Peer Mentor Network

Thursday, September 28, 2006

B-School Lessons: Episode 1

I took a long break from blogging but I'm going to get back on the horse here. I recently started my MBA at Santa Clara University and I wanted to share some key learning points as I go through this three year part-time program.

The two classes I'm taking this quarter are Management Competencies & Team Effectiveness (Organizational Behavior, essentially), and Accounting for Business Decisions. I anticipate that the management class will have a great deal of applicability to this blog. In this post, I'll discuss time management and the importance of visibility.

Time Management: I'm guessing that school will consume between 12 and 20 hours per week. That's for two courses which meet Tuesday and Thursday evenings for the next three years of my life. Nope, we don't get summers off. Certain aspects of my life will undoubtedly suffer. My social life and exercise routine will have to take the back seat. It seems that the best strategy is to try to accomplish the entire week's worth of homework and reading over the weekend to relieve some of the Monday and Wednesday night stress. Heaven help my classmates who have families to take care of on top of class and full-time jobs.

Visibility: Think about this next time you move to a new desk. Visibility in an organization has a great impact on perceptions. Imagine you're a manager and it is time to give performance reviews for all your employees. Let's say one of your employees sits close to your office and you frequently walk by his/her desk to go to the water cooler, the bathroom, and the copy machine. When you walk by you see this person working and you hear this person on the phone conducting business every day. Let's say another one of your employees sits in a quiet corner. You don't hear this person on the phone and don't see this person working as frequently as the employee who sits in a more visible location. Now let's say that your company has a "forced distribution" (you can't give all your employees a high performance rating). Who would you give the higher rating to?

"But hops, I sit in a quiet corner and I know I work harder than others in my group. Won't my manager know that?" Don't make an assumption that could cost you come review time. Be proactive and make yourself visible to your manager. Rather than sending an email, go talk to him/her face-to-face. In marketing classes, they tell you that top of mind awareness is critical in competitive markets.

Allow me to illustrate. Quickly think of a soda that tastes it?

I'd bet a buck that Coca Cola or Pepsi came to mind first. Did you think of RC Cola? Probably not. Is it possible that RC Cola is a better product? Absolutely, but you didn't think of it because you're more frequently exposed to other brands. Similarly, when your manager is more frequently exposed to an employee who works no harder than you, top of mind awareness isn't in your favor.