“We are very entrepreneurial and we try to address not just the knowledge base but the emotional base as well,” says Bill Busby, dean and COO of The Richard DeVos Graduate School of Business at Northwood University in Midland, Mich. “We are looking to work with our students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels on not only their knowledge, but also their personal attributes such as ethics, self-confidence, leadership skills and the way they treat others.”
Smart Business talked to Busby about the importance of getting students more engagedin their learning.
What should a business school look for in prospective students?
We are looking for students with a good EQ, or emotional quotient, as well as a high IQ. Education is more than just the transfer of knowledge. Unique programs at the undergraduate level, such as generating a separate transcript of a student’s extracurricular activities, show another side of the student.
Most grad programs in business pay almost exclusive attention to the intellectual development of a student. Yet, if you assess managers, those people and leadership skills which are not highly correlated with intellectual capability are often more important than intellectual skills. It’s those EQ skills that really differentiate the leaders from the non-leaders.
If your goal is simply the transfer of knowledge, then a traditional lecture/textbook environment makes more sense for you. Ours is not a faculty-led discussion around an issue or a case; it’s student-led. It puts a different twist on the classroom, which actually becomes a laboratory for testing your leadership skills.
How can a classroom of different individuals come together to solve a problem?
Say you walk into a classroom of 25 students, each of whom believes they know what the issue of the case may be. If you focus on the tools and techniques of solving a business problem, which many business schools use, then it is assumed you already know what the problem is. The trouble with that is there are often a multitude of problems and the real problem becomes figuring out which one to focus on first.
When you think of that problem-solving sequence; on the front end you’ve got the issue as opposed to the symptoms, in the middle you have the decision-making and then on the back end you have the implementation of your solution. Most graduate programs spend the majority of the time focused on making the correct decision.
I would rather have a mediocre solution to the right problem than an elegant solution to the wrong problem. It’s that front end ‘What’s the problem?’ that requires thinking and reasoning more than tools and techniques and the back end implementation that requires those EQ skills in connection with leadership.
How does EQ affect the atmosphere of the classroom?
Teaching leadership creates an exciting environment for the students, although it is much tougher on them. We put a greater burden on the students since this is not the traditional academic mode of acquiring knowledge, taking a test, and then forgetting the material. If the students are engaged in the discussion and development of the material then the likelihood that they will retain it further down the road becomes much greater. So much of education is passive and getting the students more involved is not a passive activity.
So is EQ more important than IQ?
Research shows that people with EQ are more likely to become successful leaders than people with just a high IQ. Think of the managers you have worked for and differentiate between the really good ones and the not-so-good ones. The latter certainly weren’t lacking because they weren’t smart enough; they simply didn’t have the people skills necessary to be a good leader.
What about strategy?
Strategy is another area that many executive and companies struggle with. At Devos, we split it into two parts: business strategy, which is about satisfying customers and corporate strategy, which is about satisfying shareholders. Many companies talk about satisfying customers but don’t do enough to back it up. Many times a company doesn’t know a customer is unhappy until they take their business elsewhere.
A focus on shareholder value is a U.S. advantage because shareholders are the last in line, and thus are the only stakeholder in a position to make the risk/reward trade-offs. In other countries, boards often consist of other stakeholders and there is much less risk taken. That’s why the U.S. is the leader in entrepreneurs, because we are willing to take greater risks for greater rewards.
Bill Busby is dean and COO of the Richard DeVos Graduate School of Management at Northwood University in Midland, Mich. He can be reached at (989) 837-4487 or firstname.lastname@example.org.