I awoke this morning to the news that Dave Buck, the CEO of CoachVille, had declared the death of the MBA. http://coachville.blogs.com/thembaisdead/
As a coach, I'm intrigued. As an MBA, I'm amused. As someone whose mug is prominently displayed in a sincere testimonial for Dave's coaching school, I'm slightly embarrassed. But as a professional communicator, I'm delighted to have a ringside seat.
Dave doesn't like the way executive coaching has been portrayed in the Harvard Business Review. So he's slamming all business schools and their graduates, accusing them of not "getting it" - "it" being coaching. PR 101 suggests that telling someone they're not clued in, their education is second rate, and they're - um - dead (?) is not a great way to earn their respect, their interest, or their inclination to support your cause.
Using his own 1980s MBA training as the reference point, Dave suggests that someone wanting to make an impact in the business world would be better off at a coaching school (presumably his) than a business school. B-schools, he contends, aren't equipping executives with ways to bring out the greatness in people. For that, he claims, you need to go to coaching school.
PR 102 suggests that, had he obeyed a fundamental rule of good communication - "Do some research," our boy might have discovered that what we used to call "soft skills" are embedded in the business curriculums of more than a few business schools.
For example, I have a 21st century MBA (Royal Roads University, Victoria, BC). Leadership, social responsibility and sustainability take their place alongside law, finance, marketing and such. You do half the work in teams, and if you don't work well with others by the end of your two years, you don't graduate. To get good marks, you have to learn to bring out the best in others.
It was doing my MBA that I encountered emotional intelligence and appreciative inquiry, fundamental tools in my coaching practice. It was doing the MBA that I also heard about life coaching for the first time. Royal Roads may be west of the Rockies, but it's not all that "woo woo" to have these elements in a modern-day B-school curriculum.
So what's my point? You need business skills in business. You need people skills in business. One without the other will get you nowhere fast. Mission, vision, values, destiny, cause, calling and all that wonderful stuff are critical elements in organizational life. However, at some point, you need systems that work, processes people can rely on, financial sustainability, and tangible evidence that the mission is achievable.
Of all the skills we need in organizational life, the most critical is the ability to communicate. It's only through sharing that ideas can be developed and implemented, that brilliance can be recognized, that visions are made real, and that worker bees, manager bees, executive bees and queen bees know what they need to do - and why.
Perhaps because it isn't glamourous, face-to-face communication is the forgotten stepchild of the corporate communication profession. But study after study* supports my contention that of all the communication going on in organizations today, the most essential and effective is communication by one person with another.
When it comes to the techniques of interpersonal communication, you're more likely to learn it at CoachVille than at Harvard. So Dave gets a point for that. But you don't need to go to school to learn to communicate. With conscious recognition of how and what we're communicating, each of us can be an excellent communicator - whether we're an MBA, a coach, a professional communicator, a manager, a wage slave, an executive, or none of the above. Awareness is always the beginning.
* I'll have more to share about the research that shows the importance face-to-face communication in organizations next week, when I'll be reporting from the annual conference of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC).