This was a very special week. Not only was I teaching the topic I found most important throughout this entire course but also it marked 1/3 of the semester down (10 more weeks to go).
So what was the topic of the week? It was about Communication & Implementation with a twist of Humor (thanks to Vandad from Humor that Works coming in to facilitate some improv)!
Throughout my short career (about a decade of professional working experience), I always knew no matter what role you play in the organization, the most important skill that will determine your success or failure isn't simply your technical skill sets. It is your EQ which demonstrates your interpersonal and critical thinking skills! Understanding relationships and knowing how to communicate effectively play a huge part of how successful you can be in any career you choose to be. Being able to persuade any individual you work with — managing up or down, you have to be an excellent speaker in any form or shape. It could be in your day-to-day email writings, an internal presentation to your peers, or a product demo to the executives and to clients of course.
I have been fortunate to start my career first in client-facing role and then transition to a role where I had to manage multi-facet relationships across the organization and boarders geographically (literally!). I had so much I wanted to share with my students but too little time in this class, so I structured the class into 3 parts — 1) Sharing Tips, 2) Guest Speaker (Improv Workshop), and 3) Student Presentation. I wish I had modified my class schedule so that students present their work in a different week but I was really having a hard time to find a different time, given the following week is our Virtual Field trip... but anyhow, every class is a learning experience for me!
As always, I love doing small activity in the beginning of the class to help students get into the mood (or zone). I asked students to go online and find their "dream jobs", read through job descriptions, identify if communication or presentation is a "required" skill, and discuss with their classmates their findings. This activity was fun because students were able to talk about what they want to get out of their degree and they also see the common theme where communication is crucial in any role. Other topics related to communication also emerge such as speaking with confidence, dealing with criticisms, and working with different stakeholders.
We also had our first guest speaker to the class. I feel extremely grateful to have Vandad with us tonight because I do believe sometimes students need to hear perspectives other than me to really see the importance of the subject. I don't know the scientific term of this human behavior but I have observed that over the years where we tend to "listen" to outsider even though we know the importance of the subject or the severity of the problem. Sometimes, we just need to hear an expert opinion. That's why we hire external consultant to come in and talk to us about the problems we already know :)
Anyhow, the activity turned out to be a great success. Later as you can see in the retrospective students provided this week, most of them loved this class and said this is their favorite class so far! Whether it's the fun or the excitement seeing new face in the class, I believe they at least took away something from this week's class — that is ... communication is key to success!
After doing all the fun activities, students presented their Service Analysis. While they all demonstrated basic understanding of the tools taught in the class so far, I must say I feel a bit disappointed because this assignment also has 2 other major parts for the grading criteria — 1) Teach your classmates a service and clearly point out how what the service did well (or not well) so that they can apply it in their own service design project in the future. 2) Engage in your classmates presentation by asking questions during Q&A. Even if you don't have a question, at least make comments and share observations. None of the groups fulfilled my bullet point #1 while some tried for #2. I have to think of ways to make sure they learn how to listen and provide feedback because it is extremely important to have these skills to be an effective communicator.
By the end of the class, we had to quickly jump into retrospective and not so much debriefing together because we ran out of time (first time actually). One of the group went way over time in their presentation, so we had to rush to wrap up the class. I really don't like going over time... but what was interesting is that, almost every week students would say they wish they had more time or the class was short. This is a 4-hour class, so I'm surprised students find it short but I guess it's better to feel time goes by fast then sitting in a boring 4-hour class for 15 weeks!