Archive for August, 2009

Thoughts on 2004 Award Winner

Business schools today are sorely lacking when it comes to hands on experience (the requirement of having at least one semester of an internship not withstanding).  While I believe that having highly educated teachers (those achieving their doctorate) is important, I think that schools of higher learning should place more emphasis and focus on hiring professorial staff that have the work experience (i.e., working in the profession in which they teach).  This will, in my estimation, actually help students put together the theory often taught in school with the practical application of their future trade.  I have interviewed 5 candidates for an internship in my department over the last week and only 2 knew the difference between advertising and marketing.  What are they teaching these students in their marketing classes?

Extra Reading Blogging

Discussion of the MBA articles by Ronald Alsop 

Having been in the workforce for over 16 years and a manager/mentor for the last 8 years, I can certainly sympathize with employers’/recruiters’ need to find candidates with both the subject matter and technical expertise and the leadership and soft skills needed to thrive in today’s working environment.  I have been challenged by both ends of this skill set dilemma over the years and it certainly hasn’t been easy or pretty. 

I wholeheartedly agree that, to ensure the success of their students, MBA programs will need to place a much greater emphasis on leadership training.  This training will be especially critical to the “young” MBA program graduates.   I recall being thrown into a people management position after just 4 months into a job in which I was just managing paper and projects.  I had had absolutely no leadership training and almost no mentoring on the topic before inheriting the most disparate and dysfunctional team of my career.  Had I just had one session with someone who could walk me through how to effectively deal with differing personality traits (and expected behaviors) measured through in DISC and/or Myers-Briggs, I would not have spent months doing daily battle with my employees—from a work productivity and emotional roller coaster perspective.  It took the advice from my brother, a student and master of organizational behavior, to remind me that I should be approaching my employees like a leader and not just a manager.   I needed to manage each employee based on their personality, not on the job they were expected to do.  Once I navigated my style towards leadership and learned how to communicate with each employee individually, I was finally able to get off “manager island”.

I also vehemently agree with another critical issue Mr. Alsop addressed in his article “How to Get Hired”—the importance of mastering written and verbal communications.  To ensure that a MBA is not just another piece of paper, MBA programs must ensure that their graduates can communicate not only in person but in writing.  These skills are particularly important in the field in which I practice—Marketing, Market Research in particular.  Having worked on both the supplier and client side, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that MBAs have the ability to not only analyze an issue/problem, but also have the skill to appropriately communicate the “why is this happening?” and the “what are we doing to do about it?” to senior management or clients.

So, at the end of the day, I believe that MBA programs will produce some of the most successful managers of the next decade, but they won’t and can’t produce the best leaders until they focus on teaching leadership and communication skills to MBA students.

While I enjoyed reading both articles by Mr. Alsop, I have two small critiques of his work.  The first comes during his discussion of how MBAs are falling short with respect to being prepared for interviews.  Based on the candidates I have interviewed within the last 2 years, I can say that the information he presents in this area could easily be associated with all levels of education.  I believe that there is a lack of preparedness and over-aggressiveness in all education levels and that MBAs are not the only ones that suffer from these interviewing skill failure.

The second critque comes in the form of a nagging question I had with respect to what he suggests is the overconfidence of MBAs.  How old and/or experienced are these “overly confident” MBAs?  Perhaps it is a function of my age, a full 10 years older than the average MBA student, but I can’t imagine anyone who has been in the workforce for 10 or more years having any illusions of grandeur associated with achieving an MBA.   Perhaps it is the market researcher in me, but should I have the opportunity to speak with Mr. Alsop, I would ask him to clarify the age/experience level and MBA emphasis of these so called “overly confident” MBAs.  I suspect that he would answer: under the age of 30, 5 or less years of professional work experience and had an MBA emphasis of finance or IT. 

All of this said, I agree with Mr. Alsop’s over arching issue with the MBA education—it can’t be all about technical excellence.  It has to be as well rounded  

MBAs?  Perhaps it is a function of my age, a full 10 years older than the average MBA student, but I can’t imagine anyone who has been in the workforce for 10 or more years having any illusions of grandeur associated with achieving an MBA.   Perhaps it is the market researcher in me, but should I have the opportunity to speak with Mr. Alsop, I would ask him to clarify the age/experience level and MBA emphasis of these so called “overly confident” MBAs.  I suspect that he would answer: under the age of 30, 5 or less years of professional work experience and had an MBA emphasis of finance or IT. 

All of this said, I agree with Mr. Alsop’s over arching issue with the MBA education—it can’t be all about technical excellence.  

Sharon’s Thought for The Day…

Be focused, work hard and be productive…make today worth the cost of the gas it took to get to work!

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