What they don’t teach in business school, but should…

As Founding Partner of the executive search and leadership consulting firm Borderless, I was recently invited to the international meeting of the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs to offer a “real-world perspective” of how business school education is perceived and provide guidance to more than 100 educators from around the world – from the US and Switzerland to Qatar and China.

I had the opportunity to share insights based on our experience at Borderless working with a range of senior executives, as well as my ‘earlier life’ experience as a Dow executive. Moreover, I shared views on executive education from the survey conducted recently by my firm, which highlighted clear areas of strength and improvement for business schools and provided the core of our discussion.

These were my top 3 recommendations:

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About the Author

Andrew KrisAndrew Kris is a Founding Partner of Borderless. He pioneered the Borderless approach to executive search in 1997; a global business focus and a service-oriented approach that appeals to clients and candidates. Since then, he has found leaders for corporations in chemicals and life sciences, served as an advisor to clients in industry and continues to maintain an extensive personal network globally. As a commentator and author on shared services and business process outsourcing, he co-authored Shared Services – Shared Insights, Shared Services: mining for corporate gold and Shared Services and BPO: an executive briefing and several other volumes.

Training vs. Learning: Do you want to train? Or have someone learn?

Training successfully educates only those who are predisposed to the new material. Others may endeavor to learn during class but may not permanently adopt it. The problem isn’t the value of information or the eagerness of the learner: It’s a problem with both the training model itself and the way learners learn. It’s a systems/change problem.

How We Learn

We all operate out of unique, internal systems comprised of mental models (rules, beliefs, history etc.) that form the foundation of who we are and determine our choices, behaviors and habits. Our behaviors are the vehicles that represent these internal systems – our beliefs in action, if you will. So as a Buddhist I wouldn’t learn to shoot a gun, but if someone were to try to kill my family I’d shift the hierarchy of my beliefs to put ‘family’ above ‘Buddhist’ and ‘shooting a gun’ might be within the realm of possibility.

Because anything new is a threat to our habitual and carefully (unconsciously) organized internal system (part of our limbic brain), we instinctively defend ourselves against anything ‘foreign’ that might seek to enter. For real change (like learning something new) to occur, our system must buy-in to the new or it will be automatically resisted. It similarly effects selling/buying, coaching/clients, doctors/patients, leaders/followers.

A training program potentially generates obstacles, such as when

  • learners are happy with their habitual behaviors and don’t seek anything new,
  • fear they might lose their historic competency,
  • the new material unconsciously opposes long-held beliefs.

We are programmed to maintain our status quo and resist anything new unless our beliefs/mental models recognize that the new material will align with our status quo regardless of the efficacy of the required change.

How We Train

The training model assumes that if new material

  • is recognized as important, rational, and useful,
  • is offered in a logical, informative, interesting way,
  • allows time for experience and practice,

it will become accepted and habituated. But these assumptions are faulty. At an unconscious level, this model attempts to push something foreign into a closed system (our status quo): it might be adopted briefly, but if it opposes our habituated norm, it will show up as a threat and be resisted. This is the same problem faced when sellers attempt to place a new solution, or doctors attempt to change the habits of ill patients. It has little to do with the new, and everything to do with change management.

Truly experiential learning has a higher probability of being adopted because it uses the experience – like walking on coals, doing trust-falls with team members – to shift the underlying beliefs where the change takes place. Until or unless there is a belief change, and the underlying system is ready, willing, and able to adopt the new material into the accepted status quo, the change will not be permanent.

One of the unfortunate assumptions of the training field is that the teach/experience/practice model is effective and if learning doesn’t take place it’s the fault of the learner (much like sellers think the buyer is the problem, coaches thinks clients are the problem, and Listeners think Speakers are the problem). Effective training must change beliefs first.

Learning Facilitation

To avoid resistance and support adoption, training must enable

  1. buy-in from the belief/system status;
  2. the system to discover its own areas of lack and create an acceptable opening for change

before the new material is offered.

I had a problem to resolve when designing my first Buying Facilitation® training program in 1983. Because my content ran counter to an industry norm (sales), I had to help learners overcome a set of standardized beliefs and accepted processes endemic to the field. Learners would have to first recognize that their habitual skills were insufficient and higher success ratios were possible by adding (not necessarily subtracting) new ones. I called my training design Learning Facilitation and have used this model successfully for decades. (See my paper in The 2003 Annual: Volume 1 Training [Jossey-Bass/Pfieffer]: “Designing Curricula for Learning Environments Using a Facilitative Teaching Approach to Empower Learners” pp 263-272).

Briefly: Day 1 helps learners recognize the components of their unconscious status quo while identifying skills necessary for greater excellence: specifically, what they do that works and what they do that doesn’t work, and how their current skills match up with their unique definition of excellence within the course parameters. Day 2 enables learners to identify skills that would supplement their current skills to choose excellence at will, and tests for, and manages, acceptance and resistance. Only then do new behaviors get introduced and practiced.

Course material is designed with ‘learning’ in mind (rather than content sharing/behavior change), and looks quite different from conventional training. For example Day 1 uses no desks, no notes, and no lectures. I teach learners how to enlist their unconscious to facilitate buy-in for new material.

Whether it’s my training model or your own, just ask yourself: Do you want to train? Or have someone learn? They are two different activities.

About the Author

Sharon Drew Morgen is a visionary, original thinker, and thought leader in change management and decision facilitation. She works as a coach, trainer, speaker, and consultant, and has authored 9 books including the NYTimes Business BestsellerSelling with Integrity. Morgen developed the Buying Facilitation® method ( in 1985 to facilitate change decisions, notably to help buyers buy and help leaders and coaches affect permanent change. Her newest book What? explains how to close the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She can be reached at [email protected]

Talent Management Best Practice 5 – Include Talent Needs in Business Plans

Include Talent Needs in Business PlansRapidly changing market conditions drive businesses leaders to continually reinvent how their organizations do business, their products and their services. Regardless of the changes made, differences between the business of today and the business of tomorrow commonly necessitate a change in personnel knowledge, skills, and experiences. While acquiring some of this background can be accomplished through an initiatives’ change management program, strategic talent needs often require new foundational knowledge, skills, and experiences be added to the organization. Such additions can be costly and time consuming and, therefore, should be planned for within the organization’s long-term and annual business plans.

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About the Author

Nathan Ives, StrategyDriven Principal is a StrategyDriven Principal and Host of the StrategyDriven Podcast. For over twenty years, he has served as trusted advisor to executives and managers at dozens of Fortune 500 and smaller companies in the areas of management effectiveness, organizational development, and process improvement. To read Nathan’s complete biography, click here.

How to Prepare Yourself for the Executive Chair

Comedian Steve Martin once said that if you want to be a millionaire, the first thing you have to do is get a million dollars. Most advice for positioning yourself for executive positions mirrors Martin’s sentiments: If you want to land in the executive chair, the first thing you need to do is get executive experience. I’ll counter with my own observation: If you want to land in the executive chair, start planning to do so when you’re in high school.

Landing in the Executive Chair: How to Excel in the Hot Seat
by Linda Henman


In today’s fast-paced, unprecedented, and unpredictable economy, many executives simply don’t know what to do. Conventional methods-which many never entirely understood in the first place-often don’t work during economic upheaval. Executives, especially CEOs, need something better. They need a guide that identifies the roadblocks and points out the landmines. In her more than 30 years of working with hundreds of executives, Dr. Linda Henman has observed the critical elements of success, both for the new leader and the one who aspires to the next level of success. In Landing in the Executive Chair, you’ll learn how to:

  • Avoid the pitfalls and identify a clear plan for personal and organizational stress.
  • Leverage the first months in a new executive position- that time of transition that promises opportunity and challenge, but also brings a period of great vulnerability.
  • Create a competitive advantage, set the right tone, make effective decisions, keep talent inside your doors, and establish credibility-all while navigating unfamiliar and turbulent waters.

As organizations expand and grow, the skills that led to success often won’t sustain further development in a more complex, high-stakes environment. Present and future executives need more. They need Landing in the Executive Chair.

Too late? Then, start preparation now. These ideas will help:

  1. If you didn’t have the advantages of a stellar education, remedy that situation. Study history, literature, art, music, and foreign languages. Begin today to augment your liberal arts knowledge, because doing so will help you with creative problem solving, conversation, and life balance.
  2. Address the nuts and bolts of business too. If you don’t understand finance and accounting, enroll in a course immediately. With so many online options, there’s really no excuse to overlook this essential building block to your success.
  3. Read. Read the Wall Street Journal and your local paper every day. If your city has a weekly business journal, read that too. Read your leading-edge industry publications, Forbes, other finance journals, and popular business books. At any given time, you should have read at least two books on the best seller list. In addition to giving you valuable information, this reading will make you a more interesting person.
  4. Map out a path to the executive position you want. How did others get there? Position yourself for each rung on the ladder; take the requisite training; learn the relevant skills; and acquire the needed experience.
  5. If you don’t hold a finance or operations position, consider cross training. Will the CEO allow you to work in these arenas for a short time? You’ll need this sort of groundwork for upward mobility. You can read books about HR and marketing, but getting your head in and hands on the finances and operations will pay huge premiums later on.
  6. If you hold an HR position, get out as soon as you can. HR professionals tend to hit both glass walls and glass ceilings. They find that they can’t get promoted outside the HR function, and that road seldom leads to the executive chair.
  7. Look the part. Everything about you should scream ‘Success!’ Dress well. Get a good haircut. Surround yourself with quality objects: car, pen, shoes, brief case, etc. If you’re uncertain about points of etiquette, hire a coach. If you’re out of shape, get a trainer. In short, send the message that you’ll be 100% at home in the C-suite, boardroom, or country club.
  8. Get a mentor. The military, better than many civilian organizations I’ve worked with, understands the value of committing to high potentials – a commitment that turns those who may not have reached their potential into top performers. Many senior military officers begin mentoring future candidates when those would-be generals are still captains. Use this best practice for yourself. Find someone inside or outside your organization who has achieved what you aspire to do. Ask them to give you advice when you need it. Few will refuse to drink a cup of coffee with you while you pick their brains. Instead, they will feel flattered.
  9. Get a coach. In the world of professional athletics, no one questions the value of coaching top performers, yet in business, the stigma seems to linger that those who need coaching must be ‘at risk.’ I have built my entire business model on the opposite approach, however. As ‘the virtuoso coach,’ I only work with high potentials.
    Recently the St. Louis Cardinals added former Cardinal player John Mabry to their roster of batting coaches. Mark McGuire will continue to coach the right-handed batters, and Mabry will concentrate on the left-handers. This focused approach should serve as the gold standard for hiring business coaches too. High potentials should hire specialized business coaches who have built successful businesses themselves and who have developed a proven track record for helping others get promoted.
  10. Conduct your private life with uncompromising integrity. Unlike some of the aforementioned, you have 100% control over this. No one can rob you of your integrity, but you can give it away. I have seen so many high potentials derail themselves from a seemingly-sure path to success with bad decisions in their personal lives. Assume everything you do will make the front page, because some day it just might.

As the Baby Boomers leave executive positions in droves, others will need to ascend the corporate ladder, but too few have actively prepared themselves. No matter when you plan to climb the next rungs of the ladder, now is the time to start planning.

About the Author

Dr. Linda Henman, the catalyst for virtuoso organizations, is the author of Landing in the Executive Chair, among other works. She is an expert on setting strategy, planning succession, and developing talent. For more than 30 years she has helped executives and boards in Fortune 500 Companies and privately-held organizations dramatically grow their businesses. She was one of eight succession planning experts who worked directly with John Tyson after his company’s acquisition of International Beef Products. Some of her other clients include Emerson Electric, Avon, Kraft Foods, Edward Jones, and Boeing. She can be reached in St. Louis at