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Misha Raffiee’s TEDx Talk: Engage And Embrace Your Natural Curiosity By Asking “Why?”

Misha Raffiee is a budding scientist, musician, and STEM educator. She is currently a research fellow at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in biology and mechanical engineering. She is also a graduate of The Davidson Academy of Nevada.

In this talk, Misha encourages us all to recognize and develop our natural curiosity about things. Passion and deep learning occur when we follow our curiosity and delve deeply into why things work the way they do. Challenge yourself and develop a confidence to ask deep questions when you encounter something new in your everyday life. Take that confidence and have the courage to think more deeply and develop new ideas. This deep exploration can become the foundation for a passion.

Please watch Misha’s talk and then share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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Owen Robert’s TEDx Talk: Chances Lead To Choices Lead To Changes

In his current role as General Manager for Microsoft’s Americas Operations Center, Owen Roberts leads a team of more than 2,000 employees and contractors in operational roles that support the fulfillment and revenue processing operations of the company’s $80+billion business. In addition to developing and nurturing partner and customer relationships, Owen’s team is responsible for building, launching, and maintaining operational programs and processes, and putting the infrastructure in place for Microsoft to support the technology of tomorrow.

Owen gave a masterful talk at TEDxUniversityofNevada 2015 about how he has embraced risk taking and change in his life and career. He shows how in his own life choosing adventure and uncertainty over safety and certainty has lead to career opportunities and set him ahead of his peers. Even though this advice is not new, so few people choose to really embrace change as a habit of well-being and success.

Please take the time to watch Owen’s talk and then share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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Liz Wiseman’s TEDx Talk – Living And Working With Child-Like Wonder

We were extremely pleased to have Liz Wiseman as the first speaker at TEDxUniversityofNevada 2015. Liz  teaches leadership to executives and emerging leaders around the world. She is the President of the Wiseman Group, a leadership research and development firm headquartered in Silicon Valley. She is the author of the “Rookie Smarts, Why Learning Beats Knowing In The New Game Of Work.”

In this very insightful talk, Liz describes how being inexperienced can actually help us and our teams do better and faster work because we are forced to assume a posture of learning. Living and working with rookie smarts can be accomplished with three simple choices 1) ask more questions, 2) seek novelty, and 3) treat work as play.

Please take the time to watch Liz’s talk, then share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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5 Mental Habits That Support Lifelong Learning

In his classic book entitled Leading Change, John P. Kotter devotes his final chapter to the importance of leadership to creating and sustaining successful organizations. Beyond the development of leadership skills, the successful executive will need to be a lifelong learner. Kotter suggests the following five mental habits that successful leaders will need to support lifelong learning (p. 183):

  1. Risk taking: willingness to push oneself out of comfort zones
  2. Humble self-reflection: honest assessment of successes and failures, especially the later
  3. Solicitation of opinions: aggressive collection of information and ideas from others
  4. Careful listening: propensity to listen to others
  5. Openness to new ideas: willingness to view life with an open mind

His observation about the relationship between listening and learning is especially insightful:

Much more than the average person, lifelong learners also listen carefully, and they do so with an open mind. They don’t assume that listening will produce big ideas or important information very often. Quite the contrary. But they know that careful listening will help give them accurate feedback on the effect of their actions. And without honest feedback, learning becomes almost impossible (p. 182).

I think the overwhelming majority of faculty that teach in the Executive MBA program at the University of Nevada meet Kotter’s criteria of lifelong learners. The program director, Dr. Kambiz Raffiee, models the way for our group. Our program development meetings are always very productive. No one ever wastes our time with arrogant pontification or tries to dominate the conversation in order to force an opinion on others. We share a common goal, and we all actively listen to each other as we consider ways we can continually improve our courses to meet the high and evolving expectations of our executive students.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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Eight Activities For Self-Development Of Leadership Skills

Leadership development requires a combination of formal training (e.g. obtaining an Executive MBA), developmental activities within your organization (e.g. coaching, job rotation, and performance evaluation), and self-development activities. In his book entitled “Leadership In Organizations,” Gary Yukl identifies the following eight suggestions for how we can develop ourselves as leaders (p. 482):

  1. Develop a personal vision of career objectives
  2. Seek appropriate mentors
  3. Seek challenging assignments
  4. Improve self-monitoring
  5. Seek relevant feedback
  6. Learn from mistakes
  7. Learn to view events from multiple perspectives
  8. Be skeptical of easy answers

Leadership requires the ability to form influential relationships with others in order to consistently achieve changes that matter to the shared purpose of the organization (not just yourself). Lots of folks have the formal training and are exposed to great developmental activities, but never make the transition to becoming truly effective leaders. The discipline of self-development is what distinguishes truly great leaders from the rest.

Bob Sutton and Jeff Pfeffer argue that the gap between knowing and doing is more important than the gap between ignorance and knowledge. Without a system of self-development you can’t effectively translate what you know about leadership into habitual behaviors that help others accomplish purposeful change. Self-development is a personal responsibility that will help you master and leverage the knowledge and skills you acquire in a formal training program like the Executive MBA from UNR.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Bret L. Simmons, Ph.D.

Bret Simmons is associate professor of management in the College of Business where he teaches courses in organizational behavior, leadership, and personal branding to both undergraduate and MBA students.

Simmons earned a master’s degree in international management from Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington, and a Ph.D. in business administration/management from Oklahoma State University, Stillwater. Simmons blogs about leadership, followership, and social business and teaches organizational behavior, management and organization science, international management and entrepreneurial psychology at the University.


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Chase The Learning

We strive to make our Online Executive MBA (EMBA) program relevant, rigorous, and evidence-based. We know the market for the EMBA degree is crowded, but we think ours is one of the best values out there from an AACSB accredited College of Business.

One of the books that is assigned reading in my Organizational Behavior class in our first cohort of students is “Becoming the Evidence-Based Manager: Making the Science of Management Work for You,” by Gary Latham. In the chapter on how to develop and train to create a high-performing team, Latham talks about the value of encouraging errors. Latham counsels that if you want the folks on your team to become creative, high performers, you as a leader have to encourage and celebrate errors.

I love Latham’s distinction of the difference between people with a learning goal orientation and those with a performance goal orientation:

People with a performance goal orientation paradoxically lack a high-performing mindset, because they focus too much on their performance. Their goal is to look good in the eyes of others. As a result, they actively avoid situations in which they run the risk of seeming incompetent. Instead, they seek assignments in which they can perform effectively. On the other hand, people with a learning goal orientation seek to master new skills and knowledge. Consequently, they enjoy challenging, difficult projects. They even seek constructive criticism. This in itself is an effective strategy because pursuing high goals makes errors all but inevitable. (p, 71)

As you pursue your EMBA, try to keep a learning rather than a performance goal orientation. Understand how to achieve in each class (e.g. pass exams, write specific types of papers, complete assignments), but then stop chasing the points and chase the learning instead. Your professors track points because they have to, but only you can really evaluate your learning.

Step outside the assigned work in each class and develop for yourself ways to apply the new information, knowledge, and understanding to change your behavior and become a better leader and organizational citizen.  That’s your responsibility to yourself, and only you can hold yourself accountable for continually improving and learning.

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