How the EMP Can Change Students’ Lives: A Conversation with EMP Practitioner Annette Kendall

By EMP Staff

EMP Certified Practitioner, Professor and Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Trulaske College of Business Annette Kendall shares how she uses the Entrepreneurial Mindset Profile® (EMP) with her University of Missouri students not only to explore future career possibilities but also to increase their self-confidence.

EMP: So nice to talk with you today, Annette. You’ve had an interesting path to your current job. Tell us a little bit about how you got here.

Kendall: I never imagined I’d be working in academics because I never actually finished high school growing up in New Zealand. I was really frustrated and bored in school and ended up being very disruptive, but in my professional career, I had a knack for helping people grow and develop businesses. My favorite kind of situation was when people knew what they wanted but didn’t have the confidence or self-belief to do it. Later, I got an Executive MBA and a Ph.D and ended up falling in love with teaching and hanging out with students.

EMP: You use the EMP in an entrepreneurial mindset course you teach. What has been the general reaction of your students to the EMP?

Kendall: Oh my gosh, I’ve been blown away by their responses. One student said, “I didn’t realize my life would change so much in one semester” and another said, “I’ve learned so many things that will be useful to me right now in the real world.” It’s amazing how it has been so valuable to them and how it helps build their confidence. I tell my students that this is a “tool that brings you to the attention of yourself” because they learn so much about their strengths and development areas, and the feedback is so enlightening to them.

EMP: Tell us in more detail how you actually use it and what your process is.

Kendall: I have the students take the EMP at the very beginning (within the first few days) of the semester when I teach creativity. I do a Google Doc with available slots for half-hour one-on-one Zoom sessions with each of them to debrief their reports.

EMP: That’s quite a time commitment depending on how many students you have!

Kendall: Yes, it is because you have to actively listen and give a great amount of interest and energy to each one, but I’ve found it to be extremely valuable and totally worth it given the insights it brings. The first semester I used the EMP, I made the one-on-one sessions optional, but nobody signed up for them. Now I make it compulsory that they have to do the one-on-one session and take the instrument twice or they can’t pass the course.

EMP: What makes these sessions so beneficial in your mind?

Kendall: Well, for one thing, it really helps them interpret the results more accurately. It gives us a chance to discuss their context–their experience, what’s going on in their lives currently, how they’re in college right now, what the lower scores might mean, etc. I try to set up a safe environment by sharing some of my own results and not judging anything that they might share about their own situations, and more times than not, they walk away with a renewed sense of their strengths. Also, before I do these sessions, I also have them introduce themselves on a discussion board by answering three questions:

  • Tell us something unique or surprising about you.
  • What did you want to be when you were six years old?
  • What do you like to do that might not fit with people’s perceptions of you?

Having this information ahead of time helps me to immediately make some connections with them in the Zoom session.

Then I start with the Personality scales and talk about how if they’re high across the board, it would seem to indicate someone who is really driven toward entrepreneurship. We look to see if there are any of those personality traits that might lend themselves to entrepreneurship or ones on which they might want to capitalize. We also talk about how lower scores don’t mean that you can’t be an entrepreneur, but it’s more about whether you’re just naturally drawn to it. I remind them that they’re in college, and the way they answer the questions reflects the environment they’re in. For instance, I don’t know too many college students who are quite as passionate as someone who is out there actually building their own company.

EMP: What is the next step after the one-on-one session?

Kendall: Then I have them pick four scales they want to develop. They submit a plan for all four in advance that requires them to include three action steps, how they will measure success, and the resources they need. After that, they focus on one at a time for a month each and write a report with more details about what they did when and how successful they were, etc. Some of them even use their EMP results or these reflection papers in interviews for jobs.

Another thing we do in class is have brainstorming sessions for improving different scales. Again, I make myself very vulnerable and encourage others to do the same, so after a few weeks, they have developed trust with each other, openly share their results and often come up with wonderful ideas for the different scales. For instance, for the Independence scale, I remember one student “went on a date” by herself to a restaurant and another one realized he had been too financially dependent on his parents and took suggestions from his classmates about changing that. Another student cooked a whole dinner with four new dishes for her family who happened to be pretty picky eaters, but she was determined to try something new and not stress out about it. These may seem like little steps to take, but over the course of the semester, they become significant in how they view themselves and how they’re willing to take on new challenges.

EMP: Can you say a little bit more about how you think the EMP helps with self-confidence?

Kendall: Oh, it comes into play in so many ways. One thing I do is emphasize that if they feel as if they’re existing on the fringe of society, if they think differently from everyone else or if they have so-called “deficits” like ADHD, dyslexia or are on the spectrum, then those might be the very traits that might make them a great entrepreneur, and if they don’t have any of those things, it might even be a little bit harder. I raise up those people who have thought all their lives to have deficits to be the actual superheroes in my class. I remind them of group exercises where there’s that one kid who always seems to be saying weird stuff or seems to be on a different planet, but in entrepreneurship, that kid might just be your most valuable player!

My students’ comments and testimonials completely keep me going! They give me so much energy and encouragement. This was especially true last semester when so many students were feeling sad and pessimistic, and there were a lot of mental health issues. I had one student from Japan who changed dramatically over the course of the semester because he had no confidence at the beginning and didn’t think he was good at anything, but the class helped him realize that really, he was the one who had demonstrated a huge amount of courage by coming to a different country, dealing with language barriers and facing all kinds of obstacles head-on. He made a video for his final project outlining his insights and progress over the semester. Another student said, “I have never looked at myself the way this assessment made me; I now see myself in a new light. I now know where I need to improve and where I am already excelling. This will help me target my development areas and come up with a plan on how to combat them. I want to take this challenge full on because this is something I would have never done before, because I would have never seen how much changing would benefit me. This will make me a better person than I ever could have been without taking this assessment. The action steps I am taking may not be the biggest or the most challenging, but they are great stepping stones for me to build a better person for the future.”

EMP: Have you noticed any trends while working with the EMP?

Kendall: Yes, a couple of things: I’ve noticed that college athletes tend to score lower on the scale of Independence and higher on Need to Achieve because they have lived in team environments and have been very motivated to excel most of their lives. They often get feedback from coaches, and they’re used to seeing the value of getting input from others on how to improve. I’ve talked to them about channeling this same kind of feedback to a business idea where they can solicit information about what’s wrong with the product so that they can improve the performance of it just as they did when trying to improve their own athletic skills. I’ve also noticed that students seem to think they do their best work in a structured environment when there is a grade attached to the assignment, but when it’s not graded, they love being left to their own devices and having free reign to do it however they wish. I also have discussions with people who score 5.0 on Need to Achieve and whether or not they might possibly be avoiding things they’re not good at.

EMP: Annette, thank you so much for your talking with us today. We really appreciate the time, energy and dedication you put into helping your students understand the entrepreneurial mindset in preparation for their future careers. We’re so happy to have you on our team of EMP Certified Practitioners and wish you all the best as you continue to use the instrument!

Annette Kendall Headshot

Annette Kendall is a Professor and Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Trulaske College of Business at the University of Missouri. She can be reached at kendallan@missouri.edu.

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The Entrepreneurial Mindset Profile® (EMP) [emindsetprofile.com] is an excellent way to get an in-depth view of the entrepreneurial mindset and see how your personality traits and skill sets compare to those of corporate managers and entrepreneurs. Available online, the EMP provides scores on 14 different scales including Risk Acceptance, Passion, Need to Achieve, Future Focus, Idea Generation and Persistence among others. The EMP Feedback Report comes with a Debrief Video and a comprehensive Development Guide for continuous improvement.

Want to learn more about EMP Certification and how you can use it in your organization? Email us at emindsetprofile@eckerd.edu or visit the Certification page of the EMP website to see how you can start using the EMP with your clients and students.