I thought I understood everything about leading people successfully. After all, I just completed my MBA. But half way through my lunch with the Chief Marketing Officer of SAP, I realized I was wrong.
The MBA provided me with great management education, career opportunities and introduced me to some of the best people I’ve ever met. Seated at my graduation waiting for our names to be called on stage to finally hold our long-awaited degree in our hands, a friend said: “Guys, this is where it ends.” I nodded my head, thinking: “This is it, I’m done with learning now.”
I was confident I had obtained all the management wisdom available and was well on my way to climb up the career ladder. How much more new stuff would be added to management education anyways? Three and a half weeks into my first rotation as part of the IMPACT MBA Leadership program at SAP, I realized I was mistaken.
My rotation manager Angela Dunn invited me to have lunch with senior marketing managers and our global CMO, Maggie Chan Jones. Sitting at the round table, in the customer restaurant of our Walldorf office, I expected Maggie to come in and deliver the C-suite talk about strategy. Maybe she would hold a half an hour monologue, decorated with words such as ‘seamless’, ‘exciting times’. But she surprised me. After a small talk about football, Maggie asked everyone how people in their teams were feeling and what challenges they were facing. She acknowledged issues such as how to build relationships in virtual teams. The open feedback round was followed by Maggie asking how managers perceived their collaboration with external partners. She acknowledged issues and carefully listened to peoples’ feedback. At the end, she asked for written notes on the whole discussion before concluding with her view of our alignment with the goals in marketing and telling us who else she was planning to meet on her trip to Germany.
In short, Maggie turned the lunch into a conversation about her people and not about herself. The idea of making a conversation all about the other person may seem very simple but we are rarely aware of its importance. Daniel Goleman says in ‘Social Intelligence’: To communicate well and build strong relationships, empathic listening and asking questions, is important. It’s making a ‘you’ conversation. What this means for me is this: Graduation may have marked the end of academic learning for most of us, but it really is another beginning of management lessons in practice for all of us.
This was my first blog and hope it was an interesting read for you. Do leave behind your comments and suggestions and watch out for more blogs from me.