If you aren't #PushingTheEnvelope in your work, you are #KickingTheCan on your progress.
Yes, I said work.
Yes, I realize you are a student.
Your education is your work.
Your work will one day be your vocation.
Your vocation will either be a J-O-B, or your greatest opportunity to leave a legacy.
You don't have to settle for anything less than chasing greatness. And in order to do that, you will come face to face with moments when you have a choice to make.
Do I go with comfortable, or embrace risk?
If you always choose what you know is predictable over what could be, you'll sacrifice breakthrough moments.
Hence my tweet today...
If you aren't #PushingTheEnvelope in your work, you are #KickingTheCan on your progress.
Sing whatever little song you need to, so that you remember this...
Stop #KickingTheCan on your progress.
We have a generation of young adults,
many of whom are struggling with making good decisions.
Let's highlight one area where this happens.
Students don't have an academic problem,
they have a vision problem.
And I'm not talking about their eyesight.
So what am I talking about?
Applying themselves in the classroom starts with an ability to understand why they are there in the first place. If the primary reason is because "they have to be", that ship isn't gonna sail.
The Millennial generation fell out of love with "because I said so" a long time ago.
How do you help an at-risk student achieve the success they want, you want for them, and what the world needs from them?
Stop telling them what to do,
and start helping them discover who they are,
so that they will buy in to why they are there.
They won't care about your "because" until they know THE CAUSE.
Why am I doing it?
Who will it help?
What problem will it solve locally?
What problem will it solve globally?
How will this class help me change the world?
We either start answering these questions intentionally,
or we will continue to see them struggle academically.
So we've identified the problem...
but HOW...how does it change?
What is the solution?
THIS PROCESS IS A START.
I've watched this process change thinking.
I've watched this process change lives.
When you help them discover their vision,
they will want to follow direction.
Systems & structures aren't the enemy
of the Millennial generation.
Helping them understand why they exist,
and how their talents fit into this world?
That's the secret sauce.
Because when they know WHO they are,
they will know WHAT to do.
Or we can keep beating the drum saying everything we've been saying, changing nothing, risking even less...and expecting a completely different outcome. (AKA...rolling the dice)
I believe that's pretty close to the definition of insanity.
These 141 testimonials represent the hope that comes when we go first, change our approach, and risk more...all in the name of a generation that needs us to fight for them, not with them. (AKA...solving the problem)
How can you help?
Glad you asked.
Do you know someone in leadership at a University?
Simply share this blog with them,
and ask them to listen to the 141 voices for themselves.
Then have them call me, so I can tell them what made it happen.
(This number works best for that...716-672-9661)
Thanks for joining us in spreading the word.
You're the best!
It's been talked about a lot, lately. Largely because it's a core attribute of the Millennial generation. With their ability to access almost anything from anywhere at the drop of a hat, how decisions are made is changing.
Collaboration is no longer a nicety, it's a necessity.
Don't get me wrong. It's not like I believe the concept was invented yesterday, and the many generations prior to Millennials never worked in groups to solve problems. But...the fact is that the needle towards how much emphasis is placed on collaboration is moving, and moving fast.
When you can get information from anywhere, it's expected that any voice that wants to be part of the conversation can be. And we no longer live in a world where that is up for debate. Ask just about any organization, and they will tell you (if they know what they are doing) they no longer "control" the conversation about who they are.
The same is true in higher education.
And that's not bad news.
It should be seen as an amazing opportunity.
To connect. To engage. To empower.
What's the alternative?
The exhaustion found in isolation.
Administrators having closed door meetings, deciding on the entire direction their institution will take. Faculty believing their only role is to teach, and retreating to their office with a closed door when they are done. Students understanding that thumbs on keyboards, and earbuds in ears aren't valuing the relationships next to them. All of it creating more isolation, when what we need is healthy conversation. Across all groups of people, and beyond just the walls of the institution.
I'm not over-generalizing, and saying this is the case everywhere, for every University. But I'd be willing to bet that there are pockets of this on most campuses. And therein lies the amazing opportunity. Again...trading isolation for conversation.
No University is an island. And it's time to look deeper into why the recruitment, enrollment, and retention challenges are here, and what can be done about them.
There are 3 things that the exhaustion from isolation
will do to any team. And more good news...it's avoidable.
1. Desperation: Some institutions of higher learning fall into this trap. It's trying every idea that comes across the table to be "relevant". Most of the ideas tried end up being ones other Universities have tried, and have been remotely successful with in the past. The problem? Notice I said "the past". There is no forward thinking leadership in desperation. It's hang on and survive, not step out and thrive. But, Brett..."new" might not work. You're right. If it does? You just traded in desperation for innovation. That's a solid upgrade.
2. Frustration: When enrollment and retention begin to decrease, frustration increases. Trying to solve the problem only through internal channels may seem like the natural play here. I'd suggest this is the time to look externally as well. A "both-and" approach. Taking the best of who you are and connecting it with the very connected world "outside the University walls". Fighting off frustration comes when leadership is committed to doing something very different. Daring to question the status quo.
3. Unmet Expectation: Unfortunately, this is the "blame game" portion of the program. It's when the numbers don't look good, so the institution looks for the person they need to pin it on. I would suggest it's less of a person problem at this point, and simply a vision problem. What do I mean by that? It could be one of a few things. The University may not have a vision that is clear and concise (not a wordy paragraph where every other word is five syllables, just to sound good). If you can't articulate it, how can anyone be expected to follow it? If the University does have this in place, it's possible that hiring faculty and staff is done more as a "fill the position" mode, than to "support the vision". Bringing in people who aren't sold out to who you are and why you exist is a recipe for unmet expectations, because the measure of success looks different to everyone. And lastly...the recruitment never stands a chance, because it's being done by best of intentions, rather than intentionally. The "fill the funnel" method...aka, just get them here, and get a deposit. It just doesn't work that way anymore. Sometimes you have to grow differently. Addition, by subtraction...so that you can multiply. Cut out what doesn't cling to your vision (prune), so that who you are can grow back even stronger over time.
I realize it can be hard to have these conversations, and I applaud all of the Universities that are currently taking the time to do so. It's time we look at collaboration as a gift. The alternative? Continuing to work in isolation...facing the unwanted acts of desperation, feelings of frustration, and the reality of unmet expectations.
I have a friend, who is a professor, that made a comment recently about what needs to happen in higher education. Short, sweet and to the point.
"Deconstruct to reconstruct".
The only way it will work is through true collaboration.
Administration, faculty, staff, students...
AND those outside the 4 walls of the institution.
In the same room.
Make the decision to be intentional about building these relationships,
so that you create teams of influence.
That's how you...
Change a campus.
Change a life.
Change the world.
One collaboration at a time.
Don't get caught up with only what you can see today,
focus on what you know the world needs tomorrow.
Commit to your vision.
In the face of doubters.
In the face of naysayers.
In the face of critics.
Or you can give in.
And we'll all be in exactly the same place tomorrow.
And the critics?
They'll have done nothing.
It's what they do best.
Critics create fear.
You have a choice today.
Live in fear created by critics,
or hope built on your vision.
Which world would you rather live in?
When we stop...we give critics credit for their work.
Are you ready?
Will you go first?
Will you step up?
We are living in a time that desperately needs someone to do this work.
The "other shoe"?
Will you sit there and be crushed by it,
or be long gone...blazing a trail of progress?
Today alone, I have been in contact with Universities that have the following titles on their leadership teams...
Director of Student Success & Retention
Director of First Year Programs
Director of Campus Life & First Year Experiences
VP of Student Success & Calling
Dean of Student Success & First Year Experience
Director of First Year Experience
When I hear these titles,
I can't help but get excited.
This is educational leadership at the highest level.
They are recognizing that the world of higher education is changing...
and doing everything they can to lead the way.
These titles tell me that campus leaders are willing to do whatever it takes to meet students where they are at. By doing so, they are walking with students on their journey, to get them where they are called to go.
It doesn't get any better than that!
It's an honor and a privilege to be part of that process.
The 2015-2016 academic year is going to be EPIC!
Buckle-up and enjoy the journey!!!
If Ben & Jerry started a college.
What a thought!
Their enrollment would go through the roof because of these 5 reasons.
They've done what they can,
with what they have,
where they are.
That's why if Ben & Jerry ever decided to start a College they'd crush it.
Value Your People.
Seems simple really.
Yet so many Universities are stuck in the Vanilla ice-cream race,
trying to be just like that place down the road...or across the country.
Stop being a "me-too" University,
and you'll stand a chance of being the Ben & Jerry's of Higher Education.
The AmeriCone Dream.
Go create one the next generation wants to be part of.
It starts with a statistic, and ends with an opportunity.
By the year 2025, 75% of the workforce in the USA will be made up of Millennials.
(Millennials are born roughly between the years of 1980-2000).
That means 75% of the workforce will be 40 years old or younger in 2025.
That means leadership will be younger in 2025.
That means that consumers and their spending habits will be younger in 2025.
And all of that is starting to ramp up...now.
So what is the opportunity?
Education has the largest platform to completely change the game.
I wonder what it might look like to see the college student experience be different than ever before. For the purposes of this blog post, I'm not speaking to the way academics are taught in the classroom by the tremendously talented faculty and staff that does so. I'm speaking specifically to how life is done, lived and offered to the college students during their time on campus.
I imagine a different "experience". One that to implement will give you that "pit of the stomach I want to hurl on my shoes" feeling wondering if it will work. So much different that for it to work, we'll have to ignore a lot of naysayers and status quo lovers in order to do the hard work of launching such a thing.
And when I think about that kind of world...
that kind of University...I can't help but get excited.
I can't help but smile at the thought of my three children attending "that" University.
I'll even toss out some low hanging fruit ideas of what I think it could look like.
Your entire existence as a college student is tracked, in real-time, with something that rivals the "MagicBand" you see taking over Disney these days. Every swipe of the wrist tracks class attendance, grades, meals, volunteer service hours, attendance at sporting events and concerts. No, not a "big brother is watching thing". It would be built FOR the student, not to limit the student. It would be incentivized to create a 4 year, digital resume of excellence. The student could share it like they would something on facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram. A prospective employer could see their growth. No more "tell me one of your strengths and one of your weaknesses" cheesy interview questions. This is their life, 24-7, over several years. Employers see right away if the student is a fit for their organization, rather than them taking a job that they end up hating...and the employer loses tons of money recruiting, hiring, training and trying to retain them.
That's a financial and cultural win for the employer.
That's a cultural fit win for the employee.
That's a job placement win for the University.
Isn't it fun to see the wins starting to pile up for everyone involved?
Parents, Faculty, Administrators, Friends...whomever...not wondering how the student is doing, if they are making it, etc... It's live. It's real-time update-level stuff. Hey, if Mom and Dad are footing the bill for tuition, giving them a shot to see how their investment is paying off BEFORE it might implode is just sound investment strategy. AND...it could save a lot of students from making some pretty crummy decisions early on. That's a win-win. Oh, and that whole retention thing colleges are concerned about. That's a win for them too.
And the wins keep coming.
This whole thing isn't just about 4 years in college. It goes with the student, grows with the student, as they enter the workforce. They launch a company, and because they attended a University that "gamified" and "Disney-fied" their college experience they are better equipped to offer the same game changing experience to their team.
A world where "wonder" is about opportunity and possibility again,
not if a student was going to "make it".
This college experience is arcade not archaic.
75% of the USA Workforce will be 40 years old or younger by 2025.
Still think the current "college experience" (outside of the classroom) is preparing them for that?
I know quite a few Universities are pondering the recruitment & retention challenge.
I also know it isn't something to worry about.
It's the coolest, most amazing opportunity to launch a college experience today that will leave a legacy of impact tomorrow.
The sunset is coming (2025).
The work we do before,
dictates the view we have when it gets here.
It's time to create the University on a hill for all to see
as a shining example of what true innovation looks like...
And ends up with the best seat in the house come 2025.
That is a sunset I can't wait to see.
That is an opportunity to leave a tremendous legacy.
That is a world I want for all three of my children.
That is the University I want all of them attending.
Is that you?
I failed out of college.
In the spring of 1994 I received a letter telling me, due to my academic standing, I had failed out of the University I was attending. But I knew it was coming long before it arrived. Within a few short weeks of stepping onto campus as a freshman in the Fall of 1993, this ball of yarn was already starting to unravel.
I felt like a failure.
I suppose that isn't much of a story, in and of itself. Others have been where I was, and others will be in the future. So, why am I sharing this? Because others don't have to. Because I have made it my life's work to not "waste my pain". 1993-1994 was a painful year for me. And unless you've been there or are now, it is really hard to understand the feeling of isolation and desperation that accompanies it.
I didn't know WHO I was, and was desperately trying to. I knew who everyone else thought I was. I knew who everyone else wanted me to be. (Parents, Teachers, Coaches, Faculty, Administration, Friends, etc…) Which, in my mind, translated to what I was supposed to be. The problem was, it wasn't me. It was someone else's version of me. I couldn't articulate that thought then like I can now. 20 plus years of reflection can offer clarity like that. So now I spend my time working with high school and college students who are where I was. I work with them, so that they don't have to go through what I did.
They are standing in the midst of real struggle.
Emotional. Relational. Educational…struggle.
All of it, and more.
As a college freshman, it didn't take long for me to connect with a group of people who were willing to let me be me…or so I thought. Did they have my best interests at heart? No. Looking back, did they really know me at all? No. Then why was I so attracted to being around them, and neglecting my academics?
Because they offered me something I wanted.
Come here. Do this. Be part of "us". Do your thing. We value you, because of who you are. No conditions. No strings attached. (except there were) We'll "do life" together. Eat together. Play intramurals together. Road trip together. Everything…together. Until it gets hard. Then they were gone.
I so desperately wanted something that made sense as I struggled, that I took my eyes off of my future.
Let me be clear. It wasn't their fault. I can't and won't pass the blame. But my experience was real.
I knew I didn't want to be all the things everyone else wanted me to be. I knew I was confused. I knew I had no clue what major I should choose. And I knew the distraction of being pursued by a group of people was giving me what I thought I needed.
But it wasn't.
And the day I received "the letter", that became painfully clear.
None. Not one…single…person from that group has ever reached out to me after I left the University.
Let that sink in.
It was one of the most isolating feelings I had and have ever experienced.
The good news?
This isn't where the story ended.
Actually, it's where it started.
And it's why I am writing to you today.
My story of struggle in college was over 20 years ago.
But for many college students…their story is happening right now.
And the feelings of isolation, confusion, desperation, etc…?
They are real. They are the same.
You may know someone going through them as we speak.
I want to invite you to keep reading as I share more of my story.
You aren't alone.
And before you leave, please take this encouragement with you. (Share it with someone if this isn't you)
You are uniquely gifted. You are talented. The world needs every, single ounce of who you are and the change only you can bring to us. You are creative, smart, and compassionate. I look forward to sharing with you on this journey. I will share my story, so that you feel empowered in yours. You will make it. You will bounce back, comeback, and use this setback as THE moment you launched yourself forward.
I believe in you, and so do many, many others.
Thanks for stopping by today.
I look forward to hearing your story, too.
I've held onto this story for a long time.
I've told it in bits and pieces, but never in it's entirety...
I failed out of college.
It still hurts to write those words, and worse yet to read them back to myself.
But the hurt isn't a "feel sorry for me" hurt. It's a "I'm doing something about it" hurt. In the lives of those who need the advice, mentorship, and direction that can only come from the voice of someone who's been there.
I ended up graduating Cum Laude from another 4 year University.
The journey in between, and since, has taught me everything I will share with you. And I'm doing it, so that you can make it.
When you know WHO you are, you will know WHAT to do.
And one more thing...
You aren't a failure.
Maybe some of your choices are making you feel that way.
But...that word doesn't define WHO you are.
That word is simply a reminder that there is work to be done.
Work that you can do, so that you make it to where you want and need to go.
Failure isn't a permanent place.
It's a reminder that it's time to get to work.
So let's do the work.
Keep coming back to this blog for starters.
Take in some encouragement.
One step at a time.
We'll talk more soon.
I've got a lot of stories from my journey I am going to share with you.
More on the images you see in a minute.
How does this word feel?
If you have ever tried to recruit anyone to anything, that word makes you cringe.
In four simple words, this is what it means.
Attrition is frustration that could be avoided.
Think buffet vs. steakhouse.
"Eyes too big for your stomach" is how most recruiting works. We pile on the plate, and toss out what we don't want later. Lots of waste involved in that process. Everything looks great at first, and then slowly we lose our appetite for it. Quantity rules the day, and waste is considered a necessary evil.
Be specific, clear, and say no to most options so that you can get the best fit for you. Be patient...it takes longer to prepare a better product. Time, seasoning, careful attention to detail. Quality is what we are after. Quality food. Quality fit for our taste buds. Waste is considered insane. It's too good to leave anything on the plate.
When we recruit like a buffet we end up losing people because "they can't cut it". The real truth? Them not cutting it later says more about the recruitment process than it does about the person leaving. When we recruit like a steakhouse we end up building an amazing culture that attracts the very best. The right fit means the best experience.
So the million dollar question...
HOW DO WE FIX IT?
Here are 5 things to get us thinking
about how to fix the process,
and recruit like a steakhouse.
1. Culture - Is there one where you are? If you don't have a clearly articulated vision and core set of values that EVERY SINGLE DECISION is based on, you don't. A culture is a group of people with a common set of beliefs, expressed through a common language. BOTH. Not one part. BOTH. And if you do have a culture now...who buys in? Who doesn't? Separating those two camps will tell you what your organization has to build on, and what it needs to politely excuse itself from. (P.S. That's not a bad thing. Holding on to staff that doesn't buy in not only hurts your progress, it robs them of the opportunity to link up with a team somewhere that they are sold out to. Life's too short. Help them find their team...and yes, that means some will have to be let go from yours).
2. Themes - Look at both ends of the spectrum. Those that are clicking on all cylinders within your team. What drew them to you? What drew you to them? Those that are constantly in a state of friction within your team. What changed for them since they started with you? How have you changed since they came on board? Find the themes...and you start to find a path to repeat. One for people who love who you are and why you exist and want to sell out to your vision. One to be able to refer people away from your team as early as possible. It's important for you, so that your team stays on point. And it's equally important for them, so that they can keep moving to find the team they were called to join.
3. Scarcity - If you aren't willing to be exclusive, you are leaving value on the table. And let me be VERY clear about this. This is not being exclusive at the cost of inclusive. It's a "both-and" posture. Very simply put...you need to be exclusive first, so that you can be inclusive later. If you let every person join your team...regardless of their vision, you'll have a massive disaster in short order. If you are diligent about selecting those that believe what you believe, care about what breaks your heart, and are willing to go all in for your values...the conversations later can be 100% inclusive of every person's opinion in the room. Why? Because you will have already separated personal opinion and preference from the process. Why is that important? Because the vision leads, and every idea tossed on the table goes through that filter. Without that filter, you have a mess on your hands. Think back to the buffet example at the beginning. Lots of waste. Translated to what you do? Waste of time, energy, and resources. And bluntly...A TON OF MONEY! According to the people at SHRM (really, super-smart HR professionals)...It costs about $3,500 per year to recruit, hire, train and retain an $8.00 per hour wage employee. And those numbers are from 2006! So that figure has to be conservative. Still don't think it's important to get it right up front?
4. Invites - Start life earlier in the process with your potential new recruits, and you do a few things really well. You start to develop a relationship with those you want on your team. You honor the time of those who won't ever be a fit on your team. And the third reason is HUGE. You begin to create a culture of brand ambassadors that will cast your vision as well. It's like having a seas of sales reps on the road. You won't be the only ones telling your story. It will reach more. When it reaches more, the quality goes up. More people fight for the top spots. It gets harder to get in. It becomes a little more exclusive. And when you reach that tipping point? You'll have a dream team that is explosive for all the right reasons. Momentum and progress unlike anything you've ever seen.
5. Net Casting - This will allow you to go further than ever before, differently than ever before. Think digital. Virtual. Instead of waiting to get a sense of who someone is when they meet you in person, you'll have already begun to develop a relationship from a distance. That allows a free-agent to sign on the dotted line on a first visit. It implores a college student to make their deposit on the day they meet you in person, on your campus. You won't lose that rock-star employee to your competition, because their first in person visit with your team confirms they are "home". Skype, text, email, and video vs. job and career fairs, table set up in HS hallways with free pens (because that's unique), etc... When you cast your net(s) intentionally where the fish you want are you stop dropping a net for sheer volume not knowing what fish are even there.
Those 5 things start the conversation. The one thing that weaves them all together is the secret sauce that makes the meal undeniably created by you and your team.
Culture. Themes. Scarcity. Invites. New Casting.
Learn from those 5, and let them inform your story-telling process.
Every great book, movie and experience is re-told for one reason...
I hope this has jump-started some brain-storming juices for your team. If you are stuck, don't be a stranger. I'd love to hear from you. I'd be honored to work with you. It's why I do what I do. Your recruitment is a reflection of your commitment. I know your heart is in the right place. Sometimes it's just hard to get the story to match. I'd love to help.
I exist to help other people discover WHO they are, so that they will know WHAT to do.
And I'd love to help you articulate your story, so you can dominate your space.
Let's have one last look at the pictures we started with...
Is there really any doubt which experience you want your recruiting, hiring, training and retention process to resemble?
The "attrition special" on the left is cheaper. But something tells me the cost of the "choice culture cut" on the right is worth every penny you'll invest in the process.
Simply put, it's
WHO you are and WHY you exist
as an organization. (In business, education, ministry, family, etc...)
You exist to _______________________, so that _______________________.
You exist to (do something specific), so that (a specific thing happens as a result).
When you can articulate who you are, what makes you tick, what breaks your heart, what keeps you up at night, what you'd do if you could spend all day doing it...you are getting close to your vision.
The key word there is articulate.
Yes, it's important.
If you can't be clear, you'll never be able to explain it to anyone else.
You can't give clear directions
where there aren't specific boundaries.
That is what a clearly articulated vision does for you and your organization.
It's the starting, middle and end point of your conversations, meetings, brainstorming, etc...
It keeps you on track.
It's your filter.
We exist to help you discover WHO you are, so that you will know WHAT to do.
That is what drives us at WHOBIX.
That is our vision.
It's clear. It's concise. It's our filter.
Notice we aren't calling it a "vision statement". Unfortunately that term comes with some serious baggage. It makes us think of some paragraph of general drivel with big words. Boiled down, I think we'd be hard-pressed to find a single person in any organization that could repeat, much less explain one of those from memory.
When you get who you are and why you exist into a single sentence, something cool happens.
It gets you past incoherent babbling, and into intelligent conversation.
It enables you to cast your vision to me.
It empowers your team to do the same with others.
It gets me, as the listener, excited to hear more about you.
It allows your team to process opportunities more effectively because it keeps you on point.
It helps you avoid getting distracted by something that looks cool, but ultimately isn't who you are.
Do you see where all of that is going?
Having a clearly articulated vision will keep your team focused.
Having a clearly articulated vision will help you lead with confidence.
Having a clearly articulated vision will launch your team into it's calling.
Having a clearly articulated vision will attract others to join you on the journey.
Who are you?
Why do you exist?
Start brainstorming thoughts, words, phrases.
It will take some time, but the most beautiful, simple, articulate, and meaningful things always do.
Put this on your whiteboard.
Pin it on your corkboard.
Place this on your bathroom mirror.
We exist to ______________________________, so that ___________________________________.
I can't wait to hear your vision.
I get excited when other people find theirs.
And if you get stuck, send us a note.
Maybe we can help you discover yours.
From the desk of our founder, Brett W. Gould.