Kyle Palantzas is a business professional pursuing an MBA at Dalhousie University in Halifax. He's a Carleton University journalism graduate, a former sports writer and competitive athlete (hockey and rugby), and a recipient of a community leadership award in his hometown of Pickering, Ont. He is an avid sports fan and fitness enthusiast, fascinated by media, advertising, consumer behaviour, branding, sales and first impressions. This is the second entry in his blog about his MBA experience.
The first day of my MBA I was taught a very simple concept – be really good at one thing.
With just one semester left until I walk across the stage at convocation, I am convinced there is no better advice.
Take Facebook for example.
Yes, co-founder Mark Zuckerberg's claim to fame is creating the world's largest social media platform. But do you think he's exceptional at balancing the firm's books, selling advertising space, maintaining infrastructure, analyzing data or providing legal counsel?
I doubt it. He's a computer programmer and he is really, really good at what he does. If I ever need a programmer, and have all the resources in the world available to me, Zuck' would be my guy.
He's changed the way the world communicates (more than a billion people use Facebook every month) and is considered a programming prodigy. But would I trust him with my taxes? Nope, that's what accountants are for. Heck, with my MBA training I would feel more comfortable doing my taxes myself.
The whole notion of learning from people better than you is the foundation of higher education. That's the main reason why I changed games and jumped into an MBA program. Every day I celebrate diversity, encourage perspective and absorb everything and anything that betters me.
However, in order to take advantage of these self-betterment opportunities, some people need to check their egos at the door.
Arthur Buerk, the lifetime secretary for the Harvard Business School class of 1963, expresses life lessons from his fellow MBA alumni on his website and companion novel If I Knew Then. Timeless themes that shine throughout the novel are teamwork and the willingness to learn from others.
"One of the biggest mistakes is to think you know it all – or even have to know it all. Learning to surround yourself with people who know more than you do and learning to accept their advice is a big step," Harvard MBA graduate Scott Spangler says in the novel.
It's common for new MBAers to have a "take over the world" mentality. I know I did. But I've realized that you get much farther working collaboratively. Oh, and Facebook was created by five co-founders – not one.
But with so many personalities, motives, work habits and diverse backgrounds, sometimes it's hard to find the right people to work with. For me, it has all come down to two things – trust and value.
Throughout my studies I have found a very strong correlation between group success and trust. To have confidence in the abilities of others is both a learning opportunity and an effective tool. I find trust comes quicker with people who are adaptable, open-minded, transparent and able to set proper expectations.
By combining and fusing people's strongest attributes and harnessing them as a single force maximizes the value you can deliver. And when push comes to shove, it all boils down to value. That's why MBA programs across the country have such a strong emphasis on teamwork.
Just look at case competitions.
Successful teams (typically four students on each squad) that compete on a national or international stage have imbedded synergies and specific roles for team members to increase their probability of winning.
From my experience, there is always a go-to numbers person who is a master with spreadsheets and financial details. The PowerPoint lead takes control of designing the presentation and is both visually creative and able to communicate ideas through slides. The opener and closer is a salesperson by nature, who has the gift of persuasion and communicates the group's ideas in a captivating way. Lastly, the case manager oversees the big picture of the case and is able to dissect the details and steer the team accordingly.
I naturally fall into the case manager role. I see the world through a marketing and management lens. My brain instinctively cycles back to the four Ps (price, product, promotion and placement), as I use my resources to delegate responsibility, play on people's strengths and formulate a strategy for success.
I was elected to take on this role on the biggest stage, as I captained Dalhousie's delegation at this year's MBA Games – a competition last weekend in Toronto that had MBA schools from across the country compete in academics, athletics and spirit events. Oh, how I enjoy case competitions (I'll have more to say on how we did in my next blog).
Case competitions are designed to simulate real-world pressures and are a test of endurance, a challenge of wits and a showcase of talent. And obviously they are done in teams.
You find individuals who complement your strengths and carve out a more layered value proposition. Challenge each other, build momentum and take over the world together.