If you eagerly threw your cap in the air at graduation and never looked back, applying classroom techniques might not sound very enticing. But as a young entrepreneur with limited experience, you might want to take a lesson or two from your school days.
While detention, fines, and grilled cheese Friday lunches might not be applicable to the workforce, there are methods and practices you learned years ago that are effective for running and growing a business. Here’s a look at three classroom principles that every entrepreneur can apply to a growing business:
Seminars and meetings can often feel torturous — and you may remember certain classes in school feeling the same way — but hopefully, you also had a few fascinating teachers who drew you in and inspired you. This is because subject matter and meetings aren’t inherently boring: We make them that way.
The key to making these potentially boring activities more engaging is to approach them like a dialogue, rather than a lecture. We learn and grow through discussion, and genuine learning is captivating. A great teacher (or leader) poses a question or problem, perhaps including a brief lesson on how others have approached the problem before, and steps back to let the students (or staff) exchange opinions and collectively discover new ideas.
The teacher’s role then becomes facilitating, only stepping in to prevent people from speaking over each other or to encourage the timid to speak up as well. In this setting, everyone gets to practice sharing (even if they’re shy), and everyone gets to practice listening (even if they’re highly vocal). While listening, the teacher gets to be a pupil as well, and learning extends both vertically and horizontally in the organization.
Lively discussions breed innovation as they present the opportunity to share and explore ideas all at once, rather than waiting for individuals to develop new ideas on their own. The classroom approach also helps businesses be more efficient with their time. It is structured around a clear schedule, time is adequately allocated, and when the bell rings, everyone moves on to the next endeavor. This creates a rhythm within the company and sets clear expectations.
From elementary schools to universities, students walk through halls surrounded by their peers’ successes, whether they’re represented by finger painting art, basketball trophies, or certificates for academic achievement. In the workplace, it’s equally valuable to display work your team members should be proud of.
A new logo, product design, or great testimonial deserves to be seen. Encourage individuals to show off their own feats and to appreciate and recognize those of their co-workers. An atmosphere that recognizes and celebrates the achievements of others is an inspiring place to work, motivating employees to reach higher.
When I was a kid, I didn’t care why we had recess; I just knew it was the best part of the day. As an adult, I understand breaks are necessary. The same goes for adults in the workplace: They need both physical and mental breaks from daily routines. Sitting at a desk all day can cause physical ailments — increased risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, and back problems, to name a few — that you want to help protect your team from.
Humans are not meant to be sedentary; they need physical activity. Even going to a gym for an extended workout won’t undo several continuous hours of sitting down, so get creative and get your employees out of their seats. Mental recesses can be encouraged by creating resting spaces that are more accommodating than a typical break room.
You can also plan brainstorming sessions that take people away from their desks and bring employees into a different state of mind. Some companies do walking meetings, which provide the opportunity for physical activity while stimulating the mind.
While everything about school should not be transferred to a business, there are meaningful practices that are often lost as we age out of the education system and enter the business world. However, it’s foolish to assume that the only valuable things we learned were inside textbooks. Think back on your experiences — the inspiring teachers or structures that helped you — and glean the intangible lessons that can help you run your business today.
Matthew Gordon is President and CEO of The Gordon Group, a holding company that primarily manages GraduationSource and Avanti Systems USA. Gordon strives to foster positive corporate culture and empower young minds. Connect with GraduationSource on Twitter.
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