Entries in "motivation"

June 21, 2007

benefits of daily writing

Liz Strauss has written a neat post on reasons to write which echoes my post from a while back about why I ask students to blog. Although management is often described as primarily an oral craft, I continue to insist to my students that the ability to write well is a great ace in the whole. That skill impresses others who value critical thinking and attention to detail, helps one make a good first impression, and sharpens the ability to think analytically and critically. All this is true not just for current students, but also for those who are already in the workplace. If you're not happy with your writing skills, then take Liz Strauss' advice, and begin a daily practice -- it can only yield positive rewards!

March 21, 2007

is the world testing you?

I've been struck recently, in my observations of students and of others at work, by how powerful the drive to please others by meeting high standards can be. Sometimes, even when the standards are outrageously ridiculous, we just keep trying to leap over the bar, slamming our heads on the upper limits of reality, recollecting ourselves, and then leaping again. Especially for students, the semester can become a series of hurdles to run up to, leap over (or crash through), and repeat, without time to catch their breath.

It's so rare to see someone mature enough to approach a challenge or a set of really high expectations with calm consistency in their attitude and in their performance. What we often forget is that striving too much can actually reduce our effectiveness. Even hurdlers take a breather at the end of a race, before approaching the starting line for another 100 meters. Sometimes, they even drop out of a race, if they have crashed into the third and fourth hurdles, and fallen at the fifth.

What makes a difference between those who chase high expectations frantically and those who can approach them with calm consistency? Well, to an extent, maturity comes with age... and part of the reason is that the typical 40-year-old is less wrapped up in a desire to please others than the typical 20-year-old. There are some undergraduates who really don't care what I think of them, or what grade I give them, but most have almost a blind desire for approval and positive reinforcement. In some cases, there are signs of almost an addiction to the positive reinforcement of grades. I can only imagine what the voices in their conscience tell them when they fall short of their expectations for themselves, which sometimes are even higher than my expectations for them.

Even John Mayer now has a song about the pursuit of success and distinction, and the price we pay for giving in to the pressure that others (and our own internal voices of conscience and of compulsion) put on us to chase perfection in our work... it's an invitation to reflect on how to keep our own "vultures" at bay.

Here are the lyrics from the song "Vultures", off his latest album, Continuum, and a link to the album on iTunes.

Continue reading "is the world testing you?"

November 14, 2006

challenging students, supporting students: reflecting on the HR simulation

Have you ever read the research of Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi? He's the director of the Quality of Life Research Center at the Drucker School of Management (and he must know that the spelling of his name overwhelms people, because his bio on that site is labeled about Mike.)

Csikszentmihalyi's research over the last few decades has examined the role of flow in human life. Flow is a state of consciousness in which our attention is fully invested in the task at hand, and when we are in flow, time seems to disappear or to stand still. When we are in flow is when we do our best, most creative work. Flow is a natural high.

I don't often think about it this way, but my purpose as a teacher is to create the context in which my students can engage in learning management in a such a way that they experience flow. When I can do this -- when I can balance the challenge that students experience when they encounter new concepts or practice new skills against the support that they receive from me, from each other, and from their learning context -- that is when students get turned on to management. If they have that experience often enough, then they will become intrinsically motivated to learn more, and to pursue mastery of the field of management.

Of course, it would help a lot of I had had this revelation in August, rather than in November. There are signs in many student blog entries that the balance of challenge and support is out of whack. This is especially true with regard to the HR simulation. (Click through to read more.)

(With thanks to the Mutual Improvement Blog, which linked to this post on self-awareness and staying engaged, which, in turn, linked to this Kathy Sierra entry on keeping users engaged, which reminded me of what I had learned long ago, and then forgotten, about the research on flow.)

Continue reading "challenging students, supporting students: reflecting on the HR simulation"

July 27, 2006

speaking of social change... how about mandating vacations?

We have just returned from 2.5 weeks in Europe. I spent all that time without a watch, without a cellphone, and with almost no plans for anything more than the day ahead. I kept no calendar of appointments. I read what interested me, I spent some time knitting, and I walked with my daughter to the playground, taking time to admire the neighbors' flowerboxes, pet the village dogs, and greet the neighborhood cats (those who were not too skittish, anyway). I enjoyed leisurely meals with my sister and brother-in-law and their daughter, and with my parents. I woke without an alarm, napped when I wanted, and went on a hike or two, enjoying views of the mountains.


I am amazed at how refreshed I feel. It is as if my body and mind have rediscovered the beauty of an adagio movement in a symphony.

In the Swiss newspaper, a small item addressed national differences in vacation practices (the headline asked something like "are the Swiss too plodding?" in an idiomatic French phrase that I can't remember.) The article stated that the Swiss take slightly less vacation than the French or Germans, but much more than Americans. Having experienced the benefits of vacation in terms of clearing the mind and revitalising the body, I understand why the worst fear of a typical Swiss person might be to become too American -- too workaholic.

Part of the issue is that we don't have a federal law guaranteeing workers a minimum number of vacation days per year. Here's a 2001 Vault.com article on vacation statistics by country -- which also notes that many European countries mandate a high number of paid vacation days per year for full-time employees. (France requires employers to provide 4 weeks of paid vacation per year, for example.)

The other challenge is that we don't always feel safe taking the vacation to which we are entitled. A federal law can't solve this problem, of course -- managers have to create the kinds of work environments that allow employees to feel that their coworkers can manage without them for a week or two (or maybe even three) at a time.

How do you, as a manager, arrange work systems for flexibility, so employees feel comfortable taking the vacations to which they are entitled? How do you encourage employees to support one another in their search for work-life harmony? What changes do we need so that the American culture will allow us to make time for personal renewal?

February 18, 2006

innovations in motivating employees

This is the second of a series of posts introducing the NEO community to the intrepid students who have taken on an optional assignment this spring -- to choose a topic around which to blog in February, March, and April, with the aim of learning something, teaching something, and generating dialogue online. All these students were required to blog about the topics we discussed last fall in MGMT 250 (if they wanted to earn an A) and to comment on one another's blog entries, but this semester, their assignment is optional, and tougher. They need to include weblinks in most of their entries, and do some promotion of their blogs through participation in other online forums or through comments on other blogs. They will also be doing some in-person networking to promote their blogs. Part of my assessment of their work will be related to their ability to generate readers of and comments on their entries.

The second student I am highlighting is David Hastings, whose blog will focus on Innovations in Motivation. He has made two entries so far, and has generated a total of seven comments, which is impressive! Please click through to read his thoughts on businesses that buy lunch or dinner for employees. Do you have any suggestions about techniques your employer has used to try to motivate you? Whether they have fired you up or burned you out, David wants to know about them. Read his entry on perks and leave him a comment, please!

P. S. The first entry in my series highlighting students' blogs, which mentions Danny Pho's Exciting Companies in Northeast Ohio, is here. Did anyone guess the answer to his teaser post about a technology company based in Northeast Ohio, with employees working in Europe, Japan, and other foreign locations? Here's a hint. Click through to read his entry and give him any comments you have about this company.