3 Things College Freshman and Business Leaders Have In Common

August is a month of transition. Kids going off to college and parents closing down a key phase in their 18-19 year project. Some of those parents even becoming empty-nesters!  Whew!

College Green Road Sign Over CloudsSo, it got me thinking. While few freshmen would be asking ME for advice, I’m going to offer it anyway via this blog. Interestingly, as I thought about what I would say, I recognized the same advice is relevant for business leaders. Go figure!

I’m a big fan of simplicity, so as a way of packaging up my advice simply, I’m going to draw on the vehicles we use for three of our senses: Eyes — Ears — Mouth.

If you’re curious, keep reading.

Funny, the first piece of advice has to do with reading.

  1. (Eyes) READ a LOT and pay attention to the details.  Freshman – You are going to be reading MUCH more than you did in high school. Nothing is going to be spoon fed and it will be up to you to read, interpret, retain and be able to LEARN from what you read. Reading well is the greatest learning resource you have so embrace it. It will serve you well throughout your life. You will also need your eyes to observe all the non-verbal communication that is happening around you. Reading those social signals is just as important as the content of the message. Business Leaders – You are bombarded with emails and presentations or proposals. You too need to pay attention to the details, understand what is being asked of you, the nuances of the messages and respond in a timely manner. You too have the need to continue to learn, so leverage those great reading and retention skills you acquired while in school. I would echo the Freshman advice here as well. Don’t get too heads-down, look up and use your eyes to observe all the non-verbal communication that’s happening around you!
  2. (Ears) LISTEN as if your life depended on it. Freshman – Let’s get real here…your academic life does depend on it! Your social life may depend on it as well. Please don’t be one of those people who always has their face in their smart phone or iPad/computer. BE FULLY PRESENT with the people around you. You’ve got to understand the content being presented in class and take notice of the tone of the speakers’ voice, which is just as important. As a matter of fact, this advice applies to your social life as well. Business Leaders – Listening skills are one of the most important, yet often scarce, among leaders. Same thing applies to you – be fully present vs. being one of those people who always has their face in their smart phone or iPad/computer. When your people feel that you’ve really HEARD THEM, they will be more engaged and loyal to your leadership. Newsflash…you probably don’t have all the answers, so listening well to others could offer new insight and perspectives to come up with solutions! Solutions that others could buy into…because you incorporated their input.
  3. (Mouth) Share your point-of-view and offer encouragement to others. Freshman – In many classes, you will be graded on your participation. This will require that you do the homework, be caught up on your reading assignments and be prepared to answer the questions the professor will throw your way. It’s a way to get recognized and begin to build a relationship with your professors. I’ve taught in a university setting and believe me, we LOVE students who are engaged and participate. On the social side, you will have friends who will need some encouragement. You may need to help with a broken heart or in pushing forward after bombing a test. Words of encouragement go a long way in GIVING HOPE to what may otherwise seem like a hopeless situation. Business Leaders – Let’s be clear, you are paid for having a point-of-view. You too need to do your homework and understand the various aspects of an issue, connect with others who are impacted across the organization to gain their perspective in order to have a solid point-of-view. Being able to communicate crisply so that others understand your message is key. Again, you will also need to offer positive feedback and encouragement to others. While there may not be a “failing grade” that is on your report card, you and your colleagues will experience failures and will need to be lifted up.Everyone can learn from set-backs and you should be there to offer what can be learned from mistakes and words to promote the will to keep going and not give up. Additionally, you need to recognize employees for a job well done. Be specific in letting them know what they did well, which encourages them to repeat that positive behavior.

See, it’s true! What you learn in college does apply to how you will succeed in your career. Start practicing those important skills now and throughout your career — as a student or business leader!

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at mduesterhoft@people-results.com.