This Thursday will mark my fourteenth time wearing the guest lecturer’s hat. These are always fun to do. In years past, the requests were predicated on my technical expertise. I was asked to lecture about some topical specialization. It could be related to real estate development, fiscal impact, public financing mechanisms, or the latest and greatest economic development technique. Then the focus changed to the nuances of public-private partnerships and ways to privatize public services. As of late, the subject area has changed yet again. Now I am asked to address the variables of management, leadership, and above all, career planning.
Initially, I didn’t realize I had to change my approach. After all, I’ve just finished a near 40-year career in both the public and private sectors complimented by 14 years of graduate level teaching. I know what I’m doing. I’ll just replicate what I’ve always done. I’ll prepare my patented structured PowerPoint outlining the needed knowledge areas and “Skill Sets” for entry, mid-and senior-level personnel. It’s an outline that makes it easy for me to “Lecture.” It’s logical, well laid out, and also quite boring. The notions of management, leadership and career planning are all very personal and subject to the effects of human emotion. The variables of these concepts are in many ways less tangible than outlining some procedural market absorption model. I needed to change the method of conveyance. I’m thinking more discussion, less lecture, and less structure.
So now the approach is predicated on both individual and group conversations. With the entire class in the room, we have one on one discussions about career desires, hopes, dreams and experiences. Punctuated with the appropriate utilization of war stories. I ask students about theirs and they ask me about mine. What I have managed to weave into the conversation pertains to the value of public service and the need for a strong basic knowledge of civics. How their individual personal motivations and abilities match those needed to succeed in the public service is for them to decide. I really enjoy this new approach. Given the results of my last effort, so did they. I get as much out of it as I hope the students do. I would also like to think that I am a whole lot better at it now than I used to be.
For those of you that want to give back through mentoring and the classroom, you may find the above referenced document very helpful. I was fortunate enough to have served as the Committee Chair on this Third Edition—Managers as Teachers: A Practitioners Guide to Teaching Public Administration.