Archive for the ‘ Decision Making ’ Category

Are MBA’s worth it?

studyingI have spent the last two years of my life completing my Masters in Business with an Emphasis in Strategic Human Resource Management. I spent on average around 15 hours a week studying, writing essays and completing exams. If anyone has completed an MBA part time whilst working full time you will appreciate how tough it is.

As my MBA is coming to a close, my question is, was it worth it?

I suppose I need to ask myself, what did I want to achieve from an MBA?

Did I learn a lot? – Yes

  • I received a well rounded view of various different aspects of business. I can now liaise with different departments at a higher level.
  • How to work in a team of peers when there is no authority.
  • Most importantly my masters taught me about work ethic, discipline and striving to do well.

Will it help my career? – I’m not so sure.

People keep asking me, so what are you going to do with your MBA when you finish. Will you get a promotion? Will you get another job? Will it earn you more money? I honestly hadn’t thought about it. So I thought my trusty friend the internet would help me out.

Ronald Yeaple’s study found post MBA pay was 50% higher than pre MBA pay. After 5 years of completing an MBA pay increased by 80% compared to post MBA Starting pay. This data is from a well ranked university in the Forbes top 50. However looking on the internet a lot of high paying jobs do state on the applications that an MBA is desirable.

In 2013/2014 539,440 were enrolled in postgraduate degrees in the UK. Although that is less than a third of undergraduates, it shows there is still fierce competition. In the US 100,000 MBA’s are awarded annually. Jobs remain relatively constant, so if you are doing an MBA to stand out, there are a lot of other people doing it too.

Do you think MBA’s are worth it? Please share your experiences on how your MBA has helped you or hasn’t.

Moral Courage

“Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird


Courage is a well-admired human trait; but when asked what courage is, what do you think of?

Is it a soldier, fighting a battle far from home against a fierce, unknown enemy?
What about a fire-fighting hero running in to save someone from a burning building?
Perhaps your imagination stretches to a fictional hero, rushing in to save the day?

All of these are an example of physical courage – someone’s life is in imminent danger, and our courageous hero puts everything right again.

But forget about your cape-wearing, pants-on the-outside, lycra-clad hero. What about normal, average people?  The British have a wonderful phrase for this: “The man on the Clapham Omnibus” – people going about their everyday business.

This could encompass individuals who blow the whistle on corporate corruption, at risk of losing their job; or – an example from one of my favourite books (Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird”); a Lawyer, who stands up to defend someone who is innocent, even though society condemns them for doing so. Could these people be described as ‘courageous’?

In a word: yes!

The courage demonstrated by holding on to one’s own values – regardless of whether this is on the battlefield, or in the boardroom – is Moral Courage.

Lisa Dungate defines Moral Courage perfectly in her blog on Lions Whiskers, where she explains that: “Moral courage means doing the right thing, even at the risk of inconvenience, ridicule, punishment, loss of job or security or social status”.

Novelist, J.K. Rowling’s Harvard Commencement Speech for the Class of 2008 provides some moving examples. The  video of her speech, from TED.com, is 21 minutes long; but at 12 minutes she gives an emotional recollection of her time working at Amnesty International, with people who risked their own lives to speak out about the persecution, abuse, and torture taking place in their home lands.

Everyday moral courage often isn’t this extreme, but that does not mean that it is any easier to practice: moral courage might mean being different or disagreeing publicly.

As difficult as it is – displaying moral courage can earn respect, trust, and admiralty; and by practicing moral courage very day it gradually will become easier.

Let’s take moral courage away from the corporate setting, for a moment; and consider practicing in every day situations:

  • You and your friends are deciding what movie to see, or where to get dinner, but you don’t like the choice they all prefer. Instead of going along silently, or pretending to agree, say, “Well, it wouldn’t be my first choice, but if you all like it, that’s OK with me.”
  • One of your friends has gotten a tattoo, and everyone is admiring it, but you don’t like tattoos. Instead of letting everyone believe that you also think tattoos are really cool, have the courage to express a different view. “I’m glad you like his tattoo, but personally, I just don’t see the appeal.”

You don’t need to be being rude; or enforcing your own opinions on others, to demonstrate moral courage.

But, as professionals, how can we use these skills to make values-driven decisions consistently?

The Ivey Business Journal gives examples of moral courage in leadership: In August 2008, when Michael McCain, CEO of Maple Leaf Foods, stood in front of the press to accept responsibility for the contaminated meat scandal that resulted in numerous deaths, he undoubtedly needed courage.  Southwest Airlines CEO, James Parker, would have needed courage when he went against the industry job-slashing trend following 9/11 when he courageously announced that he would keep all employees

Why is moral courage important in leadership?

Moral courage is crucial in developing authenticity – it empowers individuals to discover and demonstrate what they stand for – even if this is at the disapproval of others. By developing self leadership through action in moral dilemmas, professionals and leaders can ensure both integrity and impact.

Actions speak louder than words.  Leaders at all levels need to act out their expectations, behave honestly and openly, and demonstrate loyalty. They need to establish and maintain open communications, so that those working with them know that their suggestions will be listened to – that they have a voice. People need to know that their leader isn’t going to act on a whim, just because it’s the majority decision. All of these qualities are facilitated by a leader who has courage.

Leaders with moral courage can be trusted by colleagues to do the right thing. It takes courage to tell the boss something that they do not necessarily want to hear; or to redirect an employee; or to make unpopular decisions.

An awareness of the importance of doing the right thing – which is not necessarily the popular thing – can help leaders demonstrate moral courage when they face ethical challenges in the workplace, and uphold ethical working environments and business standards.

Who drives your career?

1-driving-career_V3I had an interesting question asked in my master’s degree this week. How much responsibility should a company take in managing their employee’s  careers? In an ever changing society, where people are now wanting careers and not just a job it’s important for managers to help their employees grow,  but should they be the driver?

Quast (2014) looks at the research by Phoenix University and EdAssist. 71% of employees say that employers should provide job opportunities and  career paths; whilst 85% of employers say it’s the employee’s responsibility to identify job opportunities and career paths. This lack of alignment can cause huge problems. Employees & employers need to have open discussions around desires and expectations.

I personally think you need to drive your own career, with a manager’s support. Below are a couple of steps you might find useful to help drive your career.

Step 1 – What do you Want?

First of all what makes you tick? Where do you want to be heading? Only you can decide what career you want. This is probably the toughest question of all. Sit down one weekend and just map out in your ideal world what you would be doing, what would the role look like and how you can get there.

Step 2 – Tell People What you Want, Find out Options

You’re not alone if you are nervous or uncomfortable about talking to your manager about career progression – 44.8% of UK workers feel the same! If you have a good manager they will understand and want to help you achieve your goals. Talking about career progression isn’t having all the answers now, but knowing that you are growing and moving in the right direction. A company needs to support you in this if they want to keep hold of you. If your manager is aware of what you are thinking, they can look out for opportunities when having meetings with other managers.

Step 3 – Keep on Track

It’s so easy to go off track!  Make sure you put your goals around growth and progression into your quarterly performance appraisal.  This will help you stay on track, and help communication around your career aspirations.

Act Before You Think – The “OODA Loop” in Leadership

I have always been taught to “think before you act” – I should  consider what exactly I want to do; why; and what the impact is. This way, you have clarity on what you’re doing, and you can avoid making the wrong decision or upsetting people (especially important in leadership).

However, we’re working in business around the globe, using real-time communication, and keeping up with continuous improvements technology; and we need to keep pace with a constantly changing environment – and this means changing our decision making process to match this faster pace.

The “OODA Loop” is not new – it was developed by US Air Force Colonel John Boyd in the 1950’s, and refers to the recurring decision cycle of: observe-orient-decide-act. The quicker this cycle can be processed, the more an organization or individual can gain the upper hand, by being one step ahead of their “opponent’s” decision making.

The model demonstrates a four-point decision loop that supports fast, effective and proactive decision-making:

Observe Gather as much relevant information as possible. (In business, data becomes an important part of this process).
Orient Analyze the information, and use it to change the situation. The better and quicker the leader of an organization is able to gain clarity, the better the decision that can be made
Decide Determine a course of action. Having good data analysis and orientation allows organizations to make better and more repeatable decisions.
Act Follow through on your decision. Act with energy, discipline and drive. This is the heart of the execution process

You cycle through the loop by observing the results of your actions, reviewing and revising your initial decision, and moving to your next action. It needs to be a smooth, continual process, and the faster you can move through each stage the better. In fact, if you were to sit down and map out each step, it would slow down instead of speed up.

OODA Loop

The initial concept was based on military combat operations. Consider a fighter pilot trying to shoot down an enemy aircraft. Before the enemy is even in vision, the pilot considers information of the enemy pilot (level of training, cultural traditions, etc). When the enemy aircraft comes into the radar, our pilot gets more information on speed and size of the enemy plane. A decision is made based on the available information. Our pilot can then loop back to observation: is the attacker reacting to the action of our pilot? Then to orient: is the enemy reacting characteristically? Is his plane exhibiting better-than-expected performance? Based on these, he can cycle back through the loop to making a decision on his next course of action, and carry it out.

Fighter Pilot (TopGun)

If you’re looking to work on your leadership, and become a better leader, your first step might be to create an action plan. “In order to be a better leader, I want to do this, this, and this”. Whilst this action plan might focus your efforts, and provide a roadmap; it is just that: a plan.

When it comes to leadership, the way to produce the change of mindset – to improve the skills you require to become a better leader – is to act differently, rather than just think about it.

In fact, acting differently is more likely to make you think differently.

Someone once told me that, if I act like someone that I would like to meet, in time, I’d become a person that other people want to meet (and this is now written on a piece of A4 paper, stuck on the ceiling above my bed, and I read it every morning when I wake up). This is Boyd’s OODA Loop theory applied to being a ‘nicer’ person; but the same can apply to leadership. Act like the leader that you would like to have leading you, and in time, you’ll become the kind of leader that others want leading them.

You can try something new and, after action, observe the results – how it feels to us, how others around us react – and only later reflect on what our experience taught us.

In other words, we “act like a leader” and then “think like a leader”.

Exercise: It May Help Your Memory

We’ve barely started the new year and already resolutions are being thrown to the wayside. From eating healthier to saving more money, there’s one resolution is quite popular: exercising more.

I’m currently struggling against the hump that we all face after heading to the gym a few times. My motivation is at an all-time low. If you’re like me, you may be more willing to exercise after hearing that exercise can potentially improve your memory:

Credit: BrainCraft

What have you forgotten lately, both at home and at work? Perhaps an anniversary or something more physical like your keys? Or at something you had to do that wasn’t on your calendar?

Well, exercise may be the answer. So motivate yourself to push through the hump, because once you get into the groove, you’ll be improving not just your body but your mind as well.

exercise_motivation

Image Credit: 1

A Tale of Two Leaders

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”

Best of Times, Worst of Times

Best of Times, Worst of Times

The opening lines of Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, hints at the central tension throughout the classic novel—the growing struggle between a thriving and oppressed society. The tension between two worlds of existence builds throughout the story and leads to the dawn of the French Revolution.

A familiar narrative is playing out in today’s workplace and society—the growing tension between good leadership and bad leadership. Organizations around the world are either thriving or struggling under the effective, or ineffective, leadership at all levels of an organization.

While delivering a recent virtual presentation to individual contributors and managers from diverse locations that spanned from the United States to the United Kingdom, Nigeria, and Iran, I asked participants to consider two scenarios during their careers. “Consider a time when it was the best of times at work. Then consider a season where you’ve experienced the worst of times at work.”

During the Best of Times at work participants described an environment where they felt energized by going to work. They were alive and thriving. Individuals were empowered to bring their best ideas to the table of collaboration in an open and trustworthy environment. Conflicts were resolved with fairness and efficiency. They felt as if their personal goals and responsibilities where aligned with that of the organization.

During the Worst of Times, the list grew longer and darker. Participants described a workplace that was stressful and frightening. People were not open to collaborating or sharing new ideas out of fear for being reprimanded or dismissed, or even the threat of loosing their jobs. Conflicts went unresolved, and in some instances, escalated to threats and bullying by other employees, managers, and executives.

No matter what the circumstances were, or the country or culture they experienced in, the environment was unanimously driven by the presence, or lack there of, good leadership.

Effective leadership is the most critical asset in the health and happiness of an organization, family, community, nation, or organization. Though organizations may be thriving finically, or having an amazing mission, the most important factor in sustained and meaningful success is founded on the way the leaders act and behave, in public and through interpersonal relationships at every level of the organization they are leading.

How would you describe your work environment today? Is it the Best of Times for you at work? Is it the Worst of Times? Are you leading and being led in the most effective manner that leads to personal and organizational health and happiness? The best of times at work are created when people at every level of the organization are committed to learning, growing, and living effective leadership behaviors.

 

Jason Diamond Arnold is a leadership consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action a real time, real work, leaning experience that develops effective communication and collaboration skills for individuals in the workplace. He is also passionate about developing leadership in youth through The Blanchard Institute, a youth leadership development program that teaches core leadership concepts to young people all around the world.

Flow to Success!

Have you ever become so engrossed in a fun task that you lost track of time? Then you’ve experienced the concept of flow. Developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, it describes the state of mind when you reach the perfect combination of task challenge and personal skill:

Flow_Senia_Maymin

Click the image below for a simple demonstration of flow (use the mouse to move and remember to return when you’re finished):

Flow_logo

The creator of this simple game used Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow to develop the game elements. Since you can decide when to move further, you are always in control of both the level of challenge and skill, meaning you can always keep yourself in a state of flow.

Now think about your direct reports and their tasks. Are they in a state of flow? If not, is it due to the task being too difficult, or the direct reports not having high enough skills? Or perhaps the challenge isn’t increasing proportionately with their skills? And think about your own tasks. Are you in a state of flow? Why or why not? What can you do to improve your workplace and encourage more flow?

It’s clear that employees can become more engaged and productive, while constantly developing and growing, by applying this simple model to the workplace. So the next time you’re at work, try adjusting the level of challenge to match the level of skill. You might be surprised to find how much fun you can have while in flow!

Image Credit: 1

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