There has been a long tradition in the academic study of management that considers what makes people engage in work. In my sub-field of organizational behavior, this idea of motivation is one of the most important topics of research. The classic Theories X and Y (McGregor & Cutcher-Gershenfeld, 1960) consider the nature of people when it comes to engaging in tasks.
A person’s task performance is, in essence, how well she or he accomplishes the crucial functions of a role (Borman & Motowidlo, 1993). This, of course, can be learning a concept for a student, serving the community in a positive way for a volunteer or doing a major job duty in the workplace for an employee. As someone who studies workplace behaviors, I can attest that it’s crucial for managers to recognize good employee performance.
In last month’s blog, I wrote about traveling this summer with the band I play in. But this summer wasn’t all just fun and games! I also traveled for academic purposes (okay, maybe those trips were little fun, albeit exhausting, too). In August, I first went to Boston for the Academy of Management Annual Meeting, the largest conference of management academics in the world. Then I flew home for a few hours before driving out to Lexington, Kentucky, with some of our exceptional Master of Science in Management: Operational Excellence (MSMOE) graduate students. I love summer but, as I mentioned in a blog three years ago, fall is my favorite time of year. I think one reason why is that I can get back into a standardized routine with less traveling once the semester begins.
I was infatuated with trains when I was a child, so it’s no surprise that “The Little Engine That Could,” the classic children’s story told since 1930 and published in several book editions by Watty Piper, was one of my favorites – and one that I now love to read to my child.
Many scholars and educators have contemplated the importance of a liberal arts education, so I do not seek to presume that I am stating anything new in this month’s blog. Rather, this month I aim to reflect on my view of the importance and meaning of a liberal arts education.
Recently, Dr. Gail Fairhurst (a friend, mentor and colleague of mine from the University of Cincinnati) visited Saint Vincent to give a guest lecture on her research. While her comments were primarily about how to be an effective leader through focusing on communication style, she also talked about the nature of problems that leaders must solve. I am reminded of some research of hers that I read in which she identifies problems as “wicked” when they are challenging to describe, difficult to solve and closely related to other problems. She and her colleagues term these to be problem “knots” because they are often tangled together in such a way that multiple problems relate to, confuse and add to each other (Sheep, Fairhurst, & Khazanchi, 2017).
I recently co-edited three books on leadership with a colleague from Poland. In them, I co-authored chapters with five students or alumni of Saint Vincent College’s Master of Science in Management: Operational Excellence program and six SVC faculty. One of the chapters, co-authored with Dr. William Hisker, was entitled “Benedictine Leadership” and was adapted from a foundational document we wrote in the development of the Benedictine Leadership Studies program at Saint Vincent. But my primary role in these editing projects (aside from writing some chapters) was to look over the works of other authors to consider for inclusion in the books.
As a management professor, I am sometimes guilty of getting caught up in academic theories and big-picture issues of management (such as how organizations compete with each other or decide what products/services they will provide) as I prep for my courses.