A student once shared; “Parents raise us but teachers raise our mind.” This seemingly simple statement has since profoundly impacted the way I perceive my role as an educator. Being in a position to influence students’ thinking, behavior and, most of all, their desire to be future ready, is a noble cause that has become my personal career mission.
The world today is hungry for good leaders, and organizations thrive on leadership excellence to stay competitive and successful. Therefore the power to leave positive footprints in one’s life continues to fuel my passion for teaching and life-long learning. I derive a great sense of pride and purpose in being able to contribute to molding the future leaders of our world.
Students need to understand and accept the fact that the global economy we live in today promotes inter-connectedness from all corners of the earth and in nearly all aspects of business and human relations. The impact of the global challenge in business pushes workers to an unprecedented frontier of increased competition and continual innovation. Academia must strive to develop students who are global-ready to meet the accelerated speed of change today.
With globalization, employers are increasingly seeking to hire workers who possess skills necessary for leadership roles with a future in international relations. The value of core skills, such as Business Communications, is incalculable as it shapes a student’s career success measured by his/her ability to not only communicate effectively but also to cultivate workplace relationships embracing cultural diversity.
Pragmatism of Learners
Today’s students are pragmatic learners motivated by the realism of the contribution of skills and knowledge acquired to their career prospect and personal growth. Hence there is a need to create a pragmatic learning strategy for developing communication skills essential for future leaders to excel, lead and manage people at all levels.
To accomplish this, I would strive to stimulate interest in our students who are developing Business Communication skills by sharing current industry case studies and real-life examples using my personal corporate experiences while working with local and multi-national organizations. For example, I may depict a scenario of a meeting session showing how employees are able to gain a comparative advantage through effective presentation in a clear and compelling fashion to influence their audience. This may involve the ability to handle the question and answer session with tact and confidence. Using imagination based on vivid language, I work on bringing to live practical applications of the learning concepts and ideas aimed at developing people skills for career success in a challenging business environment.
Effective Communication Skills
No matter what profession students choose to pursue, employers would expect candidates to be equipped with the ability to communicate effectively with others. When students understand this fundamental principle, they learn to appreciate business communication more. Hopefully this will drive them to become more self-directed and take ownership for their learning apart from excelling in grades alone.
Additionally, I would also work on helping students see the boundless benefits that go beyond the business context and recognize how Business Communications can be largely applicable to enhancing their personal and social quality of life. This may come in the form of strengthening personal values and ethics, improving one’s business etiquette, learning to listen empathically, building effective teams as well as creating self-awareness in one’s own verbal and non-verbal communication. These attributes are no doubt readily accepted and embraced by most of our students. These benefits will also help to motivate students to learn with the goal of achieving personal mastery rather than simply pursuing academic prowess.
Another strategy I adopt is to help students recognize how they can benefit from effective communication in their future job search. For example, they may experience less stress in applying for a position if they stand out from the competition by demonstrating competency in oral and written skills. This is because every aspect of a job search process relies on effective communication. The better the student learns to communicate, the more successful the student will be in landing interesting and rewarding roles. Similarly, the potential for job promotion and career advancement banks on these qualities year after year. Thus associating learning with such intent to connect one’s goal is imperative to developing a personal quest of ‘want to’ and not ‘have to’.
With every opportunity I have during the lesson, I would continually emphasize the importance of relationship building in business and in life. This helps to synergize efforts and resources in any organization through collaborating with others to build on individual success.
A proven way to achieve relationship building is through networking. Fortunately today there are many networking options available such as through creating an impressive Linked In profile. All these would require a student to be able to write proficiently by applying the practical skills of business writing.
Other occasion may present opportunity to connect in an informal setting. For example, a student may strike up a friendly conversation with someone at the gym or even receive a job lead from someone he/she meets at a friend’s birthday party. As long as students are engaged with other people, they are actively networking. Again, communication skills are essential in connecting with others and nurturing relationships.
Unfortunately, through my observation, a number of students appear to be uncomfortable building relationships with their classmates, let alone outside of the classroom. I find the most common reason to be a lack of self-confidence and the fear of rejection.
Generally students who can communicate well have the ability to overcome these and other barriers. To assist students in combating their fear and shyness, I seek to build rapport with them regularly by arriving in class early or staying a little later after class to connect with them emotionally as well as to check in on their learning progress. I would also share stories of former students who had successfully beaten similar challenges and eventually overcome the fear of failure by building confidence through communication. To encourage learners to persist in developing their skill sets and be determined to succeed, I need to be sensitive in creating a safe environment for students to make mistakes in class and to learn from them.
As communication is paramount to the healthy functioning of all entities and human interactions, it would be relevant to the students one way or another. However students need to be able to identify with and understand this association.
When students learn with intent and are able to recognize the relevance of their hard work, the vision of fruitfulness in their future career becomes real. Now the next step is to create opportunities to practice and build skills through active participation in and outside of the classroom.
To inspire participation, I enjoy asking questions to provoke thinking so as to allow students to internalize the key concepts. I invite students to challenge assumptions and not be conformed to a ‘good’ standard answer because it’s the norm. Students would appreciate having more than one correct answers to a question and more than one solutions to a problem in most situations. By removing the fear of being penalized for giving a different answer, students are encouraged to participate without the fear of judgment.
Gradually I observed that more students are now willing to speak up in front of others and share different viewpoints. This in turn helps to build their confidence in asking questions and be an inquisitive learner with a curious mind.
I believe with practice and perseverance, we can mold our students to become polished future leaders with strong values and skills competency. We can help to unleash every student’s potential to excel in life and be more future ready. They can become confident individuals, able to measure up to the relentless competition in our ever-changing global economy. In so doing, they are empowered to motivate and inspire self and others to become successful future leaders to take our society to greater heights. As an educator, I now find greater fulfillment, meaning and happiness in my work.
Article contributor: Betty Kan-Sekine
Betty Kan-Sekine is an associate lecturer with SIM GE who is currently teaching Business Communications in the DMS Programmes. She was one of the recipients for the Teaching Merit Award 2015.