The pathway through an MBA shouldn’t be taken lightly but Ivor De Kock is proof that if you stay committed and persevere you can achieve your goals, and he has a Cum Laude to prove it. Here’s Ivor’s take after completing the MBA.
What were your hopes for doing an MBA and how has it impacted your career so far?
I always aspired to do my MBA, but with a demanding full-time job, I kept on postponing it. It finally got to a point where I had to make a conscious decision to take the leap and encouragement from the wise Carol Dweck (American Pyschologist) – “ the belief that having a growth mindset is essential for success, and the ability to learn is not fixed, it can change with effort.”
My hopes for doing my MBA were to contribute positively to my personal growth and at the same time, build my leadership ability and shape my leadership identity. It was an opportunity to expand my critical thinking and enhance my perspective on things to contribute positively to business needs, challenges, and people.
How did your years of work experience influence your approach to your MBA studies?
There is a specific reason why I enrolled for the Action Learning MBA at BSN as the course was designed in such a way that I could continue with my full-time job while pursuing an internationally recognized MBA.
I strongly believe that my work experience had contributed immensely and played an exponential role in achieving my Cum Laude. My experience and being exposed to many scenarios in the workplace over many years and in various roles, had propelled me into finding the best proposals to further research and document for my MBA.
I also knew that by completing my MBA, I would gain more confidence to make improvements and adjustments in my own leadership style and approach, which would help me to become a better leader and to make a positive contribution to Old Mutual Finance as a whole.
Have your colleagues been supportive of your studies?
Yes, without a doubt, although most of my time studying took place after hours and over weekends, my team’s support was extremely evident.
I am truly thankful to my team and to Old Mutual Finance who allowed me the opportunity to take part in the MBA Programme, helping me to sharpen my skills, further my professional development, and empowering me to share my learnings with my respective teams. I know that the skills that I have learnt will help to catapult my success, and it will continue to influence my strategic decision-making and the way in which I manage teams.
How do you look back on your MBA journey?
The biggest part of my MBA journey happened during COVID which was a very challenging and unprecedented time for the entire world. So whilst there were massive changes in my personal life and especially in the workplace, I also had to ensure that I still deliver on the standards I had set for myself regarding my MBA. Remaining optimistic throughout the pandemic has been a struggle. I had to juggle increased work demands whilst studying, adjusting to new routines, and facing inordinate amounts of uncertainty.
I was exhausted – physically, emotionally, and mentally. It felt like the start hit with a vengeance and the latter has proved to be an anti-climax. I was exhausted by the late nights and early mornings studying and, at the same time doing two jobs. The first was to react decisively, efficiently, and effectively to the crisis resulting from the pandemic. The second was to start and follow through on the process of re-imagining the future of OMF.
I found my own pace to be slower, continuous engagement was more difficult, and the work-life blur was very real to me. It has been a challenge for me to show grit, the grit needed to finish my MBA and to sustain myself and my energy. I had to re-examine my personal resilience, and, in the process, I learnt where personal resilience comes from. It relies on psychological stamina, which rests on deep-seated emotional patterns, shaped by our individual needs, histories, and experiences. I had to cultivate insight into these and build up stamina in abundance!
Now that you’ve completed your MBA, to what extent have you applied what you learned from a personal perspective in the organization?
There were many teachings both from a personal and organisational perspective that I take with me from the MBA, the most important teachings that I would like to share include:
- Reflection is a main source of idea generation. When idea generation takes place, it is through inspiration, and inspiration is the main key that generates energy. When inspiration takes place, there is a possibility of real inspiration, for something different, for something new, and an aspiration for something better. Inspiration brings discovery, and where there is discovery, there is growth and development.
- I have once again learnt the value of inclusive leadership, ensuring all team members are treated equitably. Equity and psychological security mean that all team members feel a sense of belonging, feeling valued, safe, and meaningfully engaged. It is making sure that people can bring their authenticity to a workplace where it is embraced and encouraged.
- I personally draw inspiration from the collective efforts and diversity of the team. There are not many things as satisfying when a group of people rally behind a common goal, challenging the status quo and having a bias for action to remain responsive to what our customers want, with an end goal of showing them what they did not know they could have. Collaboration is more than simply cooperating and learning from each other; it involves a shared vision, mutual respect, and an in-depth understanding of each other’s role in a project with the goal of achieving excellent business outcomes.
- Times have changed, work has changed, and so have the rules of leadership. Leadership drives change and in order to transform a business radically, that transformation must be owned. Leading and the role played in shaping the future of a business must be intentional.
- The world might have changed, but the things that truly matter have not, and that is true connection. Teams must be empowered with care to evolve with agility (simplifying the business and making it more agile), delivering strategic value and ensuring customer satisfaction.
- It is essential to be compassionate, but it cannot be at the cost of personal mental health. It is necessary to set boundaries and do everything possible to ensure those boundaries are respected.
- Also, to acknowledge, my MBA studies fed my natural instincts to read more literature, which immensely exposed me to various subject matters, and of which unconsciously assisted me in continually investigating best business practices.
What are your future plans and what part will your MBA play in that future?
Although I joined Old Mutual post-completion of my Grade 12 (High school certification), in the past few years I was privileged to be part of a dynamic team that created a new division within the greater Old Mutual, called Old Mutual Finance.
Looking back with a keen eye and a reflective mind, there were many challenges over the past few years, but knowing that through much effort, perseverance, persistence, and resilience, we built a collaborative and successful business with beautiful people and a great culture. I am proud and my heart is filled with gratitude, appreciation, and fulfillment.
Old Mutual Finance is part of my DNA, therefore, my future plan is to continue striving to make Old Mutual Finance a place where magic lives – a business that positively changes the lives of our people and customers.
My MBA taught me to be more efficient with my time, to dedicate focused time to reflect and recharge, whilst also adopting a growth mindset, and a willingness to learn, re-learn and unlearn.
Through my MBA learnings, I continuously strive to impart the theory of Action Learning to enable effective, creative solutions and smart decision-making on how to overcome and solve complex problems. Action Learning creates a solid platform on which to share and learn from each other, as it encourages the development of not only the team but also each individual that makes up the team. Since this process exposes team members to others with unique skill sets and views, it makes it possible to develop problem-solving skills in a unique process.
Achieving my MBA is a major life-changing event. The knowledge, experience, and lessons learnt from the Action Learning methodology will continue to influence my strategic decision-making and the way I manage teams where I demonstrate my commitment to fostering a culture of growth, and care, and showing my continued support to employees in moments that matter the most. Also having a progressive leadership style is another way where I can implement my learnings by embracing change, our culture, and the transformational journey of diversity and inclusion.
Read the first interview with Ivor De Kock, Business Leader in Action: Ivor De Kock