Progress and Patience and Resilience

This weekend I watched resiliency first hand, and it reminded me of my own personal leadership development needs.  Here I sit, having been in this new assignment for seven months (see latest blog post for details).  We’ve made tremendous progress—we have a vision in place with six strategies.  Our four signature initiatives are:

  • Career advising using a career cluster model
  • Increased student engagement through better use of technology including a mobile-enable website and mobile apps
  • Launch of an internship portal
  • Integrated employer relations across schools.

We’ve presented to the UVA academic leaders and the UVA Board of Visitors, both of which have endorsed our direction.  Our Career Services Council, a body of the leaders of career development across the University, plus parents, alumni, students and employers, is operational and working on the signature initiatives.

But like with all new initiatives, completing the mission won’t be easy.  Patience and resiliency will be needed in order to gain momentum, align interests, and execute across the University.

Back to my weekend:  I had the unique opportunity to attend the Fellows and Scholarship Weekend at Elon University, where my daughter,  Christine, a junior, is the director of the Fellows program.  This weekend the program invited 140 candidates for the incoming class of Leadership Fellows for “selection” weekend.  I was invited to represent the parents of Untitldsed-19current Fellows and speak to future parents about the program.  Until the storm hit.  Trees fell. Buildings got hit.  Ice covered everything.  The town and University were crippled.  Events were cancelled.  My wife and I arrived in the heat of the storm—Christine and her team and administrators were trying to decide how to be safe, AND give the prospective students, most of whom had arrived earlier in the day, an experience that would be meaningful and convincing (to attend Elon) and allow for evaluation.

The next day, with a new, abbreviated schedule, little access to the rest of campus due to safety concerns, and fewer faculty and fellow students to help, the Leadership Fellows team***bragging father alert*** led by Christine, put on a terrific “sell” day.  Every parent I spoke to was impressed with the program and the school and ***bragging father alert*** with Christine.

Beside beaming with pride, I could only think of one word to describe her reaction to the situation—resilient.  She bounced back.  Sure, she was disappointed, and knows things could have been so much better if the original plan was followed, but she made the best out of the situation.  Wow!  She was learning what the program was trying to teach her and her classmates.  Not only was she learning it in the classroom, but in practice, which is the hallmark of a great leadership development program.  Congrats, Christine.

And, well back to me and UVA.  I’m proud to be associated with a University that is committed to student’s success after graduation.  I’m honored to be a part of the planning and creation of what we are calling the Next Generation of Career Services at UVA.  Now, as with any good plan, we have to sell it.  We have to generate support and find funding.  We won’t get everything we want to get started.  We’ll be asked to prioritize and tighten the plans.  We’ll be asked to do more with less.  There will be detractors. There will be postponements.

But I have a role model now for the resilience that it will take to get to the finish line.  Thanks Christine.

Imagine Next Generation UVA Career Services

Recently I read that 53% of college graduates are under or unemployed.  Current UVA graduates face similar fate, according to the UVA 2012 Destinations Report. Engagement rates for UVA students with career services is low—less than one-third ever visit University Career Services. Fortunately, I have the best job in the world—trying to work with a team to solve this problem.

The story gets worse. The rampant unemployment rates has caused parents, students and even legislators to start questioning the value of a liberal arts education.  Building on the problem is that world of work has changed—traditional jobs that new graduates filled even a generation ago have declined. The skills needed for success in the new market economy keep changing.  Employers are not willing to spend money training like they used to—particularly those professional skills like working in teams and communicating with others.  Popular press has written many articles about the lack of preparation of students for the real world. See here and here.

University’s need to pick up the slack.  Fortunately, we at UVA recognize this problem and are treating it as an opportunity. The newly formed Career Services Council is working to imagine and build career and professional development across Grounds, leveraging our strengths in some schools and areas while addresses the issues and opportunities.  Our vision is that UVA career development enables all students to successfully to transition from classroom to career.  We are addressing career advising as part of the UVA Total Advising Initiative (see description starting on page 16 of the UVA Strategic Plan).  Five other areas are under assessment:  career education, internships, parent/alumni engagement, student engagement and employer services.  We see leveraging technology as part of the solution.

Like I said, I have the best job in the world.  To be part of this team with this mission gives me the energy to jump out of bed every morning.  I wake up in the middle of the night with new ideas and approaches to student engagement.  If you have ideas, will you join me?

Inspirations, or fertility?

From where do you get your inspiration?  Maybe I’m just easily inspired, but lately I’ve been inspired quite frequently.  I like TheFreeDictionary.com’s definition:  “an agency, such as a person or work of art, that moves the intellect or emotions or prompts action or invention.”

Such agents seem to be frequent in my life right now.

I had lunch this week with Dr. Frank “Poppi”  Taylor, this week.  My only 90+ year old friend. I was inspired.  When I called he couldn’t answer the phone because he was in his yard cutting trees (presumably with his chain saw).  Okay, I was inspired just by that.  But we went to lunch together, and I could have spent the rest of the day with him.  I should have just listened, and I did quite a bit, but I was inspired by the exchange.  We talked about exercise and what he does to stay in shape (really?), current issues in healthcare (he’s worried, and glad he finally retired a few years ago), his time in WWII (he was in Patton’s third platoon), and his love of biking on the beach at Kiawah Island (where he’s driving next week).  Wow.

I have a friend who is undergoing radiation treatment for cancer in her mouth everyday for a month, after having had drastic surgery.  She comes to work most days after her surgery and cheers up the rest of us.  We’re the ones in stitches (pun intended) when she is around.  And this morning, she out exercised me, like I think she does every day.  I’m inspired.

My daughter turns 21 today.  This summer she spent nine weeks in Africa volunteering in an orphanage.  I thought she was going to bring this kid home.  She has great stories from her time there, but more than that, she inspires me drive, leadership and her desire to help people.

Today I met a fourth year English major from UVA who wants to go into consulting.  She knows it will be tough to convince a major consulting firm that she, as an English major, has the skills to succeed in consulting.  I pointed her to Dan Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind, and the skills he suggests that are most important for success in today’s new job market:  “creative and emphatic right-brain thinkers…the right-brain qualities of inventiveness, empathy, joyfulness, and meaning.”  Rather than sit back and mope, she is out of her dorm networking, asking questions, making connections and making something happen in her career.  Oh yeah, and she has a 3.8 GPA, she’s in a sorority, and she spent two summers in India, and…her list of accomplishments goes on and on.Photo: Great start to the day

Yesterday, I was running at dawn and the incredible eastern sky over Old Trail was, okay, inspiring.  What a great way to start the day, with a clear mind and limitless opportunity.

Okay, one more, and then my point:  yesterday UVA Professor of Economics Ken Elzinga came to Darden to speak to Darden Christian Fellowship—an annual visit in which he inspires aspiring business people to think about money and work according to Biblical principles.  His talk was convicting.  But more inspiring is what I’ve learned about him from a friend of his: even with his fame and expertise, his passion is giving to others of his time and treasure.  And he has a group of friends that he shares his successes and failures with and that hold him accountable.  Yes, I’m inspired.

But now the point:  I’m also fertile.  I feel like I’m 25 and starting life. Recent changes in my professional life have given me renewed energy and zest for my work.  I feel a resurgence of confidence in my ability to succeed.  I see the next ten years with great clarity.  The support I have at home from Sally has never been stronger.  Yes, I definitely have some areas in my life that need work, but I’m fertile now (no, not that kind of fertile, the other kind:  “Capable of growing and developing; able to mature” (TheFreeDictionary.com).  And I’m looking to grow, and be inspired.

Want to be inspired?  First, become fertile.

Scotty’s Beer Update

Passion for your work is an overwritten subject.  But when I see it in action, I have to draw lessons from it.  My friend Scotty runs Fardowners Restaurant in Crozet, Virginia.  It’s a happening spot in a sleepy little town.  One thing I love about Fardowners is that is has about 10 beers on tap all the time—awesome microbrews from around the region and country. I come in once or twice (or three times a week) and order a sampler just to try what Scotty has discovered.  But what I love most about Fardowners is the people, and particular Scotty.  Scotty comes over and tells me about the beers I’m ordering—where they’re from, the IBUs, the hops Attentive and Friendly Service!used, the brewer and the brewery.  His enthusiasm for beer is infectious (not that I needed a boost).  Scotty is about as laid back as they come (shown on the left in this picture), but on a Saturday night when there is a band in the house and the place is packed, Scotty never breaks a sweat while he pours drinks a dozen at a time, seats guests, busses tables, runs food, and still tells patrons about the special beer coming in tomorrow from Michigan.  Scotty’s attracted an amazing team and these people treat us like neighbors.  (I ran into waiter/trivia night MC Seamus at Floydfest last week and he gave me a hug—which was nice until I saw the glitter all over his chest!)  But wait, I digress.  Scotty has even created a monthly email newsletter about beer.  I’m sure there are other beer blogs out there, but I look forward to Scotty’s Beer Update monthly because he writes it for me with heart, each month, and entices (as if I needed it) me to come in that afternoon.

Local Beer. Local Food. Local Music. Local Vibe. 

My favorite career model is an adaptation of Jim Collins hedgehog concept:  find something that resides at the intersection of what you are good at, what you are passionate about, and what you can make money at.  (For example, you may be passionate about basketball, but unless you are Lebron James-esque, then you’re probably not going to get paid to play basketball, so you should just keep basketball as a hobby.)  From my point of view, Scotty has found it.  Scotty is great at running a restaurant and making customers feel at home, and he is great at finding unique beers and marketing them to his patrons, and figuring out just what combo of beers his customers are going to like.  He certainly seems to be passionate about beer and the restaurant.  And as for making money, well, I’ll let him be the judge.  But I think I speak for his clientele—Fred, Artie, Katherine, Coleman, Reggie, Sally, Ann, Mark, and countless other regulars—Scotty’s passion for his business has created a place we call home.

Fardowners BannerSo if you are looking for career advice, or better yet, beer advice, subscribe to Scotty’s Beer Update (text FARDOWNERSBEER to 22828) or visit Fardowners in Crozet. 

Leadership Development, Darden style

Darden develops leaders.  And we keep upping the ante. My new role at Darden is to steward this effort, and like the first part of all new assignments, I’m taking inventory.

At Darden we talk about how we develop the T shaped manager (deep functional knowledge—the vertical part of the T, and broad T_graphic (3)enterprise perspective—the horizontal part).  Our dean has said we are a deeply technical program with a leadership development program bolted on top (another T if you will).  What is it that makes Darden a leadership development program?  Well, the case method, of course (see Dean Robert Bruner’s blog, specifically this one). Case method teaches technical skills AND business judgment, communication, decision making…the list goes on.  But then Darden’s leadership development is much more than just the case method:

Core Functional Classes are at the heart of Darden leadership development.  In the case method classroom, a student learns to be prepared and on their A game at all times.  The student learns to engage with others constructively, to argue and convince, to defend and justify, to speak clearly and succinctly.  The student must exercise business judgment, discernment, flexibility and adaptability.  A good case method professor forces deep analytical thinking with a tactical action plan.

Leadership Courses—both core and elective—focus deeply on particular leadership competencies, both case method and experiential learning.  Electives include Leading Strategic Change, Leading Teams, Tactical Leadership and Global Leadership among others.  Additionally, because of its critical nature, management communications is built into both the core and includes electives like Strategic Communications and Interpersonal Communications.

First-Year Individual Development Plan (IDP):  in the first year, all students are required to write a leadership development plan for themselves based on a number of self-assessment exercises that they take in the first couple of months of the program.  This IDP is then used as a guide for the students engagement with leadership opportunities during the two-year program.

First Year Learning Team is a core component of the first-year experience.  Learning teams are groups of five to six students from across the different first-year sections that provide the necessary support to help students work through and understand each case.  In your learning team, you develop Learning Teamskills of working with others, working in a team, taking a leadership point of view, team dynamics, and working with global teammates.

First-year Career Coach assignment—every first-year student is assigned a second-year career coach to assist in the student’s career preparation.  The coach is part of a second-year experiential elective, in which the second year learns the critical competencies of coaching and mentoring.

Executive-in-Residence Elective Courses and Leadership Speaker Series-_Darden offers four second-year electives that primarily consists of corporate executives leading student discussions on hot topics in their respective industries.  In addition, Darden attracts 8-10 CEO’s to speak on leadership annually.

Experiential Courses—several Darden courses are designed with a significant leadership component embedded in the course design.  Global Business Experiences are one- to two-week courses outside the United States that focus on business issues.  Global Field Experiences (GFEs) are MBA electives that give small teams of Bahrain GBEstudents the opportunity to provide consulting services to an international company or organization while working closely with a Darden faculty member. The second-year elective, Innovation and Design Experience, allows teams of students to interface with several international companies on consulting projects.  As mentioned above, the second-year coaching elective allows students to practice their coaching skills with their assigned first-year students.

Co-curricular Leadership Positions allow Darden students to experience first hand real leadership issues and opportunities.  The Darden School’s numerous student organizations provide personal, social, professional and academic support to students as well as service to the local community. All of the student organizations have a primary mission of enhancing the quality of student life at Darden and a not so subtle secondary mission of providing a leadership development opportunity.

Leadership Learning Lab is a second-year elective that gives students (usually club presidents) a forum in which to discuss practical issues and exchange ideas and concerns regarding the dimensions of psychological leadership and examine their personal leadership style by providing a cognitive experience to complement existing leadership activities.

Over the coming year, Darden intends to continue to expand its leadership development offerings.  Building on the first-year required leadership course, and the individual development plan, we will offer a leadership development series of modules designed to provide hands-on experience with key leadership competencies.  These might include workshops in customer focus, developing others, risk taking, or time management, among others.  We will also offer formal opportunities for students to revisit their IDP, revise and reshape it, as they grow their own leadership-styles over their two year experience. 

Stay tuned for more…

Listening, instead of selling

My new course last quarter was entitled:  Business Development for Personal and Career Success. I thought I would spend a great deal of the time in the course convincing students of the power of selling in their career search.  I used Dan Pink’s To Sell Is Human as a textbook because Pink does a pretty good job of selling selling (see last blog, which was written at the beginning of the course, in which I promised to blog throughout the course—who’d have thought creating and teaching a class was so all-consuming), but when you get in front of 18 really talented MBA students in the last two months of their MBA coursework, you really need something compelling to say to get your concepts across.

Or, as I learned, you don’t.

Surprise: the new key to selling that I learned in this course is the value of listening. In their feedback to me, students valued two key elements of the class: listening to each other, and one-on-one meetings with me.  Why?  As with all things Darden, you learn by doing, so we spent much valuable class time telling our stories, and framing purposeful questions, and answering hard interview questions.  But equally, you learn when you listen to others struggle with situations similar to yours, and with their stories, and with their value propositions.  I believe students gained from that part of the course because empathy is a powerful teacher.  Listening to their colleagues instead of me gave them deeper insight into what their own solutions might be.

Second, you learn when you listen to yourself.  It is powerful (and at the heart of the Socratic teaching method) to have to tell someone what you are struggling with. One requirement for the course was four one-on-one meetings with me.  In the meetings, the students were forced to confront the issues that they were facing in their job search and articulate them to me.  I just listened.  But by articulating the problems, they started listening to themselves, and then realizing solutions.

So, my examination of the class, and what I can do to engage more students in the concept of selling, is not talk (or sell) more, but structure the class so we can all listen more.  It is in listening that Pink’s concepts of attunement, buoyancy, clarity, pitch, improvise and serve become real, more relevant, and more easily applicable to the job search.

Selling, uh, I mean, Business Development

Okay, I admit it. I do like to sell. Every job I’ve had since I graduated Vanderbilt has been a selling job.  I’ve sold Fritos and Funyuns, Stove Top Stuffing and Shake N Bake, Lunchables and leftovers.  I’ve even sold MBAs and PhD’s (grammarians, I looked that one up here). But most often, throughout my career, I’ve sold ideas, and whether I like it or not, by association, I’ve sold myself. And I’m not alone. So says Dan Pink in his most recent book, To Sell Is Human, which I mentioned in my last post:  “People are now spending about 40% of their time at work engaged in non-sales selling…persuading, convincing, and influencing others to give up something they’ve got in exchange for what we’ve got,” says Pink. If this is true, then the one skill our MBA students need for success in their personal lives and careers is selling.

So, I’ve taken on the task of developing a course in selling as it applies to career success. I plan to blog about the class as I go—about the ups and downs, challenges and resources I found helpful.

My first mistake (or so I’m told) was to originally name the class “selling” anything, when in an MBA curriculum.  MBAs, I was told, don’t want to sell, nor do they want to learn about it (which is not unlike the rest of us—read more Pink). So before even researching the question, I changed selling to business development—Business Development for Personal and Career Success—so that I wouldn’t scare anyone with the title. I soon found though that Chicago Booth has a course called Entrepreneurial Selling, taught by Professor Craig Wortmann, founder of Salesengine.com and author of What’s Your Story? Using Stories to Ignite Performance and Be More Successful. He has two full sections a year of students interested in selling. And he tells me there are others.

I’ll make some more mistakes along the way in this new adventure.  I’ve recruited eleven brave second-year Darden students to go along with me on this pilot course. I plan to use them to co-create. I’ve assembled many insightful resources and a couple of excellent outside speakers. I plan to learn and fast adapt as we go together. But the one thing about the class that will make it different from most MBA classes is that the students won’t just learn about selling—they actually will have to go sell. Part of the class and grade are a couple of in-person cold calls, targeted to further their career aspirations.

We’re going to have fun.

Too Blessed To Be Stressed

Three years ago I started my January 2010 blog, “I’ve never been much of a fan of New Year’s Resolutions.”  Still not. But my holiday break and family vacation prompted this year’s resolution, “I’m too blessed to be stressed about the little things I can’t control, so I resolve not to be.”

I stole the phrase from our Tuff E Nuff tour guide on a trip to see Belizean Mayan ruins on the day after the end of the Mayan calendar (and a San Pedro, Belize all-night end of the world party).  Our guide, Andre, is Belizean and has great knowledge of Belize, its history, culture and politics.  He is passionate about his country and its future.  Yet, he is also quite easy going and a man of faith (he’s Rastafari), so one of his philosophies that he shared with us:  “too blessed to be stressed.” 

Stuck with me all week.

I’ve blogged in the past about the Corporate Athlete Course from the Human Performance Institute.  One of the exercises we ask people to do in the course is to take one minute everyday and write a list of what you are grateful for. I spent some quality 293978_10200355265183964_107998689_n[1]running and yoga time on vacation doing just that.  Conclusion:  I’m just too blessed to be stressed.  My wife, my family, my faith, my friends, my job, my town, my country, my health, my opportunities, my leaders, my co-workers, my abilities…

The list goes on.

Author Dan Pink, in his new book, To Sell is Human, talks about three fundamental human qualities for selling:  one is buoyancy, defined as the capacity to stay afloat on what one salesman calls “an ocean of rejections.”  He sites the work of Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina on “positivity.”  Professor Fredrickson’s book is Positivity.  In her research, she “discovered that experiencing positive emotions in a 3-to-1 ratio with negative ones leads people to a tipping point beyond which they naturally become more resilient to adversity and effortlessly achieve what they once could only imagine.”  She has a quiz to help you you determine your positivity ratio.  My first time, I scored 2.5—a ratio of my positive emotions to my negative ones.  (She advocates taking it for 14 days straight to get your “real” score.)  I want to be a 3.0.  Take the quiz.  What’s your positivity ratio?

I should be a 3.0—I’m too blessed to be stressed.

You Can’t Run and Hide

“Sit down, take a look at yourself
Don’t you want to be somebody
Someday somebody’s gonna see inside
You have to face up, you can’t run and hide.”

Little River Band, “Lonesome Loser”

Don’t some songs just hit you as great career/life advice.

I recently reached a point of decision in my career (don’t worry, you’ll have many).  I struggled with the decision.  The offer was enticing.  The responsibility great.  But I was haunted by saying yes.  Took me a few days, a few beers and a few friends to figure it out.  It started with understanding who I was and what I treasured.

An undergraduate student I work with (and am especially close to) recently went in for a mock interview in her career office.  She said she nailed it, except for one question:  tell me about yourself.

Career decisions, interview answers, networking–all start with “sit down, take a look at yourself.”

I’m a big believer in understanding yourself.  At Darden we advocate creating a comprehensive list of recurring patterns in your life, your life themes, before you begin a job search (or make a career decision).  Why? LRB says it best:

”Someday somebody’s gonna see inside
You have to face up, you can’t run and hide.”

The biggest problem we all face with self assessment is that someone else will find out the truth, right?  And then what…rejection?  So, it’s this fear of rejection that keeps us from looking inside, or letting someone else look inside.  But in my experience in my own job search, and interviewing, it is the intimacy of revealing what’s inside that creates the opportunity for breakthrough—in a relationship, in a decision making process, in a negotiating standoff. 

So, my career advice today:   ““sit down, take a look at yourself.”

Hygiene factors? Not so much.

I just started another Clayton Christiansen book, How Will You Measure Your Life?  I think I’m going to like it, though I do have trouble getting through non-fiction, business books (as opposed to fiction business books?).  Chapter two is entitled “What Makes Us Tick?”  Wow, heavy.  I enjoy considering ideas of job satisfaction, personal calling, and passion around what you do.  Clayton how will you measure your life? clayton christensendistinguishes between hygiene factors at work (siting work done by Frederick Herzberg)—things like status, compensation, job security, work conditions, company polices and supervisory practices—and motivation factors—things like challenging work, recognition, responsibility, and personal growth.  Fixing hygiene items doesn’t necessarily lead to job satisfaction, but fixing those does lead to the lack of job dissatisfaction.  Herzberg argued that motivation is not about these external factors, but “much more about what’s inside of you, and inside of your work.” 

Okay, so you can read the book, too.  But let me personalize it.  I think about the times in my career when I was challenged, valued and making a huge contribution.  During those times I have been most satisfied.  The hygiene issues just weren’t so important.  I was in the zone because I was truly motivated by my work.  And the opposite has been true as well—I have had times when I felt undervalued, directionless, not growing.  At those times I complain about pay, and working conditions, and who’s not doing what.  I really don’t like those latter times and cherish the former.

My colleague Jim Clawson talks about asking yourself the question:  how do you want to feel (see Powered by Feel, by James G. Clawson)?  Well, I personally want to feel like I am building, creating, connecting and energizing. (I think Jim might say that’s close—those aren’t really feel words, but I’m trying, okay?) 

So, the advice section:  take charge of the way you (I) want to feel.  When you are looking for a job, make sure you are looking at it for motivation factors, not hygiene ones.  This concept is so hard for the newly minted MBA.  With a large debt load and peer pressure, one generally looks at compensation as the most important factor in choosing a job.  And when you reach those crossroads in your career, when the wrong issues (hygiene ones) start becoming overly important, examine why.  Are you still motivated?  If not, figure out why, seek answers, make a change.  I remember at one really low point in my career, a very close and insightful colleague said to me:  “you need to leave, this place is changing you, not in a good way.”  Like a 2X4 across the head.  And I made a change four months later.

Don’t wait for the 2X4.