Saturday, January 19, 2008

Some early thoughts on my new role

The road from Programme Leader to Director of Studies doesn't look far on the map, but is up a deceptively steep path. I feel as though I haven't sat down in the last month or so, which is odd since I am sitting down most of the day. Nevertheless, it is a brilliant position to be in and I am thankful to be involved at such an interesting level with one of the best business schools in the world.

What's great about it? For one thing, every day is different. I can be dealing with an appeal or special request from a programme member one moment, then interviewing a potential candidate the next. Chairing the pre-board of examiners meeting one day (this will be a new experience for me next week!) and running an experiential learning exercise another.

The downside? For one thing, you're only as good as your last decision, so the pressure's always there to maintain a high standard, and sometimes you have to do that with very limited resources and in situations often with very fuzzy interpretations. The organisation will never stop absorbing your time and energy, so no doubt I will have to learn how to be selfish and carve out time for my own - my PhD, my home life, as well as things which you need to do now although they won't bear fruit for a long while to come.

We ask our MBAs to be adult learners, to be open to reflecting on their progress critically and questioning a lot of taken-for-granteds. I hope we practice what we preach. I know it will pay off to do so.

What I have learnt so far is that when you reach a point where the buck actually starts stopping, you have to adopt the right sorts of behaviours to handle it, or occasionally delay handling it. The skills and experience that got you there help but they are very unlikely to be enough. I will have to ask my colleagues in a few months time, and perhaps some of the MBA programme members, whether I'm getting it about right.

With so much to occupy the week days, the weekends have been like oases of calm; desert islands of respite and recharge. I am even more fortunate that my desert island is Oxford, a small city with a thousand different ways to root you to your spot again. This weekend we have also decided to open a gift bottle of 1996 Disznoko 5 puttonyos Tokayi dessert wine, a fabulous drink and something really worth savouring in tiny sips.

A thought that has occurred to me lately is the importance of emotion in learning. I don't think you can have a good MBA if there is no investment, involvement or celebration of emotion. I also still believe the slower you can take your studies, the better...