Three Things Your Business Degree Didn’t Teach You

graduatingOne common misconception among business people, especially those new to the field, is that a bachelor’s degree in marketing or business will provide all the necessary skills to own, operate, or work in a business of any size.

Time and again I’ve seen men and women struggle in business, flabbergasted because they followed the steps taught to them as undergraduates. It isn’t until they get involved in post-degree programs specifically geared toward advanced business techniques, or professional organizations like BNI or the Referral Institute, that they pick up these three concepts that are truly paramount in business.

 

Social Capital

Relationships, and their potential value, are vital in business. These relationships can be in our personal or professional networks, but both can lead to business opportunities, quality referrals, new and innovative ideas, someone to bounce ideas off of, and ultimately, increased business success.

As you build relationships, identify their strengths and weaknesses and focus on fostering the weaknesses. While it can be counter-intuitive to focus on anything other than your business when trying to help it grow, putting effort into your relationships will ultimately lead to greater business success.

 

Emotional Intelligence

The ability to identify, assess and control one’s own emotions, as well as an astute awareness of the emotions of others improves communication in all facets of life and can up one’s connection game. In fact, studies show that a higher emotional quotient (EQ) can help develop more social capital.

When you can learn how individuals around you respond to you, and cater your interactions to the individual person, you will see the positive response received hit the roof. While not rocket science, it can be challenging, so as you work to develop your EQ don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t happen immediately.

 

Networking

You knew it was going here. This critically important business skill is grossly under-represented in higher education. This proficiency combines the elements of emotional intelligence and social capital, and is an important tool to have in your wheelhouse.

The vast majority of businesspeople say that in some form or fashion, they have gained some success through networking, and this isn’t a coincidence. Those who haven’t found networking success likely haven’t built a strong foundation of social capital and emotional intelligence, as networking is simply the mechanism used to combine word-of-mouth techniques and social capital.

 

In the same way businesses who refuse to adopt cutting-edge technology begin to fall to the wayside and face difficulties, business school graduates (and the schools they hail from) who do not adopt these lessons into their curriculum in some ways will quickly find themselves outdated and outpaced.

Are there other vital business skills you feel aren’t taught in general business education? How did you pick up those skills? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave your comment in the forum below! Thanks!

Lacking Motivation?–Follow These Steps

Sometime ago, one of my blog readers asked me this question:

I was wondering what do you do when your motivation level is lacking as well as your self esteem? What do you do to regain the motivation needed to move on with your plans and pursue your endeavors?

This is a great question and here’s my answer:

First of all, let me say that I am as certain of what I’m about to say as anything in my life – motivation comes from within you not from outside you. No one can motivate you but yourself. I’m speaking long-term motivation. Many years ago, Frederick Herzberg wrote about motivation and he said that others can motivate you but only in the short term. He called that KITA (Kick in the… Anatomy – that’s really what he called it).

On the other hand, long term motivation comes from within. So, that begs the question – how do you motivate yourself when your motivation is low? First, you should understand that everyone has to deal with this throughout their lives. I’ve never met anyone that was immune to this (I certainly am not). So, what do I do when I feel down?

Here are some of the things that have helped me:

  1. Minimize contact with negative people! That’s not always completely possible but do it as much as you can. At least do this for for a short while. I really believe that some people complain as though it were an Olympic event! Keep clear of them while you are trying to get your mojo back.
  2. Maximize time with people that refuel your energy! You become the five or six people you hang out the most with. Hang out with people that make you want to “do” and “be” better.
  3. Read/listen/watch positive things. If you are feeling down, read a positive book. Listen to a CD with a positive message. Watch something that makes you laugh! Surround yourself with some things you love to be influenced by. Let that in to your life as much as possible.
  4. Prioritize the things you want to do and must do. Make a list. I live by lists. The more I can get a handle on the things I need and want to do – the easier it is to tackle them.
  5. Eat the elephant one bite at a time. Take that list you’ve created and tackle some of that list EVERY DAY. If you really do this – you will be amazed at how much you get accomplished. The more you accomplish – the better you will feel. They feed each other.

There’s plenty more we can do to generate motivation but I believe the list above is a good start. Is there something specific you have had success with that you could add to this list?  If so, please share it in the comment forum below and tell us how it has helped you motivate yourself?  This is an important topic and I’d love to hear your ideas about it, as I’m sure other readers would as well, because we can all use a little good advice to motivate ourselves every now and then. Thanks in advance for your input.

Unsolicited Advice is Rarely Appreciated

I recently received an unsolicited e-mail message from a man named Chris.  The message stated:

I watched the “video for International Networking Week and… I found it personally offensive and amateurish.  I just thought you would like some feedback.  Consider that when you make your presentation on the Today Show [next week].”

OK, so I should begin by saying – I don’t know Chris.  I’ve never met him and have never talked to him.  Why he would feel compelled to send me such a ‘pleasant’ communication, I can’t fathom.

However, I am thankful to Chris.  I’m thankful because his e-mail message gives me an opportunity to talk a little bit about relationship networking.

Every time you communicate with someone (especially the first time) it is a chance to construct or deconstruct a relationship. This is the first time I’ve ever heard from Chris.  I’d have to say that “first contact” wasn’t very constructive.

I’m not sure what possesses people to send unsolicited criticism to someone they don’t know.  But it seems to be happening more and more in this digital world.  I can’t imagine that Chris would have the chutzpa to say this to someone if he were face-to-face with them.  However, the digital world is ripe with cyber critics who can say what they want and feel more removed from the situation via the internet (it’s possible that being outside striking distance may have something to do with that).

I went back and looked at the “offending” video.  Since Chris didn’t specify what “offended” him, I have no idea what was said that was so offensive to him.  As for “amateurish,” well, I understand that opinions are like noses, everyone has one (that’s the G-Rated version of this saying).  Despite knowing the opinion thing, I thought I should look at the video again closely.  It was shot by a professional videographer.  It had multiple camera angles, professional lighting, and even makeup (maybe that was offensive to Chris?).  I’ve had people say that this video was a bit “artsy” with the cutaways being a little distracting.  Some people didn’t like the switching between black & white and color.  At least those comments were specific and constructive.   But, amateurish – really?  I thought maybe this guy had some amazing website that would put my video to shame so I checked it out.  Ahh, rather than go to the dark side, let’s just say I wouldn’t refer him based on his website.

Here’s the bottom line:  if you want to succeed in life, make your own business better and be sparing in the way you criticize others.

I know, I know, some people just can’t help themselves.  So, if you just can’t hold back and you feel compelled to vent on some other poor unsuspecting soul, consider these four things before you press “send” on your nasty-gram:

  1. Is your criticism unsolicited?  Unsolicited advice (especially from people you don’t know – is rarely appreciated).
  2. Do you know the person to whom you’re sending the criticism?  If not, why are you really sending it (other than to get something off YOUR chest and put it onto their shoulders)?
  3. Whether you know them or not – is your intention to give ‘constructive’ suggestions (otherwise known as meaningful, specific, positive ideas) or just to vent?  If it’s to vent – tell a friend who loves you instead and leave the person you don’t know alone.
  4. If you send this communication – will it help construct a relationship or deconstruct a relationship?  If it’s the latter – remember Mom’s advice: if you don’t have anything good to say, say nothing at all!

No one has ever built a statue to a critic.  It’s easy to tell other people what they are doing wrong.  It’s hard to do the right thing yourself.

Have you ever had this type of experience?  If so, what did you do?  What would you add to my list above?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this matter.

 

Emotional Equations

I had the opportunity to hear Chip Conley speak at the Transformational Leadership Council this last weekend.  He spoke about his new book Emotional Equations.

Chip created this self-help paradigm in order to break down life’s toughest obstacles into manageable facets that you can see clearly – and influence.  When Chip suffered a series of tragedies in the space of just a couple years – and his heart inexplicably flatlined after a speech – he began using what he came to call “Emotional Equations” (like Joy = Love – Fear) to help him understand and articulate what was going on in his internal system. These simple formulas helped him focus on the variables in life that he could deal with, rather than ruminating on the unchangeable constants (the bad economy, death, taxes) he could not.

Emotional Equations give people a new perspective on life and lead them beyond the concept of emotional intelligence and into an emotional fluency that enables someone to identify, name, and manage elements that can define, hurt, and help them. Equations like “Despair = Suffering – Meaning” and “Happiness = Wanting What You Have ÷ Having What You Want,” have been reviewed for mathematical and psychological accuracy by experts. With compelling real-life stories, Conley inspires people who study his material through these equations and to formulate others to address their own circumstances.

Chip says: “In these turbulent times, when so many are trying to become ‘superhuman’ in order to deal with life’s speed bumps, tragedies, and setbacks, Emotional Equations guides you toward becoming a ‘super human’ being.”

I highly recommend the book.

Businesses Say Networking Helps Them Succeed; Professors Have to Look up the Term Networking!

My recently completed Referral Institute study of more than 12,000 business professionals from all around the world has ended, and I’ve been going through mountains of statistics and data (oh joy).  I thought I might share an important one with my readers.  This statistic will not surprise anyone in the real world (yes professors, I’m saying you live in a fantasy world):  91.4 percent of all respondents claimed that networking played a role in their success.  Only 6 percent said it did not, and I’m guessing that the 2.7 percent that said networking wasn’t applicable were the professors I just outed as being clueless about the real world.  If you think I’m being harsh, read my blog about my experience with the dean of a local California University who said that networking would never be taught in his school!

OK, so the rest of us aren’t surprised about this result, but here’s why I posted it: Finally, we have some empirical data as to how important business networking is to the success of a business! Maybe now that we are starting to have something boring–like  hard data– more professors in business schools will start to teach this content.  Oh well, it’s good to have goals.

Networking a Soft Science? Only to College Professors!

Recently, I had lunch with the president of a Southern California University along with his dean for the School of Business. We spoke about many things but, specifically, he wondered what I thought the school could be doing better to teach students graduating from his university. My answer was easy–“start teaching courses on networking, social capital and/or emotional intelligence.”

He asked me why.  I told him that if you ask the average business person or entrepreneur what one of the most important ways to build his or her business is, he or she will almost always tell you “networking or word of mouth.” So if networking is so important, why aren’t we teaching it?  I told him that social capital (which is the study of resources developed through personal and professional relationships) and emotional intelligence (sometimes called EQ for emotional quotient) are key factors to the successful interaction of people with one another.  I suggested that often people may get hired because of their IQ, but they get promoted because of their EQ.  All of these subjects have a strong influence on someone’s success and there is a wealth of research being developed in each of those areas.

The president looked to his dean for the School of Business and asked him what he thought. The dean looked me squarely in the eyes and said, “My professors would never teach that material here.” I asked him why and he said, “It’s all soft science.”

Soft science! Teaching people how to interact with people in an effective way is “soft science!” I should not have been surprised. I’ve run into this many times before with college professors in the past. I was just amazed that this progressive university would take such a position.

We give people bachelor’s degrees in marketing, business and even entrepreneurship, but we teach them hardly anything about the one subject that virtually every entrepreneur says is critically important to his or her business–networking and social capital. Why don’t business schools teach this subject? I think it’s because most business schools are made up of professors who’ve NEVER owned a business in their life. Almost everything they’ve learned about running a business they’ve learned from books and consulting. Well, I’ve read a fair number of books, I was a consultant for many years, and I’ve run my own business for more than two decades. I can tell you firsthand that if you haven’t actually owned a business, you have a handicap in teaching a course involving entrepreneurship.

Can you imagine a law course taught by someone who’s not an attorney, or an accounting course taught by anyone without direct accounting experience? Yet we put business professors in colleges to teach courses related to marketing and entrepreneurship with little or no firsthand experience in the field. Is it any wonder, then, that a subject that is so critically important to business people would be so completely missed by business schools? Of course not. Networking and social capital courses aren’t taught in business schools because most business professors aren’t practitioners. They don’t really understand the importance of this subject for entrepreneurs. Granted, there was little written in the field of networking and social capital 20 years ago (do a literature search. You’ll see), but that is not the case today. There are hundreds of articles and many books on various facets of the area. A thorough bibliography of many of these articles and books can be found in the back of The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret (Revised Edition).

Networking is a field that is finally being codified and structured. Business schools around the world need to wake up and start teaching this curriculum. Schools like any large institution are bureaucracies, so it’s unlikely to happen quickly; however, for those schools with vision, foresight and the ability to act swiftly (sort of the way business professors claim that businesses should act), they will be positioning themselves as leaders in education by truly understanding and responding to the needs of today’s businesses. These schools will be on the cutting edge of business education to better serve their students while positioning themselves as a leading institution for entrepreneurs.

Word-of-mouth marketing works. Social capital is critically important. And networking is the mechanism to develop both. As more universities and colleges open their doors to professors who want to include this strategy with their marketing instruction, we’re going to see a major shift in the business landscape. We’ll see emerging entrepreneurs who’ll be equipped with another strategy for success in business. We will see networking utilized at its fullest capacity, and we will see business schools actually teaching a subject that the business practitioner says is important.

If that doesn’t happen, the private sector will once again step up to the plate and fill the gap for the lack of practical education provided by universities. Just look at sales training. Colleges totally miss the boat on this subject which has created an “after degree” market in sales training done by people like Brian Tracy (briantracyuniversity.com). I predict the same will happen for networking and referral marketing with organizations like the Referral Institute (referralinstitute.com).

By the way, at the end of the conversation during that lunch, I asked the dean about courses on leadership.  I said, “How are courses on leadership any less of a soft science than networking?”  He didn’t have an answer. What a surprise.
I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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