September 19, 2016Brown University

The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion in Leadership Development - Brian Norris ‘16

It’s one thing to appreciate your Advanced MBA degree. It’s another to persuade a direct report to attend as well. We recently sat down with Director of DISH Media Sales & Sling TV Brian Norris, a newly minted IE Brown Alum. We wanted to find out how the program fueled his interest in responsible business practices, specifically in diversity and inclusion, and why he supported others on his team to consider an IE Brown Executive MBA degree.

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Why did you apply to IE Brown?

After graduating college, I assumed my future would include an MBA. I didn’t think that an increased salary or title would sustain my interest in the pursuit of a degree. I wanted an MBA to catapult my career forward and provide a learning challenge that I couldn’t achieve on the job.

By the time I was ready to take the MBA plunge, I had 16 years under my belt leading cutting-edge advertising initiatives in the rapidly evolving cable TV industry and a Six Sigma certification. However, as I researched MBA programs, I found that none of the leading Ivies had a curriculum that piqued my curiosity beyond business. My interests were broader than advanced stats or the other traditional MBA finance and accounting courses.

Then I stumbled upon IE Brown. It immediately appealed to me because of its business plus liberal arts bent. I was drawn to a number of courses - Shared History of Slavery and Capitalism, Entrepreneurial Management for Executives, Corporate Innovation Process, The Rise of China… - that I didn’t see anywhere else.

What was your biggest takeaway about business leadership?

That’s easy to answer: to be a leader that’s self-aware. We all know on a theoretical level that leaders are only as strong as their teams but the IE Brown experience drove home this point. The program design emphasized the value of conversation and the critical role of multiple perspectives in problem-solving. IE Brown taught us that it’s through dialogue with others that you become a more reflective leader, transcend your limitations, identify solutions to avoid unseen pitfalls, and seize new opportunities.

As a result of this awareness, I focused my IE Brown Key Reflection Project on the development of a diversity and inclusion plan that could be leveraged by companies to strengthen their position as leaders in industry and society.

As someone that directs a team of over 40 people, how have you embraced this self-aware approach to leadership?

Recently my responsibilities doubled in size and my regional responsibility expanded across the country. As a leader, I was tasked with managing this change. I reviewed my change management notes from Professor Jill Waymire Paine’s Leading People, Teams and Organizations and the multiple models and simulations that we conducted.

Based on this class, I developed a plan that focused on getting the majority of the team to buy-in to a vision, and making the change a positive experience for all. I’m proud to say that our change management success was noted across the organization.

Any last thoughts?

I’d like to highlight the importance of my cohort. Their insights and support make them much more than a last thought. Even after the class we continue to help each other out whether it’s finding a job, changing careers, donating or volunteering to a cause. We went through an intense program and came out so much closer in the end. My cohort was more than a cohort, we are family and I am proud of the people I had the privilege of learning with and from.

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