Wednesday, June 16, 2010


It is always intriguing to find the different places that one can learn outside of a regular classroom. I say this because of my vast experience as a public school educator who spent many years learning and teaching in a classroom. The Las Vegas Real Estate and Financial Industries have provided an education beyond my wildest imagination.

I should back up and start with this question for my readers. “What happens when everything you have been taught and have learned in an area suddenly becomes useless?” “What do you do when you find out that real estate and financial institutions no longer function in the manner that you have been taught during your adult years?” These two questions sum up the beginning of my journey two years ago when I first moved to Las Vegas.

My wife and I moved to Las Vegas and decided to rent for at least a year before we would purchase a home. This worked well for us. However, I immediately began meeting people who were in financial difficulty with their homes. These people had achieved their dream of achieving home ownership in the past. Now, upside down, adjustable rate loans about to be reset, interest only loans, and loan terms that were absolutely terrible to start with was turning the dream into a nightmare.

While trying to assist troubled homeowners with home loss mitigation services, I found that most people promising help were not helpful. Loan modification and short sales experts as well as lawyers promise many things that are encouraging to the homeowner in trouble. They often make their money, but the homeowner is often left out in the cold and the happy ending doesn’t happen. Most often the banks that hold the note on the house can make more money forcing a foreclosure so they are not helpful to the homeowner. Please feel free to see an example of this with Indy Mac at Debt settlement companies have a nice racket going as they will promise to reduce your unsecured debt to half with the owed companies. However, they charge the client at least half of the saved debt for their fee. It is better than nothing, but people probably could have settled this account without paying the settlement company. I saw the strong need for a trustworthy professional customer service person who would truly take their client’s fiduciary responsibility seriously.

This is all sad and true…but what about the current buyers who are supposed to get such a great deal because Las Vegas is a buyer’s market with low house prices. This is a myth as large as all of the companies that promise to help modify and short sale your homes to get homeowners out of financial trouble.
Our personal story goes right along with this myth. We looked at homes to purchase in the Henderson and Las Vegas areas for ten months. In the beginning, we were excited and energized by some of the homes and their listing prices. My experience was that when one sees a house they like and it is near their price range, the perspective buyer makes an offer. Often there is a counter offer and the seller and the buyer will go back and forth with offers until they have an agreement or the buyer decides not to pay what the seller is demanding.

The housing market in Las Vegas, dictated by the financial institutions, operates far differently. A price listed on a house is not the owner’s bottom line starting price, it is the owner’s beginning price. The price is listed to appeal to the buyer and hopefully begin a bidding war of multiple buyers. It works pretty much like Ebay…however if a bidding war does not occur and the buyer’s bid is not high enough, the house isn’t sold. The buyer then must move on to the next house. This is totally different than my previous experiences. Again I could see the need for a customer service professional who would take their responsibility seriously for their client.

My wife and I made 7 offers on 7 different properties in 10 months. We dealt with different banks, different title companies and even different loan officers. We even dealt with a seller who was making dictations that were illegal. It truly was a long and frustrating experience for us until we found a house being listed for sale which actually had an owner which was not a bank or company. The story does have a happy ending. We did find the house of our dreams and a loan officer who was a customer service professional who took his fiduciary responsibilities seriously.

So “What happens when everything you have been taught and have learned in an area suddenly becomes useless?” “What do you do when you find out that real estate and financial institutions no longer function in the manner that you have been taught during your adult years?”

The answers are to become ready to read, listen, network with others and learn as to how the current industries play the game. It is important to not rely on your previous experiences for answers, but for a beginning point to learn. Along the way you will meet individuals who you will ultimately need to trust so you need to make certain that you take your time in making those decisions. Remember that promises are nice, but not a guarantee. Only a written guarantee is a guarantee!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Leadership Is Understanding and Using Adult Learner Principles


Leaders and managers often get upset with their subordinates because they feel that their direct report “doesn’t get it”. It becomes very frustrating when a reoccurring problem takes place during a process or in a report monitored by a superior.

Let us be honest. How many of you department leaders/managers have employees who, “JUST DON’T GET IT!”? Is it them or is it you?

It is important that we do not overlook the “people resources” necessary to carry out the mission of the business. Business staff members represent a building of “adult learners”. The leadership for the training and development of staff with the vast learning resources available is important. Confident and knowledgeable staff members can excel which will mean that their contribution to the organization may excel also. The following are sample ideas to help leaders maximize worker’s learning and efforts.

1. Take your “self-study” data and compile the recommendations for improvement.
a. Work with staff members to brainstorm ways to make these recommendations happen.
b. Set up the goals and strategies with time lines to make these happen
c. Post goals and strategies on line, on the walls of the office as well as on the back of business cards. Staff members can hand out their cards for networking. This is good for business as they are networking and marketing at the same time.
d. Constantly revisit these in individual and group meetings
e. Establish a scoring rubric for measurable results
f. Post measurable results so that the staff and public are constantly
reminded of the benefits of working for or doing business with the

2. Build adult learning communities and opportunities for the staff members. Capital Works * reported that employees learn at work through the following means:
a. Company provided training 10%
b. On the job experience 35%
c. Interaction with co-workers 18%
d. Mentored by peer or manager 10%
All other ways reported were 5% or less... so they are not the most effective way to build learning in a concentrated effort.

The trick is to understand the informal learning in the organization, find more accidental learning and encourage it to strengthen the interaction with co-workers.

3. Use andragogy – “the art and science of helping adults learn” making classrooms learner- based classrooms…not teacher based” *. There are specific “adult learner principles” to be understood and utilized by every leader and department manager. These should become a part of the management culture to help all staff members “get it”.

Business workers are “adult learners”…not just adults hired to do a job. Most need to be treated as such so that they can develop the confidence to become more intrinsically motivated, excel in at their work and add enthusiasm for the business’ culture.

* Marcia Conner – “Introducing Informal Learning”

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Leadership Is Doing The Right Thing...Even When It Is Unpopular

Many corporate cultures reward productivity. Once you cost the company more money than you are bringing in…you are fired, re-organized, laid off and/ just gone. This sounds simple and is taking place daily in our Corporate America. Public school education is not one of those cultures. This culture rewards consecutive contracts (longevity) and loyalty (no insubordination). Few teachers are fired each year due to the difficulty of proving incompetence. Teachers who are fired, especially after a few years on the job, are usually blatantly incompetent, insubordinate or morally bankrupt.

It becomes difficult to remove an employee when a culture rewards longevity. What would you do if you were in a leadership position, had an incompetent employee and were told that it was ill advised to pursue firing that employee?

Leadership calls for doing the right thing….even when it is unpopular.

I once had a teacher who had been a very good teacher but she became very ineffectual and the children were losing opportunities to learn. I was told by my boss that I would not be able to fire her in less than two years due to what could be seen as potential litigation problem. I developed a 24 month timeline to deal with the problem.

An enormous amount of time was devoted to dealing with this one problem. It would be easy for a leader to say that it took too much time to devote to one problem when so many others needed attention. However, this one problem affected many children and could not be allowed to happen in the business. The following was the 24 month prescription to correct the problem:

• Weekly classroom observations were made
• Weekly notes outlining strengths and weaknesses of during the observation were made along with suggestions to address the weaknesses
• Bi-monthly conversations were held discussing any points of interest
• A follow up email with a requested read message returned was sent to the teach covering the points discussed and suggested during the meetings
• Additional formal evaluations were conducted as permitted by the Master Contract.

The teacher had repeatedly stated that she was not going to retire. She did decide through our meetings and our discussions that I was against her. She felt all of the negative reports were my fault, not hers. However, she turned in her school keys and resigned in March of the second school year. There is not enough time to discuss the shock this sent through the culture. It may have been an unpopular action, but it was the right thing to do.

Leadership Is Commitment


What commitment does a true leader need to offer his employer? What commitment does this same leader need to offer himself and his family?

I had to answer these question in 1989, 2005 and in 2008. I moved my family to Valparaiso in 1989 to make a commitment to the Valparaiso Community Schools. My commitment to my family was that I would not leave until 2005 when my youngest graduated from high school. Many exciting initiatives at Valparaiso were in the immediate future in 2005. I had met my family commitment and now was the time to make a commitment to my employer and myself. I was ready to start a new job, but knew that over 40 % of the staff would be replaced by 2008 due to growth and retirements. I made a commitment to myself to work three more years at my position to develop the strongest staff possible and leave them as experts in the new Valparaiso initiatives.

A strong leadership commitment was necessary to accomplish success in the following areas over a three year period :
• Employ new teachers with the greatest potential to be great teachers
• Give training and guidance to these new teachers so that their potential could be met
• Give training and guidance to all staff members for language arts curriculum development, student assessment development, standards based reporting, electronic record keeping, electronic report cards, electronic parent portals, North Central CASSI Accreditation, and development of a student writing program
• Establish supervision, goal setting and evaluations to help each staff member prosper with skills
• Strengthen and in some cases develop informal networks for the staff members to strengthen professionally

Change is not an event; it is a shift of beliefs and behaviors over time. My vision was that I would develop and lead my staff through these changes knowing that I would leave the strongest building staff ready for their new boss. My goal was to prepare everyone for an almost seamless transition of leadership as this would be best for the teachers, students and parents.

The new school year is four months old. The calls and emails that I get from the staff are all positive about what is happening at school, the processes being used, the teams and the new leader. The principal has affirmed my vision and goal as he states that the staff is generous, helpful, knowledgeable and outstanding educational role models. He went on to say that Memorial was a great place to work.

Leadership commitment paid off very well for my employer, staff and for me.