Saturday, September 23, 2006

Plunging in

Over the past week, I attended the official kickoff for the full-time MBA program at the University of Washington. My classmates and I began to get familiar with the academic structure of the program: textbooks and syllabi, faculty expectations, and so on. But the program goes beyond classroom learning, and we learned about the multitude of opportunities for career preparation, club participation, and development of presentation and communication skills.

Peter and Susan GlaserVisiting organizational development specialists Peter and Susan Glaser worked with us on communication in groups. These sessions focused on criticism -- how to receive it and give it -- and how to achieve consensus. I met with my study team members, who I'll be spending a lot of time with over the quarter. We discussed an issue that we originally disagreed about until we came to a point of consensus. As we talked, another group watched us and gave feedback.

It was a very helpful exercise for me personally. On the one hand, I learned that I'm great at being friendly and encouraging with the other group members. On the other hand, they told me that I talk too fast and I need to slow down for the benefit of our international team members. These sorts of communication skills are tremendously valuable virtually everywhere in life, and I wish I would have learned them (particularly the tips on working with criticism) a long time ago!

Richard Tait, founder of CraniumWe also listened to a presentation by Richard Tait, founder of Cranium. He explored examples of how to succeed in business, gleaned from his own experiences with Cranium. Now, I'm as wary of motivational speeches as the next person who came of age in the sarcasm-drenched 90's. But Richard was magnificent. He's a hilarious speaker with a crystal-clear passion for the aim of his business: to encourage people to truly enjoy each other's company and to see each other's unique strengths. His primary point was that your business must have a mission: a clear sense of meaning that employees and customers can feel good about participating in.

I believe that his approach will greatly pay off in the long term. Customers and investors are paying increasing attention to what some refer to as the triple bottom line: people, planet, profit. And tomorrow's workforce -- today's teens -- will be motivated much more by meaning and values in their work than previous generations, according to a to a recent BusinessWeek article.

OneNoteOne message that has consistently come through is that we'll be busy...very busy. Second-year students showed us pages from their calendars from last October, and precious little white space could be seen. They explained how much of their time in the first quarter (the busiest of the program) was filled with class, team meetings, career coaching meetings, and informational interviews.

To prepare for this coming deluge, I've been planning my own time management strategy. Some of my classmates are using traditional paper day planners; others are keeping everything in Outlook. I'm going to be going with a combination of OneNote (my class schedule and a notes template in OneNote, pictured above) for notes and to-do lists, and my trusty Treo 600 for all things calendar-related.

Alright! I've got some Boards of Canada playing and I'm going to get studying here. :)

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1 comment:

wngl said...

No white spaces for you, J!