This was originally handed in as a paper, but is emminently appropriate here. I got an A. (I don’t know what I got – haven’t recieved it back yet.)
“This is the greatest challenge of my life. It will be tough as nails. It will be competitive, but I will win. I will be the best.”
I began the first day with this thought in my mind. I spoke these words to myself as I walked through the doors of the Desmarais building on the first day of my MBA. It may be that I had the wrong impression of what the MBA atmosphere would be like, or perhaps inattentiveness to the academic nature of my undertaking, or maybe a projection of what kind of attitude I felt I needed or was lacking to achieve success.
My surprise upon reflecting on my first week of the MBA program was that many of my expectations were surpassed, in ways which were totally unexpected.
Rather than a rigid and uptight regimen and expectations, I found a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. Instead of a focus on competition and personal achievement, professors and instructors spoke of collegiality and the absolute necessity to trust each other and work together – or my goals would be impossible to achieve. I was surprised at the research focus, forward thinking in program direction and materials, dovetails with current trends in business and leadership thought, and overall excellence I perceived from the faculty and school of business.
My reflection has led me to re-examine my expectations, and found them, lacking. I have amended my daily mantra, walking through the doors. This one will be repeated many more times than the first, and reflects what I have newly learned in the first week of this program:
“This is the greatest challenge of my life. It will be tough, but I am supported in rising to the challenge, even in small failures. I will help my peers succeed, and they will help me. We are the best.”
If I were a manager in a high performance organization would I want rigidity or freedom for my employees? Would I like them to be intimidated, or accepted? Would I want competition amongst peers, or commitment to the goals of the organization? The very things I expected from a business school, were the things I would not accept in a business.
Some older re-learnings have surfaced this week as well. The first is that meeting new people and networking towards a common experience is tremendously fun. It is even more exciting that many of these people are from locations and bring experiences that I could never dream of having myself. We will learn from one another. The second is that there are very few tasks for which people have the specific experience to accomplish better than others. Confidence in oneself and stepping out to lead will far more often than not lead to success, and even failure in these instances is a valuable learning experience, and not a defeat.
Some perceived struggles for the upcoming year have to do with my natural areas of weakness. As a (P) type in the MBTI I “perceive” the difficulty in keeping straight all of my obligations and deliverables to my studies. I must keep myself very organized, I don’t want to slip up and miss a deadline, or be scrambling and produce work that I am not proud of. In doing so, however I do not want to miss the big picture, and get too wrapped up in the process, ignoring the real learning I am experiencing. My second struggle revolves around my group. I am afraid that our storming won’t turn into norming.
My goals and objectives revolve around these perceived struggles. I have committed myself to organization and excellence as habits which will persist well beyond my time in school. I have a daily and weekly personal check-in which I began during my career, and am re-instituting. To keep track of the major changes, I have committed to a daily tweet and weekly blog post, to review and record the more intangible and valuable learning points I experience through the MBA. @matthewfarnand is up and running, and mattfarnand.com launches this weekend! My most serious goal is to emerge from this program with a career and a direction, and taking these learning and branding steps I hope place me on the right path.
After one week, I struggle to keep my reflection to one page. I can only begin to imagine the effects that this program and my peers will have over fifty-two.
(Editor’s Update: Ok, I got an A-… close!)
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