17 Aug, 2009 | by

writer
(Photo:  Adam Lyon)

About a year ago, I was strongly considering the pursuit of an executive MBA to compliment my existing advanced degree in technology management.  I had been on the fence about the decision for quite some time.  Part me of felt as though my education would be that much more enhanced with the addition of those three little letters to bolster my resume.  Another part of me just felt as though I had unfinished business from several years prior.  You see, my graduate degree was comprised of about 1/3 of the standard MBA curriculum so I theoretically could have declared a dual degree approach.  But I didn’t.  At the time it just didn’t make much sense.  I had just landed a new job as a consultant and I knew my time would be very limited moving forward.   

As I revisited the possibility of heading back to school, an executive MBA was the only thing that might be able to comport with my hectic work schedule.  I decided to attempt to obtain firm sponsorship so my tuition fees would covered.  Unfortunately I didn’t make the cut as only 1 out of a little over 2o applicants received sponsorship.  This was at the height of our economic downward spiral so the outcome really didn’t surprise me at the time.  Trying to obtain firm sponsorship was even more challenging then the actual executive MBA application itself.  Not only did I need to provide a completed application that I’d be providing to the university I was applying to, but there were also series of other internal applications and recommendations I needed to provide.  It was an extremely painful process.

As you could imagine, the process left me with a number of completed applications; including my precious essays which would sadly never see the light of day.  Rather then cast them into the abyss of my My Documents folder, I felt that it might be helpful to some if I shared a sample essay response to one of the most commonly asked MBA admission essay questions.  The hope is that my personal style to the essay may help spark new ideas to help enhance your own response, and ultimately increase your chances of getting into the school of your dreams.  To be clear, this is not an approval to plagiarize the essay.  Writing an MBA essay for admissions is a profoundly personal activity.  It should reflect who you are, and not what you think the admission’s committee would like to hear.   

The following is one of the most commonly asked MBA admission essay questions:  Why are you an ideal candidate for the Executive MBA Program and how will your professional and personal accomplishments benefit your EMBA colleagues?  continue reading »

30 Apr, 2009 | by

CB047389

As a manager, do you conduct meaningful performance appraisals with your employees every 6 or 12 months? Do you collaborate with your employees to develop and set meaningful goals? Do your employees only receive a performance appraisal or are they a part of the process?

Many managers and employees view the performance appraisal process as an annual or semi-annual HR process in which the manager delivers feedback, often without the employee knowing what a “satisfactory” level of performance is. In reality, the performance appraisal process should be a year round collaboration in which the manager and employee are constantly communicating, adjusting based on the business, and sharing tools that enable the employee to grow and be successful. There are 5 keys to successful year round coaching and feedback.

1. Year round coaching and feedback must be just that – ongoing. Managers and employees must make an effort to ensure that they are openly communicating throughout the year about the employees work performance and areas of both strength and development. By doing so, managers and employees are always on the same page with regards to work performance, giving the employee the opportunity to learn, grow, and be successful. It also ensures that there will be no surprises during the annual or semi-annual appraisal process. continue reading »

12 Feb, 2009 | by

I am searching for a word, maybe it’s a phrase, but it eludes me.  I don’t say that often, I take pride in my ability to communicate complex ideas creatively and succinctly.  Yet, I can’t find that perfect word to describe a state of being many of us in Process Management live in every day.  How do you describe being the best but also continuously improving, at the same time?

I recently had the opportunity to speak with a leader in Store Operations at a growing retail company.  He had some interesting observations on some things I take for granted.  His point was simple.  In an organization with a young talent pool and longevity measured in months, not years, labeling something as “best” sets a standard to achieve, not exceed.  After all, once you’re the best, don’t you put your feet up and relax?  This got me thinking, is the concept of “best practice” outdated?  Can you implement a “continuous improvement”?

Let’s take a step back and define these terms.  Keep in mind, language is important.  In many organizations, like the one mentioned above, words are taken at face value.    What is a best practice?  It is a method that has been identified as the best approach yielding the best results.  What about continuous improvement?  Again, just like the name implies, it is an approach, or more an organizational culture, to continuously improve. 

continue reading »

5 Feb, 2009 | by

I think most would agree that effective verbal communication is a fundamental skill needed in order to succeed in both business and life. Whether it’s in the board room or a family outing, how you articulate your thoughts ultimately defines who you are in the eyes of others. These instant perceptions could very well dictate your opportunities for career advancement or even opportunities to build personal friendships.

Let me present you with a hypothetical scenario. Frank (nice innocuous name) has just been tasked to research a potential solution to a lingering business issue within his organization. He did the appropriate legwork and put together a solid business case to justify a project idea that will once and for all address that pesky problem. He prepares a sharp Power Point presentation to make his pitch enticing. Afterwards he’s greeted with a lukewarm response from the audience but is still confident that the supporting data is too compelling for his idea to be shot down. Several weeks go by. Frank’s then told by a colleague, in passing, that the project idea was canned. How could that be, he thinks to himself? The solution was sublime. Oh well, I guess there was just no budget for it. I have no control over that. Life goes on. Several months go by when Frank learns that the project finally gets the green light. He feels a deep sense of vindication that the organization finally came to its senses.

 

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19 Jan, 2009 | by

I wrote this 70 days before Inauguration Day

Will the downturn persuade British business people to learn from Barack Obama and the Germans?

German white collar workers who are not sent on at least 2 weeks training a year fear that they must be on the redundancy short list and will soon face the chop. (Their company is not investing in them – so they must be on their way out!). Their British counterparts (with some exceptions) consider that an offer of training implies a personal or professional deficiency and gingerly start checking the post for their P45. 

Is this the British fondness for the effortless amateur – the smooth-but-not-stirred James Bond? HR and PR departments are patronised with “I have 20 years experience giving speeches old boy – no need for training!” More like 1 years experience – repeated 20 times. 

Practice and preparation are the absolute life-blood of a good performance – even those in the Public Speaking Premier League like Winston Churchill and William Hague.

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26 Nov, 2008 | by

Do you talk to your reader in your business letters?  Are you using language that is too formal or stuffy?  Worse yet, are you writing in a style that is too informal?

Formal Language
I talk to so many people that are confused about what is business appropriate in their written correspondence.  Many are convinced that the company expects them to use the old formal language.

Let’s look at an example:
Pursuant to your inquiry of March 17, 2008, I am enclosing some literature regarding our XYZ products.  Our organization is dedicated to providing the utmost quality and cost effectiveness.  We are confident our products will meet and exceed your standards of excellence.

This is too formal and most likely will bore your reader.  You should ask yourself if this is how you would speak to the customer in a face-to-face conversation. continue reading »