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.
Whether you are starting your career or have been in one for a very long time. The chances are you have already received a lot of advice on what to do and what not to do. You might even think you have it all figured out.
I spent fifteen years of my career managing and leading teams. I hired hundreds of managers, and other people in the organizations that I worked in.
Here is the one piece of advice that I personally never received, nor have I read or heard about others giving this advice.
You should look at all positions you take as three-year contracts with your employer. I would even tell them this. Now, some employers are old school and they think you will stay there forever, so proceed with caution with sharing that information. But I personally would love it if someone says, “I will be in this position for three years. I will become really good at it, and then I will seek other positions.”
Why three years?
In any position you take it is going to take to you some time to figure it out. I say after a year in a position you will have a pretty good gage on what the position is and how to do it effectively. If it takes you longer than that, than I would encourage you to learn how to speed it up.
In that second year, you should get better at the job you are doing. You now have enough information and knowledge to probably even make changes to what you are doing and can contribute to making your position better.
In that third year, you should start to seeing a lot of results from the changes you have made and you are really fine tuning all of the things you have learned from your previous two years. You now really have your position figured out and are probably even helping people who are doing similar jobs as yours.
From my experience doing the same job past three years doesn’t have very many advantages. You do not become incrementally better at the job beyond three years. You learned what you need to learn, and if you are good at the job, you have proven that you can get results in that position.
You may be thinking “I have been in leadership for many years and I learn everyday.”
When it comes to positions such as sales and leadership.
I belive that your first leadership position is usually leading and managing a small team of people who are performing a job that you used to do yourself. After three years of managing those people. If you have proven that you can get them to perform and deliver results, you should be looking for your next position, which would include managing other managers.
Leading a group to perform a task is one skill set, and leading a group of managers to get others to perform a task, is a different skill set. Again, the three-year contract fits.
If you are in sales, you are learning daily how to get better at your position. You are constantly seeking new ways to deliver results. The job itself requires you to constantly learn and develop. But eventually you will get things in a good place, with a great pipeline.
Unless you go into sales management, you should strongly consider looking at selling different products that may require a different sales process or selling to a different set of buyers.
The goal in life should be skill development not years in a job or in a position. The more skills you can develop the more marketable you become. And what happens typically in a company is most people, including myself. Is we get into a position and we are so excited to have that position, the money that goes with it, the prestige of the position or the company, and we spend the next five, ten, or even fifteen years doing that same position. We may grow, or we may think we are growing, but in reality you are really just doing the same things over and over.
I would love to hear your thoughts on my advice.
To your success and your future.
The question I am asked most during my training seminars by leaders, managers, and sales managers is “How do I motivate my people?”
As a manager and leader for many years in a very large organization leading a big team, it was the question that I asked quite often as well. Since the answers I got were very vague and really unusable from an application standpoint. I decided to study the topic myself.
For about five years I studied the topic of motivation, peak performance, willpower, inspiration, human behavior, and anything else you can think of that would have something to do with motivation.
I read all of the great studies around human motivation and human behavior. I read and studied the experts who had studied under the greats in the field of psychology and human development.
There are several books that I would consider to be some of the best on any of these topics around motivation. But honestly the best answer to this question is to study yourself.
I recently wrote an article on some of the mistakes managers make when leading other people. You can read it here
In this article I stated that managers make a mistake when they try to use tactics with their employees that they have found or use to motivate themselves. I am not contradicting what I said here. What I am saying is, what are the conditions that must exist for you to do your best work?
That is where the motivation comes from, not tactics, not words by themselves, but from conditions and the right environment.
When I think about the conditions that existed for me when I was most motivated here is what I found them to be.
I had the right attitude first and foremost. Although, I may have not known what to do or how to do it, I was willing to learn. Since I was willing to learn, it opened opportunities up that were already around me, all I had to do was take advantage of them.
I had a manager, and a manager above my manager, that allowed us and me specifically, to operate under minimal supervision and provided me the resources to experiment to see what worked. This autonomy was very motivating. I didn’t have any fear of failing and was allowed to operate how I saw best.
They provided guidance and support, which was very beneficial because nobody can do it alone. The guidance was more of a conversation around what can we do to get the best results for our department, instead of “you should do it this way or that way”.
One of the biggest failures I see in business today is the all or none mentality. We either hit a home run or we didn’t win the game. We either achieve the goal or we didn’t. I am all about results and I believe we should all meet and exceed expectations. However, there are times when a single should be celebrated just as much as a home run, to use a baseball analogy.
We as human beings need to have little victories, it is built into our DNA. These little victories are what motivate us to keep moving towards the bigger goal. And when I think about the times when I was most motivated, we were hitting a lot of singles and eventually we hit a few home runs. But those singles and doubles kept us motivated.
So what conditions existed when you were most motivated? Maybe it is now, which makes it even easier to see and make sense of it.
Lastly, I want to share this. It is a formula that I have shared with thousands of people who have attended my trainings and seminars.
Motivation usually begins because you were inspired by something. It could have been a talk you heard, a book you read, something somebody said to you. It could be a variety of different things. But that source of inspiration usually provided you some information that you didn’t have before.
So motivation is preceded by inspiration, and inspiration is preceded by information, or what I call education. The education is the true source of motivation.
It could be that you had never saw something the way someone opened your eyes up to seeing something. Your doctor could reveal to you that you have a condition that you weren’t aware of before. It could be that you learned about a diet that seems easy to do. It could be that some new information gets you to see something that you just haven’t seen before. It could be for a cause that instills anger inside you because of some hardship of others that you weren’t aware of.
In all of these cases you received some additional information/education that you didn’t have before. That is the source of motivation.
When I was most motivated on the job, I was getting new information and an education daily. That motivated me to keep trying new things. This education was the source of my motivation that pushed me to keep trying and tinkering with processes and approaches. It kept me excited and engaged in the job I was doing.
I ask you again. What was it that was so motivational about the job you had were you seemed to be most motivated? What conditions existed? My guess is your supervisor had a lot to do with it, but you were also learning every single day which kept you excited and inspired.
To your success and your future.
When I was first starting out in sales one of the things that motivated me the most was winning. Duh, right? I wanted to be the person who was leading the pack. A weekly leaderboard or scoreboard was sent out weekly and I wanted to be the one at the top.
Fast forward to when I became a manager, I used these same processes and tools to lead and motivate others. I can remember vividly sitting down and having a conversation with a team member and making the statement “Don’t you want to be at the top of the leaderboard?”
Their reply, “Nope, I don’t care about the leaderboard!” I am not here to debate whether or not a person in sales should or should not want to be on the leaderboard. That is another story for another day.
Here is the mistake I made as a young leader. I assumed that what motivated me and pushed me to work harder was the same thing that would motivate and push someone else. As I found, that just wasn’t the case.
I recently was working with a group of leaders and we discussed the three things that demotivate versus motivate us, which in turn if you are in leadership could demotivate your team members.
- Assuming what motivates us will motivate them.
My story above makes this case, but I see it everywhere and it is a fundamental flaw I have found to be true in many leaders in organizations. Unfortunately, one of the problems with leadership over time, is that they tend to hire people just like themselves. Which makes it even easier to assume that our team members will be motivated by the same things that motivate us.My advice is to learn your employees motivations and desires. What is it that they want out of their position? Where are they looking to go in their career. Questions such as this will give you insight on how to properly motivate and lead your team.
Sarcasm is a tactic that many leaders use. I see it more as a weakness. Instead of being truthful with your employees you instead decide to be indirect hoping to get a response that is positive. The reason it doesn’t work, is because is decreases trust and is looked at as a sign of weakness more than strength.Additionally most people are smart enough to know what you are trying to do with sarcasm. So it actually becomes a double negative for a leader who uses it. Trust erodes and perceived weaknesses are increased. Both of these conditions make it difficult to motivate and inspire employees to produce more and accomplish more.Lastly, most people don’t think it is funny. And they don’t appreciate it. Quit telling yourself that they do. Be direct and tell them how it is. They will appreciate the directness more and respect you more as well.
- Poor Manners.
It is true “everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten.” I think that was a book. Simply put. You need have to have basic manners. Things such as “please”, “thank you”. Ask for permission and staying positive. These are little things. But they go along way to showing your team members that you respect them.
Now that you are aware of these three behaviors. The big question is “Which ones do you need to work on?”
Unfortunately, we as humans are not very good at assessing our own behaviors. Matter of fact 90% of the people who demonstrate these behaviors haven’t read this far. But if you are still reading. I would encourage you to ask for feedback from your team and ask them which ones of the above you need to work on. Their answers may surprise you.
To your success and your future.