Authors Reflection on the learning experiences

This text is a reflection of the learning experiences of the writer, particularly in regards to to the training connection with the MBA full time programme. The principal objective is to reflect on the learning experiences and identify how the Knowledge levels, skills, attitudes, perceptions and values were altered through the process. Within an essence it can be an attempt to capture the training experience directly into a formal structure, which at times has been informal, at sub-conscious levels and haphazard.

The reflections of the learning experiences will lead to a analysis of the individual's current status in all respects relating managerial effectiveness, which will in-turn, facilitate the identification and prioritisation of personal development needs. The outcome is a concise, specific, and measurable and time bound personal development plan.

Initially the idea and importance of reflection in personal development is reviewed, which is followed by the reflections on several key learning experiences. The next phase of the report is a crucial evaluation of the several leadership styles, that may include an exploration of the historical origins and evolution of different leadership styles. The third phase can be an try to bridge the reflections on learning activities and evaluation of leadership styles, deriving an individual development intend to enhance managerial effectiveness.

2. 0 Need for reflection

A layman's definition of reflection would be to ponder in regards to a past activity or series of activities, for a good example a mother might think about how exactly she does the weekly searching for her family. As far as the academic context is concerned, the approach towards reflection is dependant on commonsense, Moon (2006 p37) provides a commonsense view on reflection as "Reflection is a form of mental processing-like a form of thinking-that we use to fulfil a purpose or to achieve some anticipated outcome or we might be simply be reflective and then an outcome can be unexpected".

However reflection has a deeper meaning in an educational context than the mundane activity that the commonsense based view suggests. In the training and academic context reflection has an overriding purpose and directed towards a particular outcome. Moon (2006 P37) extends the commonsense based view as "Reflection/reflective learning or reflective writing in the academic context is also more likely to involve a conscious and explained purpose for the reflection, with an outcome specified in conditions of learning action or clarification". In cases like this the results is the non-public development plan.

The great things about reflections are clear; it offers a structure for the haphazard procedure for learning facilitates the evaluation and directions for further development. Reflections aides the uncovering and dispelling of deep lying misconceptions and helps the transfer of skills, including the reflecting on the experience to do the weekly shopping can help in maintaining stocks in small grocery or restaurants.

3. 0 MBA Learning Journey

The MBA programme offers a wider spectrum of learning experiences, from classroom sessions to enhance theoretical knowledge to real consultancy opportunities, aimed at enhancing the managerial effectiveness. The journey so far has taken me through many different learning experiences. Nonetheless it seems that the perfect starting point for the reflection process is the self, or the exploration of self awareness.

3. 1 Self Awareness-Know Thyself

In layman's definition for self awareness is knowing one's self, however Williams points out that self-awareness includes many aspects "Key regions of self-awareness include our personality traits, personal values, habits, feelings and psychological needs that drive our behaviours" (Self-awareness and personal development: Online). Self awareness is the foundation of personal development and managerial effectiveness.

I considered myself to be very self-aware. I strongly believed that we had an accurate picture of myself, being very clear on my strengths, considered myself to be an analytical, logical, emotionally mature and prided on my communication and presentation skills. I never considered myself to be creative, a part from that I always struggled to recognize my weaknesses. Really the only other weakness that propped out in my own head time and time again was the indegent time management. I really believe in equality and fairness, strongly favour meritocracy and also have non-negotiable key values.

However it was at the applied learning experiences (ALEs) of the MBA programme that we first had the chance to test my degree of self awareness through several models and practice.

3. 2 The Applied Learning Experience (ALE)

The first applied learning connection with the MBA programme happened in a location in Ware, Hertfordshire. The first activity of the programme was to fill a questionnaire made to identify the each participant's role in Belbin's Theory.

3. 2. 1 Belbin's Team Roles- the Monitor Evaluator

Meredith Belbin's team role provides a framework to analyses one's position within the team. The results of the questionnaire explained that I am a Monitor Evaluator in a team. Belbin (1981 cited in Mullins, 2007, p332) states that the monitor evaluators are "Sober strategic and discerning, sees all options, judges accurately, the allowable weaknesses are "lacks drive and ability to inspire others (Belbin, 1981 cited in Mullins, 2007, p332). Initially this evaluation appeared to fit well with my sense of self-awareness and I was eager to play my role within the teams maximising my strength and being conscious about my weaknesses.

The programme consisted of five main activities, out which in a single my team was very successful, partly success full in one and failed miserably in three activities. Each activity was accompanied by a feedback session allowing the participants to think about the successes and failures of each activity. The initial reflections appeared to validate my understanding of my role as a monitor evaluator, I played my strengths well and didn't mitigate my weakness, or that's how it seemed. I tried to study from the mistakes in one activity and play an improved role within the next. However the next activity demanded an totally different mindset and I couldn't help feeling frustrated, cheated and even stupid sometimes.

In the ultimate feedback session I used to be shocked to be perceived by the other associates as "Creative, comes out devoid of of the box solutions, not clear in communication and at times unenthusiastic". This was somewhat a bitter pill to swallow, particularly because I prided in my communication skills. However I delivered the ultimate presentation with respect to we. Using Obama style rapid question and answer techniques (fired up? ready to go?) were able to energize the audience and end with emphasising the value of self awareness.

Though the feedback seemed misconceived at that point, reflection helped me to deduce the pieces of the puzzle. I'm good in articulating a spot to a willing and listening audience, however fails and loose enthusiasm when challenged or when it appears the others are bored with my opinion. For a good example one of the tasks demand a high sense of mathematical temperament usually found among physics students and software code writers, I had a plan which included the delegation of specific tasks to particular members whom I thought had the required skills, however I failed to persuade others and the duty ended up in failure.

The reflections on ALEs helped me to gain a far more accurate understanding of myself, and propelled persuading skills and time management to the top of my development need.

3. 3 MBTI Model

Myers -Briggs Type indicator (MBTI) is another model which I used through the learning journey of MBA. It is produced by Katherine Briggs and Isabel Myers in 1920's, it's used as "a self -report instrument that guides individuals in knowing about themselves" (Handout, Nov 2009). My MBTI position was ENFP which indicates that the person is extrovert, daring and development oriented, a position common amongst entrepreneurs. The corresponding role in Belbin's nine team roles is the Plant. This is a shocking revelation for me since I thought I used to be the entire opposite of a business owner. Yet, in retrospect it made me think deeper on creativity, and altered my take on my very own creativity.

3. 4 Creativity- Myths Dispelled

During the training journey of the MBA, I had developed the chance to analyse my very own creativeness through several questionnaire designed to assess a person's imagination and compare the logical and creative areas of one's thinking. Though I always seemed to be more of a logical person I scored above my very own expectations on creativity. This led me to reflect deeply on my own level of creativity, and helped me to discover and dispel a misconception that was deeply rooted in me. I mainly considered creativity, as artistic creativity, this narrow view created a mental block and I perceived myself as less creative. However Mullins (2007 P192) states that "creativity is the application of imaginative thought which results in innovative solutions to many problems". The video on IDEO Company, an American firm specialising in new product development altered my take on creativity; after some consideration the company appears to have a reasonably logical and structured approach towards creativity, though at first it may not be very apparent.

These activities broaden my horizons on creative imagination and thereby my development needs.

3. 5 Learning Styles- Reflector

As far as the training styles are concerned I'm a reflector, however reflecting on learning styles lead to a clearer knowledge of experimental learning. I developed IT skills mainly through experimental learning. The reflection and understanding helped me to overcome many mental barriers like concern with failure, which prevents us from experimenting with things and learning from the experience.

3. 6 MBA- Alumni Evenings

I view these events as an opportunity for networking. After every such event I think about the event to gather the learning or other benefits gained. However the list rarely goes beyond inspiration with almost no progress in the networking aspect, which has the actual to facilitate mentoring. Thus enhancing networking skills is a personal development priority.

3. 7 Life and Career Planning

Naylor (2004 cited in Mullins, 2007, P720) explains life and career planning as "people should develop and express personal goals with strategies for integrating goals with those of the organisation". The life span and career planning is referred to as a technique, in the wider context of organizational development.

I always wanted to be considered a knowledge worker or an expert, my ideal career was to be a market researcher specialising in qualitative research. However the due to circumstances I embarked on a job in completely different sector. At first the prospects seemed promising, but my career and life priorities were in conflict with my role, thus what once seemed as a profession gradually evolved to a job. Thus integrating personal goals with the career didn't appear to be an option.

Hence the route to career life planning or career life congruence seems to be to improve skills and knowledge through education and re-align the career with life priorities. The MBA learning journey has broadened my horizons and the personal development activities are in the end fond of the career-life priorities.

4. 0 Leadership

The list of definitions of leadership is very long, however Mullins (2007 P363) captures the essence of leadership "is a relationship by which one person influence the behaviour of other people". The emphasis on relationship and influence is important. This means that the leadership is inseparably from the group or team concerned.

The leadership may occur at different contexts for example in organizational, national or global contexts. It may occur at different levels not necessarily at the top of a hierarchy thus Belbin (1997, cited in Mullins, 2007, P363) states "there is certainly clear implication that leadership is not area of the job but a quality that can be brought to employment" Useem's(2001 ed, Pickford. J, Cited in Mullins, 2007, P363) view of leadership is "Leadership is at its best when the vision is strategic, the voice persuasive and the results tangible" Useem (2001 ed, Pickford. J, Cited in Mullins, 2007, P363) sees leadership as mainly a matter of making a notable difference.

As Military strategy influenced the early thoughts on business strategy, historically leadership was influenced by the command and control structure of the military. However many leadership styles have evolved since, the following table captures the key characteristics of the three main styles of leadership.

Leadership Style

Characteristics

Autocratic Style

Power and the decision making authority lies with the manager, thus every part of the relationships with subordinates centres round the manger

Democratic Style

A shared leadership style, Manager is area of the group or team; subordinates can influence your choice making.

Laissez-Faire(Genuine)

Style

Subordinates have complete freedom; The manager intervenes only on a necessary basis. This shouldn't be mistaken with poor leadership, where managers simply don't care

The appropriateness of each leadership style will depend on many factors. The leadership style adopted may rely upon the situation. For instance in a crisis situation an experienced leader with autocratic style may be more suitable over a democratic design of leadership, in order to facilitate better and quicker decision making. On the other hand democratic style is more prevalent among project teams and professionals, while autocratic leadership is more prevalent where there's a wide gap between the knowledge, skills and experience of superior and subordinates. The leadership style adopted is highly influenced by the type of the business and the organizational culture, for instance militaries round the world adopts autocratic leadership style due to special nature of such institutions.

4. 1 Leadership and Management

Modern take on leadership is moved away from command and control and emphasis more on inspiring others. It has resulted in the blurring of lines of division between leadership and management. Mullins supports this view (2007, p 363).

If leadership is more about inspiring others, it demands a specific group of skills, which enhances the capability to inspire and can be an essential ingredient in a development plan targeted at increasing managerial effectiveness.

My experiences in the MBA learning journey, particularly with regards to group work and previous work encounters make me believe that sound communication and listening skills are of paramount importance. Listening skills are essential to link the disconnected pieces of information or opinions brought in by different members of an team.

5. 0 Personal Development Plan

The reflections on the MBA learning journey and exploration on different leadership styles was an effort to identify my very own development needs to enhance managerial effectiveness thereby influence the development of others.

As area of the human enterprise module of the MBA, I had the possibility to perform a skills audit on myself. The skills audit itself a tool for identifying development needs, by grading one's perceived level in variety of skills.

The skills audit, reflections on MBA Learning journey and the overview of leadership styles have presented me with a wide array of development areas. Nonetheless it is practically focus on a large range of skills, without compromising on the quality and depth. Thus I've used Brian Mclvor's Priority Grid to prioritise my development needs.

Brian Mclvor's Priority Grid provides a framework to compare the importance of ten different skills (or development needs) against one another. The skills are compared on the grid against each other and a lot more important one is circled, finally the abilities are ranked based on the score (or variety of circles) (Please refer Appendix 1 for the part A and B of the format)

When comparing the skills I have considered the relevance of each skill to my career targets and the opportunities for improvement through the MBA Programme. The next table depicts my immediate development needs and just how forward.

Skill/ Development area

Current State

Desired State

Way Forward

Communication

Good when unchallenged

More persuasive,

Good under all conditions

Practise before presentations

Paraphrasing, in verbal communication

Learning from good communicators

Analytical

Takes time to understand the core issue

To be in a position to understand important elements of an issue quickly

Doing more case studies, Focused thinking

Listening

Lose interest, sometimes hears only what wants to be heard

Effective listening, hearing what folks really say,

Try to prevent from being distracted

Giving undivided attention

Providing feedback, and refraining from interrupting

Planning

Unrealistic planning, poor implementation

Realistic plans, better implementation

Revisiting plans to drop unimportant elements, to make it more realistic

Moving on to implementation at appropriate time

Frequent evaluation

Time management

Just on Time, struggle with deadlines, source of stress

Procrastinate things

More effective time management

Minimise procrastination

Activity log to identify situations of ineffective time management

Detailed to do lists

Understanding known reasons for postponing,

Personal targets, and rewarding for achievement

Networking

Rarely goes beyond the original superficial stage

Networking as a effective personal learning tool

Participating in more networking events

Being more prepared, background study

Learning to create rapport quicker,

The learning journey of MBA taught me that personal development isn't an isolated process, its journey that depends on feedback from other. Feedbacks lead to reflections that assist to continuously improve the journey. Though formal feedback from all angles (like in a 360 degree feedback process) isn't practical in this case, I'd make efforts to receive informal feedbacks, at minimum on the progress.

6. 0 Conclusion

I have critically reflected on my MBA learning Journey, focusing more on weaknesses that needs improvements. Being one's own harshest critic is infinitely beneficial than being the largest fan. The results of the procedure is the development plan targeted at improving management effectiveness. The success of the plan will depend on the implementation and feedback from others.

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