Bob McCann

February 07, 2011

The first thing you notice upon entering Dr. Bob McCann's office is a couch along one wall facing a large flat screen TV. Then you might notice a bulky machine next to his desk used to duplicate mass quantities of DVDs. These are among the many tools that McCann uses to teach Management Communications I/II, a two-quarter course that was created by McCann and added to the Full Time MBA Program this year.

The new course is designed to help students improve the managerial communication skills that are so highly valued by corporate recruiters and critical to career success. "Communication is an essential skill that all MBAs need to develop," said McCann.

"I am thrilled that Anderson has added the course," he continued. "We are one of very few top MBA programs that offers communication courses -- and we teach it with unusual depth and individualized focus."

Management Communications I started during Orientation in September, 2010 and continued through the fall quarter. McCann taught three sections of the course and two additional sections were taught by Dr. Steven Werber. They will teach Management Communication II in the winter quarter.

"We start with a baseline presentation," said McCann. "We have 15 breakout rooms equipped with videotape recorders, tripods, portable screens, projectors and microphones. Students are taped doing a 5-minute presentation, which they review very early in the Fall quarter with a teaching assistant and their learning team." The idea behind the baseline, said McCann, "is to provide students with a well-defined skill starting point which they can reference as they move along and progress in the course."

Management Communication I features lectures, in-class video analysis, and interactive class activities, while Management Communication II switches more to a coaching model where students present (individually and in teams). In this quarter, the two professors and a team of teaching assistants provide one-on-one coaching for every student. "Teaching assistants are hugely important and helpful to the learning process," said McCann.

Course content focuses on three main themes; the first is business presentation skills. In this area, students learn how to present differing types of materials and apply communication theory and strategy to effectively deliver individual and team presentations to varied audiences.

The second theme is visual and verbal persuasion skills, where students learn effective persuasion techniques. This part of the course draws from McCann's extensive language and persuasion background, and gives the course a unique, cutting-edge flavor. "We give students presentation techniques and ideas that we know are effective both from a research (persuasion and communication) and a best practices standpoint."

Students work with their professor to refine their persuasion and argumentation skills. "We do quite a bit on audience analysis, presenting and persuading via logical, emotional and ethical appeals, building evidence, forming and structuring arguments, and so on," said McCann.

The third theme is interpersonal communication skills. Here, students learn about interpersonal influence, finding similarity, giving and receiving peer feedback, and evaluating themselves and others critically.

As the course moves along, students receive feedback on their videotaped presentations from their peers, course TAs and the two professors. "They get input from many different angles," said McCann. "This takes a tremendous amount of time," he explained, "but communication skills are best learned by doing."

McCann encourages students to maintain their authenticity, which he defines as being consistent with one's true self. "Whatever you do, don't lose that," he said. "Nothing kills communication like the perception that you are a phony."

He also encourages students to actively forge a connection with the person they are speaking with. This can be as simple as looking for common interests and listening more actively. "Introverted people tend to do this quite well," he said, "but extroverts may need to focus on this area. They may be so busy thinking about what they will say next that they miss valuable clues about what motivates the person they are talking to."

McCann encourages students to forge relationships by finding ways to fulfill the needs of others. "A relationship is earned by going the extra mile for someone," he said. "You might give some extra assistance or provide avenues for recognition. One of my former students went out of his way to offer golf instruction to superiors at his intership and this ultimately paid huge dividends."

"By the end of the winter quarter, students should be more confident in their communication skills and able to apply them in other courses," McCann said. "This increased confidence will help students get internships, find jobs and move forward in their careers. I hope that many students will find this to be a game changing part of their Anderson experience."

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