It’s Not Education; It’s Just a Distraction

Alright, we are going to dive into something a little more on a limb, but something I have been thinking about since I wrote a note about the subject during my Youth and Society, Sociology class in college.  We were discussing how recent studies have shown that youth who were in preschool at earlier ages were more successful in grade school, middle school, high school and had higher acceptance rates to colleges.  Please don’t ask for a citation to which study, because I did not make that note in my notebook when we had the class discussion.  We were often led to believe that the reason for this was earlier exposure to learning methods and general academia.  But I had a question… was THAT really the reason?  I think it might have more to do with behavior and human interaction.  Perhaps the children who start school at a younger age, do better because they learn intangible interpersonal skills during early developmental stages.  This allowing them to battle less complexities as they grow older, and are able to focus more on academics and less on how they interact with their peers as they go through school.

Are academics and school curricula what are bringing success to our children, or is it all a distraction that allows the real magic to work?   The teachers are assigning, the students are completing.  But what makes one student more successful than the other?  More importantly, what seem to be the catch phrases in corporate America?  There are some words I have noticed: cohesion, teamwork, network, personality testing; putting the right people in the right seats on the bus; EQ v. IQ.  With exception to specific technical trades, academics have reached a plateau as to what one can use to truly excel.  And in today’s business, I think our Kindergarten teachers were on to something they didn’t even know they were on to: If you don’t know how to play nice with others, you don’t get to play at all.

I’m not saying I think academics are to be valued less.  More so, I am calling attention to the importance of interpersonal skills.  Today, HR and business students learn about IQ, which most are familiar with, but also EQ… the measure of one’s awareness of others’ emotional states and how one’s actions affect those around him.  Knowing how your actions affect the rest of the process in an organization has proven incredibly yielding in corporate America as well as the government.  Zappos, the online super-store with the zany-creativity of Founder Tony Hsieh (who is rather not so zany in appearance) has a training program and incredible level of success that incorporates this theory.  Every Zappos employee, upon hiring, goes through their training period where they spend time working in all the departments of the company (Shipping, warehousing, customer service, etc) before starting in the position they were hired for.   If you are curious as to just HOW successful Zappos has been, and you aren’t already wearing shoes you bought from the site, then just enlist the powers of Google and you will see.

The Marine Corps is touted as one of the most effective and cohesive martial cultures and fighting organizations in the world.  It is also the only US service where all enlisted personnel attend the same basic training before continuing in their respective specialties, and all officers attend the same 6-month basic school before going off for additional training in their respective specialties.  By the time a Marine Officer has made it to his or her assignment in the fleet of combat ready Marines, they have a respect and understanding for what their counter-parts are contributing.  This greatly helps in implicit (commercially read: efficient) communication and coordination.  There is also a great bond and commitment to all members across the organization.  This breeds greater efforts and higher yielding results.

For the most part, we’ve all been student drivers.  When we first started driving, blind-spots could be a complete disaster, or negligible.  But checking our mirrors and checking for the vehicles around us were conscious efforts when we first started.  But once we learned, we were able to do all of that effectively, and spend more attention focusing on more precise driving skills.  Are those blind spots to new drivers the same thing as EQ to preschoolers? I think so.

If you have input or believe there is something I have missed, as always, I encourage your input!  Thank You!

Not Just a Number

WTC Memorial Pond

I have talked about being genuine and sincere, and I have been pondering on something that I feel is an important part of demonstrating genuine and sincere concern for yourself, and others.  Also, instead of describing something you are supposed to do, this time let’s talk about something you just aren’t supposed to do – Look at and manipulate numbers.

This has nothing to do with “cooking books” or white collar crime.  Have you ever felt like just another patient at the doctor’s office, or even ER?  Have you felt like just another cubicle space at work?  Have you ever felt like just another seat on the bench or just didn’t have a seat at the table at all?  If you have, then you know what I mean when I refer to being treating like a number; just another one of many to be dealt with.  Let me say this, while scarcity can promote great levels of drive, nobody should have to feel like a number.  Let me add, we all need to ensure we, ourselves, are not making anybody else feel like just another number.

Being a number is sort of inversely related to having a purpose.  People who feel a sense of purpose don’t feel like numbers.  People with a sense of purpose try harder because they know their impact matters.  People who feel like numbers find excuses to perform at lesser levels because they feel their impact is negligible.  I’ve been in both positions, and felt those feelings, in magnificent ways.

In a business sense, I can’t think of too many things that a business can do worse than treating their customers like numbers.  It just tells customers, “We don’t really need you”.  All over the globe, business mission statements have adapted, showing a sense of “care” or interest in each individual customer.  Of course this has to be done within reason, but friendly customer service and simple human interaction with a genuine customer service associate is free.   Customers will always have a choice, and with that, just a price and features list will not grab loyalty.  When trying to gain and retain customers, especially in hard to differentiate product or service industries, no business can afford to tell a genuine customer, “We don’t really need you”.

In a personal sense, I’ve decided that I can make an impact in this arena and I encourage others to do the same.  Whether at work with a co-worker or customer/client, or off-hours with family or friends – don’t make anyone feel like a number.  I am going to be consciously working on my active listening skills, and ensuring whoever has my attention truly has my attention.  I can tell when my kids try to tell me a story, and they fade off knowing I haven’t really listened… I intend on changing that.  To me it might have come across as just another story.  To my kids, maybe it was one of few precious times they got to have my attention and explain to me a little bit about their world for the day.

With that, I say be aware.  Be aware that your interaction with someone may be “routine” for you, but to them the quality/content/frequency of the interaction may carry weight unseen to you.  Every experience is a new one.  If you feel yourself blowing somebody off, remember the last time you had horrible service as just another patient, or your proposal was dismissed as just another stack of paper to be read.  The relationships I have valued most and have been so memorable to me all have one thing in common – that person never let me feel like a number.  The relationships I have abhorred and made me the most frustrated all had one thing in common – I felt like just another number.