Imminent Guest speakersand about 750 Deans from world-classprestigious Business Schoolsdiscussed topics related to the theme of the 2018 AACSB Deans Conference “Leading New Imperatives and Possibilities”, held in Las Vegas/ Nevada, from February 7th to 9th.
Educating a diverse workforce, leading with power, getting the students work-ready, leading the change in the academic enterprise and creating a growth culture seem to be common challenges to most business schools all over the world.
Educating a diverse workforce
Diversity is getting a great deal of attention recently in most public policy discussions and higher education has a major role in educating and preparing a diverse workforce.Diversity is the demographic mix of specific collection of people (students, faculty, staff). It can be related to gender, geographic, socio-economic background or all together. In educational setting, diversity means equity, the guaranty of fair treatment, access, opportunity and advancement for all students, faculty and staff.Diversity alsomeans inclusion, the opportunity to have everyone participate and fully engage in the institution’s project.In general, there is a strong interrelationship between diversity of students, state funding through scholarships, students performance and school resources.
In this regard, a Dean has a crucial role at four different levels, as:
-The Strategist: He/Sheshould ensure that theB. school is positioned to excel at attracting and educating diverse students and creating an inclusive environment for thriving.
-The Catalyst:He/Sheshould think of how the school can adapt to demographic changesof its eco-system, and how it is preparing students to work in a diverse world.
-The Steward: He/Sheshould be stewarding resources to support the school’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and investing in the positive reputational effects associated with these initiatives.
-The Operator:He/Sheshould be systematically assessing policies and practices to ensure that the school is effectively serving a diverse community of students, faculty, and staff.
Leading with power
Different graduates, from the same business school, will have completely different paths and rhythm of progression. The challenge for a business school graduate is how to navigate successfully through his/hercareer.According to Jeffrey Pfeffer, Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, Leadership Education and Development is failing. Studies show that there is a low level of employee engagement and high levels of job dissatisfaction and turnover intentions, that many leaders and CEOs are losing their job. Actually, this is because leadership education is more aspirational rather than science based.
Students need to be taught the established realities of social sciences. Studies show that political and networking skills reliably predict career success and other performance, above any other skills.
Power skills can (and should) be taught in both core and elective courses that include education in the relevant social science ideas and theories, coaching to help overcome inhibition and practice.
When offered, such material is almost instructor-proof, readily transferable, and draws enormous enrollments and very high course evaluations. That is because students appreciate hearing the truth and being given the tools, knowledge, and skills to succeed in the business world. People want to believe that the “World is Just” and that there is a direct link between performance and success. Actually, Power is a personal attribution that each individual has to engage in through ambition/ drive, energy, focus, self-confidence, capacity to tolerate conflict (to not be liked or approved of at all moments), persistence and resilience, self-assessment.
Moreover, an important attribute is the capacity of breaking the rules (those with power get to break the rules and not follow conventions), and asking (If you need help, just ask).Building a personal brand and standing out is also crucial, by differentiating oneself, although in residential educational setting, it is not an easy task. Creating resources is another fundamental topic (special access to information and people that others can’t have, doing things that others don’t want to do, getting budgets and financial resources, organizing events that bring people together).Acting and speaking with power are also important competencies to develop (take up space and adopt a powerful pose, use forceful gestures).
However, Power has a price that not everyone is ready to pay. Visibility, public scrutiny, always being in stage are difficult to handle. You never know if people like you for who you are or for your position; not to mention the trade-off between power and autonomy and the energy you have to keep or re-new to be always on stage. The reality is that competition for advancement is inevitable because there are fewer positions at the top; therefore, peers are also competitors. So, graduates are responsible for their own careers, and for building relationships with those who can make them successful. Giving people knowledge and tools empowers them, but they have to take the responsibility of using them appropriately.
Bridging the B-School and Business Gap: Getting the students “Work-Ready”
Engagement level is falling dramatically. This is something that companies are concerned about. Getting talents and keeping them is a real issue right away, more than ever before. On the other hand, surveys show that Businesses perceive universities as failing to deliver relevant degrees and candidates for offered positions.
What are the biggest challenges B.schools are facing in addressing the gap between what business wants and what they provide?
The idea is to identify current best practices or potential ways to close the gap.
Some B.schools designed special “Engagement Projects” as an answer to this problem. This includes how to make sure faculty contributes to forge academiain the business setting: “Pracademia”.B.schools are expected to build Industry Ready Graduates, through co-creation, co-delivery, case studies, on site events, industry partner providing mentoring for projects, industry partner bringing in consulting projects.
So the challenge is about relevance. It all started with a question, and it will always be the question:
How will business education remain relevant? What should be done to educate the next generation of leaders?
Leading in the academic enterprise: how can you successfully lead changes?
In this time of exceptional technological, political and social shifts, leading the change is a big challenge for most B.Schoolswhose usually fail because of one or a combination of many reasons:
-Inertia towards status quo
-Lack of enthusiasm and perseverance / continuity
-Lack of senior leadership and frontline engagement
-Lack of resources
-Lack of autonomy
-Too much time because of resistance
-Powerful coalition because of the fear to lose something
-Lack of communication
-Lack of understanding
-Lack of immediate results
-Lack of incentives (why would I do it?)
Group discussion helped define steps to overcome thesedifficulties:
-Explain the why for the institution and link the greater benefit to the individual benefit; and value the contribution of each individual
-Try to understand fears and concernsone by one through listening
-Adopt an inclusive approach involving stakeholders (Faculty, students, alumni, staff, andemployers)
-Action plan (What, How, Who and When)
-Monitor progress and align reward system to contribution, ultimately performance
A specific method in 3 steps was presented to summarize up “Leading at the crossroad of change”:
1-Categorize stakeholders: Super-ordinates (Dean, Chancellor, Boards, Governance Groups); Teams members (Faculty, Direct reports, Staff, Organizational Subunits, Support teams); Customers (Students, faculty, Employers).
2-Match CoSTS Communications/ Strategies/ Tactics and Sequencing to each stakeholder: Agree-in (timing and objectives, stakeholders landscape); Bee-in (Select the right team, gain the team’s commitment, communicate the preliminary vision, comprehensively formulate the challenge); Buy-in (invite customers to bee-in, engage lead opinion leaders, understand customer needs, market and advertise); Allow-in (solicit bee-in, solicit buy-in, engage in “gift exchange”, leverage agree-in, exclude).
3-Avoid stimulating emotions of Disrespect, Envy, Anger and Fear (DEAF): Negative emotions can make people DEAF to and undermine your change effort.
Create a Growth Culture
Today, learning matters more than ever. Lifelong learning is a new norm. Most people look for a job who helps them reach their potential, be the best of themselves. Neuro science findings show that learning changes the brain and has a positive effect on performance. The concept of neuroplasticity proves than learning helps grow and become ones best self, because learning is building neural pathways.
This is how we moved from Management Science, to Social Science then we are using nowNeuro Science.What learning organizations are looking for is Transformative Learning that shifts from knowledge delivery to conviction and behavioral transformation that leads to change in action.
Actually, a transformation learning is linked to personal involvement. As Educational enterprises, B.schools should give the best example of how to induce insight: introduce a range of concepts, let people learn on their own and give them time for reflection. This works not only with students butalso with any other member of the community, including faculty and staff. We are not talking anymore about human resources but about talents and talents development.This is why it’s important to foster an inclusive growth mindset within the institution. People should be encouraged to embrace challenges and see them as opportunity to grow. Feedback is useful for learning and it should be seen as useful for learning and improving.
Different ways to create a growth culture where discussed, such as:
-Create a safe environment to take risks and make mistakes
-Develop managers with right skills (psych safety, empathy, etc.)
-Hold managers accountable for health of their group
-Measure, recognize learning, effort and progress
-Review your performance review process
But above all, top management leaders should be role models by showing curiosity, learning and recovering from mistakes. This is how the tone can be set and fine-tuned.