MBA’s and Balance

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Society views MBA’s as a privileged bunch. They are seen as the Masters of the Universe navigating the world’s markets at a top investment bank, or as strategy gurus from McKinsey or BCG. They are recognized as smart, wealthy and innovative, the best equipped to conduct the engine of capitalism on which the western world’s economic progress is supposedly hinged.

At times, we’ve seen this belief challenged, whether through the dot com crisis or the recent recession, where people begin to consider that MBA’s and their penchant for quick wins at the expense of business fundamentals and ethics contributed to the downfall of the economy. Indeed some leaders have been catapulted to their perches because of these three letters, creating a far too inflated sense of entitlement among MBA holders. I suspect the entitlement granted to MBA’s will not change much in the future, as long as there continues to be an unspoken agreement between business schools looking to place graduates at top companies, students willing to work ungodly hours for the company or title, and corporations eager to acquire overzealous talent that has been already pre-qualified by stringent b-school admissions metrics.

The system, for the most part, works. I am a product of a top business school and a firsthand observer of this unspoken agreement, so I’m not here to judge it. I succeeded in learning what I wanted to, though I also found there are things an MBA program simply cannot teach you if you don’t know yourself well enough to decide where you fit in and where you don’t. I also am aware that the unemployment rate last year for MBA’s was a whopping 16.5%, which means that for every 6 MBA graduates living the so-called “dream” and having some way of paying back their loans, one graduate is wondering whether this degree was worth it. In addition, for those that are employed, many are disengaged, having been used to being the “success” story growing up, and now swimming in an ocean of other successful people, wondering whether this unending competition is all life has to offer in return for their work.

So you have an MBA, this so-called “golden ticket”– but are you happy? If you’re not, maybe it’s time to explore how much the MBA has added to your own sense of entitlement for a career that doesn’t necessarily fit your own values. Maybe it’s because with an MBA, all we think about is what kind of amazing salary and bonus we can get because of the degree, but never really accepted that career success is also based on knowing what you will not sacrifice for happiness in life; accepting that experience does take years to cultivate and a 2 year degree is not a proxy for that; and reminding yourself that just because a firm pays a higher salary, doesn’t mean the people it employs are better or smarter than you. Unfortunately it is not in the interest of an MBA program nor its students to know these things while in the program, so the revelation seems to arrive some years out, after many have also realized they’ve ignored their families, health and spirituality in order to maintain their candidacy for even higher income and title rewards.

Clearly I am generalizing here and I don’t mean to disparage anybody involved in the pursuit and completion of an MBA, nor the schools that offer them. If I was, the first person I would be criticizing is myself.

I only think it is important to share the observations I’ve made in the 6 years since I graduated, in case they resonate with even one person who feels like there has to be more to life than the race for acceptance, starting from college to their first job, to graduate school, to their next job, etc. In my coaching work, I know there are people who do, and I believe there is a benefit to them personally in recognizing this pattern, as well as a larger benefit to the corporate world and academia for revisiting the goals they promote through the incentives they offer in the boardroom and in the classroom.

There are a myriad of outcomes for people after they do their MBA and build a career; some are exactly where they want to be, but some are quite disillusioned and stuck, where something about how they’ve come to this place in their career just doesn’t feel right. Wherever you are, remember that living a fulfilled life is serious business, and MakeBalance is here to help. While our stories are all different, I think the MBA experience does have something to do with where you are and where you still want to be. There is so much more to you, whether you have a great job or are in between them. Through coaching, we can help you balance it all, so you don’t miss the chance to create ultimate fulfillment that goes beyond a title or paycheck. Let us know how we can help!

Business, Behavior and The Curious Paradox

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Throughout my life, I’ve been a keen observer of behavior, not just that of others, but of my own, wondering why we do the things we do and how those actions both reflect and evoke emotions, moods or perspectives.

When I entered the world of business over a decade ago, I never lost this fascination around human behavior and the passive act of observing soon led to an active desire to solve broader organizational challenges through a better understanding of it. Along the way, from academic and practical experience, I was able to help companies succeed in the various functions that fuel them, such as finance, operations, strategy and marketing.

But to be honest, if those disciplines were all that success entailed, the corporate world would be an easy place. It’s not, for one very simple reason – the complexity of people and behavior.

As an executive coach and organizational consultant, I love the challenge of working in this playground – the one involving the people issues behind a business. But in order to be successful at it, I discovered that my own life is very much intertwined with that of the issues on which I consult these companies. My ability to effectively encourage and coach change is directly correlated with my ability to responsibly execute personal change. The authenticity with which my clients lead their lives toward greater success can only be called forth when I am being authentic as well.

This blog intends to build a community of leaders who share ideas on the interdependence of business and behavior, organizational change and personal growth and explore the immense value that can be created by authentically following one’s values. I greatly admire the humanist psychologist Carl Rogers, who said, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” This blog also encourages acceptance – of ourselves and of others, in order to enable the voiceless to be heard, to step into their innate leadership abilities, and lead more fulfilling lives. I hope you’ll openly share your feedback on my ideas and contribute your own as we try to build this community together.

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