Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Hooker, Props, Flankers: Why the soft skills in your MBA?


Scotland vs South Africa, Murrayfield Stadium, 17 November 2013


Having been living in the country for eight weeks I've been exposed to and fascinated by anything Scottish; from bagpipe playing to men in kilts, from snow sports to ice hockey and rugby matches.  As much as I could, apart from my study I want to learn more about the local culture and people.  Not only that, taking a break from study on a weekend like we did last week is something that I like to use as an opportunity to know my classmates by having some deeper conversations with them, something that we can't really do when we're down with assignments, attending classes and meetings that take up most of our days.

So five of us headed for Edinburgh last weekend for the autumn international rugby match; only the Canadian classmate is familiar with the sports, not for the rest four of us.  A day before the match I found myself reading a document on 'rugby union for beginners' -- Complicated rules? Yes.  Especially when you're totally new to the sport and you had to read all those rules on your own.  

It's definitely a team-based game with 15 players in each competing team.  Every player has a numbered position and interestingly, 'each position requires a different set of physical and technical attributes and it is this diversity which makes the game so accessible to all.  From the power of the forwards to the speed of the backs, there’s a place in a rugby team for anyone who wants a slice of the action.'  So does say the guide.   

Not a sport-inclined person, I was amazed watching these sporty people playing in the rain, in the mud, and somehow it made me think about my own 'team'.  Being part of a team is certainly not new to me, but the past eight weeks have certainly added new meanings to it.  I think I knew at least one reason why: the team I was placed in is a group of people with different background, past working experience and personalities, yet situated to bear one, same 'identity' -- "Student".  

It is part of the 'grooming'.  Equipping students with soft skills combined with business knowledge, technical and analytical skills has been what reputable business schools around the world pride for.  Not only such students with that mix make better hires, they are transformed to be more effective leaders.  Articles, business schools blogs and websites write numerous arguments on this topic, why soft skills do matter in MBAs, how an MBA degree is designed to signify its graduates on leadership, communication, ethics and teamwork. 

The soft-skills: practical encouragements
Being part of the team I would like to encourage myself and fellow students to:
1.  Respect our classmates, respect the institution.
     We don't always agree with everybody, we don't always like how things work.  But the presence of every other person in the group we are placed in is there to equip us to be a more effective leader. So is the institution that runs the daily operations of the program we are currently attending. 

2.  Self-assess ourselves. Diligently. 
     That's why all the talks on emotional intelligence.  Effective leaders are not only confident about themselves, they also know how not to compromise their values in challenging situations, know the importance of developing interpersonal skills to deal with people from all walks of life, while they themselves handle stress and pressure.  
     
3.  Maximize our mentor's presence.
     Our mentor has gone through what we are now going through.  His/her presence is to guide us with their experience and knowledge.  Talk to, meet with our mentor and learn from him/her as much as we can.  Be grateful for their presence; we are privileged to have them. 


One year from now. And beyond. 
We will get over this indispensable MBA experience in less than one year from now.  And the soft-skills are not developed over night; we need to practice them, actively, inside and outside of our classes.  All the best. 





No comments: