|Published: July 9, 2010
Jennifer Selby Long, Selby Group
Newly Minted MBA’s: Insider Tips from Coach Jennifer
Earning the Master of Business Administration degree is a big accomplishment, but applying what you’ve learned requires a particular skill set and mindset.
In the 25 years that I’ve been working with and coaching leaders, I’ve seen a certain pattern of bad habits among MBA’s, habits that interfere with their ability to successfully transfer what they’ve learned in their classes into the work environment.
And it’s not just MBA’s who develop these bad habits, although they probably get the most teasing about it. Any leader can fall into bad habits that compromise effectiveness and minimize opportunities.
We might as well have some fun with this, so I’ve organized the three bad habits into a list you’ll never forget, because the list spells B.A.D.
“B” is for the bodies left behind as the vigorous and enthusiastic new leader charges ahead toward his or her business goal (otherwise known as getting your way). Leaders rarely realize when they are bulldozing over others, because they’re focused on the goal, not the people.
The problem with focusing all of your attention on the goal, of course, is that you need other people in order to achieve the goal. You’ll also need those darn people later to achieve other goals.
Unlike real dead bodies, these metaphorical dead bodies pose two very real problems. The first is that the ones who survive your steamrolling won’t want to work for you anymore. The best ones will have no trouble finding someone else to work for. They never do. The worst ones will hang around, since no one else wants them, and continue to do mediocre or poor work for you. So pretty soon, you’ll be all alone with the worst performers.
The second problem with steamrolling over people is that, well, they’re not really dead. After they pick themselves up and dust themselves off, some of them will be angry with you or harbor resentments, which, you have to admit, isn’t entirely unfair, is it?
Some of them will be strengthened by the experience and will use their strength to get back at you. Others will get promoted right over you and then watch out, because you’re about to become the next dead body.
It sort of puts this whole “achieving the goal at any cost” idea into a new light, doesn’t it?
Moving right along…
“A” is for analysis, analysis, analysis, and…more analysis.
An MBA program, like other types of business training, develops analytical thinking skills extremely well. Professors expect a level of analysis for every case study that likely exceeds both the available time and requirements of many of the routine problems you face at work.
Newly minted MBA’s are famous for analyzing business problems far more than is necessary, but they’re not alone in slipping into this bad habit.
While this won’t lead to your career demise in the same way that the “Dead Bodies” issue will, it won’t necessarily garner you much respect, either. Most people will either be amused at the sight of your exhaustive PowerPoint charts or they’ll just scratch their heads. But amused head scratching isn’t exactly the reaction you’re looking for, is it?
This is not to say that you should shelve all of the models you’ve learned, simply that you need to think of business analysis as something that’s best done on a sliding scale.
For each business challenge you face, take a little time to decide how much analysis the problem requires in order to come to a good decision.
First, consider how important the problem is to the business. Devote less brainpower to less important problems and more brainpower to more important problems.
Then consider how urgent the problem is. If it’s truly pressing, conduct a quick analysis to determine an expedient course of action. Then execute quickly, while beginning the more complex level of analysis that will help you prevent the problem from becoming so urgent again.
This will help you prioritize your time better and will prevent embarrassing, “Aw, isn’t that cute and oddly perplexing?” reactions to your flowcharts and diagrams.
Finally, “D” stands for Dense, as in demonstrating low emotional intelligence.
Remember all those people I mentioned earlier? The really scary thing is that being a leader has nothing to do with how good you are at personally doing much of anything. It’s about how effectively you can get 10, 100, 1000, or 100,000 people to be good at doing something well together.
In order to achieve that, you must capture their hearts, not just their minds. That’s where emotionally intelligent actions count, actions like listening and really hearing, negotiating, compromising, communicating with crispness and clarity, delaying gratification, and inspiring others.
So avoid the B.A.D. leadership habits and you’re half way there. In the next issue of Traveling Light, I’ll share the four good habits of the best leaders I count among my clients. Perhaps you can already guess what the acronym will be...
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