I work with a number of great MBA students & graduates at business school here in the UK. The location of students stretch from the USA, China, India, Asia, UK & Africa and all had fascinating histories, career paths and business stories to tell. However, I hope to share some of the reflections from the work with the students, and perhaps highlight what are common themes that MBA students and budding leaders may find useful to focus upon.

Firstly, it has to stated the MBA students were a great bunch all willing to learn about themselves and areas to improve their effectiveness in the workplace and businesses. Though one or two common themes tended to emerge – the lack of assertiveness & interpersonal skills with co-workers and team members. The lack of assertiveness tended to be managing upwards i.e. managing relationships with line managers and leadership teams. There were issues of managing conflict, presenting information and ideas effectively with passion and commitment. At times it seemed difficult to speak up at important meetings where their points of view would have added to the creative process of the group. Needless to say, a sense of guilt and disappointment in themselves followed on from the meeting at not being able or not willing to express themselves effectively.

In my work with the students, we explored the possible barriers surrounding the lack of assertiveness and the sense of anxiety created. To help the process we listed the consequences of speaking up at the meeting; these consequences may be real or more likely only imagined. Our minds find it difficult to separate the actual and the imagined consequences to our actions so tend to result in the raft of emotional, behavioural & physical reactions to events. To combat the lack of assertiveness and the subsequent anxieties, we put a proactive and progressive thought process in place to help rationalise the negative thinking patterns and balance the thinking. The balanced thinking helps put the event (speaking up in meetings) into perspective rather than a problem, toward a development opportunity. Needless to add, there is a lot more to the process of managing negative & restrictive thinking patterns that is possible here. Though I hope these stories support those MBA students and career change agents with the knowledge that these fears can be managed and will help with your goals.

Lastly, the students highlighted development opportunities with their interpersonal skill set. Of course assertiveness is a facet of interpersonal skills, though what is interesting was the understanding of motivating team members, empowering, engaging and the abilities to lead people effectively. To the students credit once more they were able to focus upon their leadership style, incorporate the theory and models of motivation (of which there are many) to help them find a model that suited their personality to get results working with people.

So in principle the great group of MBA students have everything needed to succeed and make a significant difference to their respective industries and businesses. Managing relationships is hard work, though with support, confidence and the right psychological skill set, the business acumen will be enhanced with the ability to manage, engage and develop people effectively.


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