I read with interest a story in yesterday’s Central Florida Future (http://bit.ly/1uFxhgu) that dealt with a topic that’s been discussed a lot around the OPD and College of Business recently; advising. Specifically student perceptions of advising.

Now, before I get into the substance of this blog, let me be very clear on one point…unless someone is insulting you, lying to you, giving you false information, harassing you, or otherwise not fulfilling the responsibilities of their job, I really don’t care what your perception of the advising you receive is as long as it is factually correct and in your best interest. Sometimes what you NEED to be told and what you WANT to be told are two different things. Sometimes the answer is “no” and forever will it be so, don’t answer shop. Others care about this, so I choose to let them worry about that. Together we seem to come up with a good plan of action.

That said, what I got from the article was quite different. The students that were interviewed for the piece all seemed to be talking about situations where someone was making a decision for them. Sometimes the decision was a bad one, so they were saying advising sucked. Sometimes it was a good decision that was made for them, so advising was awesome. In either case I will argue that the premise of the advising was wrong. In both cases, students were handing over their choice (and the consequences of it) to someone else. I was encouraged to see that some students chose to forgo what they considered “bad advice” and make their own decisions.

For business students this tendency is particularly disturbing. When you go to work, you will be charged to execute action plans. Sometimes you get to develop them. Most times you don’t; they are handed to you by a boss, someone from “corporate,” or a consultant. These action plans may be as simple as the processing of a daily task that you’ll do over and over or as complex as turning around a failing operation that hopefully you’ll only have to do once! You are expected to be able to understand the plan, seek and secure resources, and execute it without someone telling you what decisions to make. If that needs to happen (and it won’t happen too many times) then you will find yourself culled from the company herd. The final one is usually called a “Performance Improvement Plan.” Fail on that one and it’s over, Chucko!

A plan of study is also an action plan. There’s a list of requirements to fulfill. There are decision bubbles. There are resources you’ll have to find and consult. There is an expected timeline. Execute the action plan correctly and you graduate. Fail and you don’t. If you have questions or need answers, seek them out. A colleague of mine introduced me to her “three places” rule. Before a student can come to her with a question, they have to show that they looked for the answer in three places. Most of the questions that advisors answer are available somewhere; your plan of study, a catalog, a website. You may not like the answer, but as another former colleague used to say, “You cannot reject this reality and choose to insert one of your own.” Yea, I know where he stole it from…

Since you were a tot, someone loved you. That person wanted to protect you from harm. It may have been as simple as a piece of advice, or as overbearing as wrapping you in bubble wrap before your first soccer match. When taken too far this is the beginning of helicopter parenting. When applied to advising I guess you could call it helicopter advising. Ultimately it results in people not taking responsibility for their actions. A dependency where you feel like you have to keep going back to have someone look over your schedule to make sure you’re on track. But the fact is, just because someone is nice and will do it for you doesn’t make it right.

It also keeps you from reaping the benefits and accolades of your successes. We become so afraid that you might fail that we don’t allow you to win either. And that, in my humble opinion, sucks! Winning is awesome! It motivates you to get up the next day and do it again. It gives you the self-confidence that you need to take risks, dare to fail, and emerge like a super hero. But it isn’t a win if someone else teed up the ball and moved everyone out of the way so you could kick it. My favorite quote from my father-in-law usually came after he’d tackled a particularly tough project. He’d look at you and say, “Damn, I know some s###!” Crass….but quite telling!

Over the past six months we’ve worked to change the advising services offered in the College of Business. We don’t see value in advising that tells you what to take next and have chosen to focus our professional resources on more important needs. We also don’t see value in telling you “no” to the same question over and over. There has been much scrutiny of this position, but we are committed to producing graduates who can make their own decisions (why do I need to defend this point??) If we don’t, employers won’t hire you and you’ll have spent all this time and all this money for nothing. However, if those services are what you want from an educated and professional advisor then I encourage you to seek educational opportunities in a different college the same way I encourage you to move to a different college of business if you want to just take classes online.

Take ownership of your decisions. Step out of the bubble wrap and chart your own actions. Live, die, love, and cry because you were the one who chose to. Walk across the stage with pride, not because someone got you there, but because YOU got you there!! Your future employer will reward you for it.