learn more about the Admissions Advantage click this link
Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Picture this: It is a sunny 75 degree day. Almost no humidity. And you are sitting at the edge of a huge field. At the place you are sitting you can see the outline of this very thick forested area of trees. You are admiring the view, taking in the fresh air, and enjoying the fact that you are out there on this beautiful day.
About that time someone approached you and says at the other end of the heavy forested area is one million dollars. You can have that one million dollars if you can make it to the other side of the forested area.
At the time, you are thinking, this sounds too good to be true. “What is the catch?”, you ask.
The person replies and says, “I know for a fact there have been many people who have tried to go through that area to get to the one million dollars. Some have made it, and some have not. All I know is that while going through that forest you will encounter a lot of obstacles. I hear it is hilly in there. I have heard that there are large pits that you can fall into. And there is a large body of water that requires a lot of resilience and patience to get across.”
Nobody has died attempting to go through there. But a lot of people quit after a few of the challenges pop up. Eventually the people who give up just say “What is the point?. I didn’t have the million dollars before hand, and it isn’t worth the risk to get it now. I will just figure out another way.” And they quit.
If you are in higher education, this is the reality of what you are selling every single day. You are selling to people who there is one million dollars on the other side of the forest just waiting for them to pick up. However, if it was as easy to just pick up the one million dollars and walk away. Everybody would.
But this is not the case. They will encounter lots of obstacles along the way. Their patience will be challenged. Their resilience will be challenged. The process of getting through college is like trying to cross through an unknown area. You don’t know what supplies you need. You don’t know how long it will take, and you don’t know what elements you will face until you do.
And since most people have never faced these elements and these conditions, while also trying to manage and accomplish a very large task while doing so. They are not equipped to over come the obstacles because they don’t know how to.
If you are in higher education it is your job to help equip the prospective students you see with the right tools to help them accomplish this great endeavor. They must know that it wont be easy for them. They must have an understanding of the sacrifices that will have to make. And they must have a back up plan when things don’t go as planned. And lastly, they must have someone in their life pushing and telling them they can do it. It cannot be done alone.
Whan all of these things are considered and planned for accordingly, and you have the right person in your corner coaching you along the way. Anything can be accomplished.
Remember that today as you are sitting with a prospective student. They just want the one million dollars. They see a beautiful forest that they have to cross through. But they don’t understand what is in that beautiful forest. Help them see what it is they will have to go through and help them plan accordingly. You owe it to them.
To your success and your future.
I have owned and operated a secret shopping company for seven years now. We have primarily served higher education institutions in providing our services. As you can imagine I have listened to a lot of conversations between prospective students and admissions representatives.
It doesn’t matter how good or bad an institutions process is. The question most admissions representatives are afraid to ask is
“How much are you willing to pay towards your education out of your pocket today?”
The way secret shopping works is we put together a form. This form is the guide for our secret shoppers to follow and to grade whether or not the admissions representative did the things on the form, as well as asked some of the specific questions that are on the form. The conversations are also recorded, for training purposes. So the form provides a score, but the real coaching that can be done is accomplished by admissions managers listening to the secret shops with their team. And then coaching accordingly.
So with all of the forms I have created for a variety of different institutions, and after listening to literally hundreds of hours of appointments and phone conversations between admissions representatives and prospective students, why do you think they are afraid to ask this one question to the prospective student?
“How much are you willing to pay towards your education out of your pocket today?”
I’ll give you two reasons.
First, they aren’t trained to do it. I know that isn’t the case for all institutions, but for a majority it is. The admissions representatives aren’t trained to ask this question. No. They rely on the financial aid department to do it. Which is wrong for a variety of different reasons that I wont go into here. Or they just don’t it at all.
In addition to not be trained to do it. They also don’t have the self-confidence to do it. Self-confidence comes from training. If they aren’t training to ask the question, then they definitely aren’t practicing doing it, which is where self-confidence comes from. Repeatedly doing something until it becomes second nature to you.
Why is this question important?
First of all, it lets you see what the commitment level is of the individual they are speaking with. Everything costs money. They are not going to be able to go to school for free and admission representatives must set the proper expectations from the initial meeting that this is the case.
Secondly, if your admissions representatives are afraid to ask this question, then what else are they not discussing with the prospective student that they should be.
Look school is hard and it costs money. People have to be willing to make the sacrifices to be successful in finishing their education. If you are working with a non-traditional student, the chances are they haven’t been successful in achieving their education up until now for some reason or the other.
Admissions representatives may be the first and only people they have met that can coach and help them be successful, that should be their goal. And to do this, they have to be willing to have the harder conversations. School is hard, and it will require lots of time management and sacrifices, and the prospective student must know what those things are and be prepared for them when they arise.
Admissions Representatives have a hard job, but it is a rewarding job that can help a lot of people when they are equipped with the right training and gain the self confidence to have the conversations they must have. This training can set them up for a career in the future because of what they will learn in the process.
I know under the previous administration many of the colleges and institutions I worked with were being heavily regulated and were afraid to do anything that could be seen as on the margins or out of compliance based on the vague regulations being introduced all of the time.
I am not blaming these institutions for their concerns, but the reality is during that process a lot of admissions departments and admissions professionals changed processes that led to worse results. I know this wasn’t the only reason. However, it is a piece of the bigger problem, and the good thing about this problem is that you can fix it today.
Yes today. You can start equipping your team with the right processes and questions that they need to be asking. This will build their self-confidence and self-confidence is not only needed, but it is required.
I have created the Admissions Advantage program that teaches a five step process that will provide the training and development your admissions team needs to build up the self-confidence that is required to compete in todays changing educational environment.
If you are interested reach out to me at email@example.com or 502-296-7632
To your success and your future.
I have been in the higher education sector for the last fifteen years of my career. Primarily working with admissions managers and admissions representatives. I have worked in the for-profit sector, the non-profit private sector, and even the public sector.
As a manager myself for many years, and as a consultant for just as many, I have found the following 21 ideas, things, excuses, or whatever you want to call them. To be true in every one of the higher education groups I have worked with.
I am not only blaming the admissions representatives or the schools themselves for this lack of motivation. They are all in it together. From the top down, everybody has to be held accountable and understand the mission. And no matter what your Tax status says you are. For-Profit, Non-Profit, or Public, no institution would exist if they didn’t have students paying tuition.
Ultimately, this responsibility falls on the admissions representatives and the admissions managers. They are both equally responsible for the livelihood of the school.
Here are 21 things that could help you diagnose the problem you might have on your team right now. I am not going to solve your problem in this blog post. However, the first step to all change is realizing that you need to make a change.
After you read the post, if you feel like your team needs some additional skills please reach out to me. I have perfected a training system for Admissions Teams. We call our product the Admissions Advantage.
Do you want an advantage for your team and your school? If so, let’s have a conversation. If not, use this information and make the necessary changes. It is up to you.
21. They don’t like their job
I don’t know why they don’t like their job. It could be a variety of different reasons. They don’t believe in what they do, or they don’t believe in the leadership. You need to find out why and see if this can change. If not, you know what needs to be done.
20. They don’t see a career path for growth.
On the first day of the job everybody wants to know two things. After they learn how much they are getting paid. What is it that I am responsible for? And where do I fit in here? They want to see where they are now and where they could be in the future. Show them.
19. They don’t know the bigger picture.
Show them the marketing budget, show them the instructional budget, show them everything. And then show them how the revenue they generate from the students they enroll make the budget work.
18. You have some toxic people on the team bringing everyone else down.
Who are the negative people. All teams have them. You have to get rid of them ASAP. Why haven’t you? Quit waiting.
17. They don’t get respect from other departments
Admissions representatives are going to push other people to do things they don’t want to do. They should do it respectively, but at the same time, they need to have the respect across the board from the other departments. Everybody in the institution needs to know that without students none of them will exist. Period.
16. They are too focused on their next steps instead of the current step they are on.
If we aren’t happy in what we are doing we are going to be looking for what the next step is. In many colleges and schools this is usually being done on the schools dime. With additional educational benefits. I am a fan of this, but admissions representatives must be doing their full-time job first.
15. They have too much free time.
Free time is not good for any of us. Especially an admissions representative. If your people are not seeing enough prospective students then you have to figure out a way to get everyone busier. Too much free time will make them lazy and they will get in trouble.
14. They don’t know the consequences of missing budget or goals
When is the last time you wrote someone up or let someone go because of a lack of performance. I understand that everybody got a little scared under the previous administration and the rules. However, if you don’t have consequences for not doing your job, then mediocrity will creep in and kill your school.
13. They don’t know what excellence looks like
I have seen it a hundred times. You have one person that is killing it. And that becomes the standard. What if their standard is not that high though? Then everybody else is trying to live up to a low standard. Get some A players in and set some new standards.
12. They don’t know what it means to own something
If your staff is younger, the chances are they haven’t lived long enough to truly own something. You must teach them how to own their career and their goals on the job. This will keep them motivated to performing.
11. They are short timers
You have some people who just took this job because it is the one they were offered. And you were sold in the interview. If this is the case get them out and make them really short timers.
10. Top leadership doesn’t remind them of how important they are.
A supervisor must be setting the standard every single day and showing the team appreciation. However, the top leadership must do it often as well. It just means more when they hear it from the top leadership.
9. Direct supervisors are uninspiring.
If you are a manager and are reading this. I am sorry. It has just been my experience. The question I have for you. Are you motivated? If not. Why not? What can you do to get excited again?
8. They don’t know what accountability is.
Accountability is a bad word. Everybody says they like it until they get it. But without it, there is no motivation to do better. You must have systems in place that not only inspire the team to perform better, but you also have to have systems in place that show them when they don’t and what happens if they continue to not perform well.
7. They are too close for their own good.
If your institution has hired a lot of graduates of your school then you know what I mean here. They are either selling the schools features too hard and their experiences, or they talk to candidly about all of the problems with the school. Either way, you have to teach them some skills to eliminate some of these tendencies.
6. They know they aren’t very good and they are being allowed to stay.
Most people know when they aren’t performing very well. And if they are being allowed to do it, they will just ride it out as long as they can. Why not. Especially if this is your first position in your career. Management must figure this out immediately and make the changes.
5. They aren’t bought in.
Again this is a management problem. If you have some people on the team they aren’t bought in, you must figure out why. And it all starts with creating a plan for their career and their growth while there. Everybody needs to see how they can grow in their career and make more money ultimately. When you do this. They will buy in to this path and their current position.
4. They lack the communication skills required.
If you suck at communication, which unfortunately is not a skill that is learned the way it used to be. Then you aren’t going to be able to communicate to people internally or to your prospective students in a way that encourages them and motivates them to want to attend school.
3. They haven’t learned any people skills.
Similar to communication. People skills aren’t being taught the way they used to be. The bottom line is that we have to teach people what basic people skills are, and then build upon that and teach them what it means to influence other people.
2. They are scared to be assertive.
If you have grown up being passive and have never been taught what it means to take initiave and make things happen, then you wont know how to do it. You have to show them how.
1. They don’t have the self-confidence.
Some people think that the younger generation has too much self-confidence when they get on the job. However, they don’t have the self-confidence to do what it takes to get people to walk through the doors to your institution. This requires the confidence to say hard things and be assertive and direct with parents and their peers. This again, is not something that is being taught, but it can be taught.
Wherever you are reading this blog, I would love to get your feedback and thoughts. Do you agree? Disagree? What else would you add?
Here is the one thing that I want to share. All of the ideas in this article can be trained. You can increase a persons self-confidence by increasing their skills. If you aren’t investing in your admissions representatives development. And I don’t mean formal education. I mean real skill development on how to communicate to people to take action, phone skills to get people to call you back, and all the skills required to perform at their job better. Reach out to me and let’s have a conversation and see if the Admissions Advantage could help your institution.
To your success and your future.