Archive for February, 2011
Whilst writing my last blog I had what can only be described as a wake-up call. I had to start looking for a job. The whole class seemed to have undergone a similar epiphany. So much so, Brian, the MBA Career Manager, is a person who is very much on demand. My classmate, David Lawton covers the pressure of going back to work in his latest blog. I’d recommend it.
Strangely, though, job hunting is not the most pressing issue on my mind. What seems to be more pressing for me now is not securing my future but that we’re well over half way through the course. In just one week the last full set of exams will be completed. After that it’s just our international trip, the company project and the final summer term in June. Where has the time gone? It just seems like yesterday that we started out on the journey.
In a state of panic I’m trying to extract as much value as possible from the remainder of the course. Stay tuned to see how I get on. My future career can wait!!
- Donal O’Sullivan
“Confidence building. Talking though ideas. Generating new solutions to problems. More Positive attitude.”
(MBA Student 2010)
One of my tasks as PPD coordinator is to set up a Coaching Programme for our students. We do this every year towards the end of a student’s programme as in many ways it is seen as a culmination of their PPD work up to this point. We offer every single MBA student here at Smurfit a personalised coaching programme. Our Coaches are some of the best Business Leadership Coaches around, some of whom have come through our very own Executive Education Coaching Diploma Programme.
We have positioned this Coaching series towards the end of a student’s MBA so that students can tie up the final threads or address the final challenges currently facing them prior to exiting their MBA. It also allows them to focus more clearly on their outputs from the MBA and ensure they have maximised all the opportunities available to them here at Smurfit. It often helps them to step back and look at things from a higher level.
One of my challenges is to ensure that students understand what coaching is. To do this, we visit the many MBA streams individually and make a short presentation to each class. We need to be very careful about this because our key message is that at the heart of good coaching is self-direction. Coaching is not mentoring and this is the true value of coaching. You are shown how to arrive at solutions yourself without being told or given the answer by someone else – a very valuable skill for any future leader.
Looking back at the Smurfit MBA Coaching Programme’s evaluation from last year, (we evaluate everything!):
- 94% of respondents recommended Coaching on the MBA to future Smurfit MBA students
- 90% of the Coachees found it useful and again the same 90% found it enhanced their PPD programme overall.
- 88% said they would consider undertaking Coaching again in the future post MBA as it was such a positive experience
Some qualitative feedback:
“I think the biggest thing I got from the process was the feeling of being supported at that level by a Coach. I knew that I could bring an issue to the table and work through it to find some way forward as opposed to endlessly searching in a thousand different places for an answer.”
“understanding my professional expectations after the MBA. better understanding of how the MBA can be applied. general career planning. understanding my leadership style.”
In the coming weeks, we hope to get impressions from a Coach and a Coachee to get the inside story!
- Michael McDonnell, MBA Programme Manager
In our second term on the MBA, we had a Leadership class. This class concentrates on what makes a good leader. We learned about the different aspects of leadership and also thought about what would happen if some of those elements were missing, i.e. what would that do for the leader’s influence over people?
It was a very discursive class, and everyone had a point of view based on previous experience with bosses or with managing and leading people. Hearing all of the different points of view was a learning experience in itself.
One day, however, we arrived in and our lecturer, Ian Walsh, had set up about 25 sheets of A4 paper on the ground in the shape of a cross. He then asked us to volunteer for an experiment. Half the class could take part and the other half could remain sitting and take notes.
Not one to pass up the opportunity to escape note taking, I made my way towards the centre of the room. We were told to stand on a piece of paper, creating a cross out of four lines of six people, all facing the centre (empty) square.
The objective was to switch places with the opposing team, but only by following certain rules. These rules stated that one could only move past a person whom they are facing, and then only if there is a free square behind that other person. They are similar to the rules involved in the marble game of solitaire, but without removing “taken” pieces from the board.
Ian then told us that we had only 15 minutes to get the job done and we were then left to our own devices. The first thing that happened was that people started trying stuff out, as a 24-person group. This, rather quickly, descended into chaos because nothing that was tried was working. Splinter groups formed and began trying to solve the problem.
Off to one side, I decided to have a go at solving the problem, or at least working out an algorithm that I thought would work. I worked one out and then decided to run it past Donal, one of the other engineers in the class. He said that he’d come up with the same idea, so I was very sure of the solution after that. I managed to get my own team to line back up, along with the opposing team. I then proceeded to run the solution.
As it started to work, the din began to settle down and people got back into their positions when they realised what was going on. As the solution unfolded, the engineering/problem solving side of me began to feel elated. After I had swapped my team with the opposing team, I got to work on the two remaining teams. There were calls to stand on the desk, so I did, getting a better overview of the situation.
hile it felt very weird at first, standing on a desk giving people instructions, it started to feel a lot more natural when I realised that my classmates were trusting me to act in their interests. Organising the two groups felt great from a problem-solving perspective as well as a leadership one.
When I had finished, Ian asked me to do it again, but this time without saying any words. It was very surreal, but I managed to do it all again by pointing and gesturing at my classmates. It really boosted my own confidence to be leading people and bringing them with me towards an end goal.
The exercise really drove home the camaraderie and team-oriented nature of our class. There were no squabbling egos or attempts to wrest power. It was a clear situation of “working for the good of the team” when a trusted colleague has shown the way.
Unfortunately, we took 17 minutes to complete the task, which goes to show why some wiggle room should always be built into the critical path of any project.
- Jamie O’Connell
In January 2011, one of the Full-Time MBA students participated in the 55km long Art O’Neill Challenge in aid of Barretstown. Here’s his story of a trek that, although it was never going to be easy, proved to indeed quite a challenge…
At midnight on 7th January 2011, approximately 500 ‘adventurers’ set off from Dublin Castle on an arduous 55km trek to the Valley of Glenmalure in the Wicklow Mountains. This trek is called the Art O’Neill Challenge and follows the route taken by Art & Henry O’Neill and Aodh Ruadh Ó Domhnaill on their escape from Dublin Castle on 6th January 1592.
As we waited for the off under a soft Dublin sky, I took the time to relax with my fellow adventurers, don my compulsory Santa hat (a requirement for the sponsorship of a certain clasmate!) and to have a look around the square and try to comprehend why we were all gathered here. But the answer was beyond me. I then went to complete compulsory safety and equipment check, which required me to bring one or two items more than the escapees had with them 400 years ago. However, just as it was back then, the Castle gates were kindly left open for us.
Leaving the Upper Courtyard at the stroke of midnight, we set-off down Patrick’s Street in the direction of Harold’s Cross. Upon reaching Harold’s Cross, one of my fellow adventurers started to regale me with stories, one being the story of the ‘Old Bull and the Young Bull’, and then proceeded to leave me behind! Keeping up was not a concern of mine, finishing was! Walking at a brisk rate, in my trainers, I managed to cover the 15km from the Castle to the Stone Cross in 2 hours.
Turning off the paved road at the Stone Cross, we proceeded to trek the final 10km to Kippure House along a snow covered track. The trainers, which were so beneficial on the paved road, were quickly becoming the greatest obstacle to my progression. I had become ‘the human manifestation of an Irish car before Christmas.’ However, with great encouragement and assistance from my fellow adventurers, I succeeded in catching the adventurer who left me behind and in reaching Kippure House by 4am. Oh how rewarding it was to remind him of his stories! Read the rest of this entry »