Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The SEER Certificate & My personal SEER efforts

Today I attended the SEER certificate information session. For those who don't know, the SEER certificate is a brand-new program specific to Graziadio that focuses on certifying that those who complete the coursework are Social, Ethical and Environmentally Responsible (SEER) individuals who will be applying that psychology to their business lives.

The program is not derived solely from coursework. Besides needing to take 3 electives which are deemed SEER relevant, there is also a SEER capstone course which focuses on tying all this learning together. Coursework is not enough to be truly SEER. There is a service component that is extremely important. Without applying this learning, what's the point? This can manifest itself in a variety of ways, which is the amazing part. It can be certain active levels within Challenge 4 Charity, Values-Centered Leadership Lab, or, the club that championed this certificate, Net Impact.

As this program is still in its infancy, it will continue to change and evolve. As someone interested in consulting, how does this program apply to me? This is not just for those 'greenies' who want to change to planet one pretty green leaf at a time. This program focuses on the lesser discussed ethical repercussions of doing business as well as the social rights and well-being of employee relations and social justice. This "Corporate Social Responsibility" focus is growing with consulting as each company realizes that securing greater employee loyalty and increasing profits is dependent largely upon CSR. Consultants are constantly being hired not only to evaluate sustainability practices but also to look at smaller efforts that could improve the business model through social re-structuring.

On a personal level, I have always recycled, even going so far as to now have a compost bin on my balcony. I feed my worms with food waste and junk mail and friends say, "ew" but I do it anyway. I have always had an affinity for the greater good but knew that beyond that, I wasn't sure how I would impact the world. My social values are much stronger than my 'green' planet values, and now I feel like I have a way to implement them into the path I am already on. I encourage the SEER program for people in all industries. Dig a little deeper. This may be the way of the future.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Apprentice- Shared Vision and its impact on Group Dynamics

In the most recent episodes of the Apprentice, group dynamic issues are a direct reflection of a lack of shared vision. In the case of the show, this means that they each want to get the job and are not working for the greater good of the team. One strategy that has gone largely underutilized is the fact that by succeeding, no one from the team is “fired.”

When operating from a perspective of shared vision, people are more willing to utilize people’s strengths and also encourage greater idea flow. In the case of The Apprentice, when someone is failing, even the leader can be reluctant to step in, preferring to have someone to blame if they lose the task. While this may not be directly relevant to how the real world works, it can give lesson to changing group dynamics in business school.

In every class, in every new semester, our groups change. Also, the expectations of that group change based on the professor’s grading style and learning needs of the class. Even deeper than that, however, is what additional expectations each member brings to the group. Some people care very deeply about their quantitative grades while others are just happy to survive having learned more than they knew before. Others have no interest in the class, their grades, and just want to get through it. Finding this shared vision and build that into the motivating factors can be difficult.

Oftentimes, people can confuse “purpose” with “vision.” In the Apprentice, everyone has the vague purpose of being a good team member or helping to complete the task, or in the simplest terms, maybe not to seem stupid on National television. Each person does, however, have a concrete personal vision, and that is to get the job. However, even that lacks true specificity and clouds their ability to actually obtain the job. In a book I read for my leadership class, “The Fifth Discipline” by Peter Senge, “Purpose is abstract. Vision is concrete. Purpose is ‘advancing man’s capability to explore the heavens.’ Vision is ‘a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s.’ Purpose is ‘being the best I can be,’ ‘excellence.’ Vision is breaking the four minute mile.”

To this end, creating shared vision means finding that uniting specificity that can both motivate as well as envelope the intrinsic desires of the group. One way to view vision on The Apprentice and make it more specific is to not just think about the job, but viewing that job’s direct impact on your life. One way to frame it would be: “I will get this job by brainstorming at least 3 ideas for every task and helping to implement the agreed upon team action by being candid in my thoughts about the direction of the team.” This attitude is both quantifiable and qualifiable. It frames certain personal values that will motivate the individual and give them a benchmark to constantly work toward.

In applying this to group work at school, it is important to figure out everybody’s strengths up front and what tasks will motivate them. In such a short time period, it may not be possible to achieve true shared vision, but by creating an open dialogue up front that addresses intrinsic needs as well as quantifiable benchmarks, the group dynamic has the potential to be much more successful.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Strengthsfinder 2.0 and the Gallup Panel

The first question the recruiter from Gallup asked the audience was, "What do you think of when you hear the name 'Gallup'?" The obvious response is polls. However, as she went on to explain, the skills they have to successfully generate polls are the same observational skills that allow them to improve businesses on a significant scale.

They are a consulting firm. During Consulting week in October at Graziadio, there was an alumni panel as well as a Gallup panel. Unlike typical strategy firms, Gallup's focus is two-fold and very different. First of all, through their polling and general information gathering, they have tremendous resources in which to pull from when advising their clients. However, almost more importantly, they know how to build values in relationships and to do that, they use strengths-based analysis and implementation.

They are often involved in improving productivity by generating new ways in which to utilize your work force. Most people are dissatisfied by their job, I believe that stat was 90%. And more than that, people are not doing jobs that they are innately suited for. One of the books they gave out, "Strength Based Leadership", revolves around the concept that you should be enhancing and expanding upon your already pre-existing strengths, not spending twice the energy trying to fix your weaknesses.

This is where they differ greatly from other consulting firms. Most firms go into a company and try to "fix what's broken". Gallup tries to enhance and reorganize around what's working. Through scientific analysis and quiz-taking, they have been able to determine what each person's 5 strengths-based themes are. By being armed with this knowledge, you can not only figure out if you are in the right position, but if you are exercising these muscles on a regular basis.

During the panel, I received the book "Strengthsfinder 2.0". It is essentially an abridged version of the larger book previously mentioned. As part of it, you are given an access code to the strengthsfinder.com quiz that will analyze your strengths.

In order, mine were: Communication, Significance, Strategic, Activation, and Woo. These themes are not just strengths but they include recommendations as to how to better implement them in your work and personal lives. By living from a positive perspective of what you do right, it is only a matter of time that you will just inherently get better at what you are doing. Also, they teach you how to partner with people of other strengths to enhance where you are weak.

The books and online analysis obviously go into more detail then I can do here, but it was refreshing to look at these strengths, keep in mind my current career goals, and realize they were congruent and compatible. This is where Gallup strikes a very emotional cord in their approach, and one that I found unique and fascinating.

The Gallup panel was eye-opening in a variety of ways, and it seems that there is no end to the way in which "consulting" can manifest itself. This field, as my mentor Jeanne Hartley said, "Is a way of doing things, not a way of being." Consulting has many forms and it seems like I must keep investigating.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Finals & Twitter

This week is finals. I thought it would be harder...that it should be harder. My fellow classmates post facebook comments that they are up all night studying and practically living in the library. Maybe I got lucky, maybe my teacher's just aren't that difficult. More than anything I just think it's how my brain works. I was talking to my mom about it and she noticed that none of us study very much. Josh was a straight A student, Brad is practically a genius, and Alex got B's without doing much work at all. I'm not saying we're brilliant, but clearly we absorb and can structure out the information within our heads in such a way that it is easy to apply on tests. This is just an observation and one I would have to delve into more deeply with time and science.

Also, I started a twitter page. More about the benefits of cross-promotion in another blog. For now, here's a link :) Check it out.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tiny kernels of influence

My iPod is riddled with memories and influence. Better than Ezra is a reminder of a guy I briefly dated, Mika was received from a co-worker, and Billy Joel is one of the gifts my father gave me. When I hear “Build me up buttercup,” my mind immediately goes to the moment when I crossed the finish line with my friend Kendall. No matter to what extent these people have touched my life, these tiny little remnants still remain. Sometimes, I can hardly remember where I learned something, or how I got into something, but I know there was an influence, a moment, I’m forgetting.Even when someone significant touches your life, the tiny everyday reminders enhance the existing relationship.

I feel like my working experience has been similar. I wracked my brain trying to remember all of my relevant skills to pepper my resume. Sometimes, these skills were not part of my everyday life, but someone taught me something little that now has significant value. Obviously, it’s hard to remember who taught you what, but these tiny interactions are not to be ignored. Based on recent discussions with my career counselor and other informationals, I realized I was leaving off valuable skills from my resume because I didn’t perform them everyday. Even though I don’t hear these songs everyday, the memory is intense when I re-hear it, just as my learning comes back to me incrementally and I can readily apply it.

One of the hardest things to remind myself as I try to figure out my life is that I’m not going to figure it out alone no matter how hard I wrack my brain. Someone else is going to say something, perhaps miniscule at the time, and it’s going to leave a mark. Taking in all these small details is cumbersome and exhausting to wade through and try to find the value. However, if I am open to the learning, it will make the task easier. I have to keep reminding myself that I’m embarking on something I’m not an expert at, and that’s super scary. To keep my mind open and be willing to gather each kernel of knowledge or influence, while still remaining true to myself? That’s the real challenge, but I’m ready to take it on. I don’t want to come across as flippant or easily influenced as my journey becomes more planned out and fine-tuned. Right now I feel like everyone is an influence and my mind and plans change day to day. However, I know that with every kernel, eventually I’ll find a playlist I can live with, and that permanently defines me. Or maybe not permanently.