Sign of the Times

A close friend and colleague, who is a professor at a highly regarded, major university, recently sent me this brief reflection. You may be experiencing something behavior from people around you.

*** It is the end of the semester and I have been imploring students to complete an anonymous course evaluation for my classes. In fact, the students have received four emails from me in one week to follow-through and deliver on their leadership duty – make the courses better for the next class of students.   So, how many students completed the five minute evaluation – 36%.   I was very disappointed to say the least. 

So, why did only a small percentage of students care enough to take the time to pass their thoughts forward?  The reasons seem to reflect the “times” we are living in today:

  • Self-centeredness – If it doesn’t benefit me, why should I spend the time? This reason is permeating our everyday thought/actions and “smelling-up” our world today.
  • Improve for others….why would I want to do that?   This seems to be the mantra today.  “Let the next group suffer through the situation.   Let them experience the same problems. Why should they be any different?”
  • Why make me work?  Why should I share this information?   I have not experienced it.
  • It appears getting some to go one-step beyond expectations requires a miracle.

Leaders are becoming extinct.   This is why I have dedicated my life to “creating more leaders for the world.”   It is truly the differentiator.   It starts with simply caring for the people around you. ***

Leadership is indeed about caring for the people around you – and being willing to serve them – and willing to invest in them, and willing to help them grow. So even after studying the subject for a semester, building collaborative relationships, and working on leadership challenges, only about 1/3 cared enough to help out with the survey.

Three immediate thoughts came to mind about this. First, although people are surveyed to death these days, a course evaluation like this is different. Answering 20 questions about a single night in a hotel or a one-time call center transaction is not the same as providing feedback for a multi-week program that may actually impact how a student lives the rest of his or her life. So that is not a valid excuse.

Second, it reminded me of the recent employee engagement data, which shows around 34% of people being actively engaged in the workplace. They are the ones who go above and beyond to serve the organization, their fellow employees, and their patients, customers, or whomever. It was just about the same percentage of students in this case, who demonstrated engagement-like behaviors in completing the survey. Makes one wonder if there are only 30 plus percent of people engaged anywhere, be it work, school or whatever.

Lastly, it made me think of how quickly a relationship can move from interdependent to independent. I no longer need you to benefit me, so to heck with you. Had the survey been a mid-term assignment for a grade needed for graduation, the response rate would have no doubt been higher. Sadly, after the semester was over, 2/3 of the students immediately shifted to acting independently. No value here for me, so I am moving on!

That’s the thing about leaders. Even if a relationship changes they remain invested in those around them. Have you ever helped someone long after they left your group or your organization, because you cared about them? Would you ever recommend someone for a job at a company you left, because you knew it was a perfect fit for that person – and the company? The leader’s mindset is to serve, even when the relationship says they no longer officially have to.

My friend is right. We do need more leaders – people who are willing to step up and contribute for a noble cause or a future good, even when they get nothing direct in return. Hopefully you will be one of them.

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