Finally. The chaos of the first year at business school has given way to a more thoughtful second year. No classes illustrate the difference to me better than the reading seminars.
Instead of 30-page Harvard Business School cases, with 10 exhibits that include balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements, these classes feature books. Real, honest-to-goodness classics and best-sellers. Instead of 60+ students in stadium-style seating, these classes seat 10 to 15 around a long table. Instead of one big final, these classes require a weekly page of thoughts.
To the outside world, it's a book club with 1.5 credits attached. To this MBA student, it's heaven.
The book list for my current class:
"The Portable Machiavelli"
"Andrew Carngie" by David Nasaw
"The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron" by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind
"The Snowball: Warren Buffet and The Business of Life" by Alice Schroeder
"iCon Steve Jobs" by Jeffrey S. Young and William L. Simon
"My American Journey" by Colin Powell
I just finished "My American Journey," which I thoroughly enjoyed. The autobiography — the only one we've read — is sprinkled throughout with amusing anecdotes, little lessons, and leadership tips.
For example: Powell writes about his 40/70 rule for decision making. When faced with a decision, he begins collecting information, never making a decision if his chance of being correct is less than 40%. Once he feels as though he has at least a 40% chance of being correct, up to a 70%, he'll let his instincts, honed over time, guide his informed decision. His point is that a leader can't wait until he or she has all the data — that's too late. And a leader also shouldn't act too soon, without any data.
"The key is not to make quick decisions, but to make timely decision," he writes.
"The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership."
So true all across workplaces, far removed from the battlefield.
For more wisdom — not to mention amusing tales, from painting a rusty Chevy to the National Security Council "seal" — I'd highly recommend "My American Journey" by Colin Powell.