Why Deadlines Are Valuable

“Would you mind writing an article for me?”

“Would you help me with my resume?”

“Do you have time to work with me on a project?”

These are all questions I’ve been asked in the past few weeks, and when I ask, “When do you need it?” I’m invariably told, “When you can get to it,” “No rush,” or “For the next issue.” No one seems to want to give me a deadline.

Without the deadline, I have no sense of urgency. Your project falls to the bottom of my “To Do” list because I have plenty of other tasks with deadlines. Without a deadline, I can’t honestly tell you if I can fulfill the request. I know you are trying to be considerate because you think or know I am busy. I appreciate the consideration. 

But give me a deadline. I’ll tell you if I can meet it. And that deadline also will guarantee that I submit it when you need it. Otherwise, it’s probably not going to get done.

A deadline will make us both happy.

Preparing Students to Work in Communications

A recent post focused on big ideas to save journalism. What about changing the university curriculum so that students are prepared to work in this ever-changing environment?

That was what Ron Bennett spoke about during the Media Network Idaho’s workshop on “Communicating in a Changing World.” During Ron’s tenure as Communication Department chair at Brigham Young University — Idaho, the department went through a major curriculum revision.

While the University of Colorado discontinued its School of Journalism and Mass Communications and is moving toward a curriculum focused on information and communication technology, Ron said Bringham Young University thought a different approach would work.

So a group was convened that interviewed CEOs around the country in major cities. The major criteria that all asked for was to teach students to write. Ron said too often today’s students “only write with their two thumbs” referring to texting.

The CEOs also wanted graduates who had interpersonal skills. “They want to know that the people they hire can get along with others,” Ron said. Other desired skills include speaking and presentation skills, lack of entitlement and a good work ethic.

The CEOs “valued breadth, not depth,” Ron said.

The result of the research was a new academic plan for the communication department. It features 31-credit core, 15-credit emphasis and a 9-credit module. “There is an emphasis in new media in all instructions yet it teaches core skills and values,” Ron said.

The program offers strict requirements along with flexibility and integrates well with minors from other departments.

Reviewing the course offerings made me want to return to school.  I’m learning on the job now, but to be able to take a module in video or new ventures would be beneficial. I would have enjoyed the core classes and selected an emphasis in either news/journalism or public relations. That would have still left me the opportunity to select a module in the opposite so that I had a well-rounded approach to communications.

As someone who often hires, it’s encouraging to see a curriculum that truly prepares students for the reality of life outside academia.

Leadership Fable Focuses on Teams

What do you do when your team doesn’t debate an issue or when they don’t have any input? It’s something I have wrestled with, and thanks to reading “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni have a better understanding of it.

In the book, which is told as a fable, a lack of trust is often at the core of a lack of debate during staff meetings or other interactions. One of the first suggestions to overcome this lack of trust was the notion of getting to know each other’s personal histories. This does not involve answering intrusive issues, but rather background questions that allow staff members to get to know something about each other and to begin to establish a level of trust.

The book also focused on setting goals for the team and developing a scorecard, or dashboard. This resonated with me because while my division has a dashboard, which I review with my vice president, I’ve not been consistent with discussing it with the team. The dashboard was created with team input, but for it to have real meaning, we need to review and analyze the results at least monthly.

According to “The Five Dysfunctions” my team will then be able to “make collective decisions on a daily basis.” This may result in some conflict as we determine the best way to get results. It’s critical for team members to be able to speak freely and openly with the intention of cycling through conflict and focusing on the team’s collective goals. It also means holding each other accountable “for what we sign up to do (and) for high standards of performance and behavior.”

Going back to the issues of trust, “trust is knowing that when a team member does push you, they’re doing it because they care about the team.” As a result of this book, I’m trusting my team to hold me accountable so that I can help the team avoid or overcome the dysfunctions.