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Archive for the ‘The Lisbon MBA’ Category

I am back after an intense few weeks on the Lisbon MBA. Financial Accounting, Financial Investments, Business Strategy and Organizational Behaviour provided for an interesting and very, very busy term that just ended.

I am now enjoying some free time before next term starts, and had the opportunity to watch a movie that I strongly recommend to anyone interested in the topic of leadership: Invictus is not only another great movie by Clint Eastwood, but also a fantastic lesson in how leadership can make a difference. Don’t miss it.

Invictus

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There are lessons to be learned in the most unexpected occasions. Last week Banco Espírito Santo came on campus for a corporate presentation integrated in the Banking industry week organized by the Lisbon MBA Career Management Center. They had a great presentation, led by Pedro Raposo, their Human Resources Director, one of those guys that really makes you want to be on his team. Enthusiastic, poised, candid and to-the-point. He reminded us that in these rough times people should be having a fresh look at their priorities. Then he told us about the “formula of hapiness”:

Simply put, your actual hapiness equals your real hapiness divided by your expected happiness. Your actual happiness will tend to infinite as your expectations of happiness tend to zero. The bigger your expectations… well, you do the math.

This concept is extremely useful from a leadership perspective, as it can be applied to the happiness of the people you lead (and this does not exclusively mean the people who report to you in a job function). The more you understand and appropriately manage their expectations, the bigger your power to maximize their happiness. As a leader, your own happiness is a function of their happiness, so you will be increasing the value of your numerator as well – we may call it the compound happiness effect. Something you can’t get from a bank account.

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Anyone who has been through an MBA program will tell you how challenging it is in terms of time and stress management. It is well known that top business schools design their programs to be demanding enough so that they adequately prepare the class to deal with stressful situations and heavy workload in their future careers.

A former Lisbon MBA student, with whom I spoke before enrolling, compared her early experience in the program to being a recruit in the special forces. After these initial 4 weeks I am in a much better position to understand the comparison. Of course I’ve had my share of 100-hour weeks during my life as an IT consultant, and it helps having recently been responsible for a team of 15 CRM support analysts scattered around 4 continents, with back-to-back conference calls with demanding customers in Sydney, Kobe, London, Madrid, Mexico City and São Paulo, an ever-full email inbox and enough air miles to redeem for space travel. Nevertheless, I am now feeling the stress of preparing case studies, homework, playing a real-time on-line inventory management simulation, having group discussions, preparing a marketing plan (all happening simultaneously), and lack of time to read class materials and books required for the end-of-term exams in 2 weeks time. Sleep deprivation is weighting down on me, and on top of it I came forward as a candidate for the students’ committee, which will require some additional effort in case I am elected.

I am fortunate to have worked in enough projects requiring organizational change management to become familiar with John Fisher’s process of transition, or the change curve for short. This is a model partially based on Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief, and often used to prepare individuals to cope with change processes in their function or organization, with the objective of minimizing resistance to change and its associated negative effects.
The Process of Transition

Understanding the model and being able to recognize the stage at which one is during the change process can be extremely encouraging, as going through the “valley of despair” requires significant emotional support in order to avoid the most common escape mechanisms. I stared at this picture for quite a while this week, and keep reminding myself how great that uphill ride is going to feel.

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Our latest Friday Forum at the Lisbon MBA was dedicated to the power of word. Communication skills have always been an area of much interest for me, as I spent most of my career in highly multicultural environments where communication can be a real challenge. We had four sessions, where we role-played difficult scenarios and recorded our performance on video for analysis and peer feedback – here is an example where I had to give bad news to someone (and tried to do my best at keeping a straight face as Daniel fired off an unexpected comeback):

After watching all the videos, it was truly remarkable how much progress we made. For me, the difference was in small details as the position of my hands or the way I projected my voice when addressing larger audiences. Let’s face it, we will probably never reach the level of communication nirvana attained by some, but this was a hell of a lesson! On our last session we delivered a fast-paced team presentation: we chose the popular «death by powerpoint», as it fitted quite nicely with the theme of the session, and pulled it off almost as we had done this our whole lives. 

I’m a big fan of stand-up comedy. I am fascinated by how stand-up comedians connect with their audience and masterfully manage that complex relationship. During the days following our Friday Forum I caught myself wondering how funny it would be if someone came up with a stand-up act playing a consultant, delivering their jokes in Powerpoint with punch lines zooming into the screen in clever transitions. For a day or two I played with the idea, even imagined a couple of funny lines – then I saw this, and my career as a stand-up comedian came to an abrupt end. Oh well, there’s always humour in tech management I guess…

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Unless one knows how to lead one’s self, it would be presumptuous for anyone to be able to lead others effectively. – Jagdish Parikh

When enrolling in my MBA, I wanted much more than to develop my finance, strategy and entrepreneurship skills. I was looking for a holistic approach at developing a skill set for better leadership. The Friday Forum series is just that – Fridays at the Lisbon MBA are dedicated to expanding the right side of the brain, through sessions with coaching experts focusing on creativity, leadership, personal preparedness and integration of skills.

Our first Friday Forum was led by Adriano Freire, an expert on behavioural development, strategy and innovation, and was an extremely interesting exercise in self-discovery. The session was based on EGOS, a model developed by Adriano and that will be the subject of his forthcoming book “Egos Map”. EGOS is comparable to Myers-Briggs, in that both attempt to establish a personality profile through a standard questionnaire. In EGOS, the resulting “natural” (primary) and “adapted” (functional) profiles are mapped on a 4-quadrant matrix, with the resulting detailed report being a very useful instrument to develop a deeper knowledge about oneself, understanding our relationships with others, relate one’s personality traits with career options, and be better prepared to deal with personal change management. We shared profiles among the class, which was a tremendous accelerator of interpersonal relationships – it’s difficult to believe that we all know each other for less than a month!

Other great Friday Forum sessions are scheduled: from a day putting our creativity to work at BBDO, to an ethnomusicological (take that, spell checker!) exploration of Fado. Stay tuned for more tales from the right side

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One of the reasons why I decided last year to enroll in an MBA was all the bad press MBAs received during the recent economic recession. Contradicting as it may sound, the declining popularity of the now infamous three-letter suffix had a great influence on my decision to go for it. I thought that this would be the right time to learn about the factors – both technical and behavioural – that sparked the crisis, and to dissect the related leadership issues before a new wave of economic advance washes away the learnings that must be collected.

Many say – and I agree – that the world is going through an unprecedented crisis of leadership. We lack the positive, ground-breaking, truly inspiring leaders that will soon be confined to history books and management manuals (and the odd science-fiction franchise). There is hope, however, despite the current state of affairs. I saw it in myself, and after only a fortnight in class I can also recognize it in my colleagues and faculty members – the will to grow a class of leaders ready to build the tools and learn the ways of a new leadership, to work the paradigm shift that will take us there. This blog documents my journey, and my first post could not be other than this – a manifesto for better leadership.

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