This report reveals my personal and interpersonal learning and development journey during my Masters of Business Administration Programme at the University of Kent. It will also highlight the efficacy of the MBA programme in developing my capabilities and competencies through various methodologies which have left a lasting impression in me.
In addition to that the report will also highlight some of the inspirational academic theories, which helped me in realizing my preferred learning and leadership methods to improve my managerial and Leadership skills.
Table of Contents
Writing this report takes me back in time and reminds me of the day I left my county Sultanate of Oman and my family to start my academic career with University of Kent, Kent Business School in United Kingdom.
It also reminds me with the last advice I got from my five year old son saying:
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"Baba (this means Father in English) study well, so you can earn lots of money to buy me the new PlayStation Three once you are back with your Shahade (this means degree in English)"
I was totally unaware of what awaited me 3600 miles away in the "United Kingdom", a country I had only read about in storybooks during my elementary school or seen on the television until I arrived at the Heathrow International Airport in London. After being in flight for more than nine hours; I remember how excited I was to finally visit the Queens own country, I arrived my destination with great optimism, "nothing could go wrong", I thought to myself, but unfortunately my first experience of culture shock has disappointed me and I saw myself completely alone and unable to seek a helping hand with my 100 pound heavy baggage, with which I struggled through three different trains to reach my final destination "Canterbury" where the history about my academic career was about to be written.
Working within the banking industry of Oman for more than eleven years, enabled me in gaining fame and reputation within the community, my commitment to work allowed me to compete with my colleagues and outperform them during initial stages of my career, based on which I was promoted ahead of my contemporaries to Head the Mortgage Lending Department of BankMuscat. Howerver, deep inside me I still felt the necessity of improving my management skills. This was triggered by the fact that I was constantly coming across management jargon like Strategy, the 4P's, PESTEL , Business process re-engineering(BPR) and others about which, I had no idea and was becoming embarrassing especially when I attended management meetings. This created a desire within me about upgrading my skills and enhancing my knowledge by pursuing my educational career and attending an MBA programme, as I knew it was a prerequisite for me to get ahead in my career.
Doing my master's degree in business administration at University of Kent has not only helped me in gaining a degree, thus it has made me a different person altogether. The programme was a transformational experience, which I believe will take me to the height of professional competence and open the door for a prosperous and successful career.
This report will shed light on my academic experience within the MBA and will highlight some of the competencies gained and experiences acquired during the programme which I value the most. In addition to that it will also discuss about some of the theories which has influenced me during the programme and will incorporate some of my future plans being both personal and professional after spending a full year in the MBA programme
Chapter 1: The Kent MBA Programme:
"A journey of thousand mile must begin with a single step" Lau - Tzu
The beginning point of any task is considered to be the most difficult, however once you get a good kick start good things follow.
Orientation and Induction
I still recall the Kent MBA orientation and induction weekend where I interacted with my MBA colleagues for the first time, it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be, especially because of the cultural diversity within the group. The thought of dealing with people I have never met made me restless and I must admit that I felt extremely uncomfortable after looking at the profiles of my highly experienced colleagues I had wondered how I would be able to cope up within such a class of gifted people with intimidating backgrounds and be able to learn from them.
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
However, the very well organised orientation program ensured that everyone was given a chance to express themselves without fear or intimidation. This helped me in gathering courage and I started to interact with my colleagues in a group formally on the second day of the Orientation and Induction weekend where we were given a real life case study on PepsiCo Inc in the year 2011. We were asked to present a practical solution to the problem under the instructions of the programme director who was eager to see us engage with each other intellectually, argue and learn from each other.
To further ease the interactions among the MBA students the Business School arranged for a creativity section and the groups were asked to exchange ideas, create possible scenarios and think of possible solutions, where I hardly recall the winning group due to the fact that while carrying this activity all the participants gained something, irrespective of who won. I particularly enjoyed brainstorming with my colleagues, as it allowed me to understand the capabilities of my colleagues within the class and demonstrate my own capabilities. The most interesting activity to me was when we were given a bunch of newspapers and told to go through any lines within the newspaper to compose a song using our imaginations and feelings, this activity allowed us to mingle, laugh at each other and most importantly know each other. The fact that my group won made it even sweeter, especially because I was the composer of the song that got us the victory and the lyrics of the song were as follows:
"I have been looking for you all the day and all the night
I have been telling myself keep calm and carry on".
At this point I had already loosened up, and started to feel comfortable amongst my colleagues irrespective of whether they spoke the best English or had very impressive professional profiles, irrespective of their: gender, race, religious background and age. This gave me the confidence to face the intensive Kent MBA programme which was waiting ahead of me.
Fascinating Academic Modules
The Kent MBA modules were very intensely taught with a high amount of pressure to cope with which I could not even complain about. Starting my day at 7:00a.m. and ending it at 1:00a.m the next day, after several hours of lectures, case studies, analysis, brain storming sessions and presentations was worth the learning experience.
My first taught module within the MBA programme was Corporate Environment which was one of my favourites and the most difficult module, due to the fact that I had never attended an academic module in my life up until I entered the class. However, the module convener did his best to make the topic as easy as possible for the students to understand and digest. The module taught me to understand the internal and external environmental systems that interplay to drive businesses and economies, especially using the Porters five forces and PESTLE analysis, all of which I have used to analyse businesses around Canterbury such as : Lacos Tacos, Tesco, Patisserie and others.
I have also learnt a lot in the human resources module, where I came across managing diversity and must admit that it helped to be more accommodating to others around me, especially coming from a predominantly Islamic Nation. It made me to see others for the value they could bring irrespective of their religious belief, gender, race and sexual orientation.
The International Business module was of a particular interest to me as I began to imagine my own Real-estate company expanding to other areas within the Middle East and possibly having MOU's with companies in The United Kingdom The module helped me to appreciate the use of data in making critical strategic business decisions, especially within a multinational setting. In addition to that it also opened my eyes to the drivers and motives behind MNC's expansion.
The financial modules were interesting as they helped me in revising my accounting equations, understanding financial analysis and equipped me in making better investment decisions just by looking at an annual report of a company. The corporate finance module helped me in understanding investment risk, business risk, the credit crunch and the effect of 9:11 on the world wide economy.
This Essay is
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Managing Processes was really illustrative, as it helped me in understanding many processes that can occur within a restaurant from the time the order is placed to the time the food is served. It opened my eyes to how we can reduce or eliminate waste and allocate resources more effectively and efficiently to attain maximum output at the least possible cost.
Some subjects find their way into your heart and I must admit that my passion for marketing helped me in understand the Marketing Analysis and Planning Module with ease. This is because I had always enjoyed marketing within my professional experience and was constantly inspired by new marketing techniques used by businesses to attract their customers and I had never imagined marketing as such a vast subject before attending the module and was extremely surprised by how Multinationals design their products and services, decide on the marketing channels, evaluate alternative marketing mix and plan their distributions.
After studying the subject I realised the depth and reality behind what Peter Drucker meant by saying "Marketing makes sales superfluous" and the fact that the contribution of marketing is extremely crucial for the success of any business. The frameworks learnt in all the modules enabled me in understanding the essence of businesses and how each element internal and external are interlinked and how they must be aligned to ensure business success.
In addition to that doing all my assignments has not only helped me understanding the UK market itself, but has also developed my understanding about the consumer behaviour in UK, which I consider to be highly different then the behaviour of consumers in my country Sultanate of Oman. This was a turning point in my career and I must admit that it helped to broaden the scope of my thinking which was only limited to my own country and it forced me to start looking at business in the global context.
Chapter 2: Competencies developed during the programme
One of the main reason behind my enrolment into the MBA programme was to develop my abilities and knowledge about performing tasks successfully without depending on others.
Academic & Business Writing Skills
My first experience of writing an essay for the corporate environment module was very disappointing. Based on the fact that my sentence construction and grammar were quiet poor, however I have managed to achieve a satisfactory score despite being afraid till death before submitting the work and opted to meet the MBA director to share my fear, who in return ensured me that I will be able to overcome this situation and gave me some tips to improve my skills. His advice to me was "Ali don't worry you will be fine", which helped me in gaining confidence in myself and accepting the challenge.
The daily subscription of the financial times provided by the Kent Business School helped me with understanding and appreciating English language more, I found myself constantly reading and searching for new words in a bid to improve my grasp of the language in both written and spoken forms. In addition to that I have also started reading novels and stories such as: The Alchemist, 11 minutes and 7 habits of highly effective people and many more for the first time in my life and managed to explore the flow of sentences and ways used to maintain the readers interest.
Workforce Readiness Project 2006 study on dozens of human resources and senior business executives in the United States concluded that business executives and human resources staff rate writing skills as the most important skill that an employee must possess and emphasis on the importance of instruction in writing skills a part of the curriculum.
Before initiating the program, I lacked interest in making presentations, however I always admired my colleagues who did it with ease and finesse, often times attracting applauses and standing ovations. The Kent MBA program helped me to build my presentation skills, with its mandatory presentations at the end of each module and working in groups, which helped me in improving my body language and posture, which often times leaded to communicating the wrong message to those around me and resulted to embarrassment. It also helped me in gaining confidence in carrying presentations without being nervous and embarrassed.
I can still recall incidents during my MBA modules, where I had to step in on the last moments to cover my colleagues who were unable to deliver their presentation parts and I must admit that I proved myself being capable of delivering quality presentation without even practicing and was able to gain acclaims from my colleagues and module convenors whenever I got a chance to hit the floor.
Presentation skills can be considered as crucial for the survival of managers and leaders in today's business world, study carried by Clark (2008) to assess the impact of the entrepreneurs oral "pitch" presentation skills on twenty four business angels attending the UK investment forum, concluded that the entrepreneurs who are able to deliver favourably rated presentations were able to attract and secure funds from business angels, whereas others who struggled to deliver favourable presentations were less attractive and hardly managed to secure any fund for their business.
My communication skill were fairly good when I first arrived in the UK; however I had difficulties in communicating with some of the students within my class due to their pronunciations. However, I had to improve my listening skill and face the challenge. The natural flow of the program helped me perfecting my communication skills, since I had to work with people from diverse backgrounds to arrive to a common ground in order to success.
Gradually, I started learning to concentrate when spoken to without interrupting. I also learned to focus when spoken to, which was a skill I learned by attending many symposiums and lectures organised by the business school and had a chance to practise by attending several networking sessions and through working in groups.
Study carried on finance & HR managers by Robert Half Finance & Accounting, which was reported in the Chartered Accountant Journal in 2004. Almost 1,550 managers surveyed where asked about the kills they look for when hiring a financial starter. Surprisingly, communication skills were cited as the most important skills by almost 46% of the respondents, followed by open-mind attitude which was cited as the second most important at 35%.
Time Management Skill
According to Stephen Covey (2004) who is a well-known time management expert and the author of the influential book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective people":
"The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities."
The Kent MBA was so rigorous, that being the best meant effective management of both self and time. Prior to attending the program I lacked time management skills and faced difficulties in arranging my priorities as a banker, business man and a family man and was fortunate in accomplishing my tasks before deadlines by some way or the other. However I always believed deep inside me that I can do better and achieve more if I could prioritize my activities .
The programme has helped me to organise myself and my time to meet deadlines and made me realize the significance of time management which is considered as one of the most important quality in a manager. During my time I was able to learn how to identify potential timewasters in my life, identify priorities, make a To Do List, keep to deadlines, focus my time and energy on the most productive things in my life.
I have always been criticised by my bosses for focusing on many tasks and falling short of accomplishing some tasks, however I have made sure that I do not come across such critics in future after gaining the expertise from the MBA programme.
In addition to that it also made me realise the importance of managing my time despite being under pressure. Which is one the requirements for a successful manager in today's highly turbulent business environment.
Reflection and Thinking Skill
John Dewey (1916) as cited by Reijo Miettinen (2000) believes that reflective thinking requires a constant reorganisation, reconstruction and transformation of experiences. He stresses the fact that thinking should be very objective and that one needs to step back and evaluate events in one's life. This helps us identify possible areas for change and improvement.
I have never realised the importance behind constant thinking and reflection prior to attending the Kent MBA and always saw life as a roller coaster ride, which was meant to be lived as an when incidents took place. The program has taught me to constantly set out time to evaluate my progress in life; assess where I am and plan where I want to be, thereby helping me to stay on the right track towards achieving my goals and maintaining my focus.
In addition to that it also developed the context strength in me and made me realise the importance behind looking back to my experiences in order to build my present and future, which I have always lacked and disbelieved.
Conflict is unavoidable, universal and an important aspect of social life. It's a rational concept that involves the interaction of people with each other in the society where differences in idea, value and beliefs occur. (Picard, 2002)
It occurs when two or more people disagree on certain things and are unable to reach an agreement. Most conflicts are caused by divergent views, which I experienced several times during my MBA journey, especially because most of us were from diverse backgrounds, as such there was no way we all would have a similar view on many issues.
According to Thomas and Kilmann (1974) as cited in Picard (2002), there are five main ways individuals respond to conflict and they include:
Accommodating: This involves one party compromising for the other party, often times at their own expense.
Avoiding: This involves deliberately putting an issue to rest to avoid a confrontation and is mostly used when the atmosphere is charged and tempers are starting to flare.
Competing: This is a win-lose approach, it requires a lot of assertion in achieving goals.
Compromising: This is a lose-lose situation were neither party gets what they want.
Collaborating: This is a win-win situation were both parties agree to achieve a common goal.
Working in different teams within the programme helped me in gathering awareness about different ways in managing conflicts and developed self-awareness in me especially during times of real conflict were I usually adopt the collaborative style, as my nature does not allow for strife and disagreement. There have been several incidents during the programme which helped me in experiencing the nature of my colleagues and I remember having a fall out with my colleague from China, but eventually had to apologise just to allow peace rain and for the work to continue as we had a deadline to meet prior to submitting my first group assignment in the strategy module.
Chapter 3: Experimental Learning
As a business professional I would have never opted for something more than the real life learning experience offered to me by the MBA programme, which I really admired and enjoyed.
The Kent MBA -Ten Consulting Week
The Kent MBA-Trans Network consultancy program, was a great experience for me, as it afforded me the rare opportunity to consult for SME's in the United Kingdom, which helped me in gaining valuable knowledge and which was a good opportunity for me to compare the businesses in the United Kingdom and Oman and abstract the variation in both the business environments.
I was mesmerised when I came across entrepreneurs and was extremely surprised with their passion about their business's and the way they managed their finances and strategies. It was a real learning experience and I must admire the fact that such opportunities are quiet rare to get. This also gave me the opportunity to understand how businesses operate and how the external environment and emerging technology has affected them, with a view to seeking lasting solutions to some of the problems highlighted. It was also an opportunity to visualise what I have learned in the class room to offer practicable advices to the clients.
In addition to that it was also a good time to leverage and network on the vast knowledge and experience of my colleagues who were as passionate as me to offer their advices to our clients. However I can still recall the advice we gave to the owner of Kent Yoga Works about developing an application for apple and android users, through which she can reach majority of her audiences without limiting herself to a specific area or country by utilizing the latest technology base. After which I got an acclaim being the leader of my group from the MBA deputy director where she said "Ali why are we teaching you, in fact you should teach us".
The trip to Brussels was a particularly interesting one, as it illuminated my understanding of European politics and gave me an insight view about the structure of the European Union. It helped me to understand some of the details that occur in forming European policies which eventually influence Global affairs, including the Middle East.
It enhanced my understanding about the political philosophy of the West especially during the crisis period, with the Greece issue reaching all time height. It was good to see my classmates pose as European parliamentarians, trying to outwit each other by making life changing economic and political policies in the European health sector and practicing the knowledge gained after attending the negotiation skills workshop at the business school.
This was the highlight of the European trip, as it gave me the opportunity to visit the most beautiful city in Europe. It was one of the most pleasant experiences of my entire life; I am filled with the great memories of Paris and can recall how beautiful and different the surrounding looked when we first entered the city.
The study visit to Schlumberger gave me a better understanding of the oil and gas industry and allowed me to explore the peculiarities that exist within the industry. It exposed me to the dynamics of oil servicing; from oil drilling to well completions management. In addition to that it was a great opportunity to explore the organizational culture of Schlumberger and understand their values, which are mainly dependant of ensuring health and safety as well as wellbeing of their employees irrespective of their background.
Business Strategy Game (BSG)
I have always been reluctant in decision making and considered it as a burden due to several reasons being : criticism, lack of knowledge, confident and others, however attending The MBA programme have developed all what I lacked and gave me one the best opportunities to experience decision making through the business Strategy Game.
The game was designed in such a way to encourage participants for collective decision making in a real life situation by keeping in mind all the stake holders and running a company within a highly competitive market.
I do remember the interactions between myself and my team members where we were arguing and convincing each other for proceeding with critical decisions to increase over companies revenues and position within the market. The game has enabled us in utilizing all our MBA learning to come up with an ideal decisions for our company which we assumed being real due to the heat created by the game manger Dr. Fragkiskos Filipaios.
After several days of hard work and pressure, the winners for the game were announced during our graduation dinner party, where we came to know that our hard work has paid off and we won the game by a good margin in contrast to our closest rival company.
One of the most challenging tasks for me within the MBA programme has been the Internship, where I have to work with a local council of Kent.
Working with Ashford Borough Council (ABC) made me realize how advanced the government sector in United Kingdom is in comparison to my own country Oman where the government sector is considered to be far behind the private sector in terms of technology, human capital and strategy.
Despite having the full support from the project sponsor from day one, I struggled with coping up with the tasks assigned and was quite unclear about my direction. Things started getting worse for me due to the fact that I was unable to seek the instructions of my personal supervisor at the business school. However, after going through some hassles I managed to get hold of my supervisor and commenced working on the project and kept the flow going until I came across one of the most critical phases of my project, where I had to collect primary data by conducting surveys for the officers and carrying interview's with the Managers at ABC.
I have never been part of a survey throughout my life and have hardly participated in survey's during my professional career. However, this time I did and I can claim that the survey prepared by me has exceeded the expectations of my project sponsor. The software I used for conducting the survey is considered as one of the simplest, yet complex; based on the fact that I had to go through online training to get use to the system before launching my survey and all thanks to God and Mr Ben Lowe who is my Marketing module convenor. I have also been successful in managing my survey despite the difficulties I experienced.
In addition to the above I must also acknowledge the fact that doing my internship with ABC enabled me in utilizing some of the knowledge gained from my previous working experience about Business Process Reengineering (BPR) and the insights gathered from Managing Process module to work out some useful recommendations for ABC.
However, every journey is meant to have an end and my journey with ABC has almost come to an end; nevertheless I am sure that I will be able to utilize the knowledge gained within this journey and try implementing the techniques and experience gained into my own organisation in Oman.
Chapter 4: Personal Evaluation
Management scholar Peter Drucker (2005) argues that "success in the knowledge comes to those who know themselves, their strengths, their values and how they best perform". I have always believed in this statement and always used it to advice people around me.
The best way for me to identify myself is by carrying a personal SWOT analysis by listing down my strengths, weaknesses and evaluating the opportunities and threats surrounding me.
My ability to work under pressure
Self-driven and self- motive
People around me believe that I never say No to anything and this leads to unfavourable situations being created.
Always have concerns for people
My current employer is considered as one of the best employer in Sultanate of Oman
The banking industry in Oman is growing rapidly and three new banks are expected to commence in 2013
The senior management of BankMuscat will be heading to retirement in 3-5 years' time and this can give opportunity to new blood to take over.
The competition within BankMuscat is quiet high and two other colleagues of mine will be completing their MBA's from UK within this year.
The growth of nonconventional banking in Oman is expected to have an adverse impact on the conventional banking.
Despite being a certified accountant technician certificate I avoid getting involved in accounts and financial subjects.
Ways to improve my weaknesses and overcoming threats
Despite having a strong personality I avoid getting involved in arguments, to insure that the person next to me feels happy. However by doing so I might mislead the person and therefore I must improve this weakness and enter into arguments where I believe myself being right.
I must also explore new options of locating business opportunities within Oman's market to insure conventional banking survival and success in the coming years.
The new opportunities within the market can be very crucial for me as a banker with 11 years' experience and Kent MBA as I am sure that I will be able to climb the success ladder within a short period of time.
What I regret
After having a year full of success and achievements in terms of knowledge obtained and competencies gained, I regret the fact that despite working hard on my Managing People and Organizations module I could not score as high as I would have wanted to in the assessment and was extremely disappointed with the convenor feedback.
I felt bad after getting the lowest marking in contrast to the other modules attended and was not clear about the reasons behind such marking and dissatisfied with the written feedback. After which I decided to investigate the matter and obtain a verbal feedback to understand the reason behind such marking.
After, which I realized that the criticism of the convenor was genuine and acceptable and improving on it would be crucial to my success in the academic world. This incident in particular made me realize the fact that I must accept criticism in life and use it as a guidance for improvements.
I immediately linked my failure in achieving a good mark with my first professional annual appraisal in HSBC Bank Middle East Ltd in the year 2001. Where my line managers awarded me with a moderate score and asked me to improve certain areas to achieve excellence. After comparing both the experiences I came to a conclusion that I haven't changed in the last ten years and till date I do not accept criticism, which I regret and opt to improve in future.
The Kent MBA has illuminated this weakness and I have therefore decided to challenge myself and perform my final business project in the field of managing people and organization (HRM) and opted for the project with Ashford Borough Council, where I will be working on introducing flexible working options into the organization and will be optimistic about my marks and the feedback, with a view to improving this weakness and accepting criticism, which is part of today's dynamic world and without which I cannot be successful in my career.
Chapter 5: Influential Theories
Some of the theories within the MBA programme have been extremely influential and allowed me in realizing myself as a learner and a manger or a leader
Learning can be disrobed as the permanent change in an individual's knowledge, behaviour, skills or attitude that comes through experience. (Henderson, 2011)
However, every individual has a different way and preference for learning, some people prefer learning by watching only or watching and doing, whereas others learn through feelings and thinking. (Wilson, 2010)
There are people like the great UK Politian Sir Winston Leonard Churchill who preferred learning by writing despite not doing well at school, some others learn by taking copious notes like the great German composer and pianist Ludwig van Beethoven, who left behind a massive number of notebooks, yet he said that he never looked back at his notes when he composed. When asked why he kept them, he replied saying: "If I don't write it down immediately, I forget it right away. If I put it into a sketchbook, I never forget it and I never have to look it up again". (Drucker, 2005)
The Experiential Learning Theory
Kolb's Experiential Learning Theory (1984) can be considered as one of the widely used learning theory in management to describe the learning styles, which lies in two continuum: how we think and feel (The perception Continuum) versus how we watch and take action (The processing Continuum) and argued that we cannot carry both perception and processing at the same time and our learning style is defined by the way we react to conflict when we are in a situation which requires us to do both. (Wilson,2010)
The perception Continuum
The processing Continuum
(Source: Wilson, 2010)
Table 1: Characteristics of Table 2: Characteristics of
Perception Continuum Perception Continuum
In order to be effective a learner requires four different kind of abilities CE) Concrete Experience , which is learning by feeling, Abstract Conceptualisation (AC), which is learning by imagination or thinking, Reflective Observation (RO), which involves learning by watching others and Active experimentation (AE), which involves learning by doing. (Kolb, 1976)
The perception continuum can be used to describe people who prefer thinking before taking action and people who base their approach on feelings and intuition and the processing continuum can be used to describe people who like to watch before acting and those who prefer learning by doing. He further argues that along these continuum lies individuals preferred learning style. (Wilson, 2010).
Figure 1: Kolb's (1984) Learning Style
According to Kolb (1976) the combination of the crossing axes produce four types of individual learning styles which is : Divergent, Assimilative, Convergent and Accommodative.
Divergent: is best at (CE) and (RO), his greatest strength lies behind his imaginative ability, he excels in the ability to view concrete situations from many prospective.
Assimilative: is best at (RO) and (AC), his greatest strength lies behind his ability to create theoretical models, he excels in inductive reasoning in assimilating disparate observation into an integrated explanation.
Convergent: is best at (AC) and (AE), his greatest strength lies in the practical application of ideas, he excels in situations such as conventional intelligence test, where these is a single answer to a question. His knowledge is structured in a way that through hypothetical deductive reasoning, he can focus it on specific problem.
Accommodative: is best at (AE) and (CE), his greatest strength lies in his ability in carrying out plans and experiments by getting involved in new experiences. He tend to be a risk taking person, he excels in situations where he must adapt himself to specific immediate circumstances.
Learning Style Questionnaire
Honey and Mumford (1982) developed their Learning Style Questionnaire (LSQ) model, which is highly influenced by the Kolb's (1976) Learning cycle model and managed to spread the model by including detailed information's about learning styles and preferences. (Wilson, 2010).
Their model suggests that there are four main types of learners:
Activist: are opening minded and involve themselves in new experiences, which makes them enthusiastic about anything new. They tend to act first without considering the consequences afterword's.
Reflector: are cautions and thoughtful about their moves. They like to stand back to pounder experience after observing it from different angel. They believe in collecting data and analysing it before coming to a conclusion.
Theorist: are keen on assumptions, theories, principals and systems thinking. They adopt and integrate observations into complex yet logically sound theories. They tend to be perfectionist and believe in making things tidy to fit the rational scheme.
Pragmatist: are practical down to earth people, who believe in making practical decisions while solving a problem. They are always keen in trying out ideas, theories and systems to see if it works in practice. They positively grab new ideas and are in frequent search for opportunities to implement it. (Penger & Tekavcic, 2009).
However, they also argue that there is no single preferred style and every learning style has got its own advantages and disadvantages. There for style agree to those suggested by Kolb's model where: Active experiment ( Activist ) , reflective observation ( Reflector), abstract conceptualization ( Theorist) and concrete experience ( Pragmatist) . (Penger & Tekavcic,2009).
After understanding the different learning styles I eagerly opted for the LSQ questionnaire, in order to track my preferences for each learning style and came to the following result:
Figure2: Preferred Learning Style based on Honey & Mumford's LSQ
My strongest learning style is "Activist" and individuals with preferences to this style tend to be flexible, open minded and happy to try out new things. Which also mean that people under this group enjoy getting involved and participating with others in order to learn and help in learning.
Below is a checklist showing activities that are likely to merge with my Activist style and activities which I must avoid.
I will learn most easily from activities where:
There are new experiences, problems and opportunities from which I can learn
There is excitement/drama/crisis and things chop and change with a range of diverse activities to tackle
I have a lot of the limelight
I am allowed to generate lots of ideas
I will face difficulties in learning from activities where:
There is low level of involvement
Less involvement is required.
I am engaged with solitary work. For example: reading, writing, thinking on my own.
I am asked to repeat the same activities over and over again.
In addition to that the LSQ has also helped me in identifying my weak learning style which is: Theorist / Pragmatist and obtaining suggestions for improvements, which I regard as beneficial and useful for me in future as I am planning to go back to my country and continue with the professional studies, which I left in the year 2006.
Leadership & Management Style:
Before attending the Kent MBA programme, I was unable to distinguish myself from being a manager or a leader. Based on the fact that I hardly knew about the true difference between the two and was always using both the words interchangeably to describe my designation.
However, I sooner realized that I was neither a manager nor a leader with the true means and lacked the necessity qualities required. This forced me to develop my skills and knowledge in order to claim being a manager or a leader with pride.
Leadership and management are widely used interchangeably by many people who are still unaware about the difference between the two. According to the definition of Oxford English Dictionary (OED), leadership is about the ability to lead or influence others within a given context and Management is about supervising, controlling and coping with the prevailing circumstances. (Toor and Ofori, 2008).
One of the best arguments about the difference between a leader and a manger has been laid down by Henderson (2008) who stated that the leader is an individual who builds up a vision for the company and drives new initiatives whereas the manager is the person who continuously observes the growth towards objects in order to achieve reliability and order.
Mintzberg, (1973) recommended that if taken into practice the dissimilarity between the successful leadership and efficient management is imprecise i.e. effectual managers requires at least some of the qualities of leadership. (Henderson, 2011)
Understanding the essence of management and leadership has influenced me in identifying my leadership qualities within me to become an effective manager and achieve the ultimate purpose behind the decision of my employer in sponsoring my studies.
Black Mouton Leadership Grid
One of the most commonly used theory to describe leadership style in management literature is considered to be Black Mouton Leadership Grid theory, which groups leaders into two different categories depending upon their concern for production and concern for people.
Source: 12 Manage
Figure 3: Blake Mouton Leadership Grid
Some Leaders are task oriented and believe in setting and enforcing tight schedules, others are people oriented and believe in making their employees happy by accommodating their need and others are combination of the two. (Zeidan, 2009)
There is no single write or wrong leadership style which can be considered as best for every situation, however it's essential to an individual to understand the natural leadership tendencies in order to develop the necessary skills.
The model plots the degree of production centric against people centric on a grid showing nine degree of concerns for both the preferences, where "1" indicates a low level of preference and "9" indicates the highest and identifies five different types of leadership styles being: Impoverished, Country Club, Middle of the Road, Produce of Perish and Team. (Blake, 1964)
The lower left corner of the grid exhibit (1, 1) style, this represents minimal concern for both people and production. Whereas (1, 9) style which is in the upper left corner exhibits the minimum concerns for production and maximum concern for people. The opposite of which is (9, 1) on the lower right corner of the grid which portrays minimum concern for people and maximum concern for production. The (5, 5) on the middle exhibits moderate concern for both and the (9, 9) on the upper right hand corner exhibits maximum concern for both production and people. (Blake, 1964)
Understanding the grid helped me in identifying my current leadership style as I consider myself being (4, 7) which exhibits moderate concern for production or tasks and higher concern for people, it also assisted me in identifying areas for improvements through which I can achieve ( 9,9 ) by giving importance to the outcomes and the people involved in achieving the outcome.
Situational Leadership Theory (SLT)
The influential situational model of leadership developed by Hersey & Blanchard (1988) is a widely used theory in describing leadership behaviours, which is based on the assumption that effective leadership is mainly dependent upon the ability of a leader to accurately identify situational conditions and to respond with appropriate combination of behaviours. (Goodson, McGee and Cashman, 1989)
Source: 12 Manage
Figure 4: The Situational Leadership Model
The model describes the leadership behaviour based on the relationship between (1) the amount of guidance and direction a leader gives (2) the amount of social support a leader provides, and (3) the level of readiness that followers exhibit in carrying the assigned tasks, depending upon which the leader must determine the preferred leadership style based on the situation. According to Hersey and Blanchard (1988), readiness is defined as "the extent to which a follower has the ability and willingness to accomplish a specific task". The readiness of subordinates includes (1) ability and technical skills need for the job (2) self-confidence and commitment in one's ability. The model suggests that each of the four specified combination of leaders behaviour (i.e: high or low on directive and supportive) is uniquely suited to a particular level of followers readiness. (Goodson, McGee and Cashman, 1989)
Using the four leadership style and the readiness level (D1-D4) the model recommends several behavioural recommendations for leaders, where the following can be considered as the most effective leadership style- readiness level combination:
Directing: a high level of direction and low level of support for low competent and high commitment subordinates (D1).
Coaching: a high level of direction as well as support for low to somehow competent and low commitment subordinates (D2).
Participating: a low direction and high support for moderate to highly competent and variable commitment subordinates (D3).
Delegating: a low direction and low support for highly competent and high commitment subordinates (D4). (Vecchio, 1987)
I have always believed that the success of a leader is somehow dependant on the competencies and commitment of his subordinates, due to which I have always followed a participative style, which earned me a lot of respect and love. However, I have always enjoyed a medium control over my subordinates and faced situations where I had to scarify my happiness for them in order to achieve the desired outcome. (Kent, 2011)
Nevertheless, the competencies & knowledge gained during my MBA journey has helped me in developing my leadership style and I am sure that I will be able to better deal with my subordinates in future and will be able to set a good example as a Leader and a Manager.
Chapter 6: My Personal Development Plan (PDP)
A personal development plan is a process through which an individual can prepare a training and development plan and for which the individual takes responsibility. (Taylor and Edge, 1997)
I truly believe that by giving importance to the following priorities and planning my future post MBA and by developing my personal development plan I can enhance my current competencies, strength & overcome the weaknesses and threats surrounding my future
Criteria to Judge Success
Islamic (Non-conventional) banking diploma
Competent enough with the basic knowledge about Islam
Proficiency in non-conventional or Islamic Banking
Attending the institute of Islamic studies in Dubai
Obtaining a professional diploma in Islamic Banking
Within the coming quarter
Moderate ability in descriptive and critical writing
Excellent ability in descriptive and critical writing
Sharing my work with my MBA and Work colleagues
Ability to write blogs and short stories
Within one year from now
Lacking effectiveness and control over subordinates
Confident &effective leader
My post MBA project within BankMuscat
Staff satisfaction and Management satisfaction
Within one year from now
Having a moderate professional network of less than 500
Having a network for more than 500 professionals
Working in UK, Dubai and Muscat
Being able to establish a business venture of a global scale
Professional Accountant degree
Certified Accountant Technician diploma
Associate Certified Chartered Accountant degree
Membership in the college of banking and financial studies - Oman
Holding the degree of chartered accountant
Within three year from now
What Should I Contribute?
Throughout history, majority of people never had to ask the question, what should I contribute? As they were always told about what to contribute by their masters and their tasks were considered as being dictated. Until, the late 1960 no one wanted to be told what to do and people were keener in doing their own things. However very few believe that doing one's own thing could lead to contribution. (Drucker, 2005)
However, knowledge workers have to learn to ask a question that has not been asked before: what should my contribution be? To answer it they must shed light on the following three elements:
What does the situation require?
How can I make the greatest contribution to what needs to be done
What results have to be achieved to make a difference?
I have always wanted to do something different so that my contribution to the society is remembered till eternity by the community where I have been born and after squeezing my mind I came to the following solution which is "Teaching".
The situation in Oman requires contribution from people to develop people and I am confident enough that after holding my MBA degree I will be able to guide and help others in developing, Therefore, I have opted for a position of a part time lecture in Gulf College Oman in the area of marketing management and I am confident enough that I will be able to make a difference and develop the people of my country given the opportunity, I might also considering helping fresh school graduates in identifying the right path to success.
The Kent MBA has been much more than an achievement for me; perhaps it has been a lifestyle that has prepared me for the pinnacle of my career. The program has also given me the opportunity for introspection and self-reflection, as well as provided me with a platform to discover my strengths.
The program has also provided me the platform to build the requisite networks for business success and career advancement. The elaborate professional profiles of the Kent MBA cohort have given me the opportunity to mix with professionals from different sectors and industries, allowing for a free flow of ideas and information and opened my eyes to the inherent importance of Human resources, Finance, effective customer management and internal processes irrespective of industry, sector or country.
The benefits of the Kent MBA cannot be overemphasized, because it has taught me to think like a leader, broadened my horizon, and exposed my thoughts to different levels and perspectives of thinking as well as providing me with new insights.
My Kent MBA experience can be summed up by the Holy words of the Prophet Mohammed SAW's companion Iman Ali AS "Knowledge is better than wealth because it protects a man, whereas he guard's the Wealth which decreases when he spends it, however the more a man makes use of his knowledge the more it increases". What a man gets through wealth disappears as soon as wealth disappears, but what you achieve through knowledge will remain even after you. (Shia, 2008)