Learning the Unteachable Through Intensive Personalized Feedback: The Self-Development Laboratory

Collaborative problem solving and decision-making skills are now recognized as essential in today’s organizational environment, where over 75% of high value-added work is estimated to take place in groups and teams. Yet, for many MBA programs, there is a massive skills gap that has gone unaddressed. The main components of interpersonal presence – expressiveness, responsiveness, poise, articulateness and empathetic attunement – form an all-important nexus of skills that leading organizations in the new global economy prize greatly and to an increasing degree. In the age of the smart machine, they are the irreducibly human skills that leading organizations look for. At the Rotman School of Management’s Self Development Laboratory (SDL), intensive, personalized, feedback-based learning is used to develop and nurture the communicative, interactive and interpersonal skills of its students. These skills are often considered innate and unlearnable, but in fact, they are more likely to be unteachable using standard methods for developing cognitive skills. Personalized, direct, timely, intensive, accurate feedback makes them learnable.

By Mihnea Moldoveanu with Duncan MacKinnon, 06/05/2016

Executive Treatment Before The Title: Coaching In B-Schools

At UT-Austin’s McCombs, MBA students aren’t assigned to one specific coach. Depending on what they’re facing, students can go to a career advisor, a communication coach or—for problems that don’t fit into either category—a specialty coach. Students access the latter services through McCombs’ MBA+ Program. “It helps students really customize their services,” Deidra Stephens, the program’s director, says. “It’s impossible to find all of those things in one person.”

By Maya Itah, 08/05/2013

Trust key element of training in modern charisma

Mihnea Moldoveanu knows things just aren’t what they used to be in the upper ranks of business management anymore. Gone are the days when the word of a corporate head was taken as gospel and business leaders naturally commanded a great deal of respect and credibility. Today, the associate dean at the Rotman School of Management and one of the key developers of the school’s Self-Development Lab (SDL) — a two-and-a-half-year-old hands-on, interactive approach to helping MBA students build confidence and improve presentation skills — knows business leaders’ interpersonal skills are being put under the microscope more than ever. “They were always important, but today we have closer access to people in senior positions and are more aware of the value of charisma,” he says. “We’ve gone from a world where you could say to the public ‘trust me’ to one where they say ‘tell me’. Now it’s ‘show me’ because they don’t trust leaders anymore.”

Globe and Mail, 09/23/2013

5 Ways to Improve your Presentation

I recently spent 30+ hours with a voice coach improving the quality of my speech as well as the presentation style. The value of a voice coach is unrivaled given that most of success in today's business world rely on persuasion. I realized how life could be infused in the dullest of presentations using some of the natural elements that all humans associate with.
I am sharing my 5 biggest learning's from my voice training that, in my view, could be applied to all kinds of presentations:

Globe and Mail, 06/04/2015

Self-Development 101

What was the genesis of the Rotman Self-Development Lab?
I was working on my post-doctoral fellowshipat the Centre for Integrative Thinking at the Rotman School, under the supervision of Associate Dean Mihnea Moldoveanu. Mihnea had this vision of providing students with a place where they could develop interpersonal and interactive skills, and the self-awareness that comes along with those skills. Most people now recognize that ‘soft skills’ are important, but they tend to believe you should develop them on your own time, or maybe through a quick half-day workshop on presentation skills. We approach it with a lot more intellectual rigour, because we understand how difficult it is to change patterns of behaviour in people. At the moment, this course is voluntary. From extensive research, we know that self-development is one of those things that you cannot demand of people. A person can only be successful at it if they perceive the need to develop in this area. Many schools try some version of this, but they tend to just teach tips to make students appear more ‘polished’; they don’t really focus on personality development. I imagine that some business people would be slightly wary of what we’re doing, but I’m hoping that as we move forward, the value will be evident as our students move into the workplace. Since we piloted the Lab two years ago, the demand for it has continually expanded.

By Maja Djikic, Interview by Joel Kranc


Rotman School of Management,
University of Toronto
Toronto, ON M5S 3E6