Professors – Strategically Manage Your College Courses – Interpersonal Communications

The reality in the highly competitive life of today's postsecondary institutions is that professors not only have some obligation to motivate students to continue in their pursuit of higher education but also, to some degree, to "sell" their programs such that their reputations serve as effective recruiting tools. This may not exactly be what you signed up for when you became a professor, however it is a reality.

Besides being well prepared for your classes and conducting efficient and interesting lessons, you can foster positive reactions from your students through good interpersonal communications. There are several guidelines you can follow:

  • Listen to your students – free of preconceptions – at least as much time as you are speaking to them. Students want to communicate; give them the opportunity to do so. It's a back-and-forth process.
  • Perception is important. Choose your words carefully to be respectful of social and cultural differences in your classroom. Depending on your background, this could be easy or it could be difficult. The main idea to keep in mind is to be mindful and respectful.
  • Both praise and criticism of an individual student's work are best given privately. Excessive praise in front of the class can be as devastating to the student as excessive criticism – either can be embarrassing or draw undue attention to the individual. However, written praise or criticism can be personal and helpful, particularly when the comments are constructive.
  • Avoid arguing with your students. Students frequently like to engage in arguments with you or their fellow students and in doing so, can push you to the point of exasperation (believe me, I know!). Arguing in front of the class rarely works; although you may win the verbal battle, absolutely you will lose the battle for control. If there is disagreement, encourage the student to stay after class or come to your office to continue the dialogue. Both in class and in private, control your emotions. Note: Discussing varying points of view is to be encouraged at colleges and universities, and it is not this sort of civil (albeit spirited) discourse I'm suggesting that you avoid.

An especially effective tool for thinking about your communications with students (and others) is transactional analysis (Stewart and Joines, 1987). Developed by psychotherapist Eric Berne (1964), this theory posits that each of us has developed three ego states that determine the communications patterns we regularly employ.

  • The first ego state is that of "child." It is a wholly emotional state characterized by self-absorption and dependence on others for need satisfaction, and is often easily observed when the person in this state is either pouting or being rebellious. Language is very I centered: "I want," "give me," "I expect," "I need.
  • The second ego state is that of "parent." This is also an emotional state, one characterized by either judicialal or nurturing language, such as: "You made me very proud," "You make me angry," "You can not seem to do anything right," "You demand a lot of attention,

What Do Horses Know About Leadership?

A veteran educator in the field of leadership development, June Gunter, Ed.D., was not a very troubling trend. According to Gunter, the word "lead" has become the latest four-letter word. Being in the field of leadership development for the past 20 years she observed a growing pattern where the people with the character to lead were saying no to the job. When Gunter asked former leaders why they had chosen to leave leadership positions that they said it was because the job was consuming, thankless, and not worth the sacrifices they had to make in their personal and family lives. It was hard for her to keep motivating them to lead. Because of Gunter's own experience, she agreed with them. Compelled to find a new source of hope for herself and her clients, Gunter set out on a mission to find a new model of leadership that would re-inspire people to become the leaders their communities desire. Much to her surprise, she found this new model of leadership on the back of a horse.

In 2004, Gunter founded an organization named TeachingHorse that provides experiential learning and leadership development with horses. Working with horses, leaders learn how to remain calm and confident in the face of uncertainty, how to communicate with authenticity, and how to create strong partnerships. All the horse activities take place with people on the ground and no horse experience is necessary. The foundation of TeachingHorse is a model of leadership Gunter referes to as MareWisdom that was developed in the course of her lifelong relationship with horses and a study of their herd dynamics.

From ballrooms to boardrooms to barns all across the country, June Gunter is bringing fresh ideas about how to lead our businesses, our families, and our own lives in ways that create healthy sustainable communities. With a no-nonsense style and a dry sense of humor sprinkled with an authentic Southern accent, this classic cowgirl with a doctorate in education is taking some of the traditional thinking about leadership and turning it upside down.

The MareWisdom model answers the question, "What do horses know about leadership?" For a herd to place their trust in a lead mare, she must demonstrate four capabilities. The lead mare must be paying attention and able to detect even the most minor changes in the environment. The lead mare must give them clear direction on where to go next. The lead mare must be able to follow that direction with focused energy, providing the herd with guidance on the pace (ie, walk, trot, canter) with which to respond to those changes. The lead mare must also show the congruence of her inner and outer expression. You do not have to wonder what she is thinking, her body language tells you and she never lies. Ultimately, the herd must know the lead mare has their best interest as her sole source of motivation at all times.

Attention. Direction. Energy. Congruence. When a lead mare demonstrates these capabilities, the herd …