By Dr. Paul Gratton

“How can students learn to thrive in an increasingly complex and dynamic global economy that seems entirely unpredictable?” This is the primary question I asked myself when I became director of adult and graduate business programs at Montreat College just under a year ago. “The world is changing at an astonishing rate. Who can tell what skills our Montreat students will need in 20—or even 10—years from now?”

As I searched for answers to these difficult questions, I began to ask business leaders across North Carolina what skills, attributes, and characteristics they were looking for in new employees and rising talent. The consistency of responses I heard was stunning. Here is a sample of the replies I received from executives, managers, and entrepreneurs from across the state:

“I need people who can work with others to collaboratively solve problems.”

“It is easy to find people with skills; it is harder to find people with well-developed character.”

“I am looking for people with natural curiosity along with problem-solving abilities.”

“Communication is key. So many people can sit behind a computer, but they can’t engage other humans.”

“Work ethic is important; attitude matters a lot.”

“Real-world experience with a liberal arts background is what we need.”

“Integrity, trust, and character are a must.”

“Servant leadership is too rare; we need more servant leaders.”

By listening to these leaders, I was able to consolidate their answers down to four timeless elements that have become the areas of focus for Montreat College’s business degree programs. The four elements, which we have come to call the “4 Cs,” are: character, communication, critical thinking, and competency in business practices.

I believe that students who develop strengths in these four areas will outperform their peers over the long run. Therefore, as we refresh and redesign Montreat College’s business programs, these 4 Cs will be woven through every business course and every business degree program we have. And we won’t just lecture on these concepts; it is essential that for our students to truly develop in the 4 Cs, that we practice them together, so they become part of our nature and identity.

So, what do the 4 Cs look like in action?

Character

As a Christ-centered institution, we’ve been teaching character for over 100 years, and it remains as vital as ever. People of character show up on time and work hard. Their integrity and honesty makes them trustworthy employees and conscientious leaders. People of character serve others with infectious positive attitudes and enthusiasm. They don’t break when the pressure is on; instead, they rise to the occasion.

Communication

Effective communicators make every team better. They exhibit professionalism and demonstrate effective speaking and writing skills across a variety of mediums. In an interconnected world, networking skills and facilitation skills are crucial to organizational success. Effective communicators recognize the power of language and the impact that words have on those around them. They create the kind of clarity that draws people together in shared vision and purpose.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinkers are problem solvers. They can analyze situations and identify opportunities. Critical thinkers see beyond the next step; they use strategic and systemic thinking to stay ahead of the game. They are also self-motivated learners, always seeking out new information. Critical thinkers do not fear the unknown, they are curious and interested people.

Competency in Business Practices

People with competency in business practices are doers. They have practical abilities in areas such as management, planning, and organization. People with competency in business practices are conversant in the language of commerce; they have a firm grasp on what organizations require in order to be competitive. People with competency in business practices are confident working in a variety of job functions and industries; they can adapt to a variety of work environments.

Though trends, fads, and entire fields of business might come and go in next few decades, the 4 Cs are timeless qualities that will prepare Montreat College graduates to successfully navigate the future.

To learn more about Montreat College’s adult and graduate business programs in Charlotte, Asheville, and online, visit www.montreat.edu/academics.