Friday, January 29, 2016

Everything I Needed to Get through My MBA, I Learned from Yoga

Jordan Leopold
By Jordan Leopold, MBA'16

I started mentoring a group of first year students through the leadership academy as a part of my growth and development as I continue on my MBA journey. Last week in one of my coaching meetings, I caught myself saying, “Take inventory of yourself and what you need and let go of what you don’t”.  I realized that I was reciting the words of my yoga instructor from the particularly steamy class I had taken the night before. Later on when reflecting back, I came to the realization that so much of what got me through the first year of my MBA, I learned on a 71”x 24” rubber mat.

I have been practicing yoga now for about three years and I am still terrible at it.  As a former college athlete, I do not take kindly to being bad at things. Despite my lack of headstands, splits or generally any cool trick, I have gained so much from developing a consistent practice and have carried those lessons off my mat and into the halls of the Kelley School of Business.

Here are a few of the things I’ve learned:

Lesson 1 - Leave Your Ego at the Door

Did I mention I’m really bad at yoga?  When learning more advanced poses, there is a high risk of toppling over in a grand fashion time after time.  But one of those times when you flail yourself up into one of the seemingly impossible positions, you won’t fall and all of those other times when you crumpled into a sweaty heap will be forgotten.  Kelley is very much the same experience.  I failed a lot in my first year.  I bombed exams.  I bombed interviews. I applied for many jobs I didn’t get. However, I also took first prize in a national case competition and scored internship offers from my dream companies.  At Kelley, we are encouraged to take risks and not all of those risks work out. But the way this community celebrates our successes and lifts us up from our disappointments makes it that much easier to jump again.

Why Rocky Never Gets Old

Nicolette Michele Johnson
by Nicolette Michele Johnson, Associate Director of Kelley School's Graduate Career Services

I was introduced to Ryan Coogler, the twenty-something creator and director of Creed, the seventh film in the Rocky series, while watching The Daily Show with Trevor Noah last weekend (I often record the show and watch a week’s worth in one sitting.)

Coogler told Noah that he was focusing on football in college when his college writing instructor called his dorm room, asking him to stop by her office, which was nearby. Coogler said that he thought that he had done something wrong or would be told something bad.

However, when he arrived and to his surprise, his instructor complimented his writing ability and encouraged him to continue to writing.

With that seemingly small piece of encouragement, he continued to write and later attended USC’s School of Cinematic Arts before directing his first feature film Fruitvale Station, a Sundance Film Festival winner, and the subsequent Creed film for which Sylvester Stallone just won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor.

I’m always amazed at how simple words of encouragement can do so much to help people -- move forward or bask in greatness right then and there. A simple positive comment can spark a special something in someone for only a few minutes or perhaps a lifetime, if the person really lets it sink in.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Early-Career Communication Part 1: Expressing Dissent

Kendell Brown
By  Kendell Brown, Associate Director of Graduate Career Services

How can you express dissent without sounding like a troublemaker? The key is to respectfully and intelligently highlight your thoughts and opinions without letting your emotions get in the way. Here are several strategies you can utilize. Each strategy works best in a particular scenario. So think through the situation you find yourself in and choose the option that is best.

Option 1 – Ask questions.

You can pose questions for the team to consider. Questions like – “Did anyone consider how the new pricing system would impact our smaller customers?” or “What about thinking through the likelihood that Legal will agree to those revised contract terms?” This way you are not seen as the one trying to kill an idea, instead you are viewed as someone who is thinking two-steps ahead of everyone else. When dissent is packaged this way, you are actually seen as being organizationally savvy enough to foresee potential roadblocks. Your comments may be construed as a “head’s up” versus negativity.

Option 2 – Highlight contra-indicative information.

Stating key facts is an alternative for highlighting a disagreement without fully owning it. A statement such as “Decreasing the timeline by 3 weeks will cause us to be 25% over budget.” A well-documented fact cannot be argued. In this situation, you are not seen as rabble rousing, instead you’ll be perceived as knowledgeable and informed. This is best for those times when you’re new to the team or you work in a highly consensus-building organization.