In the Dallas Morning News Community Section, “How do you know a student will be successful,?” appeared on October 25, 2009. Local teachers were polled for their opinions. This provocative question pulled me in because I have a very high regard for teachers, and wondered how it related to leadership issues I deal with everyday as an executive coach, and coach at UTD working with EMBA students. The eight Dallas area teachers’ perspectives can help managers in all industries and levels see what attributes stand out and will make someone successful. As a parent, many times I reminded my children that their “job” was to be a good student. Well, a good student will make a good employee. Here I have summarized their stories into the top attributes along with how managers can spot the same in their teams.
Curiosity: Questions like “Why?” and “How?” from a student tell you they are intellectually stimulated. Those unexpected curious questions signal presence of a vision.
Leaders usually are stimulated to learn as much as they can, and are learning agile. Their quest for knowledge propels them to greatness.
Belief: Parents and teachers who have an unbridled belief in their child can and will succeed are the foundation. Just as the manager who believes in his/her employee. The students believe they can do it even if it means more work and diligence. They discover that success breeds more success.
Awareness: Students will be successful when they are aware of their capabilities and limitations and work to move forward beyond those levels. A confident student has a leg up. How does one get confidence? Self awareness and achievement in small steps, not blind general praise. As a coach, I do a lot of strengths work with clients. The first step in personal development is to be aware of your strengths, then to be motivated and off we go! Do you know your team’s strengths? Are you helping them gain awareness? Are the motivations in place to maximize their talents? If your team lacks confidence, how can you help them gain self awareness?
Initiative: When the student gets the assignment and does more or goes further, this signals a successful work ethic and engaged learner. How engaged are your people? Who takes initiative? Have you recognized that, or at your organization, does the initiator get pounded down?
Problem solver: Takes failure or mistake in stride and creates a solution that moves him or her forward. Perseverance and creativity are used to solve problems as they see varied facets of an issue. As an adult, having various perspectives on issues will help enormously, especially when dealing with conflict, misunderstanding or trying to persuade others. Another huge point is that kids start out very creative, as they grow up and conform to society, this spark may go out. As a manager, it is your job to challenge people to get creative, and think outside the box. Remember creativity and innovation is not just for artists and designers. All workers can demonstrate problem solving and innovative ways to get the work done better.
Engage others: To reflect ideas or solicit physical help or brainpower. The students who reflect with others or ask for help and approach problems in a team fashion get it. In the business world a favorite tactic of interviewers is to ask how the candidate solved a problem. They are listening to learn the thinking style, approach and attitudes of the candidate. Did they do it alone? Did they reach out and collaborate for best ideas? Did they ask their boss what to do? How independent or dependent are they?
Reflection: Plays a big part in these students’ lives as they build on challenges they conquered or even at which they have failed. When is the last time you asked yourself or a team member what they learned from their success or failure? How can you integrate reflection and the insights gained from that thinking into your management style?
Take action: One teacher mentioned the responsibility he has is to provide opportunities for success. Once given the opportunity, it is up to the student to act on it, show up and do the work. As a manager, are you giving everyone a chance to succeed? Do you know your team members’ strengths? Do they know them? Are you matching the right person to the job requirements? Have you given the opportunity and challenged your team? They will reach or exceed results, but only if you set the bar high.
Focus, Drive, Responsibility, Commitment: These all combine to make up for deficits in other areas. Teachers and parents see this all the time in the classroom. A student with average intelligence who makes up for that with tremendous drive or commitment to succeed, will succeed in the workplace. As a manager, how are you developing your people who have the natural talents such as these? Or, are you only rewarding those who have the highest IQ?