Business Management

The Power of Learning together….

Learning is not an unidirectional endeavor. Instead, learning should be an enjoyable and multidimensional process where we can all learn from each other. Indeed, learning is more powerful and more meaningful, when we construct our knowledge together.

Recently, students at our Project Management class experienced the power of learning together while working on a class project and leveraging tools like the Work Breakdown Structure, the Activity List, Network Diagrams, Gantt charts, top-down and bottom-up budget estimating, Responsibility Assignment Matrix and many others. To strangers of project management, these tools might sound foreign; however, our students learned how to apply them by constructing knowledge through their specific business case context, developing critical thinking skills and putting their creative thinking to work. By teaching each other, they practice what good leading and managing should look like embracing a win-win collaborative approach to learning.

It is great to see our students finding the joy of learning, while they realize the tangible results of hard work through teamwork. Students are many times surprised by the number of pages of data generated in a short span of six weeks. This happens because they are able to fulfill weekly objectives and milestones without paying attention to the number of words or pages written. This humanistic and organic way of learning together sets a more productive and positive classroom environment, where the ultimate goal is to leverage constructive social interactions, moving in the direction of a behavioral transformation to meet the challenges of complexity.


Building authentic relationships for success…

The fall semester is almost over, and we are all running around trying to conclude final assignments and presentations. We have gone through different kinds of teaching and learning experiences in the physical or virtual classroom, where some were traditional and others very different. Coming from a teaching perspective, it is always interesting to see diverse dynamics in teaching and learning processes, and it is intriguing and exiting to see how these events can take students in non-linear pathways for transformation. Yes, the end-goal is to change and to become the professional we want to be and the professional that employers are looking to hire and to promote.

But also, we are growing personally by enhancing our network of relationships, and these relationships are critical in moving forward in this transformation process. Last night, the final presentations in the multicultural mentoring course were extraordinarily moving, and believe it or not, no one PowerPoint slide was shown. The members of this learning community spoke from their hearts about their mentoring process, and it was clear they were accountable to the fundamental values of commitment, taking action and learning.

One of the main commonalities, in these experiences, was authenticity. The successful experiences were all committed to building trusting mentoring relationships, where mutual accountability was the key ingredient for success. They took action to maintain an ongoing mentoring process toward self-discovery and personal improvement, and they were able to learn not only from their mentors but also from their classmates and from new informal mentoring relationships.

It was amazing to see how successful mentoring relationships were able to multiply their authentic experiences with others and how they were able to open new doors to uncover new and exciting opportunities to get closer to their ultimate dream or to redefine it. Let’s continue working together to attain our professional goals by being accountable to our lifelong learning. I am thankful to be a witness of personal empowerment and the authentic desired to learn.

I just wish we would have 100% success in our students’ academic endeavors, but it all depends on your level of commitment to effectively manage your lifelong learning process. Let’s come back with stronger than ever commitment to academic success in 2015.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year 2015!

Harold Torrence


Learning how to learn while living in a world of hyper technological distractions…


In today’s knowledge society, lifelong learning is a critical element of success. Even though we presently have an overwhelming opportunity to access information through the World Wide Web, we may not be effectively tapping this tremendous knowledge wealth.

We also have many more distractions surrounding us everywhere with smart phones, social media, video games, movies, TV shows, etc. Many times, all these distractions get also on our way of learning, and even when we are in the physical classroom, we are distracted often by technology. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate having my smart phone which is my music player, my camera, my library, my telephone, my social device, my everything; and I also confess that I frequently fall into the trap of these hyper technological distractions.

In order for us to effectively “learn how to learn” in this age, we need to make a conscious effort to set priorities. For example, you could simply start writing your to-do-list with the old-fashion pen and paper, and so this could help you to to be more mindful about what really needs to be done. Indeed, mindfulness is what most of us need to effectively move our lifelong learning forward.

So let me ask you, are you learning what you are suppose to be learning? Do you feel you are moving in the right direction? Do you feel smarter than a fifth grader? Do you feel overwhelm with beeping sounds coming from your amazingly smart phone? Are you smarter than your phone? Are you paying attention in class? Are you submitting your work on time? Are you really distracted by technology?

We need to reflect more and more on how can we really learn how to learn in the midst of so many distractions. Let’s take time to think, to reflect on how you face these distractions, and to change bad habits by focusing on what really matters. If you don’t mind, please share with me how you handle technological distractions by sending me an email to   bulb1

Academic advising is critical to the successful completion of your Business program…

Advising is not just about randomly picking classes and completing your registration, and instead it should be an opportunity to have quality time with your advisor to go over your academic progress, academic challenges and graduation timeline. You can also talk about the status of your education for employment.

Please avoid advising procrastination; I often see students waiting until the end of the semester to request their access codes for registration. This is not very productive for you and for your advisor because, at this time, some classes would be already full. At this point, your options might be limited, and so picking classes, under these conditions, can be a very difficult and frustrating experience.

Let’s set up an appointment with your advisor as soon as possible to talk about your academic progress and challenges by taking a quick look at your Degree Audit Report Status (DARS) available at DCTC’S e-services intranet site. If you have this honest conversation with your advisor early on, many times you will be able to identify opportunities for improvement, which can enhance your chances to successfully attain your academic goals and to ultimately complete your degree. We want to see you all with your cap and gown at our commencement ceremonies.

Finally, education for employment is the goal and mission, so feel free to talk to your advisor about your career development process and goals. In order for you to get the job of your dreams, you need to work at it and talk about it. We are all going through a process of self-discovery in our endeavor to gain the knowledge, skills, abilities and experience required for that job you are looking for. You and your advisor can have this very productive conversation to make sure you are doing the right things and taking the right steps to improve the probability to get there.

Don’t wait too long to contact your academic advisor to register for spring 2015. Scott Gunderson and Harold Torrence are both academic advisors for Business Management AAS, Business Administration AS, Management for Technical Professionals AAS and the Multicultural Management programs.  For Financial Aid and Academic advising, please contact Susan Kingsbury. Do not hesitate to contact us for our advising time availability.


DCTC named one of the best online colleges for online Human Resource Programs

Dakota County Technical College was named as one of the best online HR programs in the country. You can read more at The HR program is a 17 credit certificate program which is available fully online. You can complete the certificate in as little as two semesters. The certificate entails both strategic and operational level functions expected of a human resource department. Courses include Human Resource Management, Business Law and Ethics, Training and Developing Employees, Managing Performance and Safety and Compliance Management. The program philosophy is to re-invent what human resources is all about using traditional, and not so traditional methods. HR has a neutral to negative reputation, and our program is meant to put the “human” in human resources. The program webpage is at Please contact Scott Gunderson for more information at 651-423-8295 or

Congratulations to la Loma Tamales and Los Garcia…

Seek a Mentor…and improve your personal and professional life

By Harold Torrence, Supervisory Management Instructor

Dakota County Technical College

Today’s workplace environment is increasingly complex and challenging for individuals who are trying to move up the career ladder, or simply trying to get a job. As we struggle to balance our personal lives and work, we can suddenly find ourselves feeling lonely in a jungle of unorganized thoughts and ideas.

When you are unclear and uncertain, finding the right path to the next level up can be very difficult. Because of our individualized human natures, we tend to keep our feelings and desires to ourselves. This reality can hinder our chances to identify and embrace new and better opportunities.

In a way, what we have is a choice between viewing the world with tunnel vision, or making a change so that we see things from a 360° perspective.

To gain a 360° outlook on your world, you will need support from people who can listen to you and provide honest, insightful feedback and ideas. What you need is a mentor. Look around and chances are you will discover that one or more of your friends, coworkers, family members, teachers and/or professional acquaintances fit the description.

Once you encounter a good potential match, don’t be afraid to ask that person to be your mentor. Formal and even informal mentoring can be indispensable in helping you reach  your personal and professional goals.

Students in Dakota County Technical College’s Multicultural Leadership program build mentoring relationships with individuals who are professionally and academically successful. Having established mentors gives them a solid understanding of what it takes to reach higher levels of performance both personally and professionally.

Jason Kelvie, a member of our multicultural leadership learning community, works for the city of Burnsville. Jason found that his mentor was extremely helpful in allowing him to understand his workplace relationships and improve his communication skills so that he could forge stronger bonds with his coworkers and managers.

“While this mentoring experience was happening, I was able to transition to a new and better career opportunity,” Jason explained. “My mentor’s examples helped me adapt my communication style with my new supervisor. My mentor also helped me see challenges and opportunities from a more positive outlook. As a result, I was able to establish a new friendship and expand my network of connections and resources.”

A trusting and well-structured mentoring relationship can help you uncover and reinforce your strengths, which will give you the power to reach your human capacity and potential. Something special and different happens when a mentor takes the time to listen attentively to your concerns, challenges and opportunities. This exercise alone can make you reframe your way of thinking. For example, you will almost certainly start replacing the word “problem” with “opportunity.”

When setting goals, we sometimes find it difficult to visualize a clear mental picture. However, when you start chatting and interacting with your mentor, all of a sudden you are able to understand yourself better and see new options and alternatives to get where you want to be.

Your priorities will dictate the kind of mentor you’ll need. You can seek a mentor for career enhancement or one that will focus on your personal development. What’s important to know is that you don’t need a sophisticated mentoring program to have a mentor.

Seeking someone who cares about your success and has a sincere interest in your future development is a personal decision with a tremendous professional impact. It’s never too late to change—so go ahead and start your lifelong mentoring journey.

What Happened to Loyalty?

Inspiring allegiance and dedication in your workforce

 by Scott Gunderson, Business & Management Department Chair

Dakota County Technical College

 As you know, Brett Favre finally decided to retire from the Minnesota Vikings—much to the chagrin of Green Bay Packer fans, me included. Some of us  remember Brett signing with the team in the 90s and how he said—and I quote, “I will retire as a Green Bay Packer.”

 I recall saying to myself, “Now that’s loyalty!”  We are in an age of free agents and transitional workforces, but you can still ask yourself why Brett apparently stabbed Packer fans in the back? It’s simple: He was loyal to himself and his own goals—not because of the money, but because he had a passion for football.

 Looking closer, we can wonder if Brett was the one who turned his back on Packer fans, or was Packer leadership simply peering into the future without seeing No. 4 anywhere on the horizon?

 Here’s my point. Many employers inadvertently cultivate disloyalty and disengagement in their employees, fueling bad attitudes and poor performance. This negative approach often drives good employees—the star performers and rainmakers—to leave the company because they don’t see a management structure that understands that contributing to employee success naturally promotes organizational success. In other words, you have to give a little to get a little.

 In my previous life as an operations manager, I had a good many supervisors. I remember one day when one of those supervisors refused to give an employee the day off because no one else was available to fill the shift. The employee came to me and complained about what he saw as a raw deal.

 After researching the situation, I found that the employee worked more voluntary overtime than anyone else in the company. This employee was consistently stepping up for the company and coming through in the clutch.  So how did we reward him? We denied him the day off.

 If I stood by and did nothing, I felt that the employee might just call in “sick,” leaving us in a worse predicament than if we had granted the day off in the first place. I also thought that the employee would most likely discontinue volunteering for overtime in the future. 

I’m guessing that you have encountered similar situations. The good news in this story is that the employee got the day off after all, and our supervisory staff learned a valuable lesson—you have to give a little to get a little.

 Too often, especially in a harsh economy, we can take the easy route and only look out for ourselves. This downturn will eventually turn around, but if we undervalue our employees and fail to show them the loyalty they deserve, we will find that it’s very difficult to turn them around. 

 One learning point the downturn has brought to light is that we have become a spoiled society. We constantly think, ME! ME! ME!—quite often at the expense of other people. The anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks just passed, causing me to remember how we came together as a country. For some companies, the current hard times are taking a terrible toll. Are we coming together as we did in the aftermath of 9/11, or are we just looking out for ourselves?

 I’m not advocating that a company go bankrupt because its leadership won’t make the tough decisions needed to ensure the organization’s survival. I am saying that we have more ways to weather this storm than just coming down hard on our employees, which could ultimately capsize a company just as effectively as a poor economy. 

 How can you tell if you have a culture of loyalty in your business? Watch what happens when your ship, i.e., your company, starts taking on water. Are your employees bailing out on the next available lifeboat, or are they busy bailing water to keep your ship afloat?

 At DCTC, we are seeing workers with 20 and 30 years of experience who are jobless even though their companies are still in existence. I am a proponent of the idea that seniority does not guarantee a job, results do. Having said that, what motivates a company to let good, experienced employees go? Some would say that those workers cost the most to keep on, but I contend that such an approach is shortsighted.

 Folks who stay with an organization for 20 and 30 years are the Baby Boomers who believe strongly in loyalty. They gave their best effort as a rule and took on extra shifts to help when needed. If we let them go and the economy rebounds as it surely will, how will we replace that lost knowledge, experience and loyalty? 

 What follow are some recommendations that employers should consider:

  1. Trust your employees first—and they will trust you. If you think providing tuition reimbursement will prompt an employee to leave for another job, what does that say about your approach to loyalty?
  2. Involve your employees in decisions that may affect staffing decisions. I have talked with many dislocated people who said they would have worked for short periods without pay to save their jobs.
  3. Meet your employees halfway. Remember that even though they work for you, your employees want to know their company is working to protect them. Where would any business be without loyal employees? More to the point, where do businesses end up that are not loyal to their employees?
  4. When an employee makes an honest mistake, even a costly mistake, ask yourself if you contributed to the mistake by not providing proper training or support.
  5.  Challenge employees and keep them engaged. Let them know the truth about the challenges the company is going through.  You may be surprised that they may have the ideas you are looking for.

 I have always trusted first and take people at their word. It’s up to them to cause me to think otherwise. Of course, I have been burned on more than one occasion, and maybe Brett Favre is a good example. But I’m thinking that I might just have the last laugh, because selfishness has no part in my life, any company or on the field—or, in my case now, in the classroom.

 Maybe I’m old school, or cut from a different mold. I do know that I’m an idealist. I believe that selfless behavior breeds selfless behavior. Selfish behavior breeds selfish behavior.

 If you would like to challenge my views, or would like answers to questions about the DCTC Business, Management for Technical Professionals and Supervisory Management or Individualized Studies programs, please contact me at  

If you have a subject that you would us to write about please contact us!

A higher standard of leadership learning from Martin Luther King Jr.

by Harold Torrence

Leadership is a very complex concept that has been studied from ancient times to today. Even so, humanity has not yet overwhelmingly embraced a particular leadership model. The body of knowledge and the number of extraordinary leaders in the history of humankind is enormous, which makes trying to define leadership through multicultural lenses a titanic endeavor.

However, it is feasible to start learning from the life of someone who has been recognized by the world as a global leader, one with the heroic mission of creating a truly multicultural society. Such a leadership example can be found throughout the life of Martin Luther King Jr., a legendary transformational leader who changed history by creating and communicating a vision of a genuine multicultural society in the United States. Dr. King eloquently communicated this vision in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech delivered on Aug. 28, 1963.

To learn more about King’s legacy and core values, we need to examine his most important speeches and essays. His leadership framework will emerge in any attempt to understand the most important statements that shaped a guiding coalition dedicated to fulfilling the dream of a true multicultural society. One of the best resources for analysis is “A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.,” edited by James M. Washington, who brilliantly compiled Dr. King’s most crucial writings.

King was a leader capable of creating a tremendously effective coalition of women and men who decided to stand up and fight for their human dignity. The civil rights movement did not happen overnight. It was the result of hard work and sacrifice. Ultimately, this historical movement was made possible due to the support and commitment from people of different races, cultures, religions and ages. Through their differences, they were united for a novel and common cause.

King explored in depth the concept of love and its Greek definitions, which are four: agape, storge, eros and philia. However, King emphasized the need to experience and give the most attention to the highest level of love – agape. “Agape means understanding, redeeming good will for all men,” he wrote. “It is an overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless, and creative.”

Moreover, individuals must first love themselves before they can love others. In this regard, King talked about self-respect. “We have a great opportunity in America to build here a great nation,” he wrote, “a nation where all men live together as brothers and respect the dignity and worth of all human personality.”
This vision statement is grounded on the concept of mutual respect, and this respect must start with the individual self. Individuals must respect themselves before they can respect others. The complexity of the human personality can only be understood if we have the willingness and courage to respect the dignity inherent in the life of every human being.

To overcome hatred and ignorance, leaders must develop morality as a vital core value of their leadership style. Self-worth and agape love are at the center of every individual experience in the vast realm of humanity. If we want to become true leaders in a multicultural society, we must possess these attributes. Fundamentally, we must develop a higher sense of spirituality to understand the highest purpose of life, which is to love your neighbor as you love yourself. This is easily the most difficult and highest standard ever reached by a human being. It requires completely removing our egotistical human nature and replacing it with the unlimited power of love.

Once you create a strong foundation based on agape love, morality and spirituality, you will gain a higher sense of self-respect and dignity with the discipline and courage to make the right decisions and take action. This is a lifelong process and, more than likely, each of us will experience some setbacks and some success.

Leadership is about taking action. This holiday season is the perfect time to demonstrate agape love to one another as we work together to embrace a better future.

Harold Torrence is a supervisory management instructor at Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount.