Business Leaders Learn from School. The banner over the door read “Never Settle For Less Than Your Best!” Can you imagine that kind of sign in an office or manufacturing facility today? But, isn’t that what we want from our employees? However, this was not a company, and it wasn’t a typical place of employment but a classroom where 20 students spend their week learning.
The question that always seems to be asked at the dinner table is “What did you learn at school today?” The question being asked of adults at that same table might be different: “What did you do at work today?” and it is a huge difference in perspective and performance. There are lessons that every business can learn from spending time in a classroom simply observing the physical environment, the structure, the students and the teacher. They are important lessons that we sometimes forget, or perhaps choose to ignore, but should be reminded of from time to time just to gain perspective.
First of all, in every classroom there are clear expectations. They are written down and visible to everyone. The short list starts with “Work to the best of your ability,” and includes “Act in a safe and responsible manner,” “Reach beyond your grasp and continue to learn new things,” and “Represent the school in an outstanding manner.” These are clear, concise, simple yet strong words; easy to explain and to be understood. How many of us have this kind of expectations for our employees? We are far more likely to have these expectations: “Show up on time; work hard; don’t make mistakes.”
Second of all, the facility itself is clean, well lit and conducive to the tasks of learning. The students have the tools they need to achieve their mission. It doesn’t matter if the students are learning math, science, language or art, they have what they need. How productive can people be when they are not in an environment conducive for getting the job accomplished?
Third of all, performance is measured and reviewed every day, with known consequences. In addition to regular progress reports, actions and behaviors are monitored and adjustments made immediately. It is as if every teacher has memorized the principles of the book “The One Minute Manager.” They praise, they admonish, they correct and they monitor behavior all day long.
Fourth of all, accomplishments are readily visible. Enter any classroom and the walls are filled with the results of the work of the students. As the school year progresses, the quality of the work improves, as the students build on their base of knowledge and gain skills that they use repeatedly, building confidence in their abilities.
Fifth of all, students have goals. Each of us knows the difference between “A” level work and “C” level work and so do the students. They receive feedback on what they turn in almost immediately. Students strive to meet not only their own goals, but the goals that have been set for them by the teacher and parents. In a work environment, employees might not have clear goals, or they might not have any goals (e.g., “Do what you are told and you will do okay around here!”) and feedback is seldom received, except when something is done that the boss is displeased about. Often that is the only time feedback is given.
Every business leader needs to spend time in the classroom. If you haven’t spent time in a classroom, you need to. While a classroom does not have a profit motive, your future employees are being educated and given expectations that every business owner would be wise to try to create in the work environment, because it works, day in and day out, during the school year.
This nation would not be as great as it is without a school system that despite problems it has to deal with daily continues to be the envy of most, if not all, the world.