What is the most difficult feedback you have received from another person or the most significant weakness you perceive in yourself? What steps have you taken to address it and how will business school contribute to this process? (500 words max)
I am an optimist by nature. I always look at the brighter side of things. To me, the glass is always half-full not half-empty. My optimism helps me bring a high level of enthusiasm to simple everyday tasks and stay positive even in difficult times. However, my optimism is also my biggest weakness: I sometimes tend to get carried away with over-optimism. I focus solely on the expected favorable outcomes and fail to anticipate and prepare myself for possible adverse outcomes.
One telling incident happened last year. I was leading a project for upgrading the patient information database for an insurance company in Calgary. I was running the project with two teams, one each in Canada and India. Our key resource in the Canadian team, Jagan, announced his decision to resign to pursue other opportunities. One our Indian team members, Kumar, stepped forward to replace him. Having already worked on the project, Kumar could immediately step into the shoes left by Jagan. He was the ideal replacement candidate.
However, bringing Kumar over to the Canadian team proved to be a challenge – his visa processing ran into roadblocks. While our company lawyers worked with the Canadian consulate to sort out the issues, Jagan’s disengagement date drew nearer and nearer. My supervisor asked me if we should scope out alternative replacement candidates just in case. Ever the optimist, I proclaimed that there would be no need for alternatives – everything would fall in place neatly in time. As it turned out, Kumar’s visa did not fall in place; Jagan left and we were without an essential resource on an important project.
It then took us a couple of months to identify an alternative candidate from the Indian team, train him adequately, process his visa and send him over to Canada. The delay brought a lot of flak from the client. I learned the hard way that sometimes it is necessary to have a viable back-up plan. Today I am still as much the optimist as ever, but I temper my optimism with some realism. For important decisions, I chart out optimistic and expected scenarios and develop action plans for both. As they say, hope for the best but plan for the worst.
Business school will help me further in this learning process. Case study discussions revolving around business strategy will allow me to cultivate “what if” thinking. Identifying and assessing potential outcomes will be extremely valuable. Interacting with alumni and business executives, I will also learn the anticipated and unanticipated consequences of important business decisions. Most importantly, I will learn how, as a business leader, to target and motivate my organization towards best-case scenarios while simultaneously preparing to face worst-case scenarios.
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