Source: Financial Times
by Seb Murray,
Business schools offer support to help students reach their goals
Sagar Joshi went to business school because he wanted to make a fundamental career switch. Having spent several years in research and development at French industrial supplier Air Liquide in Delaware, the 37-year-old Indian wanted more managerial responsibility and to work with multidisciplinary teams.
During his executive MBA at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, which he finished this year, Joshi secured a marketing job with M&T Bank in New York state. Fearing the transition would be difficult, as he had no work experience relevant to the new role, he signed up for executive coaching, which Darden offers as part of the programme.
Coaching is a type of leadership development that helps people achieve personal and professional goals or solve problems. Six one-on-one sessions, delivered in person and remotely, helped Joshi to become less assertive and more empathetic. “That was important because I had to be more observant to understand my new industry and function,” he says. “The coaching was transformational.” The sessions included role-playing; in one
With longer lifespans, later retirement and greater job insecurity because of the threat of automation, people are changing jobs more often. Business schools have responded by using coaching to support students and alumni with career switches, securing promotions or overcoming problems, such as uncertainty. Globally, 82
Students are demanding a practice that has become popular with corporations such as GlaxoSmithKline, according to Colleen Bracken, one of more than 40 executive coaches who work with EMBA participants at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “There used to be a perception that having a coach meant there’s something wrong with you. Now it’s a status symbol,” she says.
Participants receive appraisals based on anonymous feedback from classmates and colleagues, for example on competencies such as diplomacy. Students use the data and coaching to identify problems, find solutions and reflect on the implementation of solutions at work.
“The module is popular because it’s
Edward Sun’s feedback suggested that he tended to avoid conflict. A coach advised him to seek negative feedback from colleagues to desensitise himself. “It helped me receive and give criticism better,” says the 37-year-old American. He believes that coaching made him a stronger manager and helped his promotion to secretary-treasurer at Stony Brook Medicine, a healthcare group in New York state, where he works as a clinical assistant professor. “I was able to articulate my beliefs better during the election for the position,” Sun says.
But coaches are expensive. IMD in Switzerland uses about 15 in its EMBA, most of whom are contracted rather than employed full-time. They provide three mandatory sessions for students, included as part of the $108,000 tuition fees. Stefan Michel, EMBA dean, says that top coaches in Switzerland earn up to $2,600 per day, though he does not reveal IMD’s rates. He has considered raising tuition fees to absorb the cost of coaching.
For Silvia Bagdadli, associate professor of
The greater challenge that schools face is getting students to open up on sensitive issues. Coaching was previously mandatory for EMBAs at Darden; three years ago the school made it optional. “We found that students who were forced tended not to engage,” says Connie Whittaker Dunlop, executive director for professional advancement. “They need to volunteer and be willing to open up to benefit.”
Choosing the right coach is also critical. Darden pairs EMBA students with coaches who have something in common, such as having worked in the same industry, or who have similar personality types.
“This helps ensure students are comfortable enough to seek support and develop a trusting relationship with their coach,” Dunlop says.
At Rotman School of Management in Toronto, coaching is optional and available to both EMBA students and alumni, who meet in person or by teleconference. The flexibility is important because time constraints can be a barrier to participation. But Rocca Morra Hodge, director of EMBA career services, says that the first meeting is often face-to-face. “It’s easier to build trust in
Kathleen McGinn struggled to care for her husband, who was diagnosed with mental
Rotman stressed the confidentiality and credentials of its coach, who is certified by the Coaches Training Institute, which encouraged McGinn to use the service. The 42-year-old Canadian finished the EMBA this year and says coaching built her resilience: “Just talking through the situation helped me cope.”