Burnout and Educators

As globalization and technology continue to change the way in which businesses function, the need for highly skilled workers possessing the ability to synthesize, analyze, and communicate will be the litmus test separating successful from unsuccessful economies. Where does the US fall in light of this? Can the US produce sufficient highly skilled workers to meet the demands of an ever evolving society? If the 2010 results of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is any indication, then the US was found wanting.

The test results showed US students lagging behind many of their peers from other countries in core subject areas. This realization has once more invigorated the consistent intermittent debate surrounding quality education in US schools. In the aftermath of the report, the brainstorming sessions that follows will once more seek to unearth the impediments to the creation of a better education system. What will be discovered? An examination of prior measures unveiled to address the shortfalls of quality education to date seemed to focus consistently on educators as a causative element.

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) (2002), as well as research which hints that a high quality teacher is the single most important factor that influences students academic performance give credence to the prior statement. These avenues which seek to focus on ways to increase academic achievement seem to hint that educators are the most critical element impacting the ability of students to perform academically. This conclusion has led to extreme pressures on educators to increase academic performances. These pressures while not new (for as Popham stated, they existed prior to NCLB (2004)), will increase in magnitude as the world continues to change. Can this continuous insistent pressure result in adverse effects for educators? What are the implications for the teaching and learning environment, and invariably society?

Relentless pressure to perform in environments that are highly volatile is often conducive to burnout. This burnout is a nemesis to the creation of an education system that is capable of producing students equipped to deal with 21st century workplace challenges; skills which are critical to any country hoping to maintain or achieve a competitive advantage. Drucker makes this point when he coined the term “knowledge workers’ and highlighted their importance for the success of 21st century businesses. This paper examines the principles of rest and highlights the value of rest to educators operating in contemporary educational environments.

The paper pinpoints the challenges facing contemporary American education system which may inhibit rest and brings clarity to the dangers of burnout – a condition created by lack of rest. Leaders in education as well as stakeholders are provided with clear guidelines which may be used to prevent burnout and promote rest. The paper ends with a plea for education leaders to adhere to the necessity to rest in order to construct learning environments capable of creating students with the analytical, synthesizing, and communication skills that are critical to meeting the demands of contemporary and future organizations.

The day started with an Individualized Education Plan for one of my students. Once the meeting was finished, I analyzed the results from the summative assessment for forty students from the previous day. I realized that fifteen of my students did not grasp some of the key concepts from the lesson and so I commenced planning intervention strategies. Two strategies had to be different to accommodate two of my students who needed modified assignments. This activity took almost fifty minutes. So, I had just enough time to adjust my lesson plans for the day. It was now five minutes before the start of class, and as I checked my calendar, I realized I had a meeting at the end of the day with teachers from my department. I made a note to myself, “just before I leave for the meeting I must remember to call the parents of three of my students as they were not completing homework and had started acting up in class”. As I jotted the note, I glanced at the other meetings and forms that needed attention by the end of the week. As the bell rang one teacher passed my door and as I smiled politely and asked “how are you;” she looked at me and stated “I am overwhelmed, there seems to be so much to do and with all these meetings I am quite frankly exhausted.”

Rest -the principle
“After God created Heaven and earth on the seventh day He rested (Genesis 2:2).” According to Botterweck, Ringgren & Fabry, this day, often recognized as the Sabbath stems from the word Sabat, symbolizing cessation from work (2004). Genesis 2 therefore set the precedence for mankind to take a break from work. As one journeys further into scriptures Hosea 10:12 “… fallow your ground… ” when examined through Robbins Social Approach to understanding text represented a call for mankind to desist from their activity. While the verse may have held cultural implications for the Jews as they were farmers, the ramifications for mankind in contemporary society are no different. The principle demands mankind be removed from the confines of work; that time be taken away from the everyday tasks.

The value of rest
The necessity for educators to rest is vital to the creation of effective teaching and learning environments. Outcalt (2005) believes rest allows one to regain strength through the renewing of the mind. Rest is akin to the lubricant between two joints; it provides the conditions necessary for smooth operation without complications which may inhibit action. Rest is the indispensable ingredient that fosters motivation and drives creativity, without this ingredient motivation is stifled and the death of creativity fast-forwarded.

The value of rest and renewal to educators is critical to the creation of an effective and sustainable education system. As the world continues to evolve and the momentum of change accelerates, the pressure on educators to produce students who are academically proficient to manage the demands of the 21st century will continue to increase. This increased demand will force leaders and stakeholders to demand more from educators; a move which has the potential to drain educators physically, emotionally and spiritually as they work overtime to increase students’ performance. Maslach and Leither (1997) convincingly made similar points when they stated that the speed and rate at which organizations are bombarded with changes may result in leaders and followers becoming physically and emotionally exhausted. In a bid to meet these demands, the possibility that workers will lose rest is likely and unfortunate. Without rest, creativity is stifled, motivation becomes a fantasy, competence is sacrificed, and mediocrity flourishes. These outcomes erode creativity, innovation, collegial relations, and productivity. The end result is that rest is sacrificed and inefficiency is given room to grow.

In a society where change is a constant and stability is a pipe dream, the need to be constantly moving to be in sync with societal changes has the propensity to hinder rest. Managers and employees are often driven to work harder and longer to avoid mergers, downsizing, acquisitions and restructurings. The same holds true for educators. Standardized tests show many students not meeting the proficiency bar; drop-out rates climb; more students exercise their first amendment right to explain how entertainers make big bucks with little education and therefore education is not important; and law-makers continue to increase the pressure on educators to produce better quality students. These have factors have helped to create an environment where the necessity for rest often becomes blurred. For many educators, when the pace and workload become too hectic; depression, anxiety and stress are only a few outcomes. Muller made similar arguments when he stated that in today’s world, with its unrelenting emphasis on achievement and efficiency, it is possible to lose the essential rhythm of life and how best to create an equilibrium between work and rest (Muller, 2000).

In a world driven by competition, where only the best shapes an organizations competitive advantage, it is easy to overlook educators as people and not machines and it becomes easy to under-value the job they do. It is also very easy to target education systems as the place to make adjustments in order to address societal ills and its inability to produce only the best.

The onus placed on educators in the US to produce first class students in a constantly changing environment, creates an environment of high demands. These demands often unrealistic in nature (as education is by no means the sole responsibility of teachers) often result in stress and lethargy in the affected. Maslach and others (1997) succinctly made similar points when they stated that the burden placed on workers to increase productivity creates conditions that are conducive to burnout. Burnout takes away an individual’s vigor, promotes lethargy, and reduces motivation and efficacy. Such end results negatively affects individuals ability to perform, and thereby subtracts from any efforts to maintain or promote long term sustainable achievements.

The foundation of burnout
Burnout according to Maslach et.al (1997) is a symbol of foremost failure of the organization to function normally, which is associated more to the state of mind of the organization rather than its followers. It may manifest itself in detachment, disinterest, hopelessness, and de-motivation. According to Maslach et.al (1997), these expressions are damaging to the individual on a personal as well as on a professional level. On a personal level, stress, health issues and anxiety are some of the end results. These personal afflictions spill over into the professional life and slowly drain the individual’s ability to function at their fullest potential.

Burnout incapacitates the ability to think and to be innovative in coming up with new ideas, and it limits creativity. It increases workers attrition which may show itself in increased absenteeism, distractions, and loss of vigor. Follower’s dedication diminishes and efficiency may ultimately suffer.

Eradicating Burnout
To prevent burnout, Halgesen (2001) calls for both leaders and followers to create an environment of partnership where parties recognize the value of each other. Maslach, et.al (1997) support this hypothesis when they call for organizations to ensure they develop values clarification which they define as, “the expression of personal values and shared values resulting in the endorsed values by the organization” (p. 133).

According to Maslach and Leiter (1997), building engagement with work is the solution to burnout. To this extent, they noted some factors which if addressed will help to minimize or eliminate burnout.

� Sustainable workload: As 2011 budget debates begin, the need to cut budget for education is once more on the table. The teaching staff and support staff for many schools will once more be targeted. Leaders need to recognize that by removing well needed staff especially in failing schools, they are creating additional pressures on teachers. Evans (2001) posited that the continuous involvement of teachers in their work can lead to burnout; too much work has the ability to compound the situation. While teachers are afforded a long summer break, is it possible to shorten the summer break and distribute “rest days” evenly throughout the semester?

� Feelings of choice and control: Policy makers need to ensure that any policy created to promote academic achievement should give educators the impression that their voice counts and that they have control over aspects of the teaching and learning environment that counts.

� Recognition and reward: High quality education is a definitive factor that favors countries with a competitive advantage. This quality education if often accessed through educators, yet education is arguably one of the lowest paying professions. What can be done to change this?

� Fairness, respect and justice: As the debates continue to find the qualities to define quality teachers, the impetus to align pay with performance may be a
tempting morsel. This morsel should be discarded on two accounts. The first is that research against extrinsic motivation hints at the negative effects of this manner of getting results. Secondly, in an era when Learning communities are expected to be sharing medium where teachers utilize best practice from these sessions; how many teachers will be willing to share their best practices?

Conclusion
While the necessity to increase student’s performance continue to reign as a topic worthy of discussion, budget cuts in areas of education seems to put the debate to rest. This has resulted in fewer educators, with heavier workloads and longer hours. This new trend goes against the demands of an era where students with analytical, synthesizing and communication skills are necessary to fulfill its demands. These decisions have the propensity to undervalue educators and may result in burnout; a condition which fosters inefficiency and mediocrity- traits which are not conducive to the creation of effective teaching and learning environments. To avoid this pit fall, leaders must be willing to examine techniques to prevent burnout, if any serious attempts are to be made to produce students with the skills necessary to function in 21st century environments.

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Process Management – A Key to Successful Project Management

Can process management and project management actually co-exist? Not only have I found that they co-exist, but that they actually drive one another’s success.Have you ever heard the phrase “the devil is in the details”? I always thought that this saying was a little strange…until I began to work in project management. The funny thing is that once I got into project management this phrase made so much sense. I can remember being on one project where the project manager was much too myopic. All she cared about was data storage requirements and virtually nothing else. For this project manager, the devil in the details was never thought about, outside of the confines of data storage anyway. On another project, the project manager was so sure of his own abilities to “do his job” that he completely ignored the details altogether. The latter project had some disastrous outcomes…including Social Security deposits being returned to the state that sent them, which in turn resulted in that state discontinuing those payments. In other words, major customer impacts occurred because people were overly confident in their own ability to adapt to a changing process.So what does this have to do with project management? Everything. If a project is creating something unique, then it stands to reason that there are variables that are known and some that are unknown. Think of throwing a rock into a lake. You know that the rock hitting the water will cause a rippling effect on the water’s surface. What you don’t know is how many ripples it will cause or how far the ripples will disperse beyond the initial impact. Process management is a way of taking into account all that may happen as a result of the ripples in the water.Let’s say that there is a project is to implement new processing software into an existing data processing center. On the surface, this looks fairly easy. The processing center already exists and the technology is already in place. So other than information technology and/or information systems installing the new software and some training on how to use it, this is a fairly easy undertaking. This is equivalent to throwing the rock into the water. We have a rock, we have water, and we know that the rock hitting the water will create a rippling effect. Problem solved, right? What happens if all of the users of the new software are not physically located in the same processing center? What if there are individuals that send work to the processing center, via courier, because they are remotely located and therefore not able to use the technology that is available to others? Maybe this seems farfetched to you since we live in the 21st century, but I can assure you that it’s not.Here’s the crux of the problem. It’s human nature to make assumptions based on limited knowledge and/or lack of information…especially when dealing with a project. This is why in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), which is one of the standards for project management, process improvement is included in its Project Quality Management section. Process improvement, whether you call it process management, process design, or process engineering, is critical to ensuring that your project is implemented according to scope. If the project is designed according to scope, but fails when put into production, the project is a failure and its scope was never met. A basic assumption of a project is that it will work once fully implemented.Let’s look at process improvement from more of an organic standpoint. I use the term organic because we rarely think of process management and project management together. Like project management, process management has evolved into its own discipline. At its roots though, process management is simply a series of shapes and arrows used to illustrate a process. This is the intrinsic value of process management. It allows you to illustrate the process before it is even in place. Put another way, you can lay out the process before the project is even close to being completed.I stated that at its roots, process management is simply a series of shapes and arrows used to illustrate a process. You can map a process (also called a flowchart) using as little as three shapes, an oval, a rectangle, and a diamond. Each shape represents a specific part of the process. An oval represents the beginning or end of a process…the first or last step. A rectangle illustrates an activity. If you place a rectangular box under another box, the second box identifies a task. A diamond is a call out for a decision. It demonstrates that there is a yes or no question within the process that has to be answered. Interestingly enough, this simple shape often is one of the most powerful in identifying gaps (one or more breaks in a process that can cause rework, customer impact, failure, or any other number of issues) within a project and/or process. The arrows are used to direct the “flow” of the process from one point to another.As an example of the win-win of using process management during a project, I was recently on a project where data was being converted from one system to another. The process for this is often referred to as data mapping. You map the data and the fields in the system where they currently reside and map them to where they will reside in the new system. When this was process mapped, the diamond shape was used to ask if the data from our department had been mapped to the new system. The answer was yes. The next activity was to determine how that data would be identified in the new system, to which no one knew the answer. This was a huge gap. If the data had been mapped, then someone should have been able to tell us what that data would look like in the new system. We quickly found out that no one could validate that our area had been included in the original data mapping. What would the impact had been if after the project no one could find the data in the new system? Once again process mapping paid for itself, as it usually does.Another benefit of process mapping is the ability to flowchart the conceptualized process. Let’s say that there are a number of activities that you know need to happen and how they will be done. What you may not know is who will do all of the actual work. Think of a loan being originated. Someone is going to take the loan application; someone is going to process the loan application; someone is going to underwrite the loan; and someone is going to close the loan. But who is going to file the documents and will they be scanned into an imaging application? This is an unknown. By flowcharting the process you are able to take the activities you know will happen and then the activities you “think” will happen and create a picture of the process. By using the same shapes, but changing the color or texture of the “conceptual” ones, you are able to illustrate the know activities from the “how we think it will be” activities. This allows others to opine on the process before there is a conflict, such as incorrect procedures being written or worse yet, that part of the process being totally neglected.Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of process mapping, within the context of project management, is that it allows you to better control the work of the project. When the core processes are placed in flowcharts, it is much easier to identify control gaps within the process itself. Control gaps are, in and of themselves, risks within the project. Let’s use the above example of a loan being originated. A decision point (diamond shape) in the process is validating that the loan has been underwritten correctly. What happens if no one validates the underwriting? Or, what if the one validating the underwriting is the same person that underwrote the loan in the first place? Segregation of duties has to be a part of the process in order to protect the integrity of the process itself. A flowchart would show if this control has been sufficiently setup or if there is potential for a control failure.Finally, the use of swim lanes is another value added dimension of process mapping. Swim lanes are used to track a process through all of the areas that need to be a part of it, in order for the process to be completed. Think of an Olympic pool. You automatically picture a pool with swim lanes, each one belonging to a different swimmer. Again, let’s use the loan origination example. In most cases the origination of a loan takes several areas (called cross-functional areas) working together for a loan to be completely processed. This could entail various areas such as sales, loan application processing, underwriting, closing, and file management. While no single area owns the entire process, they all work a part of the process to ultimately complete a single loan. By employing swim lanes, you segregate each area in the process into its own lane. Then, using the shapes already discussed, you track the process moving from one swim lane to another. This not only illustrates the areas responsible for the entire process, but also the decision points, controls, and ultimately the interdependencies. Getting the process map validated by all of the areas involved seals the deal. Once all agree on the process, a responsibility matrix can be developed and the project is in a better state of control because of it.

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The 2 Most Deadly Sins of B2B Marketing

There are two major reasons why marketing is failing at your small- or medium-sized B2B firm:You view marketing as business triage. Your company applies a collection of tactics (often labeled as a “marketing campaign”) only in response to a problem; typically involving the loss of a key client, or decline in revenue. When business is good, little or no time is invested in marketing. When business (inevitably) takes a dip, only then does marketing becomes a priority.You expect marketing to deliver immediate results. Either because your company always views marketing on a “cause & effect” tactical basis, or because marketing triage must be applied quickly to revive an ailing company, the marketing function is given insufficient time to produce tangible results. It’s no surprise that marketing professionals have the shortest tenure of any corporate function in the asset management business.The hard truth is that very few B2B business owners either understand the marketing function, or have the discipline to design, implement, measure and adhere to a consistent marketing approach that builds brand equity and market engagement over a sustained period.To establish the infrastructure and internal culture necessary for the marketing discipline to succeed, we offer the following simple path:

Create a Written Marketing Plan. This need not be in a 3-inch binder; a two-page document is often sufficient. Include goals, strategies, responsibilities, timelines, budgets and ways to measure results. Without a Marketing Plan you’ll waste lots of time and money. And unless it’s a written document, you won’t have commitment or accountability.

Gain Senior Level Commitment. The honcho in corner office (which might be you) must understand, endorse and support the Marketing Plan. This involves more than lip service. If your Plan isn’t properly staffed and funded at the outset, there’s no real commitment to marketing.

Do a Few Things Very Well.Your marketing success will be based on the quality and effectiveness of a limited number of strategies / tactics. Firms sometimes go overboard, thinking there’s a correlation between the size of its marketing investment and business results. But less is usually more, in terms of marketing ROI.

Build and Nurture your Database.Direct and easy access to your company’s clients, prospects, referral sources and opinion leaders is essential. Without an email pipeline, the marketing value of the content you create is close to zero. If your firm’s thought leadership simply sits on its website or social media, you’re missing the opportunity to build relationships with people in your target audiences.

Create Meaningful Content. Self-serving, long-winded white papers and research reports have very limited appeal. Generate content that validates your company’s intellectual capital, that’s easy to read, and focuses on timely topics that people have a genuine interest in.

Drive Top-of-Mind Awareness. To be included on the short list of candidates for an assignment or sale, you need to build awareness with key decision-makers. To accomplish that goal, share your content directly with target audiences on a quarterly basis. (More frequently than that, and you may be viewed as a pest.)
Most importantly – with apologies to Glengarry Glen Ross – B2B firms must commit to:A… AlwaysB… BeM… Marketing… for the discipline to be effective. Otherwise, the traditional short-term, hair-on-fire approach to business development will keep your company from ever reaching its full potential, regardless of its quality or reputation.

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