Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Magnetic Power of Personal Vision

Ray Luther
By Ray Luther, Executive Director, Kelley MBA Program  
“There are no choices without personal freedom, Buckeroo. It's not us who are dead inside. These things you find so weak and contemptible in us - these are just the hazards of being free.” -David Foster Wallace
Your past tells a story that supports who you are today. This story consists of what you’ve done and how you’ve lived…your life choices… good and bad. This story contains the shared narratives of who you spent the most time with. Who is important…there’s a lot of truth in the old adage that you are a mash-up of your five closest relationships. You influence and are influenced on a continuous spectrum. In truth, you practice selective memory as you recall this unique story known as your past – we all do. You choose to remember, omit, and edit as it suits your needs, but it’s still what makes you who you are today.

In looking forward you also have the opportunity to choose. You can choose to allow circumstance and the agenda of others dictate your future. Or, you can choose to live on purpose. You can choose what you will do, how you will do it and who you will spend time with – guided by a vision of who you want to become. Not necessarily in an overly planned way, because frankly that’s boring, but in a way that pulls you forward through magnetic inspiration. This is the power of personal vision.

In the Kelley MBA Leadership Academy, we believe in the power of personal vision to help guide us. Magnetic inspiration that pulls us forward. We choose to practice personal leadership by living on purpose. The ability to lead ourselves to an inspired future that we choose, not one that’s chosen for us, is what motivates us. It doesn’t really matter if all of our vision comes true. What matters is that we’re inspired to move forward consistent with our purpose.

Every year we practice a multi-session personal visioning exercise with our current Leadership Academy Students. This is part of our Lead for Life Series. We work with a tool called the Personal Compass from The Grove. It’s wonderful because it incorporates the best of visual thinking with solid analysis to help uncover personal insight. While not the only personal visioning tool out there, it’s one that we highly recommend. Eric Johnson and I never cease to be amazed by the insights this process can generate. We’ve seen a number of students gain a new level of confidence in their self-leadership moving forward. We’ve also seen a number of students realize they needed a course correction to live on purpose with their vision. All of this is OK; it’s part of the ongoing learning process as we actively lead ourselves. Explore your past, envision your future, make bold choices to move forward… and then act.

We are very proud of our Lead for Life Series in the Kelley MBA Leadership Academy. This optional program is all about improving the personal side of leadership, one that’s often neglected in leadership development work. Personal visioning is just the first step. We also learn to lead through the practice of compassion, mindfulness, and fitness. We look forward to continuing the conversation around personal leadership. We value insight from others if you choose to share. We also hope that you choose to live on purpose. That the what, how and who choices you make moving forward are ones that align with your personal values. Most of all we hope that your personal vision provides the magnetic inspiration to move you forward in a way that makes you proud to be you.

“The Magnetic Power of Personal Vision” was originally published on Linkedin Pulse on September 24, 2015.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Tokens of Advice for MBA Dads

Jared Goldsmith

by Jared Goldsmith, MBA’16

Just one year ago I watched my little house and the comfortable world I had known in the rear-view mirror of a moving truck. Pursuing an MBA is a big decisions to make – you have to put your life on hold, sell belongings, quit a job, and usually move to a new city.

When I decided that pursuing an MBA was a necessary step in my career path I had two other responsibilities… with one more on the way. I now have the most supportive loving wife, and two little girls that think that I can do no wrong. Knowing that I have the responsibility of taking care of them makes career decisions more tangible and gives me a sense of responsibility that is indescribable.

When looking for advice on MBA’s for fathers there were no resources that I could find. There is a blog or forum for almost every other life situation that I can think of, but of course, nothing for the situation I was in. Hopefully the lessons I have learned over the past year can answer questions or give courage to at least one father who is contemplating the pursuit of an MBA.

Being an MBA father is a small club, but one that has given me some exceptional friends. We stick together and help each other through the tough times. A lot of times it is hard to give everything you have to school and recruiting and also give your family the attention that they deserve. Here are a few words of advice that will help make your MBA path a successful one.

#1 Don’t Put Off Networking

Networking is easy to put off because for some it is the most painful thing that you could ever imagine. Most official events are during the night when you would rather be at home with your family. My advice is to “Buck up and do it”. The end goal of business school is landing a job. To land your dream job you are going to have to network with the right people in the right positions. Also make sure to network with your fellow MBA’s. The full-time MBA is a unique experience to be around such bright individuals that can teach you more than you could ever learn about a myriad of companies and industries. Your classmates are going to be your network for the rest of your life. Make sure you take time to let them know what you bring to the table and also to learn about them and what makes them unique. These will be the people that you call on throughout your life to fill positions in your organization, and spoiler alert… they will be calling you.

#2 Plan and Schedule

You have 168 hours per week… it’s not going to be enough time to do everything that you need, and want to do. One of the most valuable skills that you can learn in B-school is time management. You need to look at your weeks and plan what you are going to accomplish and what things are going to be pushed to the back-burner, or not get done. It has worked for me to live by my calendar. If I want to meet my family for lunch, it’s on my calendar. Stick to it, but don’t be afraid to modify things, be adaptable… if an opportunity to talk to someone on the phone comes up (refer to point #1), find some time to squeeze it in.

#3 Communicate

Make sure that the people that live under your roof are aware of your schedule. This is something that has been challenging for me because there are always things coming up. My girls love to have me home on Saturday mornings, and that has become my unwind time to be with them. If I ever have anything come up that I have to be doing something on Saturday I make sure that they know so it isn’t a surprise. I also try and inform my wife through calendar invites if things come up as soon as I know of them.

#4 Don’t Forget Your Family

This will be a unique time in your life that you will be able to look back and cherish. It is great to not have the regular stresses of work life. You will probably be in a new part of the country. Take your people to explore new things and plan weekend getaways. You will be very busy, but also have more breaks than you are used to having at work. Take advantage of your downtime and see something new. On Saturdays it has been so fun to visit the Children’s Museum and other local attractions with my family and be able to be with my girls as they grow up.

Overall the decision of coming to B-school was the most substantial career decision I have ever made, but I have no doubt that it was the best option for me. My life is certainly different than it was before coming to school. Being out of my comfort zone has helped me grow so much closer to my wife and girls. When we first moved we started out in survival mode. Getting from week to week was sometimes hard, but now we are a team and we rely on each other. I have learned that you can do hard things when you put your mind to it. The hard is what makes life great.

Jared Goldsmith is working towards an MBA, specializing in finance and business analytics. Prior to coming to Kelley, he worked in business banking at JP Morgan Chase and he interned this past summer at PPG Industries in Corporate Treasury. He will complete his Kelley MBA in 2016.

“Tokens of Advice for MBA Dads” was originally published on Linkedin Pulse on September 15, 2015.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Servant Networking

Ray Luther
By Ray Luther, Executive Director, Kelley MBA Program 

We must give to receive - advice fundamental to human nature.  Giving is good for us mentally, physically and spiritually.  Giving also provides a foundation so our relationships can flourish.  We all give in our own unique way, and most of us find happiness in the practice of giving.  Our investment in others is an investment in us.

But when the subject of networking comes up, all bets are off.  Suddenly words like fake, inauthentic and sales-y come top of mind.  This is interesting because networking, at its core, is about give and take within a relationship.  As this relationship develops mutual benefit might be found.  This relationship exchange is a wonderful way to educate yourself on any number of subjects while delivering value for others at the same time.  

Servant leadership is a philosophy which might be well applied to networking. The core principle is serve first, then lead.  Leadership emerges from the act of serving others, and is discovered to be another way to serve.  And the best test of servant leadership - do others grow as a result of your service to them?  An amazingly simple yet powerful statement of leadership impact.

What if we applied the principles of servant leadership to networking - servant networking? If we served first, then networked.  What if in the act of giving of ourselves we discovered a way to serve someone is make a network connection for them?  Or provide suggestions to help them grow which they might have missed? Could this mental reframe of networking allow us to recognize it for all of the benefits we bring to others, and ourselves, vs. the constant negative perception that so many have?  

Personally I think it can.  I believe if we consider all the good we can deliver through the practice of servant networking more of us would actively engage. How can I be so confident? Because I see plenty of examples around me.  Here are just a few of the great ones in my network:

Monique Valcour - As I watch Monique’s engagement on LinkedIn I see professional curation as a result of her personal expertise.  Through this active curation she builds her network’s competency in a very specific way.  Monique takes the time to share relevant content that I learn something from every day. Monique actively gives through this process and serves others as a result.

Dustin McKissen - An avid storyteller and blogger, Dustin shares his experiences to motivate and inspire others.  Dustin leans into any relationship to give more than he can ever expect to get right up front.  He did this with me and others in my network.  He’s built an amazing community of followers on LinkedIn in a very short amount of time through service networking.  

Eric Johnson - A close friend that I’ve worked with for years, I see Eric servant network every day.  His passion is helping young leaders succeed and he gives his time and energy accordingly.  Eric wants to know what drives those he works with on an individual level, based on their purpose and values.  As he learns this he finds unique ways to give which can only be accomplished from a foundation of trust.  

Glenn Leibowitz -  I’ve only known Glenn a short time, via LinkedIn, but I’m blown away by how much he gives in a relationship right up front.  His passion for writing has spilled over into a very well produced podcast - Write with Impact - educating so many with a similar interest.  The personal time, money and investment to make this happen has an immediate service-based impact.  

My point is there are many great examples of servant networking all around us. The trick is noticing these acts of giving and appreciating them in the moment. The practice of giving is also the practice of networking - through service to others.  The more you build comfort with this concept the better network you can build - one based on a foundation you can feel good about.

“Servant Networking” was originally published on Linkedin Pulse on September 16, 2015.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Your Unique Creativity

Ray Luther
By Ray Luther, Executive Director, Kelley MBA Program 

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try” – Dr. Seuss

I work with a number of young leaders who aren’t creative - or at least that’s what they tell me.  They equate creativity with a high level of artistic talent, or design capability, rather than the ability to transcend a norm and move towards a new way of thinking.  So, I gently challenge their claim and suggest they find a way to notice their own form of creativity.  This often leads to a good coaching conversation.  I push them because I believe we all are creative, and it’s simply a matter of noticing how.  In fact, when we lack the ability to notice our unique form of creativity, how we naturally express it, we hold ourselves back from personal growth and renewal.

My own creativity lies in finding new ways to think about strategic challenges, especially as I work with leaders responsible for organizational choices.  That’s why I’m drawn to the fields of executive coaching and leadership development. That’s also why I love working with young MBA students, or in fact anyone at any level that works on strategic issues.  I’ve practiced this form of creativity my entire life, obviously in different contexts through various life stages, and I’ve been rewarded for it.  I consider my form of creativity a key personal strength. And while I find myself creative in this way, it clearly doesn't carry over to artistic talent.  In fact, here’s a picture similar to my best artwork....capturing the flex was particularly hard:

Are there any downsides to practicing creativity when you believe you’re not creative?  Honestly I don’t think so. Maybe you become more vulnerable to potential criticism, maybe it leads you down an unintended path or two. But for me practicing creativity is about thinking differently and attempting to solve problems in new ways - which are good things. I’ve certainly had my share of bad decisions coming from my own creative process, but each of those decisions have also enabled me to learn more - and become better at my creative practice.

What are some ways you can notice your own moments of creativity?  First, make sure you do indeed recognize that everyone, including you, has moments of creativity.  Maybe your creativity doesn't show up at the start of an activity as a big idea, but rather in the middle of a process when efficiency is lost.  Or, maybe your creativity shows up as you collaborate on a team and find a unique way to get along leading to a better outcome.  Again, it's about noticing those moments when you help produce something outside of the norm or a slightly new way of thinking.  Even small moments can have a big impact.

In noticing your own unique form of creativity, I’d suggest allowing yourself to be more vs. do more.  Creativity isn’t driven by sheer will alone.  Many of our most creative moments happen when we least expect it.  Our brains are working to make connections that we don’t see on the surface.  Moments of inspiration, times of challenge, purposeful pauses and moments of rest can help us be creative as the best versions of ourselves.  Maybe this is the soul of creativity? Whatever it is it’s important that we take the time to notice when a creative moment happens for us.  Sheer will rarely leads to better creativity, but noticing when we’re creative might just help us practice even better on a daily basis.

I love seeing the creative output of artists and designers and I'm amazed by how their minds work.  When I've had the opportunity to work with artistic creatives I've always walked away with a new way to look at the world.  True genius in many cases. But, if we look carefully, we all have the power to notice our own creative expressions a bit more.  Be, create, notice and learn.

“Your Unique Creativity” was originally published on Linkedin Pulse on September 6, 2015.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Become the Person You Were Meant to Be

Eric Johnson
by Eric Johnson, Executive Director of Kelley School's Graduate Career Services

George Eliot* has been credited with saying, "It's never too late to become the person you were always meant to be."

This is good news to people like me, who aspire one day to be Matthew McConaughey.

I reflect on this quote every morning, without fail. It’s part of my daily practice of morning meditation and mental preparation. I feel inspired afterwards because it keeps my value of continuous improvement alive and it reminds me that today presents a new opportunity to evolve towards the best possible version of myself.

I have also found that Eliot’s quote helps me give hope to others. In my job as a career and leadership coach I assist young leaders in their pursuit of their best selves, particularly as it relates to navigating personal transition. Remembering that our past does not forever define who we are is an extremely important step in that process.

As I coach myself and young leaders on this journey towards our best selves we work through three big questions. The first is, “who are you today?” Being honest with ourselves about who we are today heightens our self-awareness and allows for a deep understanding of what we don’t want change, where we hope to evolve, and why. In exploring who we are today, we focus on five main areas:

  • Personality: While there are a number of personality assessments available the one we use at the Kelley School of Business is the Keirsey Temperament Sorter. Personality does not define us, but it does help us understand our natural default settings with regards to how we like to give and receive information and how we prefer to relate to others.
  • Skills: Knowing our strengths and weaknesses, and how these make us both unique and relevant, helps us begin to recognize the situations in which we provide the most impact to others. Gallup has a good tool for this, Strengthsfinder, though often we’ll just spend an hour using contextual examples to develop a personal SWOT.
  • Interests: If we’re not interested in what we’re doing then we’ll lack the motivation to do it well. Questions like, “What do other people find interesting about you?” and “What’s one of the first things you bring up about yourselves when meeting people for the first time?” are useful conversation starters as we dig into this area.
  • Values: There may be no more important part of the discussion than when we talk about values. Values are our guardrails – I believe they provide us with our greatest motivation, and greatest amount of personal insight. I also notice that when we are at our happiest our values are being honored, and when we are angry, sad, or frustrated our values are being compromised. My favorite tool to start this conversation is the Via Character Strengths free assessment.
  • Demeanor: Who you are is, at least in small part, shaped by how you present yourself. I love the questions, “How would your closest friends describe your general outlook on life?” and “What 3-5 words do you want people to say about you when you leave a room?”

Synthesizing these five areas into a personal inventory sheet provides an enormous amount of insight. We can see who we are, where we’re happy, what we hope to change, and why. This sets us up for our second big question, “Who do I want to be?” I share Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha’s view that we were not born with a single purpose for our life, but that our purpose constantly evolves over time. The key is to have a great short term (i.e. 1-3 years, not 10) personal vision that makes you happy, and helps you see where you can provide unique value to your community (as you define it). This vision should also inspire you to take action.