Will You Get Picked to Be On the Team?

Accountability Contribution Personal leadership


Key Point: In the most recent admissions year, roughly 9,060 people applied to Harvard’s MBA program. With an acceptance rate of 12 percent, Harvard interviewed about 2,200 candidates and accepted about 1,100 to fill its 905 to 910 available seats. They are changing their selection process this year. The essay part to qualify for admission is getting streamlined. There will now be two questions that form the basis of the essays. They’re more direct and simple than the previous menu of questions. They are:

1. Tell us something you’ve done well (in 400 words).

2. Tell us something you wish you had done better (in 400 words).

The school is adding a novel twist for MBA candidates that make the first cut and are invited to an interview with the school’s admissions staff. Those applicants will be asked to write an additional essay of 400 words within 24 hours of the interview on what they wished they had said during the interview session but didn’t.

So, what does this have to do with you?

You and I may never apply to Harvard, but in the current world of work, we are constantly applying for admission to the “next organization.” If we think we’re permanently on the team, we are likely in for an abrupt awakening at some point in our career. Every organization I’m aware of is into major change. Markets, technology, consumers, competitors, and employees… Everything is rapidly shifting and the consequence is that organizations must continuously evolve. If the organization is changing, your job probably is too. And that means you are directly and indirectly applying for an opportunity to play for the “next” team on a continuous basis. Literally no one is indispensable, especially if they do not self-develop in significant ways.

So let’s say your boss comes to you tomorrow and asks you the two questions above. They want each response in a 400-word essay. And what if you’re also asked to produce a video explaining the proven value you have (if you’re an incumbent) and/or will bring to the company? You also need to provide testimonials relative to your role from people you’ve worked for and with, and from your current direct reports. Furthermore, you are asked to outline your personal development plan, and leadership principles. How would you do?

Character Move:

  1. Superb organizations are NOT looking for the Purple Squirrel (perfect and impossible to find candidates). But they want very self-aware people with attributes that include self-accountability, respect, and abundance. And they want people committed to making a measurable, valued contribution, along with a deep desire to continuously improve. Ask yourself if you’re doing everything you can to be that person.
  2. Be able to answer the two Harvard questions for your job really well. Can you convincingly write that 400-word essay? If you can’t do that, well, accept that you may be in the danger zone. If not right now, very soon. Frankly, the two questions are just table stakes. Leaders really need to know, ideally with data driven evidence, how you’re bringing value to the organization.
  3. Are you sincerely committed to personal development? If so, what are the two or three skills you are going to further develop by the end of the year? How will you do it? How will you know you have? If you can’t answer these questions, you’re skating and don’t really have a personal development plan. Don’t wait for some one to develop your growth plan with or for you. Invest in yourself!

Always Getting Selected in The Triangle,