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Having an impact: how the General Management Programme can make you a better manager

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Identifying the weaknesses in your supply chain, stepping back from micro-managing to allow a junior to shine, working through unnecessary steps in a production process: they’re all relatively easy problems to tackle – when you are doing them in the classroom, that is. But it can be a lot harder to actually apply that new-found knowledge once you are back in the office.

Of course, there is great value in doing a residential course. There are no distractions. Your phone is off. You are able to step back from your familiar environment and look at the wider picture. And you are likely to learn from fellow participants who might have very different views from your own – and make you realise just how entrenched your own way of doing things has become.

Yet dealing with all the day-to-day challenges of your role as well as trying to make a step change in your thinking isn’t easy. Can you actually turn theory into practice, and ensure that the value of your programme for you and your business goes way beyond a folder gathering dust under your desk?

We asked four participants of Cambridge Judge Business School’s Executive Education General Management Programme to share how their executive education has changed their management style for the better.

Kate Johnston, Senior Risk and Compliance Lawyer (manager), Freshfields

Kate Johnston

Kate Johnston

“My main takeaway was around the benefits of being forward-looking and the value of putting in proper preparation and dedicating the proper amount of time to really important things, before you just run off and do them. If you just invest that little bit of time beforehand, the outcome when you come to do the particular activity or meet with a particular person is so much more valuable for you and for the organisation as a whole.

“But there’s also a wider point. We are going through a transformational project in our department over the next two and a half years, which is probably the most strategic thing that we’ve done since the department was created more than ten years ago. On the course, my perspective on how I think about risk and business shifted. In a law firm, luck and risk have quite negative connotations. But luck and risk, in this project, could actually be a really positive thing. We might uncover ways to improve things that weren’t immediately apparent, and have the opportunity to act positively. Or, as part of the transformation process, we might be able to identify someone who is an expert in an area we need a bit of feedback on.

“So there are all these opportunities for positive things to come out of our activities and processes that are, perhaps, fraught with a bit of operational risk or uncertainty. And it would be good to go into those processes with our eyes open. I now feel more comfortable with risk, rather than needing to have all the answers to hand at the outset.”

Natasha Marriott, HR Director and Board Director, Levolux

Natasha Marriott

Natasha Marriott

“The lectures were incredibly dynamic and key ideas from the longer MBA were crystallised down, so there was an opportunity for take-homes that could immediately be communicated into all areas of the business.

“I think one of the most significant take-homes, was that although I feel I am good at focusing on each individuals’ objectives, more could be done to communicate and focus the employee on the broader objectives of the organisation. This came directly from a lecture that highlighted the importance of the organisation’s KPIs and the clear and passionate communication of them. As a starting point, I asked employees in their annual appraisals to discuss and consider their impact on these key areas and how they could influence them.

“I believe this has been beneficial, as employees have recognised areas of development for themselves and within other departments. There has been a positive response to the fact that we are encouraging everyone to think about, for example, health and safety, quality, or customer service. I think it’s really important to keep everyone focused on the key aims of the business.”

Asger Jacobsen, Director, Sales and Marketing Excellence, Novo Nordisk

Asger Jacobsen

Asger Jacobsen

“To me, the value of the course was all about softer skills. I was expecting general management – taking care of logistics and finance – but I forgot about the importance of people.

“I learned about what’s known as the Kruger Donning effect, and it’s something I’ve used a lot for myself recently. The dilemma is that if you lack a competency you don’t have the ability to realize it – for example, people with terrible sense of humour rate it to be above average.

“Understanding the dilemma has been of tremendous importance to me in relating to my employees and my colleagues. It’s crucial that you let people do things and learn for themselves. You have to find a very subtle way of letting them know they don’t know, or letting them experience that they don’t know. You have to be a little bit patient around them. When they do realize what they don’t know my experience is that they will move quickly to learn.

“I’ve also changed my thinking about the way we do marketing. Professor Eden Yin was extremely good at making points about how marketing is not really a function; it’s a way of thinking. He got us to think about how we would re-do a hospital from a patient’s point of view – which is very relevant to pharmaceuticals. Instead of asking people what they think should be done, you should experience it. What you really need to do is put yourself in the chair of the patient. And if you do that, then you very quickly realise that the biggest problem about hospital design is the light on the ceiling blinding you when you are lying there on the bed. That was an eye-opener.

“Coming back to your organisation you’ve got to remember that the people on your team won’t have been on the course, so they won’t know what you’re talking about. I’m looking forward to sharing my learnings with my team, but you have to take it up at the right moment, and the right time and place.”

Amanda Tabb, Process and Improvement Manager, Seadrill Americas

“I’m currently in a management role that I’ve held for two years. I’m still in the early stages of my career and I’m even newer to management. So this course allowed me to get a wide perspective on business practice, and how I could relate it to my own organisation.

“Meeting other participants was hugely useful. The course allowed everyone to relate their individual business practices to other experiences and I really enjoyed learning from my colleagues. The interaction between fellow participants allowed us all to gain knowledge from one another on different personal and business experiences we have had throughout our career.

“To me, it was really important to learn about areas of business that I normally don’t use in my day-to-day role, such as finance and accounting. So I got the most benefit from the courses focused on finances, accounting, strategy, negotiation and process management.

“After returning to the office, I took some time to reflect on the lectures given in the course. I’ve started participating in meetings in different departments working on applying the knowledge I learned while at CJBS, specifically in the finance and accounting departments. I was able to contribute to meeting content around financial statements, cash flow and budgets. And I’ve also been evaluating what my leadership role is within my team, and how I can focus on the tools provided in the course. It opened my eyes to many aspect of the business that I hadn’t had much interaction with.”