Wednesday, April 13, 2011

[Guest Post] Life Lessons from a Respected eLearning Executive

Steve Cooper has been nominated as Best eLearning Executive in the Maestro eLearning Awards, dubbed the OSCARS of the eLearning industry. What follows is an interview between Steve and the award’s organizers, Maestro eLearning.

Q. Being the CEO of Chandler University, what’s constantly on your mind?
As the CEO, I have three primary responsibilities:

  1. To provide the greatest return possible to our shareholders
  2. To be responsible for everything our company does, or fails to do
  3. To provide the long-term strategic vision (to democratize education), then coach the coaches (our executives) who are responsible for executing these goals while ensuring that they are communicating with each other.
Q. With such responsibilities, how do you approach each day?
Each morning starts with a one minute stand-up huddle and no meetings, except a weekly agenda-less get-together where the team discusses 3-4 pressing things (check out Death by Meeting). Then I go where the action is, wherever that may be. I need to look at the team in their eyes to truly know if they have things under control. No one in our office is allowed to e-mail me unless it’s a document I need to see—this forces people to actually get out of their office, walk down the hall, and communicate face-to-face. It’s an awesome thing!

Q. Sounds like you've learned some "hacks" for supercharging team productivity. Any other useful hacks worth sharing?

Sure: micro-manage, micro-manage, and micro-manage—the reality is that as a leader you have to ensure your vision is executed exactly as you intend, and if you look at most disasters within any organization, it’s because the bosses stopped looking under the hood, kicking the tires, and checking the smallest of details. Instead, they were off at events that rarely ensured quality assurance. Leaders who stay focused on the team getting it right for the customer tend to produce the best results.

Q. In some circles, micro-managing is something to be avoided. How do you go about micro-managing in a positive way?

People usually resent micro-management when leaders don’t lead by example (has an attitude of “do as I say, not as I do”). Nothing inspires employees more than seeing their bosses roll up their sleeves and get dirty with them whenever needed.

It takes time to build a culture that embraces this, and often they don’t realize the value of micro-management until successful results are achieved. And it sometimes takes even longer. When they look back and reflect on why things went well, they realize that I was with them every step of the way.

I don’t have all the answers, but am very proud that most of the employees and executives that have parted ways with me because of an acquisition have repeatedly asked to return and work with me. It’s an awesome responsibility that I don’t take for granted and it’s very humbling.

Q. Thanks for sharing what you’ve learned. For those who want to follow in your footsteps, what resources would you recommend?

Two things. First and foremost: “A violently executed plan TODAY is far better than a perfect plan TOMORROW” - General Patton

Second, a must-read for all managers wanting to move into C-level positions is QBQ: Question Behind the Question . It’s about accepting personal responsibility for everything and how to stop blaming others for shortcomings.

About the Interviewer

Maestro eLearning is a customer service company in the business of creating custom online training courses []. They’re collaborating with industry consultants and vendors to launch the Maestro eLearning Awards. Delight your colleagues and consider nominating them for some awards [], such as Best eLearning Designer and Best eLearning Developer.

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