Executive MBAs are helpful when you know what to expect from them. And more importantly what not to expect! In other words, understanding its limitations is as important as taking a decision to invest your time and money in it. But before we go into this topic, I would like to provide a framework to help EMBA graduates understand the often-forgotten truth that it is not what EMBA does to you that is of consequence. More importantly, it is what you do with this EMBA and in the course of pursuing EMBA that will determine your success and satisfaction. This is fairly simple, yet complex because understanding this calls for a detailed stock-taking of what your capabilities currently are that you believe need shoring up. You carry a certain set of capabilities and credentials built over time when you sign up for the course. And you go through the motions of completing the course and expect some sort of magic to happen leading to a placement as middle or senior level manager. The framework below will tell you why such a dream will remain a dream if some fundamental changes do not happen and new capabilities do not get built up.
Framework for understanding what can go wrong:
Look at the following framework which will help you understand why some people make it to realizing their dreams after pursuing EMBA and many do not. This is no rocket science. It is all about examining critically whether we have significantly changed our capabilities for the better.
Currently, we are where we are because our credentials (knowledge, experience, education, attitude and the like) have resulted in certain kind of and level of capabilities. And when we join an EMBA program, we expect “orbit change” in our career. The orbit change in our career can happen only when the newly acquired credential called EMBA has led to perceivably and demonstrably significant change in our capabilities. No reason why any organization should hire you or me for higher responsibilities based purely on our newly acquired EMBA degree/diploma if we have not grown different set of success criteria and capabilities. Aspiration and academic qualifications should be bolstered by new attitudes, knowledge, skills and capabilities. This holds good also for organizations. Defining new strategies that are markedly different from the old path pursued for a long time will not deliver the desired future for the company if organizations do not focus on the intermediate and important step of reflecting and working on newer capabilities required for executing on the new strategies. Likewise for individuals and their careers!
Taking Stock of Capabilities:
EMBA students have had tremendous success in those organizations where there has been an organizational sponsorship and often an associated mentorship. Mentors here help these aspirants with taking stock of where the current capabilities are and where it has to go both in terms of depth and breadth. For example, a techie who wants to change the course of his or her career into a management role either in sales or solutioning / consulting or into finance or HR, should be clear as to what competencies and capabilities are required functionally to make the change (functional competencies) and what leadership competencies are needed to advance one’s career (and leadership competencies differ a great deal from organization to organization). In addition, it is also important to know what generic behavioral competencies are needed to be honed to be a manager. If you intend to grow in your existing organization, you need to understand the behavioral and leadership competencies of your current organization whether articulated and captured into a framework or just practiced without formalization.
More often than not, certain fundamental shifts are required to be successful as a manager. These shifts often involve learning to manage power, ability to navigate around the political undercurrents of an organization, ability to negotiate and trade off resources, adjusting and managing well in a matrix organizational structure, communicating concisely and clearly, dealing with conflicts that are not necessarily unhealthy, and high degree of bias for action and execution. These do take a long time to build, but are eminently acquirable as competencies. EMBA is no substitute for these survival skills and capabilities, but ideally should alert you and facilities you to build many of these.
Get a mentor, it is never too late:
You will leverage your investment in EMBA a great deal more if you look for a mentor within your current organization or outside than if you did not have one. And for whatever reason, you went through your course without a mentor, try and find one after the course since it is never too late. The key thing is to have a strong sounding board to coach, counsel and mentor you on honing your capabilities on an on-going basis. Good EMBA programs do make an effort to help you build these capabilities, but remember you are unique and your aspirations are unique too. A vanilla management course can only help you travel some distance. You need to find a mentor who can help you get into the orbit by specially discussing your unique strengths and weaknesses. Let me end this column with a quote: You can walk on water, but before that you need to get off the boat! Comfort zones need to give place to new capabilities. We will read about some of the capabilities going forward.