Archive for month: March, 2013

Acting “As If” and Speaking “As If” Helps Make It Happen

My Georgetown colleague Ann Oliveri (here) posted this lovely short video the other day.


The philosopher and early psychologist William James said that if we act as if something were already true that doing so immediately has an effect in reality.  The video says this quite nicely with a number of different examples.

I believe an important corollary to the examples given in the video is in the special case of speech acts.  Speaking about things as though they have come to pass also has this kind of magic.  In iFoundry we talked to students about the 3 joys, the joy of engineering, the joy of community, and the joy of learning, and the cohort was more joyful, more interested in engineering, a tighter knit community of engaged learners than they otherwise would have been.  

When clients change their story (and believe the new story), the feel better, act better, and get better results almost immediately.

This sounds too good to be true, but it is a part of a number of ancient traditions. The Buddhist practice of samma vaca or right speech points in this direction as well as the Toltec practice of impeccability with your word.    To engineering ears, it sounds like a violation of some unstated law of nature, conservation of hardship, or some such thing, but I bear witness as a hard-nosed engineer who has seen it in action to often to doubt it any longer.

Try it.  You’ll like it.  Act as if and speak as if, and immediately start reaping the benefits of the way you would like things to be.

Don’t Cry for Me Argentinian Engineering Education

María Teresa Morresi from AGIBTA Magazine (here) sent me a list of interview questions regarding engineering education.  I shot back a quick reply, and I thought the spontaneity of my answers gave them a force that was worth sharing.  Here is a somewhat edited version of her questions and what I wrote:

AGIBTA: I became aware of your work in engineering education through the 2nd Engineer of the Future meeting (EotF2.0) at Olin College in 2009 (here). Tell me a little more about your involvement in engineering ed transformation before and since that time. 

Dave G: Prior to my work on EotF2.o I was involved in starting and running the Illinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering Education (here) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The success of the work on iFoundry and with my colleagues at Olin College on Engineer of the Future and other activities led me to resign my tenure from the University of Illinois to (1) take training as a leadership coach, (2) start ThreeJoy Associates, Inc. as a coaching, training, and consulting/facilitating firm to transform engineering education and (3) to start the Big Beacon, a global movement to transform engineering education as a non-profit corporation.  For more information on these and other things, see the website, manifesto, and blog (, the ThreeJoy blog (, and an informative series of Huffington Post articles  (here).

AGIBTA: Which are the innovations to improve engineering education and transform classrooms? 

Dave G: Most change programs concentrate on curriculum and content.  This is largely misplaced emphasis, in my view. The key innovations are emotional and cultural.  We have a culture of distrust.  We need a culture of trust.  We have a culture of individual effort.  We need a culture of connection and openness.  We need a culture of courage.  We have a culture of fear
AGIBTA: Could you please let as know a bit more about the relationship between self-efficacy and project-based learning among engineering students?
Dave G: The question assumes that project-based learning is a solution to achieve self-efficacy, but I remember going to a school in Brazil once and being shown a project-based course as an exemplar of “new pedagogy.”  I went to class and the students were presenting a project, and the prof was correcting each and every sentence that came out of the students’ mouths.  
We need self-efficacy, and to achieve it we need what I call unleashing experiences.  Unleashing experiences begin where a faculty member (or the student themselves) trusts the student.  The student believes they are trusted.  Finally, the student has the courage to take a risk and do something that leads to their mastery of something new.  Diagrammatically this is shown below:
This unleashing is the key.  I think we need to stop speaking in code words like “project-based learning” or “active learning” and starting getting at root emotional and cultural variables that really unleash our kids.

AGIBTA: Which are the best e-learning strategies?

Dave G: E-learning properly conceived, supports emotionally and cutlurally engaged education.  Unfortunately, the current excitement about MOOCs puts the cart before the horse.  Once we get our heads straight about what’s important in the class and why, we can adopt effective E-learning techniques.  Until then, we are mistaking tools for solutions.
AGIBTA: Students are a powerful force in transforming engineering educationHow to include them in new educational strategies implementation?
Dave G: I love this question.  Students are the only powerful force in transforming engineering education.  Unfortunately, they are rarely consulted in change efforts and usually only subjected to whatever the administration and faculty think is necessary after the design is in place.  Then we wonder how to get student “buy-in” which suggests our wonder about why they don’t think much of the new design.
How do we include them?  We start by noticing them.  We continue by listening to them deeply with empathy.  We continue by asking them open ended questions and listening some more.  We also trust them to be full members of the redesign effort.  
If we could do one thing that would transform our schools, it would be to create a culture of listening. 
AGIBTA: How you prepare students to become innovative?
Dave G: You challenge them, trust them, let them fail. coach them to success, and repeat.
AGIBTA: Which are the current challenges for Engineering Universities?
Dave G:  The problem is that universities are victims of their success. Universities are ancient institutions. The University of Bologna was founded in 1088.  Since then, there has been a 10-century consensus about the role of professors as experts. Unfortunately, since World War 2, the quality revolution, entrepreneurial revolution, and the information technology revolution, what I have called the missed revolutions–missed in the sense that universities teach but don’t practice their lessons–have changed the world we live in.
As a result, returns to expertise are diminished.  In turn, this diminuition of expertise challenges the role of the professor in both the lab and the classroom. Unfortunately, professors are one trick ponies. They only know how to be experts. The brave new world of the 21st century and our creative era demands a combination of expertise with an ability to trust and develop others. In other words, the world today requires an academy full of Experts/Coaches, not just pure experts. 
This is a terrific challenge, one that can be overcome, but most of the noises coming from our research universities suggest business as usual, a doubling down on WW2-based strategies of research and expertise, and a lack of recognition how a 9 or 10 century consensus toward the role of the university and the role of the professor is being undermined before our very eyes.  
Given the very slow decision making apparatus of a university, it is not clear whether these ancient and venerable institutions have what it takes to transform themselves. The current fumbling is sad to watch. It is also exciting to be a part of a growing number of efforts to try to change it, and I think there are effective tactics and strategies to follow in those institutions that are aware of the challenges they face.
AGIBTA: What conclusions can be drawn from the Summits on the Engineer of the Future?
Dave G: The first engineer of the future event was held in 2007 at the University of Illinois. The one in 2009 was the 2nd. There was a 3rd and we are hoping for a fourth. These events set into motion a number of activities at Olin, at Illinois, and elsewhere to practically address many of the questions and answers presented here. There is still much to learn, but it is clear that by (1)  focusing on change management itself, (2) by viewing change as a cultural and emotional process, and (3) by working to inject a new kind of actor, an actor with both expertise and an ability to listen and coach, that real change can be made.  How quickly this can work and whether it can work quickly and broadly enough remain open questions.
AGIBTA: Thank you for your thoughtful responses.
Dave G: Thank you for your thoughtful questions, and I wish all my colleagues in Argentina and elsewhere in South America the space and openness to reflect on these challenges and the wisdom and courage to move ahead with effective, in-context solutions.

Bev’s Tips on Leaning In

Successful women leaders

manage the way they “lean in”

March 19, 2013 * Number 185

I’m enjoying the controversy Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has stirred up with her instant bestseller, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to LeadSandberg argues that, despite gender biases still prevalent in the workplace, hesitating and offering excuses won’t get women anywhere. She urges women, instead, to believe in themselves, fully engage, step up and “lean in.”

I generally agree with Sandberg.  As a career coach I often speak with extraordinary women who, after years of disparate treatment, feel hesitant and uncertain when their talent suggests they should act like confident and determined leaders.

But we can’t ignore the cautionary note from some critics. The New York Post’s Andrea Peyser wrote, “Sheryl preaches a mantra that seems destined to get women fired, not promoted. She says that women who fail are not assertive, demanding or needy enough… At a time when a woman feels lucky just to have a job, here comes Sheryl, blaming the purported victim for being passive.” 

Sandberg herself says that it is not always the time to “lean in.”  You have to pick the moments when you take charge.  And you have to be aware of the traps.

Sandberg nailed one of the problems in her chapter 3, “Success and Likeability.”   Sociological research demonstrates what many women leaders have learned the hard way.  When men are assertive and seem confident other people tend to like and admire them. But when women act the same way others may find them pushy and not likeable.

In one experiment, students read about a successful venture capitalist.  Half the students read about “Heidi” and the other half read an identical story describing “Howard.”  Howard came across as an appealing colleague.  But Heidi, although respected for her accomplishments, was seen as selfish and not “the type of person you would want to hire or work with.” 

I have seen this time and again in the written annual evaluations of women clients.  The boss writes up their accomplishments, making it clear that they met their goals and even did extraordinary work.  But then he adds a note like this:
“But she needs to be aware of how she is perceived by her colleagues.  Her aggressive behavior tends to rub people the wrong way. She should be more careful about ignoring hierarchical boundaries and she shouldn’t spend so much time networking.”

In other words, hard-charging women leaders get the job done, but then they are criticized for the behavior that makes their success possible.  So what’s a girl to do?  Here are tips for managing the likeability trap:

  • Act like you’re not afraid.  As a woman, you’ve been slapped down for assertive behavior that would be rewarded if men did it.  As a result, you may fear stepping into the limelight.  Sandberg suggests you ask yourself, “what would you do if you weren’t afraid?” Then go do that. 
  • Don’t sweat criticism from “them.” As you move up the ladder, not everyone will be your fan.  It will not hurt you if “some people” think you are too pushy or assertive.  It says more about them than about you. Stick to your values, focus on the organization’s mission, help others where you can, and keep building your network.
  • Connect with other women.  If your organization still has a gender bias, it’s vital that you network with other women.  They will bring you support and information about threats and opportunities. Mentor them, and you will find that many mentor you in return.
  • Seize opportunities.  Sandberg points out that women often want to be super prepared before they take on new challenges. Men are more likely to jump at new opportunities, and get ready on the fly. It’s time for some women to move closer to the cutting edge. Stop worrying so much about credentials and expertise.  If you spot something interesting and new, find a way to get involved, and learn as you go.  Jump in, then lean in.
  • Watch your language.  It’s sad but sometimes it’s true.  When he talks about what he needs or has done it sounds confident, but when you do the same, it sounds egocentric.  Sandberg suggests that you frame things more collectively, using phrases like “women need” or “the team did this.”
  • Deliver the work. Sandberg’s success is tied to her history of working for strong bosses and producing the work they wanted.  The first rule is always to know who your bosses are, know what they want and need, and give it to them.  If your boss is a sexist jerk then it may be time to move on, even if the only way out is a lateral shift.  But while you still have the job, keep doing good work.  If nothing else, your achievements will help you get the next job.

If you want to read more about “Lean In,” check out Kerry Hannon’s article for


Bev’s Tips have been arriving as a zine on Tuesday mornings about 20 times a year since 2004. For more Tips, sign up for the zine, go to the zine archive or visit Bev’s blog. We’d love to hear your comments here on, or email Bev at:

Follow Bev on Twitter. Connect with Bev on LinkedIn.


Bev’s Tips on How to Plan a Career Side Step

Want to find a different job?

Here’s a plan for getting started.

Last week I received an email from Susan, a woman in her 50s whom I’ve not met.  My impression is that she wants to find a different kind of job, while remaining in the same broad career field.

“I am physically fit and healthy and plan on working eight to ten more years.  I want to get out of [this] environment, have a different set of responsibilities and make more money.  Can you advise me?” Susan asked. 

Well, that’s a big question. And if Susan were a coaching client I’d start by asking her lots of questions in return.  However, in case an investment in coaching is not be an option for Susan, I told her I’d take up the challenge of suggesting steps that might lead to a career shift. 

This post is my plan for Susan. I hope you enjoy these suggestions, as well, and I’d welcome your comments, suggestions or requests regarding other topics.

If you want to stay in your broad field, but find a different kind of job, here’s a plan for getting started:

  • Write a big list.  Start by listing everything you want in your next phase.  Dream about what would be great not only in your job, but also in the rest of your life.  Sometimes we think we want a career adjustment, but part of what we’re seeking may be available without a job change.  For example, if you’re bored or lonely, you might create a richer life by pursuing new interests in your free time.  Or, if you love your job but want more income, you might consider a side business. 
  • Organize your list.  Break your comprehensive list into categories of what you want, like “health and fitness” or “social life,” as well as “ideal job factors.”  You are creating this broad picture partly because it will help you to see that not everything must be found through your work.   But this is exciting: when you create positive change in any part of your life it’s likely to bring new energy to your work life.  I see it with clients all the time.  When you make progress in one area, like your fitness program or your social activity, it has a positive impact on your work life
  • Commit to small steps. Once you have your categories, start moving slowly forward in each one. Decide how many steps you’ll take each week, for each category. It’s important to find a realistic pace, and stick with it.  For example, you might decide that each week you will:
    •  Pursue your job search by taking three steps.  The first week might include (1) going out for coffee with a friend, (2) spending 20 minutes doing research on the Internet, and (3) working on your resume for 30 minutes. 
    • Start exercising by walking for 20 minutes three times during the week.
    • Take one social step, like making a phone call to arrange a future dinner with friends.
  • Do research and notice trends.  While you’ve been busy in your day job, you may not have been tracking developments in your professional area or in fields that are just a step or two a way.  Your job-related steps should include looking around, seeing who is making contributions, money or headlines.  Read everything you can, but don’t stop there.  Look for conferences and associations where you can learn from people working in fields not far removed from yours.
  • Network methodically.  On your list of steps will be the names of people who might be willing to brainstorm with you.  Include not only those you’ve known well over the years but also professional acquaintances who seem career savvy.  Then work your list. Set up coffee dates, or find other ways to visit with just about anybody who might be able to spot trends or suggest opportunities.  Ask your contacts if they can suggest others who might be willing to talk with you. If people are too busy to help, they’ll let you know.  And, if they are willing to chat, know that someday you’ll be able to return the favor or pay it forward with another job seeker.
  • Engage on-line.  Social media now are playing a huge role in the hiring process.  Job seekers today are at a disadvantage if they don’t at least have LinkedIn profiles.  And Twitter is a tool that will allow you to connect with recruiters and others you might not be able to reach by phone or email.
  • Learn something new.  Taking classes is an excellent way to pick up new skills and broaden your perspective.  When you are engaged in learning, it helps you see your routine work in new ways and become more creative. And certifications earned through course work can demonstrate your commitment to excellence.  Taking classes at a local college could have the additional benefit of broadening your network.  But if there’s no convenient local option, there are many good providers of distance learning.
  • Volunteer.  If you want to build additional skills, look for ways to get new kinds of experience.  A good starting point can be to join clubs or service organizations.
  • Find a buddy.  Making a career shift can be a lonely process. Find a friend who also is engaged in reinvention and meet regularly to share ideas, networks and encouragement.  You don’t have to have similar careers.  Somebody in a different line of work might offer a new way of looking at things. 

Networking roundup: Building your social network is a big part of preparing for a career shift.  If you want to read more about networking, here are suggestions:

4 networking tips for busy people

Make requests to make friends

A strong network supports career resilience

Work that conference

Tips from great networkers

6 surprising networking tips


Bev’s Tips have been arriving as a zine on Tuesday mornings about 20 times a year since 2004. For more Tips, sign up for the zine, go to the zine archive or visit Bev’s blog. We’d love to hear your comments here on, or email Bev at:

Follow Bev on Twitter. Connect with Bev on LinkedIn.