Four Reasons why Corporate Value Statements don’t work

« Excellence », « integrity » and « communication » These seem to be the most popular buzzwords in corporate value statements.

I roll my eyes as soon as I see these values anywhere. Why? I will give you four reasons why they make me nervous:

1. One size does not fit all

First of all, values like excellence, integrity, and communication are way too generic. They could be adopted by any organization. Who would be against excellence, integrity, and communication? But are they really specific for the company and its culture or business model? Probably not! Excellence can mean many things to different people. It certainly makes a difference what we mean by excellence whether you are working in a bank or a hospital.
Integrity? It means that you always stick to your moral principles no matter what the benefit might be if you break the rules. This value, too, needs a lot of definition and soul searching before a group of people like a company can agree what it really means to them: When is a gift a bribe? How do we deal with confidential information?  Can I be friends with a supplier? Etc.

Pic Blog Corporate Values prt1 Yes, way too often value statement are empty word bubbles! Please avoid that. Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash 

 

2. The true colors are always shining through

Second, often companies succumb to the temptation to choose values that sound appealing but are too far away from their corporate reality and somehow hoping that the simple act of proclaiming that value it will become a reality in the organization. For example, when companies put “communication” in their value chart they wish to express with this value, which is not even a value but an activity, that they want everyone in the organization to cooperate effectively and openly with as little political power play as possible. Wishful thinking in many cases!  Of course, the people in the company know this and react with cynicism.

You cannot declare that your company cherishes collaboration, open communication, and teamwork when in reality your corporate culture is driven by fierce internal competition, politics and monetary incentives only. What we need is an inside-out approach. You have to do your internal cultural homework before you go into the world and brag about what a wonderful company you think you are.

Values statement will never work, if they are only the icing on the cake, they have to be the very foundation of a corporate culture. Within the icing-on-the-cake approach, the top management comes together and agrees on some fancy sounding words that are then communicated to the lower ranks. This does not work. It is like putting on makeup without washing your face. Or like learning some moves and gestures to appear more self-assured without doing the hard internal work of personal development.

France Telecom had to learn this the hard way in 2008, when they got hit by a series of over 30 employee suicides: victims stabbed themselves in the middle of company meetings, jumped out of the window at work and left goodbye letters that clearly stated that they killed themselves because of the pressures and fears at work. At that time France Telecom was in a difficult transition from a state-owned company to a player in the highly competitive and dynamic international telcom market and could not fire employees with a public servant status. Therefore, CEO Didier Lombard had introduced a merciless shake-out project that aimed at demoralizing employees in order to make them leave the company “voluntarily”.  As a reaction to the suicide series, Lombard said that this “fashion” of suicide should stop and that the media coverage created an effect of contagion. The waves of public outrage went high, Lombard had to leave and is still today on trial for harassment. Of course, at the same time, France Telecom had a value statement that said that the well-being of their employees was very important to them.

It is clear that after a disaster like that it will be very, very hard to ever make coworkers believe in the beautiful words of a value statement again. This is one point that is often ignored when companies initiate a value management project: If you screw it up, credibility is lost for a very long time, if not forever. At the same time, it is true that values can and should be aspirational. You can use values as part of a change program. But if you do that you have to make clear that you know that you are not quite there yet and prove that you have measures like training, organizational redesign or new performance standards in place to get there.

3. No Emotional appeal

Third, if values are too generic and unrealistic they do not create any genuine emotional response or connection for the men and women in a company who know the true colors of their organization all too well.  Of course, client orientation is important, but this is not a value that would deeply resonate with the hearts of employees. This is nothing that makes people get out of bed in the morning and go to work with joy and anticipation.

How can you make corporate values emotionally appealing? Not easy, but it helps to always start with a motivating overall purpose of the company that goes beyond the profit motive. Humans always yearn for meaning in their life. As philosopher and Holocaust survivor Viktor Fraenkel famously put it: “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”

This human desire for meaning is nicely illustrated by Harish Manwani’s (COO of Unilever) TED talk in which he tells the story of his first day at the company where his boss asked him why he was there. Manwani answered: “To sell lots of soap!” and his boss said: “No, to change peoples lives!”, because the original purpose of Unilever was to improve hygiene in order to help prevent contagious diseases. Clearly changing peoples lives is more emotionally appealing than selling lots of soap, right?

4. No link to everyday behavior

Forth, very often values statements are not linked to behavior. They get developed, glossy brochures rolled out, employees (maybe) read them, laugh bitterly because they are so unrealistic and cheesy and then they forget them because nothing happens that would link these values with the behavior of managers and employees. The mere proclamation of value buzz words will never, never, never influence people’s behavior. How people in an organization actually behave is the ultimate proof to the value pudding. Without this link to behavior, a value statement loses all credibility and disappoints all expectations that unavoidably come up when a company opens the value Pandora’s box.

And by the way, these three values, excellence, integrity, and communication were the corporate values of Enron. And we all know how this ended: In jail, bankruptcy, and shattered hopes. Somehow Enron had managed to win prizes for their value statement, but it definitely did not keep their top management from cooking the books and inciting their employees to cut-throat business behavior with the help of an inhumane incentive system.

In a nutshell, ever so often value statements do not go beyond orgies of humanistic prose in shiny brochures that nobody can take seriously. In extreme cases, they are a more or less random collection of buzzwords sound like this hilarious song by Weird Al: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyV_UG60dD4

On the other side, of course, values are important for companies in our highly volatile, complex and ambiguous times. Old-school management that works with order and command is too rigid for this new fast-moving world. The younger generation of corporate coworkers is looking for more freedom, more fun, more autonomy and more purpose in their jobs. Here a corporate culture that is driven by values and a purpose that goes beyond simple profit maximization creates a positive appeal for future coworkers, higher levels of motivation with current coworkers and a more inspiring and more flexible way of decision making. Ideally, instead of applying rigid rulebooks, controls and processes, coworkers decide on the basis of common values.

So how can you come up with a value statement that will actually have these positive effects instead of creating cynicism and ridicule?

Stay tuned for my next blog post and on the five steps to make the value statements work.

Prof.-Bettina-PalazzoAuthor: Dr. Bettina Palazzo, BSL Professor

How business – and the world – benefit from intrapreneurship

intrapreneurship

Image credit: Emily reider on unsplash

I recently co-designed and co-facilitated an MBA elective on the subject of ESG (Environmental and Social Governance) and Sustainable Investing at Business School Lausanne.

Teaching an elective to MBA students at BSL was a great opportunity. And to be honest, initially I was not at ease, as it was completely out of my comfort zone. But I ended up doing it – and I totally loved it!

The point is that this experience made me realize (again!) that as an entrepreneur (and freelance-on-a-mission as I like to define myself at the moment), stepping out of your comfort zone and nurture your positive mindset are essential if you want to change the world for good.

This is also true within companies: if you want to change the status quo, stepping up, daring to be visible and stepping out of your comfort zone are skills to be developed.

Why is intrapreneurship key for companies – and the world?

According to the Intrapreneurship Institute, there are 3 enduring benefits of intrapreneurship within organizations: new products and services, growing employee satisfaction and market share increase.

Letting employees experiment and “train” their intrapreneurial mindsets and skills, letting them “fail often and fast” (as we say in the start-up world) are key for agility, adapting to increasing VUCA environments and thus, long term business success.

During the MBA elective, we pushed students out of their comfort zones, “sparking” their entre- and intrapreneurial mindset through a hackathon: learning and applying new tools and frameworks in a short period of time and pitching a project “for good” with positive social or environmental impact to (fictional) potential investors or board of directors.

A call to action for business

Let your employees “train” their intrapreneurial mindset and skillset for a positive impact initiative they care about! It will not only motivate them to follow through if it’s a cause they truly care about, it will also enable them to train these skills so that they can use them in their daily jobs. A win-win for people, planet and profit!

marena eirichAuthor: Marena Eirich is a CSR consultant and creator of teams4purpose, a program that helps organizations activate positive impact from within. She is a graduate of the Diploma in Sustainable Business from BSL and HSG.

From Knowing to Doing – Developing Feedback Fluency of Future Leaders

In this semester’s Leadership and Management skills course I was looking for ways that would enable students to dig in deeper and stretch their learning. Each four hour session is designed to be experiential and learning is facilitated by using a combination of virtual simulations, reflection, applying the flipped classroom method, role play, assessments, working out loud and practicing participatory leadership tools.

A key skill set that I have noticed is often lacking in the management domain is the ability to give feedback in a timely and constructive manner.

Working with a class of 24 students from 12 countries you can imagine the differences in perspectives related to this skill. For example:

  • From my point of view, a feedback is connected with negative emotions and taking criticism personally, not on the work that one does.
  • I grew up in a culture where giving feedback is not the norm. Or if someone is giving you “Feedback”, it it’s usually to make you feel bad or prove they’re better than you are.
  • In my experience giving and receiving feedback were not positive experiences for me, for this reason I was scared to be involved in this process.
  • Sometimes when we give feedback towards our team members it may affect them from a personal perspective, it’s a very sensitive topic.

To create something that would truly create powerful impact with the students, I reached out to Sarah Schwab the CEO of The Experience Accelerator to ask if we could create a project together that would help the students build their feedback skills into a competence.  Sarah was open to the idea and we created a five-part learning journey for the students.

  1. It began with students logging into The Experience Accelerator to visualize a feedback virtual scenario
  2. Students were debriefed on the scenario and required to practice giving feedback and recording their interaction.
  3. Before class students received written feedback on their practice focusing on the areas they had performed well in as well as suggestions on how they could improve.
  4. At this point the learning went live and students had the opportunity in class to practice by giving, receiving and observing feedback in different scenarios that had been prepared for them. Watch the video
  5. And finally, students were given the opportunity to write a reflection about what they learned over the course of the assignment

In their reflection papers students expressed their surprise at the power of the exercise:

“I have learned that feedback is not about telling what the person did right or wrong, but about explaining how he or she made the other person feel.” KB

“I realized again how challenging it is when performing the online scenario where it somehow appeared easy when watching the video, but was a totally different story when I had to do my own recordings.” ME

“I would like to say that such an experience was truly helpful for me. I gained a lot of knowledge in terms of feedback, particularly if I want to give an effective feedback, I should always practice and be aware of some key points in order to avoid making mistakes from the very beginning.” SK

Their ability to put into practice a four step feedback model*  both virtually and in class during live role play has categorically changed the beliefs’ students had about feedback. Furthermore they now have a toolkit and clear understanding of how to deliver effective constructive feedback.

*Clarify the context, explain using as much detail as possible what happened, explain the impact their action had on the situation and discuss possible steps on how to move forward.

Author:

Nadene Canning, BSL Professor

 

Appreciative Inquiry, Business Innovation and the SDGs – A winning combination

For the first time in September 2017 Business School Lausanne designed a case study course that used the UN Global Goals as a lens for students to take a step closer to business innovation in their community, exploring companies that are both profitable and doing good in the world.

In Part 1 of the course students needed to research a company they believe are doing work related to the SDGs. The students job was to help the company to uncover and reveal an important story that has happened to them related to a recent project where clearly “good for the world” was created, sometimes even unintentionally.

To find out whether their discovery was valid, they had a wealth of information available to them on the Aim2Flourish platform regarding the sustainable development goals and corporate innovation. Once a company and a contact person had been identified, students reached out through the power of our professional networks to connect, explain their intention, and set up an in-person interview with the specific business leader. The interview was prepared beforehand in class using the appreciative inquiry method. Based on the information interview and their additional research, students then wrote their stories and we went through a few rounds of revisions before submitting them to the AIM2Flourish platform. From the outset students knew they were part of a competition for the most innovative stories and that there was a possibility that their story would be chosen the following year as one of the best-of-the-best stories.

Early April I received a message from Aim2Flourish requesting confirmation that all the information in one of the stories written by a student was valid. I reached out to the company in question and liaised with the press department, made some modifications and on April 16, 2018  was advised that the story written by Karim Albekov had been awarded one of the 17 Flourish Prizes, based on the Promoting Gender Equity story he had written about the organization: IKEA.

This business’ story was selected as one of the 17 best stories exemplifying how business is a positive force for good and demonstrating progress towards the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) published on the AIM2Flourish platform in 2018.

AIM2Flourish is a UN-supported global learning initiative where students discover and celebrate untold stories about business innovations for good, using the 17 SDGs as a lens. AIM2Flourish is an initiative of the Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit at the Weatherhead School of Management – Case Western Reserve University.

Please join me in congratulating Karim Albekov for this excellent accomplishment and to all the other students who submitted their stories;  Alexandros Katsidonis,  Anna Iskanderova, Arsen Amanbayev, Lisa Foffano and Ana Cristina Junquira Ottoni. Give them all a big round of applause at graduation this summer for being the first to try and the first to succeed!

This year, Aim2Flourish will celebrate all of their 2018 Flourish Prize winners in a week-long, virtual celebration from May 7-11. During this time Aim2Flourish will host a global, multi-day celebration via our social channels on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Medium, and Zoom Video Conference with the hashtag #FlourishPrizes2018.

 

Author:

Nadene Canning, BSL Professor

 

Innovation at BSL: GAME OVER? – Transforming the lives of the elderly

Edited by Dr. Aileen Ionescu-Somers

Blog Post by GFW Group 3 BSL students: Alexander Svetlitskiy, Amin Riaziat, Andrea Sacco, Deem Almuhaidib, Dmytro Kovtoniuk, Luis Miguel Becerra, Valentina Korobeynikova, Victor Gladskoy

Today, we are neglecting our elderly more and more as a society. Moreover, current retirement homes are not responding to the basic human communication needs of the elderly. There is also a need to incentivize the elderly to remain healthy as long as possible in both mind and body.

As Group 3 of 8 student groups overall during the Spring Gap Frame Week, we selected the “Quality of life” area of focus on Day 1 of the Gap Frame Week so that we could design a useful solution for the future. Our research on Day 2 provided us with significant insights into the “pain” of our stakeholders. By addressing the pain points identified, we felt we could provide an additional choice for the elderly to spend time in retirement, using a mobile application and developing a specialized community center for the elderly. During the rest of the week, we had a challenging time developing an early prototype of our concept, but it was a lot of fun at the same time. Click HERE to view our fun team video so that you can get a sense our positive collaborative spirit!

Our research revealed that many elderly people are suffering from loneliness. In many cases, the elderly have limited communications with other human beings and over time, they may engage in increasingly limited activities. Often, the highlight of an elderly person’s day is simply reading the newspaper. Retirement for many represents a “long wait for the inevitable”. We want to change all that by introducing an easy to use application, supported on all mobile platforms, called “Game Over?”. Our innovation aim is to create a tailor-made application that is extremely user-friendly and easy to navigate. The app would provide several functions – newspaper, TV, a net-working and communication platform, games, activity schedules and plans, with related activity sign-up sheets. Our idea is to provide an easy to use platform where the elderly can engage in a favorite activity such as reading the newspaper but also try other activities. For example, on the Game Over? App, the elderly will be able to play games especially designed to be beneficial to the health of the elderly. Playing video games increases brain stimulation, reduces arthritis, lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s, improves memory and attention, slows down the aging process, improves hand-eye coordination and helps with depression. To appeal to the target group, the design and interface of the App games will appeal specifically to the elderly.

We also discussed including a concept of related Game Over? community centers.  The idea is to provide a room for elderly citizens to enjoy gaming experiences and for those not yet initiated to gaming, provide an introduction class to new technology. Exploring our ideas further, we felt that the “Game Over?” community center could cover other aspects of elderly well-being. It could also have a meditation room and garden to hold meditation and or light yoga sessions with a meditation instructor. This would help elderly citizens learn the art of relaxation and good breathing techniques but also help retain a certain level of physical fitness. We also had the idea of equipping the community center with an emergency treatment room. Another idea was to provide a system whereby the elderly will be able to tutor young students for a profit, depending on their skills, potentially with the profit being used for our platform subscriptions. As we discussed and worked on our prototype, plenty of new ideas came up.

With the target market of elderly (aged 65+), our group felt that the App and linked community/activity center will not only make the lives of the elderly more meaningful but it will change and improve quality of life.

With Game Over?, we are reintroducing a selection of elements that complement and enhance quality of life. In our view, Game Over?, if developed fully,  has the potential to create a new found purpose in life for isolated populations of the elderly in Switzerland and outside. During the next GFW, we will be developing this prototype further, into as feasible a start-up idea as possible in order to attract the attention of potential (albeit hypothetical – for now) investors. Watch this space.

 

The wonderful world of online education

I am a big fan of online learning and have done many Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s) on Coursera (www.coursera.org).

Last year I participated in an online course in « Negotiation & Influence » at Yale University (http://sg.emeritus.org/management-certificate-programs/negotiation-and-influence/) thanks to the faculty development fund of BSL. It was my objective to update myself on these topics, because I teach a class on Business Ethics and Negotiation at BSL.

In addition to learning new fun stuff, this course helped me to put myself in the shoes of my students. I realized that I couldn’t always answer all questions in the weekly quizzes even though I had listened attentively to all the video lectures. This reminded me not to be disappointed when the same thing happens to my students. You just cannot expect students to remember or understand everything that you said just once in class. Of course, everything is crystal clear to you as a teacher, also because you are deep into your topic and have given the class before. Forgetting this is a common “déformation professionelle” of teachers. You always must try harder, repeat, document, and check if students have understood, let them repeat what the task was, be patient and never take it personally.

Besides this more general lesson in self-awareness, this course was extremely useful to get new ideas for my own course.

On the other hand, I was a bit skeptical: Can you really teach a highly interactive skill like negotiating online? Of course, in negotiation you must learn basic concepts like how to prepare for a negotiation, how to haggle, or how to close a deal, but in the end, you always learn the most if you actually negotiate. I was curious to find out how you could run role play negotiations in the virtual space.

It turned out that negotiating online is no problem at all. My fellow students and I met on a special online platform, or we negotiated via WhatsApp or Skype. Every week during this two-month course, we were assigned to classmates that were in our time zone. Of course, it was different from face to face negotiation, but I found it almost as good. Furthermore, in today’s world many negotiations do take place on the phone, on Skype or via email.

What I really liked about the course was its broad focus. As the title “Negotiation & Influence” implies, it went far beyond simply trying to get the biggest piece of the pie. Indeed, negotiation is so much more! It is basically a decision-making process that you need every time you cannot achieve your goals alone (this nice definition comes from the godmother of negotiation, Leigh Thompson, and is the foundation of the course I teach). In today’s business world, it is virtually impossible to achieve our goals alone. This is why negotiation is so important.

If we look at negotiation like this, it is also clear that things like relationships and trust are key. According to research, the “subjective value” of a negotiation (i.e. did I have a good relationship with my partner, did I feel treated with fairness, did I feel good during the negotiation) is even more important than the objective mostly monetary value I achieve in a negotiation.  Even if the objective value one gains from a negotiation is positive, this “victory” is not sustainable if you felt uncomfortable with your negotiation partner, or felt rushed or treated with disrespect.

However, if the partners both enjoyed the interaction, they have a great foundation for the future. One study even shows that job applicants that experienced positive subjective value during their salary negotiations were more likely to like their job and stay in their job one year after the job negotiations (http://web.mit.edu/curhan/www/docs/Publications/Curhan_Getting_Off_on_the_Right_Foot.pdf).

You did not only learn theoretically about this concept of subjective value in negotiations, but even found out how your negotiation partners experienced you with respect to the subjective value you brought to the table. After every round of negotiation, we filled out a questionnaire (http://www.subjectivevalue.com/) about how we felt about ourselves and our partners during the negotiation, and so did our partners. That way, we received a highly individualized feedback on how we were perceived as negotiation partners in comparison to how we experienced it ourselves.

Another highlight of this course was learning how to deal with difficult negotiation tactics like stonewalling, threats or insults. Here the key is not to succumb to the impulsive reaction of either surrendering to these tactics, mimic them or quit the negotiation. Firstly, you need to avoid emotional reactions and try to look at the situation with detachment. This strategy is called “going to the balcony”. It takes some practice, but once you created this kind of emotional distance it is much easier to either simply ignore the mean tactics or deflect them by either asking smart questions (Please explain to me why the price is suddenly so important?) or naming the game (We came here to negotiate with respect. You do not need to insult me. Can we please continue differently now?). We had to apply evil tactics in one of our role plays and this was especially eye-opening as we changed roles: First my partner tested all kinds of difficult tactics with me and I had to try to stay calm, detached and reasonable. Then we switched roles. I must admit that continuing to be evil was pretty hard, because my partner did a great job in staying calm and reasonable!

In conclusion, online courses are a great way to update yourself on the state of the art of your field, you get new ideas for your own teaching and you stay in touch with the students’ experience. I am already looking for my next MOOC.

 

Prof.-Bettina-PalazzoAuthor: Dr. Bettina Palazzo
Professor at BSL

Bachelor students successfully simulate Summit Conference

Conventional theories are presented and explored by our first-year students in the Bachelor of Business Administration macro-economics class. However, a substantial aspect of it considers alternative approaches to macro-economy.

The crowning of this wide-ranging approach took place during the last class of the semester, in which a global conference on sustainable development, along the lines of the United Nations Rio +20 conference, was simulated. Country representatives met in different task forces to demonstrate critical thinking and generate new ideas for solving the world’s economic challenges. Here is the inspiring outcome of their hard work.

The countries participating in the morning conference simulation were Switzerland, the Netherlands and the USA. The task forces on special topics, made up of country representatives, agreed on the following proposals:

  • Foreign Aid to reach the amount of 0.7% of GDP as proposed by the United Nations, achieved by raising the corporate income tax and re-allocating the public spending budget. Focus on food security in sub-Saharan Africa, including programs to educate farmers, because poor post-harvest handling and storage loss leads to a 10% loss of production.
  • Knowledge Transfer between MIT (USA), EPFL (CH) and Delft (NL), three science-based universities interested in innovative solutions to real-life problems. All knowledge shared will be protected by an agreement regarding Intellectual Property Rights, and the Erasmus program will be used as the framework for the exchange. In another program, knowledge could be shared on modern public transportation (from NL), space travel (from NASA in the USA) and nuclear research (from CERN in CH).
  • Climate Change to be firstly managed by increasing the use of renewable energy in the three countries mentioned above for transportation – Swiss Solar Impulse will work with Boeing (USA) and Fokker (NL) on solar-powered airplanes, and trains/buses will be promoted in the countries; secondly, by the introduction of Carbon Capture and Storage technology, developed in CH to collect CO2 emissions before they are released into the air and to re-use the stored CO2. In addition, society will be made climate-proof by being prepared for the harmful effects of climate change, e.g. flood protection.

The countries participating in the afternoon conference simulation were Chad, France and Canada. The task forces agreed on the following proposals:

  • Foreign Aid to achieve four objectives: firstly, Canada and France to channel more humanitarian aid to Chad to help feed and house the 300,000 refugees from Sudan, as well as to fight the outbreak of hepatitis E in the country. Secondly, ease visa requirements from Chad to France and Canada in order to improve work opportunities for Chadian workers – the three countries share the French language. Thirdly, France to build training bases for the Foreign Legion in Chad, which will create jobs and provide excellent training conditions for the Foreign Legion. Lastly, Chad to receive military support from France – a military school – and Canada – military equipment – in order to improve security in the region where there are numerous conflicts.
  • Knowledge Transfer to firstly raise the literacy rate in Chad from 40% today to 80% by 2030, with a program to recruit, prepare and retain teachers led by France and Canada; at the moment there are only 2 teachers per 1000 residents. Secondly, to extend the current exchange program for University of Chad students and French universities, running since 1971, to include Canadian universities. Thirdly, to install 100 MW of solar energy production by 2030 in addition to the 60 MW planned for 2020, because a good return on investment can be anticipated.
  • Climate Change agrees three objectives to deal with the serious desertification in the country and the drying up of Lake Chad, which some estimates claim has lost 95% of its water, all of which has raised tensions between the three countries making use of water from it. Firstly, to reverse the desertification, plant two million trees in addition to the 1.5 million planted by the UNHCR and use the French charity Friends of the Earth to clear away the silt in water channels. Secondly, use the Canadian charity Wateraid to improve access to clean drinking water and reduce waterborne diseases. Thirdly, to use the French charity Action Against Hunger to improve irrigation systems in the area.

The objectives and policies are marked by being linked to specific and concrete facts about the countries as well as to existing organizations and programs. Thus, the results of the simulation present an inspiring vision of what could be done for our collective future, while being practicable and realistic.

Author:

Benjamin Wall, Professor

 

My way into a Fortune 500 company

After finalizing a Bachelor in International Business and Management in 2016, my goal was to pursue a Master in Finance. But where? After extensive research, I chose Business School Lausanne, as this was one of the only establishments in Europe that offered a Master in International and Sustainable Finance. I was not very sure what Sustainable Finance meant, but after some digging I noticed a growing interest in it. This was the perfect opportunity to differentiate myself from regular Finance Masters. In addition, Switzerland has a very good reputation for education. The combination of these two factors led me to move to Switzerland.

The one-and-a-half-year program is divided into six periods. The first four periods are made up of courses in which I learned the specifics of International and Sustainable Finance. The best part of BSL are the professors: each of them is an expert in their respective area and they have a long history of practicing. Some professors even conduct their own business while teaching part-time at BSL. The expertise they offer in Econometrics, Statistics, Financial Markets, Corporate Finance, and more is incredible. In addition, as the curriculum matches a big part of the CFA exam, I used this knowledge to take the exam.

We had a lot of options about what to learn/develop during the last two periods. These options included: an applied business project, a case study, a master thesis, or a nanodegree for data analysis. I decided upon the nanodegree, thinking it would bring the biggest added value. Prior to the course, I did not have any programming experience, which made the program challenging at the beginning. However, the professor really took time to explain everything step-by-step in order for me to get the best out of the course. During this time, I learned essential programming languages like Python, R, and SQL and applied new programs such as Jupyter Notebook and Tableau.

How did this help me in landing a position in a Fortune 500 company? My new role requires the possession of a Master degree in finance and the understanding of programming. As previously described, my learnings at BSL resulted in a combination of business, finance, and programming knowledge – all very valuable in the current business world. Finance has become digital, but most programmers do not understand business and most business people do not understand programming. BSL gave me a chance to combine these elements, which eventually led me to find a job before my final exams. I can highly recommend students to enroll to the Data Analyst program at BSL as the world is becoming more digital and knowledge not only adds value to your CV, but to oneself too.

Author:

René Schoemaker, Master’s Student in International and Sustainable Finance

Alumni Mentoring Program – What is it all about?

Within the context of employability, I often hear people talking about their mentors and how such figures brought more clarity into their lives, on top of leading them to positive and sustainable decisions for their careers. But… what is it that a mentor really does? Does s/he coach? Does s/he train? Why is this role so important and how can we measure the impact a mentor has on a graduating student? I have been asking myself these (and more) questions while setting up the first Alumni Mentoring Program for Business School Lausanne. The answers? I will leave that up to the participants of the program who will be giving us their feedback once the hours of interactions will be completed.

At this point, you may ask yourself how the mentoring actually works.

Simply, fifteen students in their last stage of studies (across BBAs, Masters and MBAs) have been assigned ten hours of mentoring time – virtually and when possible, face to face – with fifteen experienced Alumni. Connections were established considering different elements: years of experience, industry, programs, general fit. In terms of the actual content of their interactions, mentors and mentees will be discussing career plans, professional development and hopefully other employability-related topics, over a period of three to five months. The agenda will be open and students will be able to add points they wish to discuss on the fly.

The aim of this initiative is to help students transitioning to the next phase of their lives, providing them with a safe space where to learn how to interact and network with seasoned professionals, and make the most of their one-to-one conversations.

Nevertheless, students will not be the only ones benefitting from this initiative: mentoring gives clarity also to those who mentor, in this specific case our Alumni. As per their own unanimous admission, their objectives are to learn and take their personal development to a higher level, while giving back to BSL in a constructive way, and to learn more about the employees of the future.

I asked all 30 BSL Community participants to enjoy their time together and to make it as constructive as possible for all parties. The idea is to touch base at the end of the program to collect success stories and learnings, in order to continuously improve the program in an organic and sustainable way. Stay tuned, I will be back with feedback in a few months!

Author: Daniele TicliCreating opportunities for Companies, Students and Alumni by addressing the needs of Education and Corporate world.

 

Looking for more meaning and impact in your life and career? Here’s how to start…

Recently a professional was feeling very frustrated by the fact that they were good at starting new projects but was frustrated because they inevitably ran out of steam before finishing them. This realization was causing self confidence doubt.

Another individual was very unsure about how to transition into a new career and was stagnating, unable to make a decision about their future.

Another young executive had recently realized that the shiny corporate job with all its “advantages” did not correspond to their values and was searching for ways to bring more meaning into his endeavours.

Today many young and seasoned professionals are asking tough questions and looking for answers that will allow them to expand their potential. Very often when people get caught up in their lengthy daily fast paced routines they lose sight of what they started out wanting to achieve. It’s difficult to listen, let alone hear what our heart is longing for when the mind is keeping us too busy.

The good news is, you can. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

#1 Feel Your Feelings…

Get angry or frustrated or confused or scared or excited…. It’s natural and healthy. No need for the stiff upper lip. Accept and love every emotion to create space. Respect your feelings, and then move forward. They provide insights around what you are resisting or longing for.

#2 The Value of Values

Discovering what we value can be elusive especially under the influences of the “shoulds” from society and loved ones. It can help to ask yourself, what is most important to me? Security? Creativity? Freedom? Independence? Money?

#3 Say “Yes” to Everything

Saying “yes” to all opportunities is a powerful expression of self-confidence. It attracts more (and better) opportunities and choices—you can always change your mind. Don’t wait for the “perfect” opportunity to appear, moving forward creates momentum and attracts other new opportunities. The things you say yes to should feel good, and even better, a little scary and exciting. This is a great sign that you are stretching your comfort zone and growing towards your full potential.

#4 The Secret to Reinvention

Don’t know what to “change into?” That’s okay. The only way to find out is to experiment. Volunteer, job shadow, temp or take part-time work in a field you’ve always been curious about as a career. The best place to start is to follow whatever you’re drawn to—trust your instincts.

#5 The “Crafting Life and career for more purpose and impact” Program

For over a decade we’ve been helping people tap back into their true North. We have now created a 2-day course to allow you to step back in a safe environment and have the conversations that you may not dared to have until now. Conversations that may be circling inside your head but you’ve not been listening hard enough to.

A unique experiential learning journey created for you combining assessment tools, reflection, peer to peer collaboration and discovery is planned.

Give yourself this time, to discover where you truly want to have impact and craft the life and career you believe will enable you to fully express your potential. Let yourself be surprised and come away feeling inspired and excited about creating your future.

Take a look at the program taking place on 26 March and give us a shout if you have any questions, we’d love to hear from you. If you are curious to find out more and would like to meet the lead professors, follow our Facebook Live broadcast on 19 February at 12h30 CET. Can’t make it live? Visit our Facebook page to view the recording at your leisure.

Authors:

Natalie Wilkins, BSL Professor

Nadene Canning, BSL Professor