February 8, 2017, by Academic contributor

Developing competencies and transforming lives

At Nottingham, the MBA isn’t just about adding a qualification to your CV but about developing great managers, team players and business leaders. To do that, the programme is about more than academic knowledge but about helping students identify their strengths and weaknesses and achieve their transformation into visionary business leaders for the 21st Century.

To that end, we have created a Personal and Professional Development Programme that enhances our MBA students’ career prospects and also helps them focus on and develop critical business competencies and skills.

“When people choose to do an MBA, most of them want to see some sort of transformation,” says Paul Caulfield, director of the Nottingham MBA. “The MBA is often a personal journey of transformation and change that can vary quite a lot. Some seek to overcome a career barrier – they want to progress in their career and address something that is holding them back, for example, they may be unfamiliar with managing supply chains, monitoring performance, or developing new markets. For those the MBA is about broadening their knowledge and management competencies.

“We also see people who want to completely change what they are doing so use the MBA to reinvent themselves, and we see some using it as a way of taking control of their lives. For those the MBA might involve knowing their strengths and weaknesses better, and gaining exposure to new opportunities.

“What’s common is that MBA students aren’t only trying to get the knowledge of management language and business concepts – they are also trying to understand themselves and build competencies for the future.”

To help them do this, the Nottingham MBA has sharpened its focus on developing students’ core competencies, skills and values, whether through looking at effective ways of learning to managing time, managing teams and managing conflict, or broader areas of cultural diversity and leadership. Our Personal and Professional Development Programme combines a competency development programme with a more traditional career development programme, including sessions on job market overviews, networking skills, interview tips, and how to start a business. Students also undergo a full 360 degree assessment centre to identify their key strengths and encourage them to reflect on their own perceived skills and weaknesses.

Julie Blant, Postgraduate Careers Manager, says: “Before they arrive on campus we send them a questionnaire to self assess in certain competency areas. And then on arrival we put them through an assessment centre where they are observed on a variety of aspects so they can start thinking about where their own personal and professional development can go.”

That personal and professional development is an ongoing conversation through the MBA, she says. “Students need a mix of competencies to be able to navigate and explore career options. Personal development and reflective learning are key, but also how to put new skills into action, enabling them to be better managers, better team workers. To do that you have to explore yourself, which is why we use the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) tool to help them understand their preferences and differences between personalities.

“For some early stage degrees, thinking about careers is about job-seeking or building your CV. For MBA programmes, it’s so much more than that. Until you reflect on an experience or process it’s very difficult to move forward and explain to people why you’re changing direction or why you deserve that promotion.”

And it’s that reflection that Paul says is vital to being a good leader in business – for him one of the core competencies that forms the “bedrock” of the MBA. “If there was only one skill I could develop in students, reflection would be what I would want and that skill is very prized in leadership.This year we have added extra emphasis on this to allow a greater focus. Sometimes in society we focus attention on content knowledge, treating ‘know what’ as essential and ‘know how and ‘know who’ as peripheral. To fully succeed on an MBA transformative journey, there needs to be a significant cognitive shift – one that puts personal and professional development at the core.”

By shining a spotlight on this and integrating personal development and career development with academic content, Nottingham is getting ahead of the game. “The careers side we have done for many, many years and obviously that’s developed and changed in time,” says Julie. “But now we have a renewed emphasis on personal development, pushing attention onto the core competencies and qualities that we want to stand out.”

These core values will help Nottingham’s MBA students stand out as business leaders of the future, says Paul. “As we move towards a more impactful MBA experience, we aim to develop highly proficient global leaders with the skills, relationships and values for success. This programme is about enabling high-performing, reflective leaders with an appetite for lifelong learning. And these are the qualities that will really make Nottingham’s MBA alumni stand apart.”


This piece was written by Ellen Manning, a freelance journalist, writer & blogger. Ellen writes for several leading publications, and also helps our MBA students to develop their media skills.
Posted in InnovationMBATeaching