MBA Lesson of the Week 1: Pakikisama

Success in MBA comes in a lot of ways.

Near-term for example, my biggest lesson of this week is all about pakikisama. Pakikisama is a Tagalog word that means, “to get along,” and this word is often used in many levels of society.

For example, it deftly explains on the need to get along with people at work, at your homes and at play. Without pakikisama, life would be unnecessarily chaotic and there’s a lot of wasted effort on trying to make peace with the other.

Honestly speaking, pakikisama was never really a strength of mine. My brother is a lot better at this, and he is a successful business owner of an importation business that employs 8 people.

At my previous work, I didn’t have to do anything. All that was asked from me was high performance, quick efficiency and to rally everyone into serving the customer.

We didn’t really have to get along, but we all understood our roles and responsibilities and were very adept in executing strategies for the good of the customer. Since everyone had their own competencies, there was no sense of competition. Instead, grudging respect grew as we worked with each other.

Everyone knew his/her own place, and everyone executed very well. Competency, instead of pakikisama, ruled the organization, and that was our competitive edge.

However, MBA is a different animal.

There were no bosses or subordinates. Only equals.

Though coming from different backgrounds, all came here for a similar if not the same purpose: to maximize our knowledge and learning and survive these 16 months.

I came with my own attitudes of my previous job, naively thinking that the way how the world worked then would also be the same in the world of MBA — with disastrous results.

Instead of following and moving forward, my groupmates revolted. Instead of results, we spent tons of time analyzing and debating about options.  Suddenly, process became more important than execution — a luxury we could not have afforded in the fast-paced world of finance.

How the hell can we for example debate to death fact and figures when the market was moving by seconds? We respected each to be competent and be able to judge for themselves. Why is consensus so important?

Regardless, this was a tough lesson to learn.

Personally, I had to force myself to stop for a while. Listen to the other. Take it all in, and try to see if we can come up with a compromise. To those who know me, shutting up takes a bit of effort on my part so you can understand how much adjustment I still had to do.

I also had to consider other people’s point of view. Be more considerate and kind. Be a bit more patient for those who still haven’t reached the same page as we had.

In addition, I had to work with people of various cultures who don’t think the way I do. I had to learn that people disagreed, and yes, that was okay.

To be honest, I still have tons to go.

Long, long way to go.

And yet, I am trying to do a bit more pakikisama.

I think it’s good for the heart, and away from the stressful finance world, it’s one important factor just to keep sane. In the end, the world is not selfish and there’s far too many players to ignore.

MBA is not really just about the technical knowledge. It’s also about the soft skills.

I came into MBA thinking I already had those soft skills in hand. Skills such as presenting effectively in front of a large audience and trying to minimize words in explaining a point.

In fact, I learned that I still have so much to learn.

I have to learn how to be more sensitive, once again, listen more. Be open to criticism and constructive (note the stress on constructive) feedback and to trust the other.

Once again, I still have a long way to go.

But at least, it’s the beginning. And with self-awareness, hopefully, we can continually improve ourselves.

The first week is done, and it’s amazing how much you can learn in seven days, in and out of the classroom. I look forward to once again a hellish week.

Hope everything is having a lovely weekend. Back to my essay writing now! 🙂

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