Life, Liberty, & Happiness

Why I Love to Teach


had an interesting question from Ben McIntyre, a Belmont University student who is becoming a vibrant part of our entrepreneurial ecosystem here in Nashville. I wanted to share our conversation.

This was his question:  “Michael , what do you do differently as a professor?  I know you’re able to teach from real, current experience (something most can’t), but knowing that skills get students hired, how have you been able to teach differently that makes it worth your time to keep teaching each semester? Is it just as action oriented and valuable as what you teach at the EC, or have you found that doesn’t work in a university setting?”

My Answer: Ben McIntyre - That’s a good question. First, as of now, I only teach Graduate students (I like undergraduates a lot, but I don’t really have that as a viable opportunity at the moment).  Next, I try to only teach electives – that way, the students who actually WANT to learn and be with me are in the room. That’s Rule #1 for me.  If you don't want to be there, I really can't help you.

Rule #2 is that I try to drive dynamic interaction in the classroom (just like we do at the NEC). It’s very non-traditional.  I cannot (and will not) stand like some mannequin at a podium lecturing for an hour.  That is a total waste of human energy for everyone because a student (if lucky) will be able to recall about 10% of that stuff spewing out of a professor’s mouth (especially if there are no real relevant examples being given for the theory). However, I’ve found that if I use immersion learning techniques (learning by doing), the student will be able to recall about 80% of the material.  They will learn skills.  They will change. It’s just a different way to learn (like we do at the EC).

I could never be on a track for “tenure” because I don't have the drive nor energy research nor write articles for journals that no one who is actually working or building a business is likely to read. My “research” is the engagement with an aspiring student who wants to change the world. I refuse to use manufactured, made-up cases in the class when – if you open your eyes – there are “live” cases with real people doing real things all around us that are much more interesting, engaging and inspiring to students.

Probably, the biggest difference is I actually LOVE to teach – and I give of myself inside and outside the classroom equally. My driver is not my “research” as is the case for most professors (and realize they are forced into this mold to keep their job and get pay increases since that’s the primary funding source for so many universities, not tuition) – My driver is that you are transformed in the process and realize you have much to offer this world to make it better.

That’s a small sample of what I do differently. Thanks for asking.

About Dr. Michael Burcham

Michael is an executive coach, entrepreneur, investor, and strategist with 30 years of experience leading investor-backed, high-growth organizations.

“I built and sold a $40M company with Dr. Burcham as my mentor. This is the thing: if you EVER get the opportunity to learn from this man, from that moment forward, you’ll list him as one of the most influential people in your life, even if you live to be 90. And, you’ll know how lucky you were to have that opportunity and you’ll immediately say YES to any chance to be in his presence again—his wisdom is that impactful.”

Sherry Stewart Deutschmann

Former CEO, Letter Logic

“If you are looking for a trusted mentor and coach for yourself or your leadership team, I highly recommend Michael Burcham. He has worked with me as my executive coach for well over a decade now. Our conversations and his feedback have helped me sharpen my critical thinking skills. He’s a trusted advisor that I can confidentially speak with about any issue—and I know I’ll get valued feedback. I highly recommend him.”

Ryan McGrath

CEO, Asset Living

“Dr. Burcham’s depth and breadth of experience makes even the most ADD entrepreneurial leader sit up and take notes! His coaching skills bring out the ‘best you’ possible. He selflessly shares the good, the bad, and the ugly—leaving you with an authentic and moving experience sure to spur action and professional growth!”

Julie Lenzer

Director, U.S. Department of Commerce


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