You want to promote autonomy in the classroom? Time to reimagine the role of an educator

We place such high value education, before high school and after, and an eternal burning question of educators aims to continually improve the results of their and their students’ efforts in the classroom. The image of a classroom likely evokes an image of a teacher at the front of a room, talking amd pointing to a roomful of half-listening individuals. We know this happens at the college-level, too!

Photo by fauxels from Pexels

Now, school has gone remote, and whether it will remain a requirement or not, this mode of learning will not go away. I myself teach online for a local community college and constantly wonder if my efforts are leading to true student learning. Or are they just going through the gestures and getting the grade?

The concept of student autonomy, which is a student having an active an interested ability to be fully engaged in their own learning, forces us to rethink the eternal classroom image in our heads.

How do we get students to care more and be more active in their own learning?

The research and common sense reveal that the answer is actually simple – give students more choices to design their learning around their own interests and paths. Seems simple, but truly, it requires us educators to make some fundamental changes in the structure our work.

An article tackling this topic in online discussions on was in particular of interest to me since I only teach one now, and I use the method of discussion post & two peer replies shared at the beginning of the article. Told me to listen up! Basically, students need to have choices – choices in both assignment type and assignment topic. This makes sense – in order for someone to care about what they are doing, they need to have relevance to them.

According to the article, Sardo and York share 5 ways to promote student autonomy in online discussions, which all centers around choice:

1. Allow students to shape guidelines

2. Offer choice in prompts

3. Let students choose how to reply

4. Let them choose between synchronous and asynchronous discussions

5. Offer alternatives to online discussions

At some point, we as educators need to reinvent ourselves. Education is about students and learning, not the teachers, but it has a very sage-centered delivery expectation. By literally flipping the classroom, we hope to bring in the eagerness of students that they bring to their videogaming sessions.

The question of whether it is too much choice shall remain for another discussion.

What are your thoughts on creating an environment that promotes student autonomy? I’d love to hear your ideas and what you’ve seen work! Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts.

Sardo and York. (March 16, 2020) Five ways to promote student autonomy in online discussions, Retrieved from the World Wide Web on March 10, 2021, a


A 60% failure rate? Why the new manager failure rate is so insanely high

A 40% success rate? Yikes (Tredway 2017). How many of you are ready to sign up for a career that has such claims? The truth is that everyday, there are people who are about to embark on this journey of becoming a new manager. However, due to so many reasons – several of which aren’t even on our radar – 6 out of 10 of us are going to flop on this career move. This includes those of us who have studied Business Administration at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, possessing that coveted M.B.A. degree. This also includes those who have become stars in their current roles and are being promoted into management as the natural next move in their careers. Take all of these new managers, whatever their background, and there will be four left standing at the end of the day. Why is this happening? Why are people failing at the role of becoming a new manager more than succeeding at it?

Art Petty and I have found ourselves discussing the why to this issue – why is it that so many well-meaning, eager professionals aren’t able to flourish in new managerial positions? We’ve come to so many conclusions that we created a course for tackling the gap that new managers don’t even know they have. That’s the crux; you can’t fix something if you don’t even know that it really is broken.

Ulrik Juul Christensen wrote in a special edition of Harvard Business Review (Winter 2019) about a concept called “unconscious incompetence”. This is basically the official term for “we don’t know what we don’t know”. Bringing this idea to the L&D and training world, knowledge gaps can be addressed with the purpose of growth rather than criticism.

Here are several reasons why new managers tend to fail:

  1. Many new managers are not truly aware of what a management role entails. This is especially true with new managers who become stars and are promoted through the ranks as recognition and reward for their success. These former individual contributors are often sidetracked when their days become more than just a bit of paperwork at the end of the day after doing their regular work; rather, it is a whole different set of expectations. All too often, a new manager finds herself missing the work that allowed her to rise to the star level and second guessing the move into management.
  2. The lack of soft communication skills in the current and emerging workforce presents a challenge for new manager success. So much of what a manager does is focused on people, and this requires a mature and deliberte communication style and approach. Whether being uplifted within the organization or starting a new role right out of business school, few of us have maximized our communication abilities. The issue tends to be that we are largely task-oriented in the focus of the managerial role rather than human-oriented, and we tend to be rather immature in our skills, with room to grow, of course.
  3. A lack of support and being left alone to figure things out tend to lead new managers to stress and difficulty with success. Whereas the “sink or swim” school of thought may have some applications where it makes sense, becoming a new manager is something that really doesn’t fit. Companies that hire new managers and then leave them to run the show often find themselves with rather high levels of entry-level management turnovers. New managers need a good deal of mentoring and coaching, and good feedback adds more fuel to the fire of motivation.
  4. Feeling like they have to “do it all”, new managers often get quickly overstressed and lose their drive. The truth is that a manager doesn’t have to shoulder every bit of work within the job process. Feeling like you have to take everything into your own hands and just do things right may seem like it’s the quickest way to get things done. But, what this fails to see is that the opportunity presents for a training moment. It just may be valuable enough to take the immediate hit in efficiency and build your team to be able to do things just like you can, too – by letting them do the work themselves.
  5. Not getting enough feedback and not frequently enough can cause new managers to constantly second guess themselves. It really does help to have someone rooting for you along the way to let you know when you’re doing a great job. Even if the feedback is constructive in nature, knowing that someone is taking an interest to guide your rights and wrongs can go a long way in improving a new manager’s outlook on the role.

We could honesty have a brainstorming session and come up with twice as many reasons that new managers fail. Another idea is to possibly tackle these very caveats that hinder new manager success.


Great News! Art Petty and I have developed the First-Time Manager Academy Live-Online series (also available in an evergreen e-course format). The Live-Online sessions are six jam-packed webinars that are organized in small cohort format. Please see the main topics of our upcoming sessions by clicking the above link. The next session begins Thursday, September 10 at 11 a.m. CST! Early bird pricing will last through September 3, and there is special group pricing for 3 or more.

Can’t make this particular session but have some interest for the future? Drop me a line and let me know how we can best accomodate your team.

If you are interested in the course but unable to attend the live sessions, we do have a self-paced, online version of the First-Time Manager Academy packed with 15 lessons, all tackling the challenges of new managers, complete with Summary & Action Guides for each lesson as well as downloadable/printable templates along the way! Group pricing of 3 or more, please contact me for details!



Christensen, U.J. (Winter 2019) “How to teach employees skills they don’t know they lack”, pp 76-77. Harvard Business Review Special Issue.

Petty, Art (August 19, 2020) “I know something about your new managers that you don’t” at Retrieved on August 20, 2020 from

Tredway, Ginny (February 13, 2017) “The top 3 reasons why most new managers fail” at Retreived on August 20, 2020 from,never%20properly%20trained%20to%20manage.

My goal is to help first-time managers figure out what they didn’t know that they didn’t know that was actually holding them back. #firsttimemanager #artpettygroup #deepthoughts

#newmanagers #newmanagerfailure #professionaldevelopment #training

Ode to the Maestro

As a cellist and owner of an MBA in Leadership, this marquee message, located on the side of the highway between Island Lake and Wauconda, IL, speaks directly to me.

A person who leads the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.

The leader of the orchestra – the conductor, the maestro – has a focus on the musicians in front of him. Although the music is made for the crowd, the conductor does quite literally have his back to them, except for the walking in and out part and perhaps a short greeting before the performance.

The musicians face the crowd and each have a role in the whole of the beautiful sounds that envelope the entire space. Orchestral playing – believe it or not – is highly intense and certainly causes me to sweat and catch my breath at times. A musician gives her whole self in public performace; it really seeps out of your soul and transitions to the instrument on which you have practiced and trained for this very moment.

An orchestra may consist of 60 – 70 musicians, and yet the star of any orchestra performance really is the conductor, the leader of the orchestra, who maintains his back to the crowd.

A leader isn’t an individual performer; he may not even know how to play all of the instruments that he conducts. But, it is the act of bringing all of these different instruments together, all operated by different people, all producing vastly differing sounds, to create a whole that makes sense and moreover reaches the human senses on a deeper level than usually expected from such peformances. (Shamelsss plug for the Harper Symphony Orchestra to follow.)

The best of maestros make it appear easy, like most experts do in their trade. They swing the baton around and everyone keeps time. It is such an amazing feeling to be a part of the group, to feel the music all around you, to be in cadence with everyone, the music literally flowing through your entire self. But the main rule is all eyes on the conductor. Abrupt changes in tempo or transitions between movements require a cue from the conductor. Things can quickly fall apart if the individual musicians don’t pay attention to the conductor, and the pressure is on the maestro to keep it all together, communicating to all in the orchestra what is next.

I appreciate the efforts of our local business to share this with our community. Profound thought belongs everywhere. Although I was unable to determine who owns this marquee sign, I hope to discover that and will post a link to their business when I figure it out.

Here we go – shameless plug –

I am a cellist in the Harper Symphony Orchestra in Palatine, IL, and invite you to like our Facebook page and jot down the dates for our upcomimg.2018 – 2019 season.

2018 – 2019 Season Concerts:

October 7, 2018

December 9, 2018

April 7, 2019

May 12, 2019 (Mother’s Day)

All concerts are on a Sunday and begin at 3 p.m. at the Performing Arts Center at Harper College in Palatine, IL. Hope to see you there!

Shout out to the Maestros who have been a part of my life – from Mark Bettcher back at Golfview Elementary and CMS who guided my transition from violin to cello, to Brian Groner here at Harper Symphony who gave me a chance after a 19-year hiatus ( I know that was a risk!), to my current Maestro and cello instructor, Tony Porter who continues to guide me in my growth and progression as a cellist. Guys – this blog post is for you!

Taking your time can actually increase productivity and reduce stress

Consider this non-scientific scenario:

A third grade girl has to get through 10 math problems correctly before going out to play. She is eager to play so rushes through the problems, getting all of them wrong. Now, instead of enjoying the victory of hard work, she must start again. Now, frustrated, crying, she breaks down, unable to focus at all. Time wasted, time lost, and she is still unable to successfully complete the task.

And that’s just homework.

This is all too true in the workplace as well with our own tasks from time to time. I won’t even ask for an invisible show of hands of how many people out there have unnecessarily rushed through a task just to “get it done”.

We stress ourselves out so well! Why do we do this to ourselves? In the case of my nine year old, she has better things in mind such as going outside to play or trying to catch up on her favorite shows. In the case of grownups, perhaps we just dread the task and want it over or maybe it’s the end of the day and you’ve just had it.

Whether you better relate to the exasperated nine year old or the self-rushed worker, we all have a story. The question is : why do we keep creating more stress for ourselves than we need to?

The go go! of the modern American lifestyle is exhausting. We constantly have a never ending to-do list and are often thinking about the next thing before we even complete the first. It does feel fantastic to check off that box, afterall.

My solution is simple – slow down! Now, I’m not advocating for soldiering in the workplace or becoming less than efficient or effective, but just to take time to do things right the first time.

My unscientific theory is that if we all slow down to understand things and get them as close to right the first time as possible, we save time and $$$ in the long run. This, in turn, helps the worker to better comprehend the task thus furthering toward expertise and therefore his or her own career. Bonus : Less stress!

So, pursue greatness everyday, strive to get your to-do list fully checked, but for your own sake, take a deep breath and take your time to do the job well and right the first time.

Now, if I can just convince my nine year old about this wisdom…

The Value of Perception

Happy 4th of July!

Happy Independence Day!

However you choose to state the sentiment, I hope you enjoyed a lovely holiday with your family.

This post is inspired by a conversation I had yesterday regarding the choice of words. Is the use of “Happy 4th of July” offensive to someone who chooses the “Independence Day” vocab? At first, I was quick to dismiss it as silly, but after some consideration, I supposed there could be a reason for offensiveness, though I am not at all in this situation.

It is possible that someone may be so patriotic and proud to be an American that saying the “4th of July” just downplays what the day really is.

In addition, I’ve seen some posts circulating stating the July 2 is the actual day. So, in a world where the date is in dispute, the “4th of July” may just be another day. In this scenario, “Independence Day” covers all bases.

So, although the difference is immaterial to me, I summarize that this discussion brought me to the conclusion that I’ll stick with “Independence Day”, to err on the side of caution.

There are lessons to be learned from this scenario:

  • Everyone has a unique perspective, their own way of seeing the world. Taking time to understand others’ viewpoints is critical in developing empathy for them.
  • Having a different perspective doesn’t (always) mean that someone is right and someone is wrong. Unless we’re talking about a crime, there can be two right parties in a conflict of views. Using the varying perspectives actually brings diversity of opinion into problem solving which can bring ideas to life that never before had a chance.
  • Don’t assume anything! Without inquiry, we never know what the purpose of another’s actions or words may be. This goes for managing others in a workplace as well as in your personal relationships. When we ask sincere questions to understand someone’s desired message rather than act with our own understanding or perception, we may just get it all wrong.

What are your thoughts on this situation?

Professional Development: whose responsibility is it?

So many organizations are ripe with employer-driven personal and professional development opportunities that are supported, encouraged and often even funded by the company. I often tell my students to get a job with their Bachelors degree and find an organization to work for that will pay for the Masters. These organizations are the kind to keep on your radar, for sure, and these opportunities should be considered when making job choices.

But what if you work for an organization that really doesn’t do anything for their employees’ personal or professional development? Some of us do work for these types of companies and often end up there – stuck – for long periods of time. Maybe the money is good and you have a family at home, and your life just requires stability right now. So even though the organization is not supportingyour forward momentum in your career, you stay to keep the bills paid and roof over your head.



But there has to be a way to move forward in your career without loss of the current financial situation.

This is where the responsibility comes in. Some of us are lucky to have the responsibly built into our vocations via licensure and CPEs. But those of us who aren’t still have a lot of opportunities to grow, albeit on our own dimes and time.

Here are just a handful of the ways anyone in really any profession can ensure personal and professional development:

  • Join your occupation’s professional development organization. This opens access to special events, dinners, and even job opportunities through membership and the networking possibilities.
  • Attend seminars, conferences, and workshops in your field of expertise. These events are often posted in publications by the professional organizations, magazines, and all over the internet social media.
  • Take a class on a topic that you need to improve. A business owner friend is mine is taking a Quickbooks class at the local community college to get to know the system better.
  • Read books about the latest and greatest of the field. Some may know that yours truly needs a push too sometimes, but it really is an excellent way to keep you informed about developments in your area of expertise.
  • Follow bloggers that keep you thinking and that have the same career interests as you. We have choices who to follow or unfollow. Raise your hand if you ever got caught up in the negative trap of tweets. (All hands in the air.) Yep. Take control. Unfollow. At some point, we all need to clean up shop.

So Professional Development: whose responsibility is it? YOURS!🎉

I love this stuff. It is my passion to find ways to make people’s lives and careers better. Let’s all make sure that we are doing the best for ourselves and take charge of our professional selves❤

I’d love your comments, thoughts, and certainly, follows! I’m suddenly on a mission, so I’ll be posting much more from now on. Introduce yourself and let’s have a dialogue! (That’s for you, Art! 😉)

The Rhetoric of Achievement

Sometimes, the smallest details can make a humongous difference.

Take, for example, a slight change of wording. Words carry not only meaning but substance and can define a situation based on the weight and temperament of the word in the perception of the readers.

Case in mind:

Instead of using the term “goal setting”, what if we used the word “dream planning”?

As important is the process of setting goals to achieve desired success, somehow it seems that the terminology is almost generic in a way. Goal setting and planning are such critical, lifeline processes in designing, running, and growing a small business – yet so many small business owner don’t have a concrete plan.

My idea is to revitalize the spirit in small business owners by bringing their consciousness back to what got them started in the first place: The DreamThe daily operations of the business often gets in the way of seeing the big picture of The Dream, as often the small business owner is a key producer of the organization, if not the sole producer. This is the central concept in my own small business, Laura The Project Gal – to help small business owners find, define, and achieve their dreams. 

I’d love your thoughts on the importance of rhetoric in goal setting. Am I making a big ado about nothing? Or could we dig into the spirit of entrepreneurs with a rhetorical concentration of words that touch the heart?

Please comment below – I’d love to get the conversation going.