Friday, October 14, 2016

Peak Performance in Teams: Pike Place Fish Market Case Study

Pike Place Fish Market, located in Seattle, WA, highlights the intersection of concepts of collaboration and peak performance in spectacular fashion. Throughout coverage in television and print media, books, videos, and in corporate training programs, the business has been celebrated as an unlikely melding of a seemingly mundane business—selling fish and other seafood—with a committed, productive workforce inspired by a higher purpose. 

I developed a case study on Pike Place Fish Market that addressed the key elements in this success story: a culture based on personal responsibility, an individual commitment to be agents of change; and team work; the skillful reliance on coaching and self-directed teams; and a management style that truly empowered employees and engaged them in all aspects of a profitable business. 

The case study was published in 2013 in the book Collaboration and Peak Performance, which you can buy here

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

What Does Higher Education Need? Improved Blocking and Tackling!!

I’ve long felt that higher education is suffering because it’s
strayed from its primary mission—to prepare students for a lifetime of professional and personal opportunities. In a recent Chronicle of Higher Education piece, Kent John Chabotar, President Emeritus, Guilford University, captured the essence of this position in criticizing the current love affair with innovation as it’s been deemed the “solution” to what ails the sector. Dr. Chabotar calls on a football metaphor to argue that higher education needs to focus on “blocking and tackling”—fundamentals, in other words.    

He cites unwieldy student-faculty ratios, outdated course offerings, debt, and deferred maintenance as the most critical challenges that need to be addressed before any innovation can be pursued.

The bottom line for me is a focus on teaching and learning. Are we teaching what’s current, future-oriented, and critical for student success after college? Are we doing so effectively? Are we adequately supporting educators in this process? Conversely, how can we help students fully benefit from the entirety of their educational experience?

There are many related questions, some of which I’ve addressed here, here, and here. In short, like Dr. Chabotar, I’m a higher education fundamentalist. I got into this field to work with students, ideally to make a difference in their lives inside and outside the classroom. My fervent hope is that institutions whose students I serve will support me in this effort.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

10 Steps to Use Classes You Teach to Develop Other Educational Programs

Note: This article was originally published in 2002. The original has been lightly edited here. The core concepts remain as valid today as they did then, even while technology now makes these processes a lot more efficient.    

Teaching classes for students in undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education programs offers professional speakers a wealth of opportunities to develop their craft.  Perhaps the most significant among the benefits of such teaching relate to topic development.  

As someone who’s devoted a significant amount of time teaching over the past 15+ years, I can testify to how this work has enabled me to develop a repertoire of workshops, seminars, webinars, and other programs for other audiences. It’s also increased my confidence and skill on the platform. 

For the purposes of my discussion this discussion, I consider “topic development” to cover four tasks. First, there’s identifying new subjects for development as stand-alone programs. Second, there’s incorporating new issues and themes into existing programs. Third, there’s the complete redesign of existing programs to reflect knowledge and insight. Finally, there’s employing new and varied instructional techniques to deliver this content.

At first blush, the prospect of teaching seems daunting.  I’ve taught classes ranging in length from three to 45 hours, spread over a period of days, weeks, and even months.  This kind of time commitment demands stamina—not just preparation and personal organization. On top of that, the financial compensation is meager when one calculates the total hours involved in putting together a syllabus, planning individual lessons, classroom teaching, conferring with students, grading, and tending to other administrative matters.

Yet in my opinion the benefits of teaching far outweigh these limitations.  For me, it’s all about connecting with adult learners on subjects about which I’m passionate: public relations, leadership, organizational behavior, and career development, among others. My understanding and appreciation for these subjects is now far greater which makes me a more effective consultant, trainer, coach, and writer.

Here’s an overview of my experience as a teacher in conjunction with one class and how it has inspired my topic development activities.  I’ll consider an “Essentials of Public Relations” class and outline the process I set up (in 2002) to prepare and one which I’ve used in modified form since then as I taught the same class and others.  

  1. Use the content in existing programs as a starting point.  Existing training programs offer a building block for teaching, that is the foundation upon which teaching a more broadly framed class can be based.  In my case, I was delivering programs privately on presentation skills, media interview preparation, how to generate publicity, and writing for the media at the time I was initially asked to teach “Essentials of Public Relations.”  I felt confident based on having delivered these programs and my related work that I had at least a chunk of content that would be readily adaptable to the classroom.  At the same time, I recognized that these programs were based largely on my experience melded with what in retrospect was a scattershot consideration of other resources on these topics.  Moreover, not having taught adults before, my existing programs had been shaped by only the most rudimentary understanding of instructional design and adult learning, among other topics critical to training program development and delivery.
  2. Read the core text or main resource you plan to require students to read. I’d heard again and again that the textbook is critical in classes like mine, so I began by reading an entire textbook, from cover to cover.  I selected a book from among several options based on its currency and relevance to working adults.  I noted how the text complemented and supplemented my experience; sections where I felt I had little related experience; and how the material was presented for an audience for the whom the class would be their first – and, in many cases, only – exposure to public relations principles and practices.    
  3. Build a basic syllabus for class based on chapters in textbook.  The chapters in the textbook I chose for “Essentials of Public Relations” naturally lent themselves to separate sessions in the class.  In my case, these sessions covered defining public relations, and its relationship to advertising and marketing; law and ethics; the public relations problem-solving process; writing; publicity and media relations; public relations on the Internet; investor relations; government relations; employee communications; community relations; and crisis communications.  To organize my idea creation and collection of related material on each of these topics, I created separate folders for each.  At the time, much of the material I found was available only in print so paper folders sufficed.  I later added electronic folders on my computer’s hard drive to save the materials I found on the Internet.  In addition, I scoured my existing filing system for relevant articles, and identified books in my library I’d found helpful in the past for review in conjunction with teaching the class. 
  4. Match other programs you offer to topics in the syllabus.  I took the content from the programs I delivered and cut and pasted it into the Microsoft Word documents for the appropriate sessions of the class. This step provided me with a starting point for what seemed like an overwhelming task, and meant I would subject my content to scrutiny and modification that teaching preparation and delivery process would necessarily involve.  
  5. Update current programs with insight gained from textbook and additional resources listed at the end of the relevant chapters. While reading chapters on subjects I covered in my existing training programs, my mind overflowed with ideas strengthening my content in areas where my efforts were not as thorough and systematic as they could be. I returned to hard copies of my existing programs and made notes based on my observations and textbook readings. I also identified publications and books under the “Additional Resources” headings that I felt inspired to read, secured them, and then integrated my efforts into revised versions of my core programs.  
  6. Identify areas not covered by current programs in textbook, pulling resources listed in biography for future review.  After completing Step Four, I was staring at several class subjects (i.e., crisis communications, ethics, community relations) on which I had never delivered private training programs.  I compiled a complete list of such topics, then secured articles, books, and other resources listed in the appropriate chapter for additional review and reflection.  
  7. Match professional experience to remaining chapters in textbook.  Upon further reflection, I realized that the breadth of my professional experience offered examples for inclusion in just about every separate session.  I reviewed client files and written work spanning over a decade to isolate experiences for inclusion in each class.   These became the stories and case studies demanded by students seeking a “real world” perspective on issues raised in their textbook.
  8. Identify key industry, trade, and research publications in addition to newspapers, magazines, and other media. Read and curate them to build a library in the discipline.  I subscribed to the main publications serving public relations practitioners including those produced by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).  I later added research publications and joined other relevant professional organizations. These organizations produce an ongoing stream of publications including research on public relations and the latest teaching techniques in the discipline.  Finally, I added a range of books covering public relations theory, history, and cases studies to my personal library.  The bottom line is that I feel confident about my ability to stay abreast of issues facing the public relations profession as a result of getting up to speed to meet the demands of my students for insight and information on current and historical trends, research, and applications.  
  9. Develop and deliver individual class sessions, plus exams, written assignments, and other evaluation/assessment techniques.  This step involved the actual teaching and subjecting my newfound insight and education on specific topics to the rigors of the classroom. 
  10. Assess and evaluate class and individual sessions.  At the end of each class session I analyzed how well the content flowed; student interest and perceived comprehension, including troubling issues and/or questions; and the effectiveness of instructional techniques.  In general, I noted what I should change the next time I deliver the session, what I needed to consider for possible revision, and what worked well.

The end result of these ten steps is a 20-45 hour class (depending on the school where I’m teaching) on public relations that can be broken down into separate programs on the individual topics included.  Programs can be longer or shorter, depending on individual client interests.  I have more than enough material and varied presentation techniques based on ongoing classroom experience and refreshing of content.

As a result of my teaching, I now can conservatively offer nine training programs (related to public relations) – and could easily add to this count.  I offer my clients experience, expertise, insight, and programs subject to the rigors of the classroom.  Most important, I consider myself a professional educator who has cultivated a breadth and depth of knowledge about my discipline.  This result is possible for all speakers who apply my process to teaching classes in their chosen field.  

Friday, September 9, 2016

Crisis Management and Communications Webinar Scheduled for October 25, 2016

I’ll be delivering a one-hour “Crisis Management and
Communications” webinar on Tuesday, October 25, 2016 from 10:30-11:30 a.m. EDT.  Go here to register and for more information. 

After beginning with the definition of crisis, the webinar will consider core issues involved in detecting, preventing, preparing for, responding to, and recovering from crises. In the process we’ll look at examples bound to shed light on what has worked, and failed, as individuals and organizations grappled with myriad crises over the years. Finally, we’ll work together to apply lessons learned to help organizations (particularly libraries) develop specific strategies to manage and respond to a crisis.

You don’t have to look very hard to find crises in the news these days. Volkswagen and Chipotle are just two of the many organizations that have grappled with major threats this year. The incidence of such crises and the strong likelihood that we’ll no doubt see many more like them in the future make the subject a crucial one for all organizations to consider.

The one-hour webinar is offered by PCI Webinars, team of experts in training, organizational development and continuing education focused on providing learning-based solutions for library organizations of all types and sizes. Each year the organization presents 100 unique live webinar learning experiences from highly acclaimed presenters and its Learning Library offers more than 150 © Access Now programs available for immediate download. 

Go here to view the PowerPoint presentation on crisis management and communications I delivered. 

I’m concurrently developing a related class, “Crisis Response Communication,” which will be offered for the first time in the Spring 2017 by the University of San Francisco’s new M.A. in Professional Communication. I'll be teaching the course in the Fall Semester 2017. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Guidelines for Incorporating Guest Speakers into Your University Classes

As I noted in a prior blog post, students in my classes rate highly the opportunity to hear speakers from different organizations in the area.  I consider guest speakers an important part of my class plan.  I invite colleagues and others I know whose experience complements mine. I also believe they will communicate well with my students regardless of their age. I haven’t always succeeded in achieving the latter, but my track record is pretty good.  I also invite individuals who some students might envision as career role models.  

Here are guidelines I’ve developed to incorporate guest speakers into my classes:

  • Extend invitations early.  Schedules fill quickly.  As soon as I’ve finalized the syllabus for a course I invite prospective guest speakers.
  • Match speakers with topics covered in the syllabus, as much as possible.  It's optimal to meld readings, classroom discussion, and outside speaker presentations on one topic. 
  • Confirm speakers in writing, and provide necessary details.  Specify the date, time, and location of your class. Describe the topic the speaker will address. Specify how much time will be allotted for the presentation and questions. Share a profile of your students. Include their areas of study, interests, and relevant experience.  Attach a copy of the syllabus and any other material on the class that you feel will be helpful for their preparation.  
  • Secure a biography or resume from your guest speakers. Disseminate it to students in advance of the presentation. 
  • Address logistical concerns in your confirmation letter.  Inform your speaker about the availability of parking, especially if that’s an issue where your university is located. Let him/her know you can secure necessary equipment and/or make copies. Set a deadline by which you must be notified to complete these tasks.
  • Follow up with the guest speaker a week before his/her appearance. Check to see if your guest has questions.  Update him/her on anything that’s happened in class that might be relevant for the presentation. Identify possible questions related to the topic and share them with the speaker.   
  • Check to see if the speaker can stay after the presentation to interact with students. Remind the speaker to mention if his/her company hires student interns during the presentation. 
  • Greet the speaker and introduce him/her to the class.  Be sure to mention the personal and/or professional connection between the two of you. If the speaker makes available to students a copy of the presentation, mention that in your introduction. 
  • When the speaker finishes, announce a break. The time allows students to interact with the speaker. You also can escort him/her out of the classroom. 
  • Ask the students for feedback on the presentation immediately afterwards. Focus student concerns on what they found most helpful in what the guest shared.
  • Write and send a thank-you note to your guest speaker. Incorporate specific points mentioned by students.

Guest speakers are not a substitute for a well thought out lesson plan. Yet they can add enormous value to your class. I’d urge you to incorporate this professional expertise whenever and however you can.